Category Archives: Peru

Do not go silently into that good night

A friend asked me recently about the concert I attended for 30 Seconds to Mars and I suppose I summed it up with, “It was loud.”

Jared Leto is the leading front man of the band, and by most accounts of the American Dream he is successful. In addition to being accomplished actor and rock star, he still looks good as a 42 year old. I’m amazed at what he’s been able to do in the life he’s been given, and how he continues to make it new and real with his stage presence like in Lima, Peru the other evening. There are thousands and thousands who’ve joined the official “Echelon” fan club and feel uniquely attached to him. I don’t know if any of that has to do with that with his current hair style he looks like Jesus, but that night it seemed like his love for them was mutual.

I first began to listen to 30 Seconds to Mars because my brother let me borrow an album. Their 2005 album “A Beautiful Lie” marks a trip to the Southwest 30-seconds-to-mars-concert-1desert I made with my brother in 2007, of which a picture hangs in my room. I remember most of those songs as a soundtrack to the strange and alien-like territory of the Arizona desert. They all sound like freedom, of a wide expanse of sky and tanned earth, of new possibility, and I know that the trip, my brother, and those songs are the landmark of a time period that set in motion the dramatic changes I would make in the years to come.

I had always wanted to see 30 Seconds to Mars in concert for their music and for experiences like the desert, and it took almost seven  years after that first listen for me to finally see them live. I carry with me certain desires that I just can’t let go, especially if I know they are possible. Seeing 30 Seconds to Mars for their music, for the mark they helped make seven years ago, for the completion of a goal was why I went to see the show that night, and it was everything I needed it to be.

My thoughts were illuminated by the army of synchronized stage lights as Jared sprinted like a boy out of school for the summer. It felt and sounded like a hundred explosions, and part of me thinks that’s part of the energy released by the fans who waited years for the band to come. (They had never visited Peru, up until this date.) I thought about all the waiting, and the excitement and the fact that in approximately an hour and a half the concert would finish. I thought about what I’ve done (and not been able to do) in Peru and it all just seemed to make me a bit sad that someday it’ll be over.

What an injustice. We spend so much time waiting for something important to arrive, and when it does, it touches lightly on our stop, and speeds on to it’s next destination. It feels so disconnected: the time waiting, and the time experiencing. Maybe that’s my problem, that it seems to be related, but really it’s so callously independent. I hope that’s what Jared recognizes too. That we, like him, wait for something, and that we know, ashamedly, that it will end quickly. Are we ashamed that we were bound by something we had to wait for, or because we felt we had no choice in the matter?

I remember reading Dylan Thomas in college. My English professor enjoyed him and T.S. Elliot, so that’s how I got introduced, but for most of America we know of his famous poetry because a stanza was once paraphrased in Independence Day. It’s from the same poem I remembered in college, and the one I drifted towards this concert night, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Dylan wrote it about his experience of his dying father, but the words, so brilliantly infused with emotion, have been used by coaches, leaders and politicians for decades:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.


I returned to the thought about the magnificence of a person like Jared with this notion of things ending much sooner than we think they should. I think consciously or unconsciously he knows that; like many people great and 30-seconds-to-mars-concert-2popular, and others great and still unsung, they realize that life indeed is so very short, and ends before we’re comfortable with it. Indeed, we are not the masters of our time.

For that reason, I believe that when Jared and his brother, Shannon, arrived for their first concert in Lima they did it in such a fashion of extravagance of sound and energy to prove to us that even though an end will eventually cap the evening, and the thousands of miles and mountains of hours, indeed the years waiting for their arrival, will all feel like the brush of the wind from the passing of an express bus, they will stand before the multitude of eager and spellbound fans and will not go quietly into that good night.

Because if death marks its end with silence then we must be loud to mark the time we were alive.

The concert, then, was very loud. It was loud for the thousands of fans who waited for their first arrival to the country, it was loud for the band to see the love and Echelon banners flown in the multitudes, and it was loud for me to bring completion to something I wanted to be a part of for so long.

Most importantly, it is yet another reminder that there is still too much silence in my life. That there will be a time to be quiet, but that time is not now.

