Paraguay or bust…Bust

20FEB

Paraguay was a bust…kind of. After arriving at the border on Saturday morning, we were sent back until we could go to the Paraguayan consulate on Monday morning. Long story short, we spent the weekend seeing into Paraguay, but we were not able to get IN to Paraguay.

The missionary connection we had in Paraguay, Anja and René, were awesome! They tried everything to help and in the end came with dinner and some friends to visit us across the border in Argentina.

That dinner was worth all the effort getting to Paraguay. We were able to share our vision for The Yada Project with both couples and a connection was made…

Toti y Sus Amigos is a puppet and theatre ministry that does evangelism outreach to kids. They are able to travel around to schools, hospitals, fairs and other venues to engage kids in a fun, interactive presentation that gives a clear gospel message. Last year alone they presented the gospel to over 16,000 children.

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At the heart of their ministry with Toti, the large ventriloquist puppet, are visits with patients at the children’s hospital. They spend a lot of time visiting the cancer patients and other children that need some distraction from their pain or diagnosis. We heard many stories of Toti getting an IV alongside a frightened child, or how Toti accompanied a child as they were being wheeled in for surgery.

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Toti y Sus Amigos also does a child’s radio show each week that reaches thousands of children with The Word of God in a fun way.

As we talked with them, we could see the love and passion they have for reaching children with Jesus’ message of love and hope.

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As with most ministries, they do all of this as volunteers. Their desire is to invest more time at the children’s hospital, since that is where they see the most need, and to take as many opportunities as they can to visit schools. Their problem is finances. To do Toti y Sus Amigos full time, they need to raise funds and/or sell more of their leather products.

Another match for The Yada Project! We continued the talk of various leather products we would like for them to make for The Yada Project and pursue some ideas we already had for leather. Watch for some great handmade leather products direct from Paraguay. They are excited about the partnership and so are we!

We look forward to working with Toti y Sus Amigos on expanding their efforts in Paraguay and are reminded again of the impact that can be made for His Kingdom if we follow His leading.

We are now on an overnight bus to Buenos Aires (18 hours), where we will spend the day and then take another bus (25 hours) to Bariloche, Argentina.

From sea to shining sea in South America….

To Paraguay and back again…

15FEB

We made it to Parguay! We took an overnight bus from Salta, Argentina and arrived at 9 am this morning to the border of Paraguay. Our newest friends, Anja and Rene, were there to meet us and then we were turned back. Yup, the law to enter Paraguay has recently changed and all US citizens need a visa. The office for the consulate is, of course, closed until Monday. Hmmm…
We are back in a border town in Argentina awaiting Monday morning. The kids are doing amazingly well! We just went to console ourselves over ice cream and decided they may be the most flexible and easily bribed children with ice cream.
We are prayerful it will all work out Monday morning and that we can squeeze in a bunch of meetings early this week. We are already a few days behind due to travel issues and this is just delaying us further. Frustrating! But we are trusting that Gods plan and timing is best.

Where in the world are the Williams?!?

14FEB

 I think we are in Argentina.  And I think it is Friday.  Right?  Ok, I just checked my phone with a map and a calendar and it does say we are in Argentina and it is indeed Friday.  Whew!  We have had quite a week of traveling!  We left Peru on Monday morning expecting to be in Paraguay by early Wednesday morning.  It is now Friday morning and we are still hoping to arrive in Paraguay by tomorrow night.  It has definitely not gone as planned, but we have had fun trekking across Chile and Argentina.

Here is a brief description of our journey this week:

We left Arequipa, Peru Monday morning arriving in Tacna, Peru 8 hours later.  We took a cab across the border to Arica, Chile.  All buses out of Arica were full that night, so we spent the night and all day Tuesday in Arica.  Arica is a beach town at the northern tip of Chile.  We enjoyed some fresh fish and cool breeze.

We departed Arica on Tuesday night to Calama, Chile (9 hours) and immediately caught a bus to San Pedro Attacama, Chile  (2 hours). We arrived in San Pedro Attacama on Wednesday morning at 10 am.

