When new Peruvian acquaintances meet us, they always ask, “What parts of Peru have you visited?” Until January, our response was

at the falls in Ecuador

woefully boring.  After all, we were working alot! But January has been the month of travels, and we lived out of our backpacks for at least a third of the days. And now I feel like we know Peru a little better. I know for sure that my soul and spirit got a recharge!

at Grandpa and Nancy's house in Ecuador

We brought in the New Year in Cotacachi, Ecuador with Sarah’s grandfather Carl and his wife Nancy. We really enjoyed the wonderful conversations, the fresh food, the beautiful mountainous landscape, and the plentiful shopping. We are so grateful that they shared their lovely, peaceful home with us and showed us a great time.

Sarah’s parents, Melody and Randy Vaal, came to visit Jan. 1-9. Our vacation with them took us to the beautiful, fascinating city of Cuzco, where we spent five days with an amazing tour guide who explained the ancient Incan architecture of Saqsayhuaman (pronounced “sexy woman”), showed us the scientific Incan greenhouse terraces at Moray, took us to llama and alpaca ranches, explained the amazing food preservation techniques of the ancient Incas at Tambomachay, and gave us a tour of the beautiful Cuzco Catholic church. Oh, and lest I forget, yes, we went to Machu Picchu!! As it was rainy season, we got a little damp, and

the beauty of Cuzco

our pictures didn’t turn out so well, but it was an unforgettable trip, and we get to cross that one off our bucket list! On our return to Lima, we went with the Vaal’s and a missionary couple, Rusty Edmondson and Sara Armstrong, on a breathtaking sailboat trip. We toured three islands off the coast of Lima and we each took turns steering the 30 foot sail boat

swimming with the sea lions

named the Mardulce. In addition, we took a break to swim with the sea lions and we were treated to an amazing seafood feast prepared fresh by Captain Eugenio Oliveira. The weather was refreshing, the view was lovely, the company was fun, and we are trying to find an excuse to go again before we leave Peru.

Sarah giving an evaluation in Ayacucho

Sarah was invited to help with a workshop for children with different abilities in Ayacucho, Peru on Jan. 16-21. The organization Sonrisas de Amor y Fe brought in specialists for three days of evaluations and therapy. Sarah worked on speech and language and Shane was put to work doing family and spiritual counseling. We saw about 60 families from the community, and did a lot of good bringing knowledge and guidance to

Sarah's presentation about language disorders

the parents, some of whom had never brought their children to a doctor.  We met a 9-year-old girl the size of a 3-year-old who had never been diagnosed with spina bifida, was incredibly malnourished, and was being carried everywhere on her mother’s back. We met a 12-year old boy who, after an ear infection when he was 2 years old, had lost his hearing and, for lack of the funds for hearing aids, had not heard or spoken to anyone in 10 years. We met many struggling single mothers, abused children, and impoverished families doing their best to care for the special needs of their differently-abled children. On the fourth day, Sarah gave a presentation to the leaders of the association about speech and language, so that they can continue to learn and help others in their community. It was a lot of work, but we did take a little time to explore the town and some of its important landmarks.

Now that we are back in Lima, it is back to work. Since the Ann Sullivan Center where Sarah works is out for summer vacation, she is working with Shane at the Compassion Program until the end of February. She is being kept busy there teaching workshops about Speech and Language development and dance classes for the summer session.

January will culminate with Shane’s 29th birthday, and for his birthday present he wants to paraglide over the 70m cliffs over the beach in the Miraflores district in Lima. We will probably also go out for all-you-can-eat sushi with some friends. Hopefully this will make up for friends and co-workers smashing eggs on his head that day, which is a tradition that they are gleefully looking forward to!

So as you can see, 2012 has started out pretty well for us! We pray that your New Year has been blessed as well. As we approach the half-way point of our YAV year, we continue to ask for your prayers as we continue our journey with Christ.