Peru Mission Trip 2015 Blog

Posted: June 18, 2015
The following students, along with Mr. Thane Hall and James Higdon (ERVC), are on the annual mission trip to Peru: Preston Carey, Hugh Flynn, Matthew Guella, Thomas Hamill, Alexander Jouhet, Matthew Hannawa, Joseph Mekhael, Brendan Murnen, Lorenzo Spaguolo, Joseph Wagner and Timothy Walsh. Please keep them in your prayers!
Enjoy the reports from afar…


Early Friday morning, after a full day of travel from Detroit to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Lima:

“All is well made it in to the Brother’s House at 1:15 snack and bed by 1:30. Up at 7:30 and outperu 2
of the house by 8:30 to Villa Salvador to work with the orphans.”
Late Friday night, after spending the day at the Villa Salvador orphanage:
“It was a very moving day seeing the children and being able to hold them and
love them even for a short time. The Lord truly is blessing our service!”
Please pray for the continued safe travels of the Peru group, and the service
work they will be doing!


Today was a day about Kevin. Kevin is a 17 year old boy who lives near us in the Las Flores section of Lima. Kevin has a younger brother, an older sister with special needs. His dad lives a couple hours away and holds a job as a bus driver.  His mom and the rest had to move to Lima for schooling for his special needs sister. Things were going well with Kevin until his mother was diagnosed with cancer last year and last month ended up succumbing to the disease. Brother Steve who has known the family for the last 10 years decided to let us help the family out by allowing us to help dig out the side of the hill that the family lives on. It took Kevin’s dad three years to dig out a section of the hill where the family built their home. Now he wants to add on and have a back yard. We began to help them dig out 15 feet or more of the hillside. 15 feet high, 20 feet deep and 15 feet wide. Not a problem if we had a backhoe, but we had a couple of pick axes and shovels to begin the process.

The boys did a wonderful job in the shoveling and removal of a good size chunk of the hill. It would have taken Kevin and his dad weeks to do what we accomplished.  The boys got to shovel dirt and rocks into a bucket, others the. Passed the bucket down the hill and passed it off to others who then dumped the bucket in front of the house. The boys did a great job with minimal complaining.

As this was happening the boys got to know Kevin and Rodrigo a neighborhood boy about 8 or 9 who just showed up to be with the boys. We worked about 3 hours in the morning, with some breaks, broke for a ham and cheese lunch with some Inca Cola. After lunch we were able to play soccer and basketball with Kevin, our boys and some neighborhood kids. It was a blast and Kevin has some great skills that would have put him on our varsity team at Rice. It was amazing to see him dribble through our boys as they looked at each other with bewilderment.

Following our soccer and basketball game it was time to put another two hours up on the hill moving dirt. The boys continued their great job!

Upon completion we said our good byes and brought Kevin back home with us for dinner. He felt as if he was part of our family and we can’t wait to see him again Monday night for our dinner. dinner tonight was a mushroom soup which was delicious but not many of the boys were keen to it. That was followed with a delicious spaghetti and meatball dish that the boys went back for seconds and thirds.

We concluded the night with our reflection that centered on how we felt that day. Many of the boys spoke of their love and compassion for Kevin and his family. It does seem that the Lord is moving our boys heart to be more loving and compassionate to the other In our lives. Lights out 10:45 and wake up 6:45 for breakfast at 7 and out of the house at 8:00 for our trip to Dr. Tony’s and Mass.

All of the boys are well no one is sick and nobody has said they were home sick, so all is well. They all seem to be getting a lot out of our experience and hearts are being moved.

