Two Months Back

The last two months have been busy with the usual Zoom meetings, curriculum development, lots of preschool activities, and some weekend adventures in and out of Lima.

Billy and I have continued to meet weekly with the staff at the two children’s homes that are part of the Center of Excellence training program that is being developed with Health Bridges International. Billy has helped with the curriculum development, has taught a few of the lessons and also assists with translation when an English-speaker is teaching. We’re encouraged by the questions that are asked and what the participants share during the lesson exercises.

Wayne, the director of HBI, was in Peru and was one of the first visitors in our house post-COVID

We are also in the preliminary stages of starting the mentoring program with a girls home here in Lima and the church that they attend. Paths of Hope will train volunteers from the church who will serve as mentors to the girls in the home. Billy has met with the house director, pastor of the church and the staff at the home to discuss the mentoring program. Next step will be to identify the volunteers and then lead a training, using the Trauma Competent Caregiver material created by Trauma Free World. Join us in praying for committed, loving volunteers who will be positive influences on the girls at the home.

Meeting with the staff at the girls’ home

When we’re not in Zoom meetings or Zoom preschool, Will and I have been spending quite a bit of time at the playground. Playgrounds were closed in March 2020 due to the virus and remained closed for almost 16 months. Most simply had orange snow fence and caution tape around them, but some districts went as far as completely removing the structures from the park. When we returned from Michigan, we were pleasantly surprised that many of the playgrounds near us have reopened and are full of kids. It is great to see Will running around with other kids and his Spanish has exploded in the last couple months as he interacts with them.

We also were able to get together with a group of his classmates at a little playground. The 8 kids (of 14 in the class) were able to see each other face-to-face for the first time ever – despite being classmates since March 2021 (or March 2020 for some of them). They greeted each other with big hugs, played together like they have been doing this weekly and all enjoyed a snack together. We spent almost 2 hours at the playground, and Will talked about it for days afterward.

Will continues to participate in Zoom preschool. They are learning how to write numbers, write their name in cursive, play fun games and do lots of art projects. He recently had to share a talent and showed his classmates how to make chocolate chip cookies.

Celebrating the first day of spring at school

Showing his classmates how to make chocolate chip cookies

On the weekends, we try to add as many hours as possible to our #1000HoursOutside challenge for this year. We made the 2 hour drive to the Lomas de Lachay on the north side of Lima. During the winter months, the clouds are low and cover the hills. The clouds bring just enough moisture to cover the normally dry, sandy desert hills with lush green plants. Another weekend we drove an hour east to Cieneguilla in search of sun. We also met up with Will’s teacher from last year to spend the morning at the park together.

Miss Dani, Will’s first preschool teacher

A neighboring district held a kids’ movie in the park

Now that the Paths of Hope team here is fully vaccinated, Billy was able to get together with Jocabeth and Linda recently for their first in-person meeting since they became an official team in February. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and brainstorming for future projects.

Last month we had an unfortunate experience when we returned to our car and found our rear passenger window had been broken and our things were stolen from the car. We’re thankful that the thieves did not take anything of great value but it was disappointing that some of the things they took were items we had just brought back with us from the US. The hardest thing about it was processing the event with Will for days and weeks after the fact.

September also marked 2 years of returning to Peru after our time in Wheaton. COVID and quarantine aside, these last two years have been very different than our first 8 years pre-Wheaton. Will and preschool has brought a stability and more time in Lima than we’ve ever spent before. That evening we celebrated God’s faithfulness and provision as we continue serving here in Peru.

As always we very much appreciate your prayers for us, our ministry and for the country and people of Peru.

– Kate, Billy & Will

A Michigan Summer

A couple weeks ago we touched back down in Lima after spending almost 3 months in the United States. We’re happy to be back at home but, at least for me, it always takes a few days for my heart to catch up.

