Exploring Peru: The Sacred Valley.

Just 2 short weeks after our little trip to Colca Canyon with my parents, our team set off on a trip to Cusco, Peru, and the Sacred Valley which surrounds it.    There are several families with our missions agency who live and serve in Cusco, and Nate and Nathaniel had been there several times in the last couple of years for meetings, but they had always just flown there for the day.  There had never been a good time for all of us to take the kids along, so Alicia and I had never had the chance to see that part of the country.

When an opportunity came up that would require a longer trip to Cusco, it seemed like the perfect time for the whole team to go along.   The new director of our missions agency was coming to visit Peru in September, and they were hoping to get as many of the Peru missionaries together as possible to meet him and attend some seminars he would be leading.  Some of our fellow missionaries were also having their first official service for the new church plant they had been serving in, and they had invited us to attend.  In addition, our teammate Nathaniel needed to finish up some of his meetings and exams for the ordination process and would need to do it in Cusco.    Since all of those things happened to fall within a few days of one another, we decided it would be a great time for all of us to drive out together.

^ can't beat the views on the drive
^ can’t beat the views on the drive.

We rented a house in Urubamba, which is in the Sacred Valley and about an hour from Cusco.  The trip was going to end up being about 10 days long, so we knew we wanted to stay somewhere where the children could run and play without worry, and where Alicia and I could cook meals to save money instead of eating out.    We ended up getting an amazing deal on an incredible house that both of our families could share, and the owner gave us a rate that was better than any of the hotels nearby.  Plus it had a HUGE fenced in yard, perfect for 6 crazy children.    And even though it was a bit of a drive for Nate and Nathaniel whenever they had to drive into Cusco for meetings, it meant that Alicia and I could stay with the kids, prepare our own food, let them play, and not have to worry about being cooped up in a hotel for hours at a time.   It ended up being the perfect set-up.

^ So much green space to run!! That's hard to find in Arequipa.
^ So much green space to run!! That’s hard to find in Arequipa.

We headed out early on a Monday morning, expecting the drive to take us 9 hours or so.   It ended up being 11, because once again, we had to cross over areas of very high altitude, and this time we didn’t fare so well.  We stopped every 20 minutes or so for kids to throw up on the side of the road… and occasionally in the car when we didn’t stop in time.  It was a lovely 11 hours, you can imagine.   Thankfully, the views were incredible, and being surrounded by such beauty made a rough trip into an enjoyable one, all things considered.

^ this view makes a drive full of sick kids a little more peaceful.
^ this view makes a drive full of sick kids a little more peaceful.

We stayed one night in Cusco for Nathaniel to have his meetings and exams, then headed to the house in Urubamba the next day.  The place ended up being perfect!  The kids were still not feeling all that well, so Alicia and I stayed put for several days.  We certainly didn’t want to put them back in the car on those winding roads after all of that!  But since we had such a beautiful place to stay, we didn’t mind a bit.  The kids had plenty of room to play, and Alicia and I sat on the patio enjoying the views of the valley while Nate and Nathaniel attended all of their meetings.

^view from our hotel room in Cusco... then on to Urubamba the next day!
^view from our hotel room in Cusco… then on to Urubamba the next day!

Over the course of the 10 days, we explored the little town of Urubamba as we had time, as well as a bit of Cusco on the days that we had to drive there for various things.  And while it was fairly laid-back trip for the mamas and kiddos, that wasn’t quite the case for Nate and Nathaniel.  They were certainly busy and had a full schedule, but we were all really thankful to get to spend time with some of the other missionaries serving in various parts of Peru with our agency,  with the new agency director, and with our regional director.  Alicia and I were able to go with the guys to a few events, and it was wonderful to catch up with our coworkers here in Peru.  The kids were thankful to get to play with their missionary-kid buddies that they hadn’t seen in awhile, and we were glad to have the chance to go to the very first service of one of our new sister churches here in Peru.

^ the guys enjoying dinner with the new agency director (Far left: Lloyd Kim) and our regional director (Far right: Bill Yarborough)
^ the guys enjoying dinner and discussing ministry with the new agency director (Far left: Lloyd Kim) and our regional director (Far right: Bill Yarborough)
^ dinner and a meeting with the Peru missionaries and some of the people involved in the churches in Cusco
^ dinner and a meeting with the Peru missionaries and some of the people involved in the churches in Cusco
^ we had the privilege to attend the very first worship service of our sister church in Cusco, La Fuente de Gracia.
^ we had the privilege to attend the very first worship service of our sister church in Cusco, La Fuente de Gracia.