Thanks for your prayers and God bless, hasty mañana,



Wow! Today was another day for kids. Today we went to Doctor
Tony’s in Choclacayo, Peru about an hour and a half bus ride from the
Brother’s house. Not so bad being a Sunday, but many Peruvians still
have to get up to go to work. Dr. Tony’s is a place for blest and
broken children. Eight are there for cleft palate surgeries, three areunnamed
there for severe burns most to their head and neck, one boy’s esophagus
is not connected and has to be feed with a tube and many others are
dealing with other deformities from birth. There are 40 of these
blessings at Dr. Tony’s of which most will be treated and then sent
home. Not a small number have been abandoned by their families with no
hope of a happy reunion and will stay at Dr. Tony’s for an extended
time. Like my buddy Victor who was born with no arms and only one leg,
he has been at Dr. Tony’s for 10 years or more. He was being shuttled
back and forth to Tampa to get a new prosthetic leg, but it seems now
he has stopped growing, so the one he has will have to do for a while.That
is what we walked into this morning, so much was the immensity of
the brokenness that two of our boys were overcome by lightheadedness
and Dr. Tony had them lay down for a while. Through the brokenness
comes the blessing, as 10 children ran up to our boys hugging them and
calling them amigos. No matter what the brokenness is there is a deep
joy in these children as they realize that we are there for them to
play with them and bring them some smiles, laughs and happiness. Just
being present was enough to bring them joy. Today’s reflection was
about Eucharist, and these blest and broken children became Eucharist
for us as they brought Christ more fully into our lives.A beautiful image
sticks out as Percy the boy with a disconnected
esophagus stands next to our boys with this sad face because he wasn’t
going to be able to go to mass with everyone, when Dr. Tony finally
gave the word that he was fine to go a joy shone on his face that is
hard to explain. Brother Steve said if only everyone would be that sad
that they were going to miss mass, the world would be a better place.
Another beautiful image is this procession of broken children
processing six blocks to church, on crutches, in wheelchairs being
pushed by our boys, the blind boy holding onto one of our boys and the
many others with various ailments trudging along to join the rest of
the community around the table of the Lord.After mass and lunch we again gathered up the children to go to the
park and play futbol. It was amazing seeing the children playing
futbol and other games and the happiness that goes with it.  There are
not enough volunteers to help bring them to the park so they truly
look forward to the students of the Edmund Rice Network coming on
Sunday’s to take them to mass and the park. Inevitably we had to leave
this sacred place and begin our journey back to Lima in which we got
to Plaza Major just in time to see Peru score the first goal against
the powerhouse Brazil team. Large screen tv’s in the plaza allowed for
a couple thousand people to see the game live. To our surprise Brother
Pablo kept walking through the plaza to the Monastery of San Francisco
built in 1673, where we got to see the catacombs where an estimated
25,000 people’s bones are and a library that looks like, you guessed
it the library from Harry Potter!Finished with the tour we hung out in the plaza for a short time and
then headed back home for dinner at 7:00 and reflection at 9:00, with
lights out at 11:00 for our 7:00 am breakfast call. The reflection for
the evening was what is Eucharist, how were the children Eucharist and
how was I Eucharist to someone else today. The boys had some beautiful
words and created some beautiful coloring about the topic. Again, our
days were long, our bodies are tired from the work yesterday and
today, and we look forward for our work tomorrow building a house for
a single mother with four children. More on that tomorrow.Vaya con Dios!