Double masks and face shields were required at the eerily empty Lima airport

We originally planned to visit family and friends closer to Christmas in 2020 but due to an abundance of COVID cases and not being able to get vaccinated, we made the hard decision to postpone our trip to the summertime where hopefully positive cases would die down as more and more people were vaccinated. Thankfully Billy and I were able to get vaccinated right at the beginning of our trip – a privilege we do not take lightly as we are still not eligible to be vaccinated in Peru.

And, since 95% of our work and Will’s school is virtual right now we were able to continue being in ministry – just with a different Zoom background from Billy’s parents’ house in Livonia!

Mother’s Day celebration with Will’s class

Billy completed the week-long TBRI (Trust-Based Relational Intervention) training with the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development and became a TBRI practitioner. This will be instrumental in Paths of Hope’s ministries working with children’s homes and churches here in Peru. Using the principles of TBRI, we will be able to help the staff and mentors navigate working with children who have experienced trauma.

Our time in the States was filled with outdoor dinners, Christmas and birthday celebrations, playgrounds, cousin dance parties (per Will’s request), zoos, hikes in the woods, boat and tube rides, trips to Target and Costco (Will was happy the samples came back!), hours of swimming in the pool, lake and beach and lots and lots of ice cream. We loved the long, sunny days and added many hours towards our 1000 Hours Outside goal for this year.

We spent time with our families out west hiking the Zion, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon National Parks, boating and tubing in northern Indiana, and swimming along the northern Michigan coast.

We hugged friends we hadn’t seen in almost 2 years, went to a Tigers game and were able to attend the wedding of a long-time friend who 8 years ago traveled to Peru to stand up in our wedding.

Until the next time, we’ll miss beautiful Michigan and most importantly all our loved ones who call it home.

– Kate, Billy & Will

Happy 200!

Today, Peru is celebrating 200 years of independence from Spain.

On July 28, 1821, General José de San Martin proclaimed independence from a balcony in Huaura – about 2 hours north of Lima.

Today, the country is also inaugurating a new president for the next 5 years. The last 3 months have been tumultuous in Peruvian politics as the first time candidate, Pedro Castillo, rose in popularity in the last week before elections in April and managed to win the election with 18.95% of the vote. Since there were 18 presidential candidates in the election, no candidate received the necessary 51% of votes and we went to a second election in June.

Castillo and the second-place candidate, Keiko Fujimori (who received 13.4% of the vote), could not be any more different from each other. One is extreme left and the other extreme-right. Castillo is an unknown public school teacher from the provinces and Keiko has been a long-time presence in politics as the daughter (and former first lady) of a previous Peruvian president, Alberto Fujimori – who escaped to Japan, then Chile and then extradited back to Peru and is currently in jail for crimes against humanity.

The country was very divided between the two candidates – with the city of Lima (about 10 million) leaning more towards Keiko and the mountains pulling for Castillo. Castillo’s platform is heavily influenced by socialism/Marxism-Leninism and Keiko follows a right-wing populism/social conservatism/economic liberalism agenda, and has received allegations of corruption from her years of service in Congress.

On June 6th, Peruvians returned to the polls to make an important decision regarding who would lead the country for the next 5 years. Since the country was so divided and every vote needed to be counted, it took days before preliminary results were announced. The results were so close that both sides contested the results claiming voter fraud and fraudulent ballots being cast.

It took weeks – 6 in fact – before the entity that overseas elections announced that Pedro Castillo was the winner and would be inaugurated 9 days later on July 28th as the new president.

Join us in praying for this country and its people. The country has experienced a lot of trauma in Peruvian politics over the last 40 years through terrorism, huge inflation and corruption. Some are worried what the future holds for the country.

Also, join us in praying for Castillo as he takes leadership amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Pray for wisdom as he makes decisions to bring the country out of the pandemic and to navigate in the midst of a struggling economy.

We love this country and pray that this new administration leads with integrity.