The Voice and an Orchestra

Since I’ve been in Latin America I have immersed myself into the local music. If you look at my playlists you’ll find artists from all over South and Central America in the genres of merengue, bachata, and of course tons of salsa music. I’ve seen that learning to love the local music  is a surefire way to experience and enjoy a community in every town and city in the world. Music is  a main outlet for the values and expressions of a culture, and as many have said, “Listen to what the music is about, and it will show you MarcAntony1what a culture appreciates.”

You may be thinking of some of the more negative examples from the dominant channels of music in our culture which showcase people who look like celebrities but carry none of the talent. Their music is formulaic, the lyrics are empty and derogatory, and all of it is manufactured for consumption. Here’s is just one of many articles that speak of this new business. The Song Machine – “The hitmakers behind Rihanna.”

Essentially, the artist never has to dip into personal memories, be they mountain or valley experiences, they just show up to learn the melody and sing it good enough so someone can auto-tune it to the studio producers’ liking. The concert experience, then, is just going to hear the digitally perfected album played over loud stadium speakers with thousands of shouting voices that drown out the song. Now, I admit, I will go to just about any concert, so this element MarcAntony2doesn’t destroy it for me, but what bothers me is that the principle that music is an expression of a culture is now so absent in the performance of the music. Is that what we value?

Enter one of the great salsa voices of our time, Marc Anthony, the top selling tropical salsa artist of all time, who like many salsa singers, sings with a complete band. Marc sings live accompanied by an orchestra of talented professionals. Real people, playing real instruments, in real-time. You have to see it and hear it to believe it, but yes, there are still performers who do it the old fashioned way. They make real music live.

It had been a dream of mine to see Marc Anthony live since I set foot in Latin America over four years ago. He has one of the truest, purest voices that I rank up there with Michael Buble, and Josh Groban. You have to hear it live to take it in. His voice is the story of pain and joy, of happiness and despair, and this past night it was pure celebration.

And then there was the orchestra, comprised of the best instrumental talent of men and women that we have today. Trumpets, trombones, saxophones, guitar, bass, piano, full drum set and Latin bongos. The orchestra alone was worth the price of admission, but together it was one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever been to and I got to share it with my girlfriend and thousands of other Marc Anthony fans.

Here’s what it was like, but you’ll have to multiply it by two or three times to get the real effect:

I know you’ve heard his most recent hit:

That’s Like Two or Three Taxi Rides

He was obviously distraught. He kept checking the compartment below the stereo receiver and spread out the CD’s on the front seat. He pulls out old receipts from the visor up above, sorts through them. Still nothing. I’m his passenger, but he’s more concerned about finding something he’s lost. He drives safely on the straight stretches, and gets slightly maniacal at the stop lights. It’s obviously bothering him. I have no idea what he’s looking for.

“Can I light a cigarette? (I think he wants the nicotine to calm down.)

. . . I think when we stopped at the stoplight, there was so much noise, I thought he had paid me . . . he said thanks, and then he just left . . .

. . . I can’t find it, I can’t find the 20 sole note . . .

Did he pay me? I’m thinking now he didn’t . . .

. . . there’s just some bad people in the world, you know? just some bad people out there, dishonest, crooks.

Do you mind if I light another cigarette? (he puts the lighter in the driver-side door and takes out a map, a book, and a bunch of brochures.)

. . . ugh, that was like almost an hour . . . for nothing . . . he rests his elbow on the window sill and puts his hand on his forehead

20 soles! that’s like two or three taxi rides. (US $6.50)

I can’t believe it . . . 20 soles!”


I have to take taxi’s a lot here in Lima. I pay around 6 soles to get to most places (about $2.00) which takes about 10-15 minutes. Most taxi drivers fight to get passengers. They race around the corners, cutting each other off, often times putting pedestrians or their future clients in harms way.

Two or three taxi rides is probably more than an hours work all told. To fight to be first, to take almost any passenger to almost any destination, (except the ones where the expense would dilute any profits,) consume the costly fuel, deliver the client safely to their destination, and to battle the horrendous Lima traffic – that’s painful. Time lost, money lost, yeah, those are tough, but to be cheated – that hurts deep inside.