   DAY 4

The house for the family of Isaura. The Brother’s were a little
apprehensive as we embarked on our mission today because they left the
comfort of the hillside by our school where they have constructed
approximately 70 homes over the last 8 years for a new hillside by the
Bayover section of Canto Grande, Lima. As we walked the 20 minutes
from Fe y Alegria #26 to the location of the truck with our house, we
got many looks at the gringos coming into their neighborhood. And yes
the children were yelling “gringos”, as well as “hey amigo” as we
walked past and always seemed to be laughing at us because it is not
everyday that they do get to see a gringo! A funny thing happened when
a five year old girl came up to me and called me blanco, white, and
wanted to touch my skin to see if it felt like hers, and of course she
ran away laughing.That turned out to be the easy part. As we walked up to
the truck to unload I saw the 160 steps, almost straight up, that we would
have to carry our materials. After we unloaded the truck, we needed to spray
each piece with a termite protector so the termites would not eat the
house. Then began the arduous task of carrying each piece up those 160
steps. The house was built in sections, interior and exterior walls,
windows and doors, plus the tin roof. Once they got the hang of how to
carry the bulky sections, it would be 20 steps, rest, 20 more and so
on. It took four boys to carry each piece up the hill and took 7 trips
each to get all of our stuff up the hill. The beauty of how it is
organized is that each piece fits like a puzzle that when they brought
the final section up the skeleton of the house was completed, this was
especially important because of the small space we were working with.
There was a rift between Isuara and her neighbor who lives literally 5
feet away. When Isuara’s house burned down, because of her four year
old playing with matches, it took her neighbors house as well. You
could imagine, the brothers said that when they talked to her last
week she said that it would have been good for her four year old to go
up with the house. The brothers being men of faith and action, also
told the neighbor that they would be building a new house for her as
well. So next week when Palma comes down they will be building the
house for her. When we got to the location, the neighbor had already
built and secured the foundation for Isuara’s house, so I guess the
rift was healed.Now at the bottom of the hill is a cute pre school with 45 estudiantes
in it, which we will be bringing care packages to on Wednesday. Of
course we were a big distraction as we unloaded, sprayed and carry all
of our materials up the hill. The kids would come out and wave and
yell and scream at the boys and when school was over they would come
and shake our boys hands and say adios, very loving children. The
brothers will be adopting this little pre school. It was amazing to
have so many people come to us and thank us for taking care of Isuara
and the less fortunate. By the end of the day, the brothers were
informed of another three mothers that needed new homes and now they
are on the list! The brothers are doing some life changing work down
here.Another part of our day yesterday was abas, beans. A bunch of our guys
went to Tanya’s home and pealed beans. Tanya is a single mother who
makes her living going to the market early, buying beans and then
taking them home and spending the day pealing them so she can sell the
pealed beers for a coup,e of soles a day. When we help her, she can
have three or four times the amount to sell and make a little bit more
for her family. A bunch of the boys now have blisters on the fingers
and now how hard life is for Tanya and for many here in Peru who have
to scrape to get by each day.We also got to play with our students in our school, But more on that
later. Tomorrow it is back to the hill to paint, peal, and play with
the kids on the hill and at Fe y Alegria # 26!Blessings from Peru


It is with great sadness that we have to leave our new friends

in Lima and continue our journey to Cusco, Peru. Today was another
intense day of heart touching memories as we completed painting the
house for Isaura and her family. In this dry, arid land the family
chose to paint the outside of their house melon, a bright color that
signifies their hope for the future of the family. Stefany, the one
year old, loved the color so much that she found some wet paint and
painted her entire face the color of her house! We also bought for the
family 2 beds and a bunk bed for the little ones so they can have a
peaceful night sleep. This was important since all of them use to
sleep in the same bed prior to the fire.

As we left the family all of her neighbors came out to say thank you
for what we did and adios and see you next time. As we descended the
160 steps we stopped at the preschool to also say our good byes. The
director was very insistent that each of the boys gave her a hug for
the gifts that we gave to her students yesterday. We can only hope
that this its the beginning of a long relationship between the Edmund
Rice Network and the little preschool.

After lunch and our siesta, we broke into groups and a group went to
peal abas and another went to walk through the market and
neighborhood. The abas group helped Tanya to collect 80 kilos of beans
of which she is paid .40 soles for 32 soles or roughly $10 a day to
support herself and three children. The little help our boys gave her
went a long way to help her kids. The other group went to the market
where they found out that if you go into a regularly grocery store you
are taxed 18%, where if you go to the open air market there is no tax.
Walking around the boys saw that you can get everything at these
markets, like chicken that has been out all day or you can chose a
live chicken and they will take care of it for you. From there we went
to a man who had a previous house made and he invited us in and told
us how grateful he was to us as part of this network that helped him
get a new house. He kept thanking God for this blessing. We noticed
during our time here that the Peruvian people are a loving and
welcoming people as we kept being invited to people’s homes for food
or talk. To culminate our time we went back to our school and played
basketball before heading back on the bus to our home. It was
beautiful to see how welcomed we were by the Brothers as well, Brother
Steve as we were trying to find their house when we were on the top of
a mountain would keep saying our house, inclusive, is over there.
Letting the boys know that they are always welcomed in Lima!