San Pedro Attacama is the driest desert in the world!  Wednesday was Lille’s birthday so we checked our travel book for some fun way to celebrate her special day.  We found sand-boarding.  It was a blast!  Our whole family enjoyed boarding, a hike through some caves and then an amazing sunset with a full moon at the top of a desert mountain.

We left San Pedro Attacama on Thursday morning and took a bus to Salta, Argentina (11 hours).  We missed the connecting bus to Paraguay by 30 minutes so spent last night in Salta.  What to do with extra time in Argentina?!?  Eat meat.  We found a late night parrrilla (meat that comes to your table on a mini-grill) and enjoyed a fill of meat.

We are currently awaiting Don’s return from the bus station with our overnight bus tickets to Paraguay (prayerfully!).  We expect to have about another 18 hours on a bus to Paraguay.

The landscape we have seen the past few days have been amazing!  We have seen desert flamingos, vicuana (kinda like a deer), salt lakes in the middle of the desert, lush green valleys in the desert, and LOTS of card games.

We will update at our next stop…which is hopefully Paraguay!

Paraguay

11FEB

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After finishing out a GREAT time in Lima, we started our journey south. Since our Brazil plans fell through, we made a connection in Paraguay. So we are heading that way with a few stops.

Our first stop was in Cusco, where the famous ancient city of the Inkas was found. People from all over the world visit Cusco to see Machu Pichu. (Due to time and money, we decided to do the whole Machu Pichu tour on a future visit.). But we loved exploring the quaint city of Cusco. It has cobblestone streets, fantastic architecture and many places to explore.

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We found a non-profit bakery helping at risk teens who are living on the street. The bakery was started by a French woman who wanted to help the teens by providing a place for them to stay and teach them the skill of baking. Unfortunately, The Yada Project has not figured out a way to import fresh bakery. We were happy to do our part of helping support the bakery while we were there…yum!
Our next stop was a bus trip through the mountains to the city of Puno, located on Lake Titicaca. Lake titicaca is the largest lake at the elevation. On one end of the lake is Peru and the other side is Bolivia. We did a 2 day tour of the islands on the lake.
The first island was a 2 hour boat ride to a man-made floating island. As far as we know, it is the only of its kind in the world. The floating island idea was started hundreds of years ago by feuding Indian tribes. The only way for the Aymara tribe to protect themselves was to escape to the lake and build a floating island. The island is made of reeds that grow in the shallow waters of Lake Titicaca. Stepping onto the island feels like you are walking on a waterbed. People still live on various floating islands and function similarly to how they did hundreds of years ago. Totally fascinating!

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The next island was another 2 hours across Lake Titicaca, where we met a local Quecha family and stayed at their home. We had lunch and then hiked to the top of the island that allowed us to see into Bolivia. It was a magnificent view of mountains and the patchwork of crops grown on the island. This particular island is vegetarian, as they only eat what they grow.
After our hike, we enjoyed dinner with our host family and then got to dress up in their traditional garb and to go a dance. Many if the local families arrived to teach all the “tourist” their dances. It was a blast, and quite a sight to see us all dressed in the Quecha outfits. We returned to our “home” and experienced life without running water and electricity.

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The next morning we boarded the boat for a tour of one more island. It was another great hike to the top and another step back in time to a place that has a different pace of life.
In the midst of our 2 day tour, we had the chance to get to know the other passengers. We enjoyed hearing of others adventures (apparently Bolivia is NOT the place to stay in a hostal!). Eva made friends with a girl from Argentina that was traveling through Peru as well. We had a great time seeing Lake Titicaca.
We then boarded an overnight bus to Arequipa. Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru, with beautiful volcanic white buildings surrounded by white capped mountains and volcanoes. We spent the day walking the streets and exploring their downtown.

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We are now heading out of Peru and traveling to Paraguay via Chile and Argentina. In fact, as I write this I am sitting on a non-air conditioned bus driving through the desert. I heard it is been a terribly cold winter at home, so I will not complain about being a bit hot. :)
We expect to spend the next 40 hours or so traveling to Paraguay. We will update with our arrival or adventures enroute when we arrive!

