Iquitos, Peru

Las Lomas
Iquitos, Peru
A Photo Essay by Kevin Johnson

When your arrival to a country involves a four-hour nap in an airport hotel and a 'domestic' flight to a city only reachable by plane and boat, you know that you are in for an experience.

We arrived in Iquitos, Peru pre-exhausted but ready to begin a week of serving the house parents and boys of Las Lomas. Our plan: love, encourage, and paint the wall.

This wall.

The wall on the front corner of the property at Las Lomas has been standing for a while, but lacked its finish. The boys who live here come from tragic circumstances, broken homes and difficult situations. They come around one last turn to see the place they will live and hopefully find peace. So, we worked on the first thing they will see when they arrive.

The local technique of painting concrete begins with sanding. Every nook. Every cranny. Then, we skimmed the surface with plaster before painting. These were our mornings: sand. Plaster. Sand again.

We got dusty, dirty and tired. But the wall began to change.

Eventually it was time to paint. We dunked brushes and rollers into paint so thin it could lead a yoga class. Catching drips and ruining shirts, we began to change the face of the wall.

Each day, we wound up the work at lunchtime. Meals. Part of the Las Lomas experience is the seamless transition into life with the inhabitants of each home. At every meal, we simply 'picked a house.' We sat at tables with 8 resilient boys and their dedicated house parents. These couples have fully leaned in to an opportunity to serve Jesus through providing a God-honoring, loving family environment for boys who have never experienced such.

"Thank you for this bread" began the ringing chorus (in Spanish) that each table would sing at the top of their lungs to thank our Provider for His provision. Together, we enjoyed traditional Peruvian dishes and struggled alongside a 6 year-old who has been told that he must eat his broccoli. Following each meal, little voices ring out, "Gracias con todos," quickly followed by an approving, "Provecho." After being excused, the cleaning party commenced. Brooms fly as the hallway, rooms and kitchen get a quick scrub after the meal.

Sometimes the cleaning got, "detailed."

Then, the gringos hit up the pavilion for a siesta.

After the boys finished homework and assignments, nap time gave way to play time. We controlled chaos on a new trampoline, stomped rockets and fought over the yellow crayons to finish the Minions coloring book.

On Thursday, there were water balloons.

Friday, we went on a hike through the jungle. We came out with sweat-soaked shirts, empty water bottles and two bee stings.

The song rings out again for dinner, followed by cleaning the house before we met in the pavilion for a closing devotion. Each night, the house parents led the boys in songs, games and a lesson from the Bible. One night, there was a violin performance from the boys who have been taking lessons.

And there was an awesome bit of choreographed dancing.

Think of the change: a boy careening from a dangerous home situation, landing in a space that builds the self-worth to confidently present in front of a group of pale strangers. Ending with a song of worship to Jesus and a prayer of thanks, we said, "Goodnight, Las Lomas."

The front wall? A different view coming around that last turn.