I know people put on an act to squeeze more money out of a traveler, but usually the charade wears out and the reality seeps in. I spent about 15 minutes in his car.

“Keep the change, I’m sorry that someone cheated you.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah, go ahead. Have a good night sir.”

“Really? You’re ok with that? . . . Wow . . . Seriously? . . .

. . . (chattering in disbelief) . . .

. . . I prayed for work, I just prayed for more work after I lost the money . . . just two or three taxi rides to make up for what I lost . . .

I think you were sent! I think you were an answer to prayer. Thank you sir, God Bless you.”


The change I left with him was just 1/2 a taxi ride more than the fare he quoted me.

That’s how much a dollar means to some people.

When to Cross the Street – Immediately

I used to live in one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I remember sitting in a conference where the speaker gave us the most recent statistics in Latin America relating to traffic accidents, deaths, and pedestrian fatalities. It’s certainly not the kind of information you want to hear on an empty stomach, nor the kind that would make momma proud in an email back to home.

Here in Lima, Peru, a city 2.5 times the size of Santo Domingo, I feel like getting through traffic is even more perilous. Not a week, or should I say, a couple of days goes by without a report on a serious accident on a major thoroughfare or highway, and unfortunate cases of pedestrians being involved in traffic accidents. Traffic here feels like it’s a war between the drivers, and then when the pedestrians want to cross, they become the new enemy, because they represent an tráfico-limaimpediment to their progress (and maybe a better target because their lack of defense). I understand this frustration, many times I’ve been in a taxi and have had to wait 30-40 minutes to go just a few kilometers.

So here’s a statistic that’s not all that comforting from the Inter-American Development Bank from 2012 on road safety :

” . . . more than 100,000 people are killed every year in traffic crashes in Latin America and the Caribbean. Compared with other causes of untimely deaths, road incidents take more lives each day (about 275) than HIV-AIDS does (156). At 17 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, this region’s roadway fatality rate is nearly double that of higher income countries. (source:,10090.html)

I go to eat lunch at a place near my apartment just about everyday called “El Principe.” It sits o Berlin Street, a main corridor for all types of vehicles traveling through the district where I live. There’s stoplight just before this section of Berlin, and all throughout Berlin there are restaurants, bars and two hostels. It can be a traffic nightmare, so vehicles are looking for ways to pass through it as quickly as they can. This usually means breaking the law, and sometimes that means getting caught (maybe “rarely” is a better term than “sometimes”) like the guy driving the Audi R8 that got pulled over right in front of the El Principe. (Lunch at EL Principe will cost you $3.15. Quite a contrast eh?)

This post isn’t about the (awful) state of traffic of Lima, as I could write a couple hundred posts about that, instead it’s about the ability to recognize an opportunity quickly. I have to cross Berlin Street everyday and usually this means that I have a 45 second window from when vehicles start revving down the bowling alley to the unsuspecting pedestrian pins. Everyday on my approach to lunch I have to assess my current walking speed as I near my beloved lunch spot. If I miss the traffic window it means I’ll have to wait a good two minutes and even more tragically, miss an open table at the ever popular El Principe.

“Where am I in the traffic window?” “Did it just begin? Is it ending? Am I going to get my table or be frustrated and hungry on the other side of the street.”

These are the questions I think about, and oddly enough, after almost eight months here, I can make this decision in a split-second. Amazing.

I should focus this ability in other “equally important” areas of my life.

“So Good They Can’t Ignore You” thoughts from the book

I’m reading one of the best books I’ve read in the past couple of years. What’s amazing to me is that it precisely and concisely encapsulates so many of the thoughts I’ve had over the past few years in Latin America, as well as the genesis of this career move over four years ago.

Cal Newport is the author of the book called “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. The first part of the title is a reference from the actor/comedian Steve Martin who, when asked to dispense advice to up and coming artists in an interview with Charlie Rose in 2007, basically said that you’ve got to practice relentlessly and hone your craft so that it will be impossible to ignore what you’re doing. When you get so good, they can’t ignore you, you’ll just be oozing confidence and this will speak louder than any press release.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Newport claims that by building up “career capital” – the rare and valuable skills that employers are willing to pay for – you will eventually land a great job that you’ll be passionate about. This of course, flies in the face of convential wisdom which is “follow your passion and the job will come to you” which is actually pretty rare, and maybe it’s even misinformed. As he shows, some of our favorite geniuses, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, achieved the success they are now know for by being incredibly good at what they do, and arrived at their passion after years of hard work.