At the end of the trip, we had a couple of days for our two families as a team to spend some uninterrupted time working through planning, vision, and goals for the future of our ministry in Arequipa.  (Unless you count interruptions by the kids, in which case we were interrupted about 270 times.)  It nice to dream about future ideas, work through logistics of ministries that we hope to start soon, and spend focused time discussing the vision for our team.  The evenings were spent chatting by the fire, playing a little Catan, and being reminded of how thankful we are for our teammates.

^ preparing a pachamanca... a delicious peruvian meal cooked in a hole in the ground! YUM!
^ preparing a pachamanca… a delicious peruvian meal cooked in a hole in the ground! YUM!

Finally it was time to fill the kids up with anti-nausea medicine and hit the road again.  Thankfully we did a little better on the return trip, but we were all ready to be out of the car when we arrived in Arequipa again.     And even though it was a long drive, it was completely worth it.  The boys are already asking for another trip back to “the Big House!”

^ The sun setting over the sacred valley, as seen from the backyard of The Big House. We can't wait to go back!
^ The sun just starting to set over the sacred valley, as seen from the backyard of The Big House. We can’t wait to go back!

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Check out a few more picture from our trip.  Hover over the photo for captions, and click for larger view or slideshow viewing.  Enjoy! 

Bonham Family Update {December 2014}

Each month, our team writes an e-newsletter update with what is going on with our ministry here in Arequipa. {Be sure to sign up if you want to receive it!} Once a quarter, that newsletter includes “family updates” from the families on our team with personal stories, thoughts, prayer requests, etc… and of course lots of pictures!   It is less about ministry or team and more about what is going on at home for each of us.  This is the Bonham Family Update from December 2014.  It went out via email about a month ago, so I am behind in posting it here, but better late than never! 

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I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow I find myself getting ready for our second Christmas in Arequipa. How is that possible? Didn’t we just get here?

December 18th marks 1 year since our plane landed here in “the white city” of Arequipa, Peru. For Nikki and the kids, it was their first time laying eyes on this beautiful city, and from the moment we saw the enormous “El Misti” volcano towering overhead, we were all hooked. It’s nearly impossible not to fall in love with this place. But despite the beauty of the city and the excitement of finally arriving in the long-term ministry location we’d spent years praying for, the reality was that we were swirling in chaos.

^ Our first glimpse of Arequipa
^ Our first glimpse of Arequipa

This time last year, we were steadily moving forward in our Spanish, but still not very confident. We had just started really feeling “at home” in Colombia when we packed up and moved again to a city where we didn’t know a single person other than a taxi driver named Jesús. We had just downsized everything we owned to the bare minimum (again) and made another international move…for the 2nd time in 15 months. We bounced around from temporary housing in Bogotá while we closed up our lives there to temporary housing in Lima while we worked on visa paperwork to temporary housing in Arequipa while we house-hunted for something permanent, all while living out of a couple of suitcases. And sweet little Luís, who had only been home with us for a few short months and was just starting to adjust to his new life, had his world turned upside down AGAIN when we moved, and he regressed once more into puddles of anxiety and fear. And all just a week before Christmas. We found a $20 Christmas tree and a few decorations, bought a few simple gifts for the boys, and celebrated with thankfulness that the Lord had faithfully brought us here. But needless to say, my memories of our first Christmas in Arequipa are a big blur of just trying to survive the chaos.

^ Christmas 2013 -- last year's whirlwind Christmas
^ Christmas 2013 — last year’s whirlwind Christmas

And now here we are, a year later, approaching our second Christmas in Arequipa, and things look much different. This Christmas, we find ourselves in a city that we have grown to love, in a sweet little home that meets all of our needs, laboring alongside a tiny church family that has embraced us with open arms, finding opportunities for ministry in all parts of the city, a steadily growing confidence in our language abilities, and a burgeoning community that we cherish. And not to mention our favorite little Colombian who is adjusting beautifully, thriving in his family, and making developmental strides all across the board. What a difference a year makes!

^Christmas 2014
^Christmas 2014
^ Christmas 2014 {with this years Christmas Eve jammies}
^ Christmas 2014 {with this years Christmas Eve jammies}

Sometimes I wonder how we got from there to here in only 12 short months, but the answer is simple; the Lord has been so faithful in meeting our needs and answering the prayers of our team and our supporters. He has given us one opportunity after the next to jump in head-first into the city and culture if we only keep our eyes and hearts open for them. He has protected us and guided us every step of the way into situations that have developed into real relationships and opportunities to share the gospel.

But practically speaking, it has certainly been a full and busy 12 months!

Nate has had the chance to lead bible studies, prayer groups, and a growing community youth ministry. He has preached in Spanish, counseled in Spanish, met with pastors around the city, participated in a short-term trip in another part of Peru, traveled across the world for leadership training with our missions agency, become part of an Andino music group, and developed thriving cross-cultural friendships.

