This is my trip to Peru. It was my very first time to visit South America. I was part of Miracle139 International, a missions trip to educate and train schools and churches on special needs inclusion, autism training supports and more and to help people with all abilities in need of hopes and smiles.
On August 10th, 2017, my mom, Sandi, and I started our adventure with the Miracle 139 team, Linda Martin, Teresa De Leon, Marissa "Mume", Adam Lanser, Erin Webb, Courtney Orlinger, Char Shackelford Mishler, and Celeste Cardenas, to the country of Peru as a missions trip. We first flew in to the Lima airport from the Tijuana International airport.
I was the keynote speaker at a one day special needs conference at a church called Vida Nueva, located in the La Molina neighborhood in Lima. There I got to share my story about what autism means to me, my difficulties, my strengths, and showing love to people of all abilities all over the world. My mom and I each led a workshop. She spoke about hope to families and I shared about my friends who have cool jobs and use their strengths even though they may have special needs. Their families were all very inspired and it brought them great hope. During the week while mom, Teresa and Erin led trainings for the church staff , I painted a mural on one of the walls in the Sunday school classroom. This mural is called "The Good Shepherd" or "El Buen Pastor." I only had a about 5 hours, so it was simple, but it brought many smiles to all the children! I also spoke to the Women's bible study breakfast, and to the high school students at a Missionary school called Fetzer Academy. They are a great bunch of students.
Along the way, I made some new friends there, and tried many new Peruvian foods, especially Papas Fritas or french fries. I got to visit the Inca Market in the Mira Flores neighborhood and walked to the seaside. We walked alot and rode in alot of ubers. Yes, Peru has uber! But there are no traffic rules during rush hour so you have to close your eyes, hold on and pray.
Later we arrived at Cusco to do some sightseeing. I got to hold a baby alpaca at the square, we were given a guided tour throughout the town, to learn about Inca culture and modern culture, and ended with the tour of the cocoa chocolate factory. We went shopping at the marketplaces in Pisac where they had a religious celebration there. We got to go hiking at the Inca ruins at the Moray rings, the Salt flats, Ollantaytambo, and we took a train to Aguas Calientes.
There we took a bus all the way up to Macchu Picchu, an Inca ruins on the top of the Andes Mountain range. There I got to pet a real llama. We sure had fun hiking up there even though we're not used to hiking in higher altitudes. During our trip, my mom helped a young woman to ask Jesus into her heart like I did too when I was six during Easter. She cried while she prayed and she was thrilled to have the peace of Jesus.
As a special tribute to Joe Cronin, who passed away two years ago, I've been carrying a photo of with him and his girlfriend, Ges Lorraine, along throughout the entire Peru trip to give thanks for her support and to the support of her friends and guests at the restaurant she works at The Flipside in Nashville, Tennessee. They donated over $322 as a special Pay It Forward tribute to Joe.
I was so happy to give Smile Bags to some children throughout my travels. In the Smile Bags there were art supplies like paper and crayons, stuffed animals, jump ropes, bible verse coloring pages, and homemade soaps made by my friend Sydney Toy-Pitcher that she donated from her business, "Soap Designs By Sydney." I gave a few Smile Bags to some children I met at Vida Nueva church in Lima, two Smile Bags in Cusco, and another two in Aguas Calientes on the way home. The parent of the child who received my Smile Bag in Cusco gave me a gift of a bracelet as a token of thanks. It made me feel great to make children smile by giving them "Smile Bags."
On the last day of our trip first we flew in to Lima from Cusco, then we flew into Mexico City from Lima for a long layover. We waited there for at least 5 hours. Finally we flew in to Tijuana and it was nearly midnight when we arrived home later. It was an extraordinary journey for me to explore South America and meet their wonderful people.
Thank you to all of you for giving your support through your prayers, love, and finances. You helped change hearts to open new possibilities for special needs children and their families to be included and loved in their schools, churches, and community. Daily we saw miracles happen of God's provision, love and blessing. It makes my heart shine from the inside out.
Here's a "Thank you to Peru" video from me that Adam Lanser made. Click on the picture.
...And a "Thank you to Peru" video from my mom. Click on the picture.