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Encountering Peru

July 12, 2013 No Comment
Lina Zinz gets up close and personal with a guinea pig on CLWR's recent Global Encounter to Peru.

Lina Zinz gets up close and personal with a guinea pig on CLWR’s recent Global Encounter to Peru.

by James Morgan

“It was a wonderful experience,” is how one participant in Canadian Lutheran World Relief’s (CLWR) first Young Adult Global Encounter trip described the recent visit to Peru. From May 10- 21, 20 people aged 18 to 35 and three CLWR staff members visited the South American country, touring CLWR-supported projects, visiting Peruvian Lutheran congregations, and seeing historical sites. Among the attendees were three Lutheran Church–Canada members: Sarah McCrae, Caroline (Lina) Zinz, and Stephanie Bohl.

CLWR’s Youth Engagement Coordinator Rev. Tyler Gingrich explained that the Young Adult Global Encounter is designed to give young Lutherans the opportunity to see the work CLWR is doing around the world. In Peru, the group visited Casma, where CLWR’s partner organization Diaconia assists Peruvians with developing sustainable agricultural practices. The work involves training people in organic farming, techniques to prevent soil erosion, and increasing crop yields. Livestock raising practices are also part of the work.

Of course, there are significant differences between farming in Peru and in Canada. On most family farms in Peru, for example, raising “livestock” means guinea pigs not cattle and hogs, notes Rev. Gingrich. Sarah McCrae, whose home congregation is Faith Lutheran Church in Vermilion, Alberta says the farms in rural Peru are very different from her family’s farm. She noted Peruvian subsistence farms are extremely small (about one acre) and agriculture for profit is not the goal. To put that in comparison, McCrae’s family farm encompasses 3,000 acres.

“It was nothing like I’d ever seen before,” Lina Zinz, an archivist from Prince George, British Columbia whose home congregation is St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vernon, B.C.  “They’re so proud of their products,” she adds, describing how the small-scale Peruvian farmers value what they produce for their own consumption, but also that through the CLWR-supported program, they hope to begin marketing some of their products. “It’s a different mentality,” agrees Stephanie Bohl of Guelph, Ontario and Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Kitchener, Ontario, in reference to the small scale farming the group observed in Peru.

Rev. Gingrich adds that farming methods in Peru are very labour intensive. There are no tractors, and donkeys are the primary beast of burden used in the field. Crops grown in the Casma region include alfalfa, apples, oranges, avocadoes, and mangoes.

While in Peru, the Global Encounter group visited two congregations of the Iglesia Luterana Evangélica Peruana (a small church body affiliated with the Lutheran World Federation). “They were welcoming,” Lina Zinz recollects. Sarah McCrae explains that “there’s a lot of joy” in the congregations and their worship services. She also notes that, even though the services were in Spanish, the familiarity of the Lutheran liturgy was still there, giving the Canadian visitors a sense of belonging. Stephanie Bohl says that unlike most Lutheran congregations in Canada, spontaneous singing is common during services in Peru.

Sarah McCrae, Stephanie Bohl, and Jenny Steinke (CLWR Administration Coordinator) in Peru

Sarah McCrae, Stephanie Bohl, and Jenny Steinke (CLWR’s Administration Coordinator) in Peru

Participants in the Young Adult Global Encounter say the trip to Peru not only allowed them to see how CLWR funds and projects are applied in the field, but the experience also influenced their faith. Stephanie Bohl says it is “profound to see God working in all parts of the world,” adding “God is the same no matter where you are in the world.” Lina Zinz says there was a “sense of community,” in their interaction with the Peruvians; “there wasn’t really an us or them,” she adds. Sarah McCrae says the trip caused her to ask “What is Christianity at its heart?” Her answer is that it is something that goes beyond boundaries between how people of different cultures and faiths interact. “I was impressed with the diversity we got to experience,” she says.  McCrae noted, however, that certain problems were also evident during the trip, explaining how Peruvians expressed concern over the environmental practices of Canadian mining companies operating in Peru.

The trip also allowed the participants to see some significant historical and cultural sites, including the famous ancient ruins of Macchu Picchu, a former Inca settlement dating to the 15th century in the Cuzco region of Peru. They also saw 16th century Spanish artifacts and a Roman Catholic cathedral. In the Casma region, the group saw the Las Aldas ruins.

Visiting Peru as part of the CLWR Young Adult Global Encounter was a first time mission experience for Lina Zinz. Stephanie Bohl had previously gone to New Orleans on a mission trip after that city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Sarah McCrae had gone to Costa Rica while she was a student at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C. McCrae thanks CLWR for its support through covering some of the travel costs. All three participants said they would go again if another Young Adult Global Encounter trip was organized by CLWR. “It’s really worthwhile,” says Bohl.

Zinz, Bohl, and McCrae reflect on their experiences in Peru in a new video from CLWR. To hear their thoughts, as well as the thoughts of the other Global Encounter participants, watch it online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTv5SMI47wU.

Canadian Lutheran World Relief has recently announced an extended deadline for applications for its 2014 Global Encounter trip to the Holy Land. Participants will experience the religious heritage and culture of region while meeting with CLWR’s project partners in Israel and Palestine. The 2014 Global Encounter is not restricted to young adults, and the deadline for applications has been extended to September 16, 2013. For more information or to apply, visit CLWR’s website here.

Motivated by Christ’s love, CLWR and LCC work in effective partnership to improve day-to-day life and provide opportunity for long-term sustainability in communities around the globe. Within Canada, CLWR assists Lutheran communities engaged in refugee resettlement.


James Morgan is a writer and former broadcaster living in Gatineau, Quebec where he is completing a Ph.D in History at the University of Ottawa. His home congregation is Trinity Lutheran near Gowanstown, Ontario, and he also worships at the Lutheran Tri-Parish of Western Quebec.

Photo credits: Title image by Julie Letourneau. Second image by Rev. Tyler Gingrich.

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