^Nate preaching in spanish at our church
^Nate preaching in spanish at our church
^Nate playing with "Jesus El Verbo," the Andino music group he is a part of
^Nate playing with “Jesus El Verbo,” the Andino music group he is a part of

Nikki has jumped back into Spanish class, become involved in the women’s ministry at their small church, started learning how to cook a few Peruvian dishes, had the opportunity to try her hand at teaching bible study in Spanish, begun homeschooling, and has begun making sweet Peruvian friends.

The three superheroes of the house went to an all-Spanish preschool for 6 months for a language boost, then started homeschooling with Nikki in October. The twins, Noah and Barrett (4), are making strides in their Spanish and have enjoyed jumping into preschool/kindergarten at home. Luís (5) goes to four therapy sessions a week with an excellent therapy group and is making progress in every area. His English is getting better and better, and his ability to communicate impresses us more every day. His psychologist has told us numerous times how obvious it is that Luís is “an exceptionally happy child,” and that of course makes our hearts overflow with happiness and thanksgiving.

^The boys first day of preschool, March 2014
^The boys first day of preschool, March 2014

^the twins hard at work with homeschool while Luís is in therapy
^the twins hard at work with homeschool while Luís is in therapy

When the boys aren’t in the middle of school or therapy, they are sword-fighting, wrestling, and rescuing the world dressed up as the superhero of the day, whatever it may be. There is never a dull (or quiet!) moment, to be sure! We have also added a sweet new puppy named Lucy to the family, and she is a handful in every sense of the word. She’s also growing a little faster than we thought, and it looks like we might have a bigger dog than we had planned!

^Lucy at 2 months and 4 months…and she just keeps growing! 

Thankfully, with the busyness and fullness has come such joy and thankfulness as well! We feel so utterly blessed to be serving the Lord here in Arequipa, and we are constantly amazed at the ways that He proves himself faithful in our lives and ministry again and again. We have no idea what next year will bring or what life will look like 12 months from now. But we do know that no matter where the next year finds us, we can walk into this Christmas season with confidence that, even in the midst of chaos and change, He is good and steady and faithful.

Merry Christmas from the Bonhams!

2014 Shoot (3 of 10)

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Thanks for keeping up with us and our ministry in 2014, and please continue to pray for us in 2015!   Sign up for our monthly newsletters if you aren’t receiving them already, and be sure to check out the family update from our teammates, Nathaniel and Alicia Gutierrez. 

Yet another big announcement…

So I’ve got some big news, and I think the best way is just to drop it on you. So here it is.

We’re moving to Colombia!  You know, the South American one?

“Wait, what? What about Costa Rica?”  I know that’s what you’re thinking.

Now that you’re completely confused, let me go back and explain a little.

Nate and I (and another family) are heading to the mission field in a few months.  The plan from day one has been to help our missions agency (MTW) to develop a training program for missionaries who want to start new ministries in unreached areas.  We will participate in this training program for 2 years, then head out to start a new work in another Latin American country.

Well the plan so far has been to do this training program in Costa Rica, but the team working there is brand new, and it would be hard for us to try to put this training program on top of all of their hard work of establishing a new ministry.  So MTW started looking at other teams who are a little more established and might be better prepared to sustain a big training program.

And Colombia is it.  Bogota, Colombia to be exact.

The team there is big, plus its been there for about 16 years.  (…minus a few years in the early 2000s when they had to leave for safety reasons.  But then they went back, and it’s much safer there now, I promise!)  And there are several new church plants there in various stages of development, so they’ll be able to train us in church planting at each of those stages.  And on top of all that, it turns out that the church in Colombia is receiving regular requests from other countries to please send missionaries, church planters, and pastors so they can start establishing similar ministries in other areas of Latin America.  Bogota, Colombia, is becoming a regular hub of gospel outreach all over Latin America!  As a result, we’ll have a much better opportunity to network and discern where the Lord might be calling us long-term after our 2 years of training.

(by the way, if you want to know more about this, please click on over to our missions blog. Nate and Josh have posted a video and letter about the switch.)

Pretty dadgum exciting.  Of course, I had to go tell my parents that I’m moving their grandchildren to COLOMBIA, which wasn’t fun.  But the good thing is that Colombia has really turned around over the past 10 years or so, and its now a really beautiful, safe place to live and visit.  The last two Colombian presidents have worked their tails off to turn things around down there.  (Unfortunately, it takes longer for the reputation to get turned around!)

So everything else is still on track – nothing has changed about our vision, our overall plan, or our timeline.  Still leaving in August, still training for two years, still starting a new work in  Latin America when we’re done training. The only thing that’s changed is the city on the plane ticket.

