Saturday, November 9, 2013

It Is Well With My Soul

I am well. I am content. Pull up this song and enjoy while reading:


One Sunday morning in October I woke up early, got on a bus at 7:15am, and arrived out in San Juan de Lurigancho by 8:30am. I met up with Katty, a 23-year-old journalism major who has been working with the young adults out in SJL to create videos about the realities – both the good and the bad – of their neighborhoods, and Abilia, a 30-something woman who lives in SJL and has been one of the bridges between CENCA’s work with adults and young adults. Our goal: to get video footage to enter the young adult program in a countrywide contest through a government program that promotes groups of young adults and women. Our method: walk between the six different neighborhoods and interview people in each site. We took a bus as far into the area as a road goes and then proceeded to walk up steep dusty roads and stairs to find each neighborhood. It was the first sunny day Lima had in a while so pretty quickly my sweatshirt and hat came off and found their home in my bag. It was great to finally get to see where the young adults that I’ve been getting to know on Wednesday nights actually live and spend their time.

After a bike ride into Miraflores the next day, one of the richer and more touristy areas of Lima, I wrote this in my journal: “Miraflores is such a crazy change from what I saw yesterday in SJL. There are things I like about both. In SJL I loved the sense of community and togetherness that I felt in a few of the pueblos. I loved the fact that all of them were outside working and getting dirty and building things. Kids were running around playing together. I loved that you can ask anywhere where a certain person lives, and they can point you to the house and tell you if they are home or not at the moment. They call each other ‘neighbor’ and know all about each other’s lives. They are starting to put down roots – literally planting trees and bushes and flowers – but also working to put in their own infrastructure that the government has not provided. In Miraflores I love the organization. I like that the traffic is slightly less crazy there and that you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables. I like the plants everywhere and the green grass and the cleanliness. I love the corner cafes and the well/thoughtfully dressed people. I like that people are out going on runs and walking around. I like the convenience.”

To the right of me are Katty, Jon Carlos, Abilia, Shakira, and ??.

The road they're building to reach their neighborhood. 

The neighborhood Portada de Belén meeting together.

A view of one of many hillsides.
Some green vegetables growing from the hard dirt.


This past weekend I took advantage of a Friday holiday to go on a little vacation in Huánuco and Tingo María. Emma and I took an overnight bus into Huánuco, met up with Mary Kate and her housemate/coworker/friend Ana who is from Brazil, and headed into the central jungle of Peru. We ended up hiring a driver to take us to and from Tingo María and drive us around while we were there. It was really cheap and also turned out to be fun to get to know our driver, Carlos. He is a 26-year-old guy whose full time job is transportation. He used to work selling chicken, and his goal in the next couple of years is to open up is own shop to sell pork.

We got to hike through the jungle to see the waterfalls Las Ninfas (The Nymphs) whilst getting eaten by bugs, sliding around in the mud, gawking at the “mari-posers” (mariposa = butterfly), sweating in the humid heat, and trying fruit that Carlos found for us. We drove through crazy long tunnels that had no lights inside and barely enough room at some points for two cars to pass. We got a picture at La Ducha del Diablo (The Devil's Shower) while at the same time getting a shower from the downpour that was currently coming down from the sky. We swam under El Velo de la Novia (The Bride's Veil) despite the fact that it was still raining outside. We visited an incredibly impressive cave filled with owls - La Cueva de las Lechuzas. We tried new fruits like guaba (looks like a long bean pod and has fluffy white fruit inside around massive black seeds) and aguaje (the outside looks the red scaly snake skin and has a thin layer of bright yellow fruit underneath). We ate some typical food from the jungle like tacacho (crumbly banana) and cecina (salty slice of pork). And in Huánuco we ate the best popsicle I have ever had in my life – avocado!

Me, Mary Kate, and Emma at La Ducha del Diablo.

Anna, Me, Emma, Mary Kate at the end of our hike.

Trying out some guaba.

Looking out of La Cueva de las Lechuzas.

Beautiful river... muddy from the rain!

The mountains look like a women sleeping on her back.


26 hours after arriving back to Lima from the weekend in the jungle, I got in another car to head to La Oroya. I taught the first in an installment of two workshops on creation care to a group of about 13 kids that are part of the CAMBIALO program that I talked about in my first September blog. It was good for my soul to study some theology again and let myself do more reading than I needed to just because I was interested in the subject. I also felt so extremely welcomed by them. When I arrived there was a delicious lunch of green salad, chicken, and potato waiting for me that Esther, one of the founding women of the Filomenas group, had made for me. She told me: “Normally I would have made a soup, but I thought I’d make something special today for our Abby.”

The workshop was directed to a group of kids so there wasn’t a super high level of sophistication, but we read Genesis 1 together to begin with and eventually also looked at a section of Psalm 104. We spent some time thinking about and expressing gratitude for the many blessings that we can enjoy in creation. We then, through the guidance of the Psalm, looked at the intimate relationships that exist between all things and how this can give us hope for the future even as they see the big environmental problems facing them in La Oroya. We did lots of activities, and it was really fun! I’ll be teaching the second half in a couple weeks.

On the drive home I was confronted with a beautiful sight. While it was raining in La Oroya it had been snowing at Ticlio Pass. There was a thin layer of snow on all of the mountains and as we crossed to the other side, I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets in my life. There was a bright orange sky interspersed with a few thin wispy clouds set between two snow-dusted mountains. Absolutely gorgeous. God is good.

(first verse of the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul”)

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

(And for those who care to know…)

"It Is Well with My Soul" is a hymn penned by hymnist Horatio G. Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss. It is possibly the most influential and enduring in the Bliss repertoire and is often taken as a choral model, appearing in hymnals of a wide variety of Christian fellowships. It is based on Psalm 146:1.

This hymn was written after traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago which was decimated by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873 at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone …". Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died. Bliss called his tune Ville du Havre, from the name of the stricken vessel.

The Spaffords later had three more children, one of whom, their only son, Horatio Goertner Spafford, died at the age of four, of scarlet fever in 1880. In 1881, the Spaffords, including baby Bertha and newborn Grace, set sail for Israel. The Spaffords moved to Jerusalem and helped found a group called the American Colony; its mission was to serve the poor. The colony later became the subject of the Nobel prize winning Jerusalem, by Swedish novelist Selma Lagerlöf.

(just pulled from Wikipedia, but still really interesting!)


  1. Thank you for your wonderful post! It does sound like it is well with your soul. Love you!! Mom

  2. Great to read the update! Glad you're doing well and really getting to explore the country! Blessings on your work friend!

  3. Hi Abby,
    It's been a while since I've read your blog, but think about you all the time. Thank you for the link to this beautiful hymn and for the information about it. One of my favorites. You are beautiful as always inside and out and it shows in your writings and pictures :) Glad to hear all is well!
    Love, The Waite Gang