Life is all about perspective. While I have always known that perspective matters, I learned on a recent mission trip to Curahuasi, Peru, that perspective is everything.
Curahuasi is an isolated, rural area nestled in the Andes Mountains. Colorful fields of grain, anise, flaxseed, and other crops cover the rolling mountains. When you look at the landscape, it feels like God threw an elaborate patchwork quilt of colorful fields over the hills. Due to the high altitude, thin clouds often float among the mountain tops, and when the sun shines, Curahuasi is so beautiful that it takes your breath away.
Yet, despite the rich beauty of the area, Curahuasi is referred to as the “poorhouse of Peru.” There are very few jobs available, and villages are isolated, remote, and difficult to navigate.
When I arrived in Curahuasi, I was immediately struck by the beauty in the midst of the harsh reality of life here. After an exhausting day of travel, I wanted nothing more than to sleep. When I entered my room, I was struck by how many spiders I saw. It seemed that spiders of all sizes were everywhere. As I pulled back the covers of my bed, I saw a black streak scurry across the sheets. I quickly killed the spider that was in my bed. I have always been terrified of spiders, and when I found the spider in my sheets I completely freaked out. Anxiety overwhelmed me, and I called my husband. I immediately started sobbing and told him that there was no way I could stay here. I would never be able to sleep in a bed with spiders. It was all just too much.
Although I desperately wanted to be at home, I somehow slept that night. As the week progressed, I worked hard to show the women and children that we met that they were God’s treasure. Our theme for the week was from Matthew 13:44-46 (NIV). “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” We spent our days explaining to the sweet people that we encountered that they were pearls of great worth, treasured by God.
Near the end of the week, we purchased food to deliver to four needy families. The first woman that we visited was elderly and sat on a mat inside her home. Her home was built with adobe bricks, a tin door, and a tarp for a roof. Chickens and guinea pigs ran around her and flies swarmed. She sat in the middle of the dirt floor because she could not walk. She had probably never been able to walk. Her day, every day, was spent on a dirt floor staring at the same animals and the same adobe walls. The only way that she could ever see the beautiful mountains that surrounded her was if someone carried her outside. As flies and insects swarmed around us, I wept.
The second house we visited was a single mother with three kids. Her husband deserted her, and she had recently broken her arm so she couldn’t work. Her baby was sick with a fever and she was so tired. I knew that she did not feel like she was God’s treasure.
The third house was filled with seven children living alone. The children’s dad abandoned them long ago, and their mother had recently left them as well. We talked to the 17 year old girl in a dark room with no electricity. She was trying to go to school and take care of her siblings, but without our food, I have no idea how the children could provide for themselves.
The final family we visited was a woman and her husband. When we walked in, the woman was in bed. She could not get up. She had broken her leg and it got infected. The infection spread, and she ultimately needed brain surgery. A simple broken leg that would have easily been treated in the US left her partially paralyzed and confined to bed. As she lay in the damp, humid, darkness, she wept and asked why God would not take her home. As we prayed for her, I saw numerous flies and a few spiders in her bed.
In that moment, I realized that my perspective had been skewed. I had feared one spider, in a bed, in a room, that I would only have to sleep in for a few nights. This woman was confined to a bed with no ability to stand or move. She would be in this bed, in this dark room, with these spiders, for the remainder of her days.
My perspective was monopolized by my singular focus on my fear. In my fear, I failed to see my blessings. My short sighted perspective failed to account for the much greater story that was unfolding around me. I was so blinded by darkness and anxiety that I could not see the shining rays of hope.
Despite the fear, pain, and sadness that I witnessed, there was so much love. The missionaries and one amazing lady in the community loved and cared for these four families. They did not look at the sad conditions and see hopelessness. Instead, they saw an opportunity to spread hope and love. In that moment, I too, was able to move past darkness and fear into light. I was able to change my perspective and see that even in the darkest night, a small flicker of light can bring hope to the hopeless.