– Kate, Billy & Will

*In our next post we will share about our last 3 months in Michigan!*

An Election, Graduation & Birthday

This past month has been busy with the usual Zoom meetings, curriculum development, lots of preschool activities and Billy’s birthday! Like all of our birthdays this year, we celebrated with picnic at a local park.

A couple weeks ago Peruvians went to the polls to elect a new President and members of Congress. There were 18 presidential candidates and no clear leader. The day before the election, the front runner had only 12% of the vote in the polls! Since there wasn’t a candidate that received a 51% majority after the first round (which rarely happens), there will be a second election on June 6th between the top 2 candidates. The new elected officials will take office on July 28th this year.

It has been a tumultuous year with 3 different Presidents leading the country during 2020. Now that there are 2 candidates to pick from in the second election, join us in praying for wisdom as each person fills out their ballot. May the next President lead the country with integrity – something that unfortunately has not been evident over the last 30 years.

Will and I have been busy with Zoom preschool every day. This year Will has four or five different classes (depending on the day) between 8am and 12pm. It’s amazing to see how much he is learning, how his scribbles have turned into drawings and how he is becoming more confident in his Spanish.

Participating in karate class over Zoom

We’re in the final preparatory stages of the Center of Excellence trainings that we will begin leading next month for the staff at the children’s homes in Ica and Urubamba. Every Tuesday and Wednesday we will meet with each home for 90 minutes to lead a training on best practices for working with the children in the home. As of right now, the training program is 10 modules with 5 weeks per module. Billy and the two other trainers are currently working furiously on preparing materials and slides for the first couple modules.

Last week we held a virtual graduation ceremony for one of the young men in the Tigre Program. He had recently completed a 12-week online course called “Skills for Life”. It was really fun to share our pride in his great achievements.

The goal of Tigre Program is to walk alongside children’s home graduates as they transition into adulthood and begin to identify the path God has opened before them. As we continue to develop the program into a sustainable ministry, one of Billy’s tasks this month was to “interview” some of the Girasoles graduates who are now young men. The phone and Zoom calls quickly turned from “interviews” into long conversations remembering stories from our visits to the homes, catching up from the past four years since we left for Wheaton, and a lot of laughter. He called 8 young men from different homes, ages (some recent graduates, some that left 10+ years ago) and who have experienced different lives after leaving (some went to university, some right into work, etc) to talk about their experiences after living in residential care. The resounding theme from all of the conversations was for the desire to have somebody they could count on, who could be a guide as they navigate a new life after residential care.

As part of the Tigre Program, we have created the Comunidad Girasoles – a private Facebook group where ex-Girasoles can create community and walk alongside each other as they go through life. The young men in the group share similar past events and bring a unique ability to assist others through their shared experiences. The goal of the community is to empower the participants and to share resources they need as they now navigate the freedoms and responsibilities of living “on their own.”

At the beginning of the month we read Will in on a little secret we have been keeping… after a closed international border and date modifications, we’re finally heading to Michigan at the beginning of May! To say we’re excited about spending time with family and friends after 20 months is an understatement! We made a chain to countdown the days and since Will found out, we have answered daily questions about what we’ll do in Michigan, discussed how much he loves going on airplanes and he’s packed and repacked his little backpack dozens of times. We all will need a negative COVID test so we can enter the US, so pray for negative results, smooth travels and no delays!

Excited that our countdown chain is getting shorter

Practicing wearing his face shield – something we will need to wear in the Lima airport in addition to double masking

As always we very much appreciate your prayers for us, our ministry and for the country and people of Peru.

– Kate, Billy & Will

End of Summer & A New School Year

March in Lima means the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year.

At the beginning of the month we were released out of the February quarantine but still retained a few minor restrictions – curfew remains from 9pm until 4am and on Sundays (at least in Lima) we are allowed to go out but not use our private car.