But if you follow the traditional route of “follow your passion,” you’ll fall prey to the great career mistake that countless 20-something pioneers make: build up enough courage to quit your day job to pursue your passion. What ends up happening is that the individual tries to bridge the gap of where they currently are and where they want to be with enthusiasm and passion, and worry about producing income later. As we all know, the rule of the working world is that people will only pay for something if you’re good at it, and if you’ve got no income, your career dreams can quickly dissipate.

I know there are tons of travel blogs and people hawking advice on how to quit your job and travel, but the reality is that a traveling lifestyle is only sustainable up until the point that your savings run out. To make money off of a blog or web site, you’ve got to be able to sell some product or service people are willing to buy. But what ends up happening is that these bloggers, and they are legion, have a wonderful journey (a journey to write home about, that much is true, and a worthy goal in itself), but they do not have much to sell other than the travel photos they’ve taken and the unusual stories they’ve collected.

In some ways, I feel like I could have made that mistake. I had so much excitement about jumping into a new lifestyle, one where I would be able to impact people living in economic poverty and providing them with hope and microloans, but interestingly enough, I didn’t have a lot to offer in the beginning, not even a modicum of Spanish ability. What saved me, I suppose, is that a great organization, HOPE International believed in me and put into a place where I could be useful and grow professionally. Even though I had five years of work experience, that career platform doesn’t necessarily translate to effective overseas Microfinance operational success.

What I’ve learned, has been four years in the process. What I’ve seen now, as the current program manager of the Edify program in Peru, is that there are a multitude of skills that an organization like Edify or HOPE International are looking for, and the only way you get to have a position where an organization pays you to be there is to make yourself great at these skills. So while many people have the desire to serve, to learn a language, to help, the real, impact-making jobs can only be staffed by people with specific abilities, and are good at what they do. This is kind of career decision I chose, and this set of specific skills is one that I continue to improve.

Endurance and Pacing in the Movistar 10k

imagen-movistar  This past weekend I ran the Movistar (phone and cable company) 10K with 16,000 of my closest friends. I hadn’t been training all that much for the competition, but I had run a decent amount up until race day. My goal was to break 55 minutes and to not stop. A lot of times I have a habit of setting out to do a monumental amount of kilometers only to find that I can’t keep the pace and have to slow down and walk. I didn’t have to stop this time, I kept my pace, but one thing overwhelmingly slowed me down: traffic!

I crossed the start line at approximately 8:33, a good three minutes after the start time because I was stuck in a wave of people. So it took nearly four minutes for thousands of eager runners to cross, but as I quickly found out, they were all quite excited to start, but didn’t share the same exuberance for running. I had to abruptly slow down to not smack into the runners before me. There was no order to the race, no slower joggers on the right, and faster joggers on the left. It was all just a free for all in the streets, and therefore the race spilled out on both sides into the grace and onto the sidewalk.

movistar-limaIt became incredibly frustrating to find any sort of path through the madness as the lack of order intensified. Runners were confined to slowing down to the speed of the joggers in front of them or waste precious energy by zig-zagging through the masses. I wasn’t about to sprint through the mess like so many of my peers, because it all seemed fruitless; as far as my giraffe-like status allowed me, I could see that it would be this way for at least a kilometer.

There was no way to escape the slow pace.

For at least 4 kilometers, a bit over 2 miles, it was like this. No room to run and it was hot! Not because of the weather but because of the magnitude of runners, it was like running in a heat cloud, only to escape the current cloud and land in the next heat cloud. I was so frustrated.lima-42k

Eventually things subsided at around the 6 or 7 kilometer mark, and I was picking up speed, but what had happened was that I had already set my pace and was comfortable in it. I had spent roughly 70% of the race running at a pace that wasn’t my goal, and now it felt too difficult to change it. I had exhausted a lot of my energy, and was solely focused on finishing.

I finished, it was fun, and I had a blast with my girlfriend and her friends. Well worth the time involved.

