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Teens on a mission

The mission team in front of the Basilica Cathedral of Lima. Front (l to r): Shila, Aiyana, Beth, Kelsey & Sally, Back: Jeff, Josh & Joe

In the summer of 2011, a mission trip was just a dream for five students and three adults from The Springs Free Methodist Church in Cedar Springs, Michigan. But they believed that where there’s a will there’s a way.

After months of planning and fundraising, the team was able to spend 10 days in Peru this past February. The team included five teens—Beth Bullen, Kelsey Kiander, Jeff Plank and  Aiyana Plank, all students at Cedar Springs High School, and Josh Tol, a student at Algoma Christian. Adult leaders were Joe Sturgeon, the youth pastor at The Springs, Shila Kiander and Sally Nulph. With the church’s financial support, as well as the support of their family, friends and community, they raised a total of $14,000 to cover their expenses and mission projects.

The team and children at the home of Espirita & Ernesto after the Bible School event.

The main project for the trip was to sponsor and participate in a weekend youth conference. Their mission was to build relationships with the Peruvians, to teach each other about their different cultures and learn more about Christ in the process.

This was The Springs’ second mission trip to Peru. In December of 2010, a team of four sponsored “Brighten Their Christmas 2010” in Tarma, Peru. During that trip, missionaries Garry and Pat Cruce (former CS residents and former pastor at the Springs) mentioned that there was an annual youth conference every year and it is often sponsored and attended by youth groups from Free Methodist churches in the United States. One of the team members, Kelsey Kiander, shared that with her youth group when she returned, and a dream was born.

The team decided to sponsor the youth conference. The sponsorship included paying for the rental of the campground and providing event t-shirts. They also wanted to build and maintain relationships. The team went to Peru with the understanding that they were part of a bigger picture. They would rekindle relationships that The Springs church had already made, and make new friendships for future teams to build on.

Here are some of the relationships the team was able to make while in Peru:

They participated in a community outreach project for Lima Central FMC.  Partnering with members from the church, they handed out invitations for the church service at their new location. The students also handed out bouncy balls to the children on the streets.

The team attended an evening youth service at the Comas FMC, where they enjoyed the music and some of the teens gave their testimonies. They also worshipped with the Lima Central FMC on their first Sunday morning at their new location.

The team was able to visit a church in Pisco, Peru, that became a soup kitchen during the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in August of 2007. The I.E.P. Iglesia Evagelica Peruana (the Evangelical Church of Peru), has now become a Compassion International child development center, serving many children and families in their community. The adult leaders were impressed with the students, because they took up an offering using their personal spending money as a gift to the church.  At the end of the meeting, they experienced a community prayer, where they all stood in a circle holding hands and offered prayers out loud to God in their native languages, which included English, Spanish and Queshua. This was a beautiful time of prayer and thanksgiving.

One of the team’s favorite mission experiences was helping with a Bible school for under resourced children in San Juan de Miraflores, Lima, Peru. Every Sunday afternoon, a couple from the Lima Central FMC open their home to children in their neighborhood for Sunday School.

The team sponsored the youth conference for the Free Methodist Church of Peru.  The Congreso de Jovenes, is an annual event held in a different location each year.  This year it was held at a camp near Puete Piedra, Peru (North of Lima). There were over 70 participants, representing congregations from the jungle area (Amazon Rainforest), the mountains (Andes or Sierra), and the coastal desert (Lima).

Part of their mission work was to bring back SEED products to the US. SEED is a livelihood ministry that supports microenterprises in Free Methodist churches around the world. The ministry works as a wholesaler, buying products from artisans and paying them twice the living wage for the time and materials they use. Products can be purchased at www.seedlivelihood.org.

The team was fortunate to be able experience some cultural activities during their mission trip, too. The Basilica Cathedral of Lima was built in 1535. The Cathedral contains the tomb of the Spanish conquistador of Peru, Francisco Pizarro who founded the City of Lima.

They toured the Parque de la Reserva or the Magic Circuit of the Water, which is currently the world record holder for the largest fountain complex in the world, consisting of 13 distinct fountains, many of which are interactive.

The team had the opportunity to explore the sand dunes of the desert in La Huacachina, near Ica, Peru. La Huacachina is a beautiful oasis surrounded by high sandbanks. They went on a dune buggy ride and sand boarding excursion. The biggest dunes there measure more than 755 feet.

They toured the Ballestas Islands in the Paracas National Reserve. They are spectacular islands eroded into many caves and arches that provide shelter for thousands of seabirds and is home to one of the largest sea-lion colonies in the world. While on the tour they saw the Paracus Candelabra, which is a giant ground drawing etched into a sloping hill measuring 595 feet long.

Overall their trip was great blend of mission experiences and cultural opportunities. This wasn’t just a trip; it was one destination in their life long journey of serving God. The teens have decided that even though they won’t be able to physically attend the youth conference next year, they can still raise money to help financially sponsor the event. “Our goal is to make changes in our lives because of the life changing experience of our mission trip to Peru,” said Shila Kiander, one of the group leaders.

If you want to read more about their trip, check out the team’s blog at www.peru2012.wordpress.com.


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