As a rising college freshman, I found the Peru trip to be truly the capstone of my youth group experience. For me, this trip encompassed every aspect of the youth group most important to me: community, faith, and service. Everything about this trip reinforced the ideas of faith that have been instilled in me throughout my years in the youth group.
Meeting the youth, the OSA leaders, and the leaders of their local church, La Luz de Esperanza, was an invaluable experience for me. It clearly showed me how God is working around the world, not just in my community, and how these people without all the everyday luxuries we have come to expect are still vivacious, appreciative individuals. Building on this point, something critical I took away from the experience was that despite our completely different backgrounds, we really are not all that different. This touches on the point of community I mentioned earlier. I believe that, as believers in Christ, we are all—not just us South Main members—a community under God. It was eye-opening to see this fact in person.
However, the main reason we were even in Peru at all was to serve. I arrived in Collique excited to do what I could to help their community in the best way possible; however, after seeing the way they lived on a daily basis, the excitement turned into a passionate desire to serve. While our actions would help the people of Collique, the hardest part still was knowing that there was only so much we could do to assist them. In the end, we were just passing through and they were the ones that would have to continue to deal with the hardships of living in an impoverished area. Despite the difficult conditions, the people of Collique were some of the most cheerful, gracious, and faithful individuals I have ever met in my life. This was incredibly encouraging for me to see. It made me realize that even though I was the one who came to give to these people, I ended up receiving far more than I ever could have given them.
The people of Collique showed me what it looks like to live a faithful life where God always comes first; they demonstrated to me how despite having almost nothing, through Jesus, they had everything they needed. Even with this realization, my desire to help did not ebb, nor did my frustration with my inability to help. However, one of our leaders, Marco, recalled experiences from his missionary work where small seeds blossomed into things vastly more wide-ranging than initially thought. This idea consoled me and offered the most succinct, comforting lesson for me moving forward in my life as a Christian. Because, at the end of the day, all we can do is plant the seed and hope—hope that it blossoms into something more.