Got me thinking about “pacing” in life. How easy it is to stay with the pack, or burn up your energy when you didn’t start out early, or just resign yourself to sticking with the masses. What did I learn? Train for it, build up your pace, and ensure that you start when you need to start to keep the pace that you intend to carry the entire race.

A $1.80 Bribe and Refuge Under the Chasis

I watch the news everyday at lunch to be better informed about the city in which I live and to continue my Spanish practice. For the first few weeks, all the new themes and trends were new and I filled many pages with new words and phrases, but then after awhile I needed only to write the uncommon or unusual words down. One of those new words made its way to me by a news story regarding a bus driver who got stopped by a local policeman for not having the appropriate regulatory licensing and stickers on his vehicle. combi mas

I’ve been stopped many times by police while riding or driving in a vehicle while I’m in a foreign country, and the scene usually plays out the same way. They stop me because I’m a foreigner, and say something to the sort of “It’s hot out here . . .” or “Christmas is just around the corner.” Which is a clue to me that if I want to leave this “routine” police stop within the next hour I should just fork over some cash out of goodwill to my fellow (hungry) man. The Spanish word for this is: soborno (a bribe).

Now, of course, they didn’t ask for a soborno, they merely commented that the hot weather was making them thirsty. If I should choose to give them money it would be towards the quenching of their thirst. Nothing more. Just man to man understanding.

Wcombihat was odd about the current news story I was watching was that they caught on film the driver handing over money to the Policeman. The driver knew that he was in trouble. No documents, and a fine was coming his way, and probably he had a few more unpaid fines that would come to the surface if they took him in. He thought to precede this disaster by handing over some money, ever so discretely to this policeman. He gave him a 5 sole coin which is about $1.80.

Could this policeman be bribed with such a paltry amount? Could he be bribed with $18 which is 50 soles? Or for $180 for that matter? Who is to know really. What we do know was that the policeman did have his camera filming the episode from his vehicle. We all know that big brother will influence behavior.

What you’ll find out very quickly in Lima, and throughout Peru, is that these small buses, called “combis” are incredibly common, and are driven by those who live in economic poverty and serve those who can only afford to pay the 20 cent or 50 cent fare, and not a taxi – which could cost $1 or $1.50. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has to make financial decisions regarding of less than a dollar, and you’ll get an idea of what it’s like to be a driver of a vehicle who can only charge 20 or 50 cents. You’ve got to pick up a lot of passengers to make the kind of income to have any sort of living wage in Lima.

Moving onto the next story, the camera was placed low, on the pavement of the chasis of another small bus, a combi, showing a 20 year-old man, screaming and clinging to the exhaust pipes of the vehicle he had been driving just moments ago. He was stopped at a routine checkpoint and when he wasn’t able to produce his documents, nor account for the 30 some traffic violations he hadn’t paid. He did the only thing he could think of in that moment to save his current predicament. He dove under the bus and held onto metal structure and clung for his life (the metal was probably still hot from just being driven). They pulled him out kicking and screaming (literally). The news had a field day with the absurdity of the scene.soborno

Chasis in Spanish is still “chasis” but the word here is desperation. Economic desperation. Now, I’m not condoning the poor decision-making, nor the behavior leading up to their arrests, but can you imagine being that desperate that you would try to bribe a police officer with $1.80 or scramble under the chasis of your vehicle to avoid getting taking to the police station because you knew what fate would await you?


Rock Climbing – Learn to Reach Higher

Last night, my friend Steve from HOPE International convinced me to go rock climbing. As I’ve written before, I’m quite afraid of heights, but persist in making that a non-issue when it comes to adventurous things: San Pedro Lake Atitlan

I had only attempted rock climbing, on a real rock wall once before in Richmond, and I’ll say that a rock climbing wall is much easier. And still pretty frightening. Our Peruvian teacher insisted we do some stretching and practice on the smaller wall with the huge crash pad. After about 5 minutes I felt like I had already exhausted my arms. How was I going to do the wall?

I feel like my own advice applies here, Just Press Call, and when Andre passed the rope thru my harness he said, “Alright, don’t think. Just do it.” For some reason, I just did it. I just climbed up. Rock-ClimbingLike a kid on a tree in the backyard. Up, up, up.