We had a closing feast at the Brothers’, our house, of pizza. The
Peruvians do not put tomato sauce on their pizza so it took the boys a
second to overcome this obstacle, before devouring the 10 pizzas they
bought. To this feast the Brothers invited Jorge, our carpenter and
his daughter and our new friend Kevin, who the boys are now friends on
Facebook. It was good to see him again and catch up, plus we gave him
a Brother Rice pennant for his room. He was also overwhelmed as some
of the boys gave him clothes that they had in their bags.

We closed the evening with what this experience meant to us and how
the family, the children, the people of Lima, Peru have etched
themselves onto our hearts and our souls forever.  Now it’s to bed and
up early for our early flight to Cusco! The boys are tired,
overwhelmed and a little bit better for their time in Lima. Besides a
slightly twisted ankle from basketball and some scrapes from a fall,
and a heart that stands in solidarity with those marginalized by
poverty and injustice, the boys have weathered our service portion of
the immersion well.

May God bless all of our pilgrims, those that we have ministered to,
those that have ministered to us and you

Day 6

Cusco: Now that the service component is complete, we were up
and out of the house by 5:06 a.m. this morning to get to the airport for
our early trip to Cusco. The travel was pretty uneventful for our oneand a half hour trip from Lima to Cusco. We were met at the airport byMax, our tour guide for the next three days, who speaks flawless
English. What a change from Lima, only about 500,000 live in and
around the Incan Capitol of Cusco and you can tell that you are in a
culturally distinct region.Our first stop in Cusco was the Basilica Cathedral that was built in
1533. Actually, it is three churches built side by side and it is
beautiful. One of the beautiful paintings inside is a last supper
scene in which the meal in the center is cuy, or guinea pig which is
part of cuisine of this part of Peru. Also, Judas in the painting is
actually a painting of Francisco Pizzaro who the Incan and Peruvian
people hate for what he did to them when he conquered this nation.
Interesting when the cathedral was partially destroyed in an
earthquake in 1969, it was Spain who paid for the restoration.Brendan Murnen said it best when he said that it is different here,
here we are tourists. In Lima, we were part of a community. We are no longer called gringos, a term of endearment for the boys, for everyone here is from the U.S., Germany, Holland, Ireland, England, Scotland, a guy was actually wearing a kilt on Machu Picchu, France, Australia and a few other countries, like Japan. These were only a few of the different passports that I was able to see. So it is different now and these last couple of reflections are more of what we toured today instead of how we were moved by the Lord and the people.Our next stop was Plaza de Armas in the center of Cusco. Because this weekend is the autumnal equinox, we are in the Southern Hemisphere, there are huge celebrations. High school groups are out with their marching bands, other high school kids dressed like Incans dancing in the streets makes for a festive atmosphere. People all over trying to sell the boys stuff which really hit a lot of them …realizing they are not in Lima anymore.We also go to see Qorikancha Temple, which is one of the Incas largest temples that was taken over by the Dominicans and made into a giant monastery. Now you have two parts that are remaining and people get a good feel for what the Incan religion is all about and you get to see the monastery as well which still functions as a monastery.

Next, was an hour and a half bus ride to our hotel in Ollantaytambo
which at one point we were 12,300 feet above sea level. None of our
guys had trouble with the altitude except it made them sleepy. We got
to our hotel and we got settled in and took a look around. Max, our
guide then took us to dinner, where some of the boys experienced
eating Al Paca and drank Chica Morada, a drink made from corn. After dinner, we took a quick walk around the small square and then straight to bed because the boys and I were exhausted and we had a 4:00 a.m. wake up to catch the 5:07 train to Machu Picchu.