Hooray from Huaraz…

06FEB

Written on Thursday, January 30:
We have made another great contact for The Yada Project. We were introduced to Arco Iris, a children’s home in Huaraz, Peru. I’m going to share a lot of cool details from our meetings with them the past few days, so skip to the end if you want the bottom line.
Arco Iris is the word rainbow in Spanish. The rainbow is a symbol of hope. Their mission is to provide hope for abondonded, abused and orphaned children in Huaraz. Arco Iris was started by a woman, Maria Jesus,  a doctor from Spain. In 1997, Maria was working on a medical missions trip to Lima and visited Huaraz for a weekend. After visiting some churches and caring for their medical needs she heard how the government had just shut down the only children’s home in the area due to abuse allegations. Long story a bit shorter, she returned to Spain to raise funds to open a children’s home back in Huaraz. Arco Iris opened their doors to children in 1999.  Since that time they have cared for many children in their home.
Our family visited the homes, met some of the children and went to one of their nutrition centers. We also had the chance to meet with Maria Jesus and hear about the other ministries Arco Iris has founded.
One of the ministries is Turmanye.  Turmanye is a weaving guild that was formed with women from surrounding Quechua villages. (The Quechua are decendants from the Inca Indians that live in rural mountain communities. 

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Turmanye, the Quechua word for rainbow/hope, has trained many women to make sweaters, blankets, mittens and various other textiles from alpaca and wool.

The women being trained at Turmanye have little education and are so thankful to learn a trade that will help feed and support their families. Each woman is given the opportunity to participate in a Bible study and to work to better their communities while supporting the children at Arco Iris.
Arco Iris’s main support base is in Spain. In the past few years, Spain has been in an economic crisis. This has caused Arco Iris to have to limit the number of children they take in, and has affected the other areas of ministry. It has also limited the number of women being trained through Turmanye.
Besides opening doors of opportunity for women, one of the goals of Turmanye is to provide funding to expand the capacity of the Children’s Home through selling their products globally.
After meeting with Maria Jesus and seeing the beautiful work the women are creating, coupled with the desire to reach more children in need, The Yada Project found another match!  We are thrilled to partner with Arco Iris in caring for children and supporting women through an ongoing partnership with Turmanye.
Watch for some AWESOME fair-trade products coming in from Peru! 

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The mountains of Peru…

29JAN

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We would like to introduce you to our new friends, Ade and Rachel and their two sons, Daniel and Luis. Their family is based here in the mountain town of Huaraz, Peru. They work with Wycliffe Bible Translators, distributing Bibles to the small Quechua villages around Huaraz. For the past 40 years Wycliffe has been in this region working on translating the New Testament to the various dialects of Quechua. In 2007 the translation was complete and thousands of copies were made of the Bible in Quechua.

Quechua are an indigenous people group to Peru descended from the Inca empire. They share a lot in common with other native groups also located in the highlands of Ecuador and throughout the Andes.

Ade and Rachel spend their time working with a local Quechua organization teaching literacy amongst the villages and training pastors in the Bible. After teaching reading and writing in the villages, they have the chance to distribute the Bibles and start groups to study the Word of God. Ade was formerly a mountain guide and enjoys trekking into the far off mountain villages.

Their family invited us to their mountain farm yesterday. We drove about 30 minutes up into the mountains, parked the car and hiked about 40 minutes up further into the mountains. The views were breathtaking…the elevation was breathtaking, too! (We were hiking at about 13,000 feet.) As we hiked, we passed “old-school” farming with a plow, mule and men in a field. It was like stepping back hundreds of years.

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Don and Isaiah had the chance to fly-fish in one of the mountain lakes and taught Daniel how to fly-fish as well. They caught 7 trout for our lunch and we carried those back to the house to fry up for lunch over the wood-fire stove. It truly was an authentic Quechua experience!
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We love seeing first-hand how God is at work throughout Peru and sharing these experiences with you. Thanks for reading and traveling with us….
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Piranhas and tarantulas and dolphins…OH MY!