Then, of course, it gets harder. It gets really hard. Especially, when you look down. I yelled to Andre, “Ahhh! I’m so high up.” He yells back, “Well, don’t look down!”

It’s funny how simple all of it can be. And maybe that’s my favorite part about rock climbing. It’s when you don’t think you can, you just try. It’s when you think you’re going to fall, and you press in toward the wall. It’s when your hand is slipping and you don’t think you can hold on, and people encourage you to reach higher.

You reach higher.

And you find a handhold.

Just when you thought you couldn’t go any further, you find something to grab onto.

At least five times last night I found myself in this situation: my fear of heights starts to wash over me. My hands sweat, to help me grip, but seem like they were going to let me go. My forearms burn with exhaustion. For a moment, I freak out. I wonder what if I fall the 25 feet to the floor. How painful that would be. How long it would take to recover, if I ever recovered. But the crazy thing is, when I feel a point a way from falling, I know I won’t fall. So, all arguments to the contrary are invalid. The only rational thing to do is reach higher.

I made it each of the five times. It’s a terrible feeling thinking you’ll fall, but it’s so wonderful when you get just a bit higher.

I’m going to do it again.

“I am a Product of Education” – (Jan ’14 Newsletter)

I hope you all have had a wonderful start to the new year. I returned to Lima, Peru soon after our annual meeting with Edify in San Diego, California where our central office is located. Peru is in the middle of summer and it’s great weather (so strange to be on this side of the equator!). We’re really excited to start doing our first microloans here in Lima in the next few weeks because schools are out for the summer and are looking to expand their operations. Schools look for financing for their construction projects during this time period and often find loans from banks that charge them very high interest rates. For us, it’s an excellent opportunity to connect with them about our small business loans and business training, and to share with them our vision for education in Peru. -Aaron

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”
Nelson Mandela

I had the opportunity to reconnect with my colleagues in Edify early this January in San Diego. Because we work in six countries (seven, if you count our own country) we see each other but once a year. Most meetings are carried out via Skype, and the preferred method of communication is via email. Yet, we are all drawn to the organization for the same reason. As I talked with each colleague I realized that we really do believe in our mission: 

To improve and to expand sustainable, affordable, Christ-centered education in the developing world.

But why do we believe this, I thought, as we gathered around the table. I know that we use language like this all the time when we talk about improving the economic outlook of developing countries, and how we can help people out of poverty. Do we really believe that education can make a difference in this way and why does it matter that we bring Christ into the initiative of building better schools?

One night, we left the meeting rooms and went to a local restaurant to have dinner and to relax from the previous days’ meetings. I looked around the table and was amazed to see individuals from so many countries. We had Ghanaians, an Ethiopian, a Ugandan who now lives in Rwanda, a Dominican and Americans from just about every corner of our country, certainly every coast. I know this sounds like I’m about to tell a joke, but nope, that night we simply traded stories.

There’s one story in particular that I wanted to highlight. It’s the story of my colleague Godfrey, the Ugandan raised in Rwanda. I’ll summarize it now from my own notes and recollection, which will be a sneak-peek to the full story we’ll plan to release later in the year.

Earlier that day, in the morning, Godfrey shared with us his personal story as a devotional using Psalm 23.

Jan-14-News-02Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.”

(Biblegateway link: Psalm 23)

Godfrey started off by saying, (and I’ll paraphrase most of this that comes next)

“Now I’m not sure many of you have had an experience being a shepherd, (Godfrey is quite clever and quick-witted.) but I do.

My brother and I were shepherds growing up. We cared for many animals. And I love the stories of Jesus in the New Testament where he talks about being a shepherd, because I know what that is like. I especially like the part where Jesus uses an example of the shepherd who finds the young sheep and puts it Jan-14-News-03across his shoulders. I remember seeing my brother pick up a sheep and place it across his shoulders when it was weak. It is a true thing. Shepherds do that. . . . I love that story, because I have been carried by Jesus like that.”

“When I was very little, I was one of the few people I knew who was born in a hospital in Uganda. My father had a very good job at a financial institution, and we lived well. But when I was very young, my father lost his job and life changed dramatically for us. We had to move out from the city to the rural area.