Blessings from the Inca Capitol.

Day 7

Machu Picchu. Up early again to begin the 10 minute walk to the

train station so we could arrive at 4:37 am for our 5:07 train to
Aguas Calientes, the town at the bottom of the hill from Machu Picchu.image1
The train is a hour and a half from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.
I have been impressed with these boys because we have asked a lot from
them, like getting up before 5:00 am on many of these days and they
have been on task with little complaining.

Machu Picchu is now one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and
since my first trip there, there has been a doubling of the amount of
people that go on a daily basis. Today there are roughly 5000 people a
day that ascend the mountain. This has both positive and a negative
consequences. The tourism dollars are so vital to the people but the
amount of people on the mountain is causing a deterioration of the
site. Something the Peruvian Government is taking a closer look at.

Max our guide met us at the top and began a two hour tour of the site
in which the kids were excited about learning the history of the site
and Hiram Bingham the so called founder of the Lost City of the Incas.
After the tour which I know I learn a lot from and our boxed lunch,
lunch on the top of the mountain cost $50 and rooms in the lodge about
$800 a night, the boys were on their own to explore. They chose to go
on a hike up to the Sun Gate, about an hour straight up where they
took some pictures and then ran down. Overall they were pretty excited
about their trip to Machu Picchu. One of the fun parts of the day is
walking down the mountain which takes an hour and a half to complete.
When they reached the bottom they ran to the market to spend some of
their money on souvenirs.

What would any trip be without a Brother Rice related story. As some
of the boys were coming down the mountainside they began talking to a
Colombian couple that are from Michigan and of course from Bloomfield
Hills and had a son that graduated from Rice in 1993. There name I
believe was Pereira, their son played soccer for Jay.

Another good day for the boys as they were able to see how people made
their livings in this market with their children all around them
studying for school in between helping customers. The train ride was
eventful as they had a fashion show for the boys and others to buy
over priced Al Paca sweaters. The boys again finished this night
exhausted from all they did and the experiences they had.

Blessings from Machu Picchu.


Day 8

The Sacred Valley and Cuy. Today was a day of touring the
Sacred Valley and spending all of our money on souvenirs for the loved
ones. We had the opportunity to explore two more Incan cities,
Ollantaytambo and Pisac. Both have beautiful ruins that we had the
chance to climb and learn about. Max was back with us and did a great
job teaching our exhausted boys about his culture and the histories of
these sites. By the time Max was done with Pisac, I think the boys had
enough of Incan culture for this trip.

Following a delicious lunch the boys had the opportunity to spend and
hour or so running through the market haggling with the people over
prices for their gifts for moms and dads and brothers and sisters and
at least one wife and son. Most of the things in the market are hand
woven or painted and are very beautiful.

After the market was our hour and a half ride back to Ollantaytambo
where we got to eat a delicious dinner started off with soup and two
cuyes, which are guinea pigs which the boys took pictures with and
then ate. It was an experience for the boys who had the opportunity to
eat al paca, cuy and quinoa.

The boys went to sleep early since we had to be up by 4:20 to catch
our bus at 5:00 am for the two hour ride back to Cusco and our flight
back to Lima at 8:15.

Day 9: Going home. The boys are a little more than excited about goingimage1 (1)
home today. They can’t wait to have some of their mother’s delicious
cooking and sleep in their own beds.  It did finally happen that two
of the boys got food poisoning. It was especially tough because we had
to take the two hour drive to Cusco. On a hilly, winding road. Both
boys have already called home and mom knows that they are sick. At
this point in Lima airport, both seem to have their color back and
eating a little and staying hydrated. We arrived at the Lima airport
at 10:00 for a 1:10 am flight. It will be a long layover where the
boys can reflect about their trip or begin their summer homework.
Thanks for following their progress and keeping them in your prayers,

Adios de Peru, para el ultimo tempo,