Less restrictions means we can go to the malecon to scoot

Will carrying his ALDI bag while grocery shopping

The 2021 school year started at the beginning of the month and Will is participating in his *second* year of virtual preschool. Unlike last year’s format of two or three daily videos prepared by the teachers and two 30-minute Zoom calls, this year he has four or five different classes (depending on the day) between 8am and 1pm. If you ask him about school he’d happily tell you that he’s “now in the Dragonfly class with Miss Angie since he’s a big boy” (…again with all the big boy talk!).

At the beginning of the year we found out that Billy was accepted into the May 2021 online TBRI practitioner training. He has recently started the 10-week independent study prior to the week-long intensive training over Zoom. He also received a scholarship that covers 80% of the training cost!

Will accompanying Billy for a few minutes during the asynchronous study for the TBRI training

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that trains caregivers to provide effective support and treatment for at-risk children. Developed at the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development, it uses Empowering Principles to address physical needs, Connecting Principles for attachment needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. It has been used effectively with children and youth of all ages, all risk levels, and in many different environments including children’s homes, churches, foster and adoptive homes and schools.

Becoming a TBRI Practitioner will be instrumental in Paths of Hope’s ministries working with children’s homes and churches here in Peru. Using the principles of TBRI, we will be able to help the staff and mentors navigate working with children who have experienced trauma.

We are putting the finishing touches on the first couple modules of the training curriculum for children’s home staff we are developing with Health Bridges International. The curriculum for staff is rooted in best practices for working with children at the two children’s homes in Health Bridges’ care. The plan is to begin the virtual trainings during April and continue weekly as we progress through the material.

In March, Paths of Hope and Health Bridges brought on a staff person to work with us on the programs we are doing together in partnership. Jocabeth is somebody we know from our time at Scripture Union. While at SU, Jocabeth worked in the schools ministry. She then transitioned to working at a children’s home and has also worked within the government university scholarship program. She has had many years of experience in working with at-risk teens and young adults and we couldn’t be happier that she has joined our team.

At the beginning of the month we joined a small group for couples at our church, Camino de Vida. While everything is virtual right now, small groups are meeting over Zoom and since the internet has no borders anybody is able to join a small group – regardless if they live in Lima, South America or simply are Spanish speakers around the world. Hoping we could meet other couples/families in Lima in addition to participating in a small group, we signed up for a group called Matrimonio Sobre la Roca. At our first meeting we discovered that in our group of five couples there were only two that lived in Lima! All are here in Peru but in various parts of the country. Nevertheless, we have enjoyed getting to know the other couples in the group and learn from the curriculum.

When restrictions eased again at the beginning of the month, and right before Will started the new school year, we escaped Lima and headed south to Paracas for a few days of fresh air, sun, water and family time. And as a bonus, we added 44 hours to our #1000hoursoutside goal! After almost a full year of being at home in quarantine and having the beaches closed all summer, it was great to be able to spend so much time outside, in the pool and together.

A couple weeks ago it was announced that the entire country of Peru would go back into a mandatory quarantine from April 1-4 over Semana Santa. Semana Santa (specifically Thursday through Sunday of Holy Week) here is an immensely popular long weekend for traveling, visiting the beach or at minimum spending time with the extended family and friends since almost everybody has the holidays off. It’s the last hurrah as the summer winds down and the new school year begins. So for these 4 days we’re not allowed to leave our homes unless it is to go to the grocery store or pharmacy, and then it is just 1 person per family that is allowed to go.

Knowing that we wouldn’t be able to go outside we tried to fit in some extra ‘out of the house time’ around meetings and preschool. Last weekend we drove out to Cieneguilla to go for a hike along the Río Lurín and another evening we had a very impromptu picnic in the trunk of our car at the beach while we watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. While these 4 days are different than how we would have liked to spend the weekend, we are deeply grateful for a safe home, for our health and for the ability to spend time as a family.

As always we very much appreciate your prayers for us, our ministry and for the country and people of Peru.

– Kate, Billy and Will