26JAN

We have had a GREAT week of hanging out with 25 kids as their parents were in meetings.  We have had a lot of fun exploring the grounds here at Kids Alive in Pucallpa, Peru.  The property is located on about 5 acres so our mornings were spent exploring,  playing games, eating snacks, learning Bible verses, and having fun.  Our afternoons were spent swimming in the river.  The river is home to piranhas, anacondas, river dolphins and many more exciting things that touched our feet as we were swimming!

One of the mornings we had a photo scavenger hunt.  Some of the things on the list to find were:  a monkey, mosquito, tarantula, termite, leaf cutter ant, coconut, banana on a tree, oranges, star fruit, dolphin.  We found most of the items on the list (except the monkey!).

You may wonder if it is safe to swim with piranhas.  We all asked the same thing!  Apparently it is ok as long as you do not have any bleeding wounds.  Thankfully Donnie’s surfing injury was healed enough to go in.  We fished for the piranhas after swimming with them and have gotten some good pictures of their teeth.  As soon as I figure out how to post pictures to this blog, I will get those on here.

It is HOT here.  We only have cold showers and I have been thankful for those cold showers!  (For anyone that knows me, this is a miracle!)  The mix of heat, humidity and mosquito laden atmosphere makes the river a welcome activity with a cooling shower to top it off.  We are LOVING it!  The excitement of newness has not yet worn off.

The week has also been great in getting to know the missionary families working with KAI in Peru.  We have made new friends and have had the chance to see their hearts for the children and people of Peru!  The group ministering together here are united to share the gospel.  We look forward to sharing all the ways KAI is changing a culture by being the hands, feet and heart of Jesus.

Tomorrow we head back to Lima and then up to the mountains.  We will swap out our shorts and t-shirts for our jeans and sweatshirts…the mountains are snow-capped!

 

A jungle adventure….

20JAN

 

We arrived in Pucallpa, Peru on Saturday. Pucallpa is about 300 miles east of Lima, over the Andes Mountains and into the jungle of Peru.  We actually are only about 70 miles from the Peru/Brazil border.

 

Upon arriving in Pucallpa, we had the chance to visit a friend of Don’s that is working here in Pucallpa with Wycliffe Bible Translators as an airplane mechanic.  We had a great time visiting with the Kooistra family, taking a boat ride, and cooling off with a swim in the river.  We also got a tour of the hangar and heard a lot about the work  mission aviation is accomplishing in the jungle.

 

We are seeing how small of a world it truly is…as we were touring the hangar yesterday, a guy came in and met our family.  When he was introduced to “Don Williams” he said, “I was just talking about a guy named Don Williams.  He was a missionary in Colombia, and a guy you would want on your security team!” Donnie explained that was his Dad.  They talked for a bit about Don Sr. and the lasting effect he has had on so many.  Don Sr. was a great man of God that had a heart as big as his calves!

 

Here in Pucallpa, Kids Alive has a care center that runs programs for children and will be opening a children’s home in the next few weeks.  We are staying at the care center with all the KAI missionaries from throughout Peru for the next week as they have their conference.  We are volunteering during the conference by keeping all the missionary kids busy while their parents are in meetings.  (We will have about 30 kids each day.) On the agenda is nail painting, rainbow looming, fishing for piranhas, and lots of soccer.

 

It is nice a warm and humid…exactly like you would expect a jungle to be.  It is also FULL of mosquitoes. Holy cow, there is no joking about mosquitoes here.  (We are thankful that we got the Yellow Fever vaccine and have been taking our malaria pills!)  I have never experienced this amount of mosquitoes…and they are huge!  They sound like a jet plane while buzzing in your ear and are like a vampire with the amount of blood they take.

 

We are looking forward to this week in the jungle and having a chance to hang out with a bunch of kids…stay tuned for some jungle adventures!