This has all been worked out in the past 2-3 weeks, so we’ve basically been running around like madmen trying to sort out the details.  But despite the insanity of having to reprint every single piece of literature we have and re-record all of our videos to say Colombia instead of Costa Rica, we have had an amazing sense of peace about this whole thing.  We’ve prayed about it, talked about it, researched it, talked with our bosses, talked with both the Costa Rican and Colombian teams, and everyone involved feels the same way:  this just seems to be the right fit.

This sure has been an exciting journey, and we haven’t even gone anywhere yet! But I’ll tell you this:  It sure is amazing to see how God works out all my questions far in advance.  He’s got the details handled, so I’m just going to go with it.

And now for the next question you might be asking…”what about your Costa Rican adoption?”    That’s an exciting story too.  And I’ll answer that one tomorrow (:

What I gained

I posted 2 days ago about the things I missed while we were out of town last week… it’s always hard being away from the boys, whether it’s on my errand-day once a week, a night away for us, or a week away for a training.  I always miss them and seeing all of the new little things they’re learning.

But this time, it was so worth it, because of all of the BIG things I was learning.

The training week was called Living in Grace, and it was a spiritual development conference that focused on teaching us how to do just that — live in grace.  We had a couple of lecture sessions each day that focused on various topics centered around the gospel and how the grace of the gospel is played out in our lives.   How does it change our hearts, our thoughts, our actions, our relationships?  How does the love of God and the grace he extends to us and demonstrates in our lives impact us and those around us?  How does an understanding of the gospel and of grace CHANGE us?  Because it should.

We also had small group sessions where we discussed this in more intimate, detailed, and personal ways.  Josh and Emily were in our small group, plus another couple that we had never met before but became great friends with before we left. We had an amazing small group leader who works with the agency’s mentoring program, helping new missionaries prepare for the field.  All of our time spent in the group was precious and meaningful.   It’s amazing how much you learn about God through seeing another person’s relationship with Him.

We also had some one-on-0ne time with our small group leader, Sue, where we could talk about some things that were more specific to our particular circumstances.   We had amazing worship sessions, and I loved being in the mist of a group of people so passionate about their love for the Lord and hearing them sing so boldly. We had amazing food (3 homecooked meals every day – I think I gained about 25 pounds, then I lost them again walking up the crazy North Carolina hills to and from the cafeteria.  ‘Uphill both ways’ is not an expression. It’s the truth.

We also had some free time – an hour or two during the day where we could do whatever we wanted.  We were at a camp in the middle of nowhere in the mountains of North Carolina, so just sitting in a rocking chair on a huge front porch while enjoying the view was a great way to spend time.  Plus there was a lake with canoes, a rope swing, a slide, innertubes, and more.  And ropes courses.  And hiking trails with waterfalls.   Sometimes Nate and I went and did fun outdoorsy stuff, sometimes we sat in rocking chairs with our Bibles and just talked through some of the things we were learning.  All of it was refreshing and a great way for us to reconnect without all of the busyness of babies.

There were several things that really stood out to me during the week that I have been reflecting on alot since we got back.

  1. Pray for missionaries.  I was reminded this week of how important it is to a missionary’s work to have prayer support. So many missionaries are heading to very dark places, to places with people who are hurting in ways we can’t imagine.  The strength they need to carry on their work can only be found in Christ – it isn’t something they can do on their own.  Pray for them.  Pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to saturate their ministry, because that is the only way that light and healing can come to the people they are serving.  Hearing the stories from some of the other missionaries reminded me of how much of a priority this should be in my prayer life.   Saturate the mission field with prayer.  It’s the most powerful way we can support them around the world.
  2. God’s love is so much deeper than I can imagine.  I have been convicted about how shallow my understanding of God’s love really is.  He loved me before he redeemed me, not because he redeemed me.  If I fully understood that concept, it would reflect in everything else in my life.  Everything.
  3. My heart is more in love with itself than it is with God.  We talked alot about humility this week, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have an ounce of it in me.  Pride runs rampant in my heart, and the only fix for this problem is grace from God. I can’t do anything about it out of my own strength, because if I tackled my pride and became humble, I’d be proud of it. The grace of God is the only cure.
  4. Repentance is a posture, not an act.  A repentant heart is an attitude in all of life, not an action of confession after I sin.  It should flow through all of my life and be a constant state of submitting my will to the Father’s.

I could go on, but it gets overwhelming.  Suffice it to say that the Lord worked in my heart last week, and He is continuing to work as I sort through it all in my head.

This is yet another reason why I love our agency.  They care alot about my heart and my relationship with the Lord.  They make sure that I come away from these trainings and can say, “Let me tell you about what I gained…”