Kids Alive International

17JAN

We are in Lima, Peru visiting with Mike and Diane Fietje and their family.  Mike and Don played soccer together at Moody Bible Institute about 20 years ago.  (Sheesh, where does the time go?!?)  Anyways, the Fietjes have been in Peru for 15 years with Kids Alive International (KAI).

I will give you a basic summary of KAI and how we have been involved:
Kids Alive runs 2 ministries here in Lima.  The first is a children’s home called Juniper Tree Children’s Home. Juniper Tree takes in children that have been orphaned, abandoned or abused.   Juniper Tree currently has about 25 kids living there.  The  Children’s Home  is made up of individual family homes where a house mom helps provide for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the children.  Once a child arrives at Juniper Tree, they are typically there until they reach 18.  Many of the “graduates” from Juniper Tree have gone on to volunteer with other at risk children.  We had the chance to meet Marlon, a guy who grew up at Juniper Tree.  Marlon recently got married and is in seminary to get more training in working with youth on the streets.  What a great testimony to the work KAI is doing…giving each child the foundation to build a future and a hope.

The other ministry KAI runs in Lima is the Oasis Care Center.  Oasis started off as a facility that had children come each day to receive a balanced meal.  Many of the communities around Lima are very poor and although the children have families, they were often malnourished.  Oasis has now grown to be a full care center where over 100 children attend daily for preschool, nutritious meals, homework club and AWANA.  KAI has started a school and currently has Kindergarten and 1st grade, hoping to add a grade each year.  The impact Oasis has had on the community is amazing.  School age children (all the way through high school) come each day for tutoring and a meal.

One of the other areas Oasis is developing is a Moms Helping Moms program.  Each semester, 10 moms are chosen to attend classes, training and discipleship at Oasis.  The morning is spent in Bible study and teaching of God’s Word on marriage, parenting, finances, etc.  The afternoons are spent in training classes:  sewing, jewelry making, cooking, etc.  As the women learn skills and what they enjoy, they are able to find work easier and provide more stability for their families.  We had the chance to meet with Carmen, the director for the Moms Helping Moms program.  Carmen’s love of the Lord and the women she works with is precious.  She has seen great growth in many of the women and has celebrated commitments to Christ through the study of God’s word.

Both ministries in Lima are changing the culture. KAI is not only caring for the physical needs, but also giving training in life skills.  More importantly they are sharing the love of Jesus and His power to redeem lives.  Awesome!

The Yada Project is excited to work with KAI to provide more opportunities for growth at Juniper Tree and Oasis. We are still working on how we can work together, but here are a few of the plans. At Juniper Tree, we are looking into the possibility of providing scholarships for further education to graduates.  At Oasis, the women would have the opportunity to develop a product  and then sell their products to The Yada Project.  This would provide a consistent market and an opportunity for growth.

What a joy it has been in meeting those with a heart for widows and orphans and seeing how God is at work here in Peru….

Brazil plans….

15JAN

“Man makes his plans and God directs his steps…”  Proverbs 16:9

After a few tours of the Brazilian Embassy, the US Embassy and all of Lima, we have gotten the final word on Brazil…NO.  We were hopeful that a signed and notarized letter from the US Embassy would be sufficient to get our visas, but the Brazilian Embassy would not grant our visas.  We are all disappointed, but have a peace in knowing that God has already directed our steps in a different direction.

On a side note, we enjoyed our “tour” of the US Embassy!  It truly looks like a fortress in the middle of the city and we were all impressed with the professionalism, kindness and sympathy we were shown.  Proud to be an American!

We have enjoyed exploring Kids Alive International here in Lima and will be at the Kids Alive children’s home in the jungle all next week. During that time, we will continue to work on our replacement plans for Brazil.

South America is not lacking any places to explore or people to meet!  In fact, Don talked with a guy that is working in the mountains in Peru and had worked closely with his parents in Ecuador.  We were wondering how we could fit in a visit to them….now we have time.  We would welcome prayer for our replacement plans to come together.

In one of our travel books it read, “Flexibility is the requirement for survival” and Albert Einstein wrote, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”.  We are learning daily the joy of flexibility and may be freaking geniuses by the time we get home.  :)