There were few jobs. We were very poor. We tended animals because that was the only way we could make money. These animals were so valuable. They were our assets. They were worth more than our house. Once, when I was very sick, we couldn’t go to hospital, because we didn’t have the money, and my father would not sell an animal for the money.

“I did well in grade school. In fact, I did so well that I earned the highest marks on my national tests that I could attend an excellent private Christian school. The only problem was that we did not have money to send me there. I was so mad at my father for not selling an animal to pay for my schooling. I was devastated. I prayed to the Lord to help me study at this school. I tried everything I could to find a way to pay for the entrance fees and tuition. I spoke with Jan-14-News-04the director about a scholarship and he told me that the only way to receive a scholarship was to repeat certain grades of middle school and perform well so that I could attend high school. I was so disappointed, but I knew that this was the Lord’s plan for me and I should accept it.

“I repeated three grades so that I could attend this school. I was so ashamed to be seen by my classmates who were in the grades above me. They tease me, “Godfrey, if you are so smart, why are you three grades below us?” I kept praying to make it through because I knew that this was my way to a good education.

“Jesus carried me through this period, and I made it to high school, and I did well. I did so well that I got to go to University. I studied business and I got a wonderful job after University. My life was fully changed. I never stopped praying to my Lord, I never stopped being thankful for his faithfulness to me.

“The reason that I am standing here today is because I am a product of education. I am so grateful to be standing here before you. Grateful to the Lord for all he has done in my life, and grateful to Jesus, for his work and his life, and for his gift of salvation.”
[What’s equally amazing is that our Chief Transformation Officer and Vice President of Program Assessment, Mokonen Getu, was once a shepherd boy in Ethiopa. He has an inspirational story of his long journey from the pastures of Ethiopia to the halls of higher education. He got his PhD in International Development from the University of Stockholm, Sweden. His amazing journey is detailed in his autobiography. (You can read more about him in Edify’s 2013 annual report.)]

I am still in awe when I think about Godfrey’s story. When I hear about the valleys he walked through to make it to where he was, it makes me proud simply to know him and have him on our team in Rwanda. I told Godfrey how amazing his story was. He is very humble and approaches everything with a smile. He brushed off my compliment and said he enjoyed my presentation on Peru.

A little later on in the meeting he told us that he wants to get more involved at his church. While he does music and Jan-14-News-06evangelization, he’d like to get back in the pulpit. (What a guy!)

But right now, let me return back to us sitting around the multi-international table at the restaurant:

Later on in the meal Godfrey turns to me and says, “Aaron, may I ask you a question? I need your help.”

(I wondered what came next.)

“It is my first time in America and I think right now I want to order a hamburger. But we are at a fish restaurant. I think I should order fish.”

“I think that’s a good call. Do you like fish?”

“Yes, I like fish. In fact, I ate shark in Colorado. Have you eaten shark?”

“Wow, you had shark? How was it?”

“It was good. It tastes like chicken. But I don’t think I want shark right now.”

“How did you eat shark in Colorado?”

“We made a stop for Edify for two days for some meetings, and I got to visit a University.”

I tried not to laugh at the strange connection of those statements, and when he saw me smile he said,

“Yes, it was strange. I believe there are no sharks in Colorado. Nowhere close.”

We both laugh about it. I walk him through a few “American” choices. He continued later telling me that part of the reason for the stop is for him to see the university and sign up for the online MBA program at Colorado Christian University.

“It is such a great opportunity Aaron. I am so excited to start. I love education.”

. . .

Godfrey’s story and Makonen’s story are yet more reminders of why I work for Edify, and why I am excited to open the program here in Lima, Peru. Their stories are incredibly unique, yet share so many common threads with stories of adults I’ve met throughout the past three years working in Latin America. To believe there is hope, to believe that there is a God who has a plan, to believe that there was a man Jesus, the Great Shepherd who walked among us – who carries us when the burden is too great – is to know that Jan-14-News-07there truly is a pathway out of poverty.

I know there are still millions of children here in this country of Peru who walk through valleys and are looking for a pathway up and out.
. . .

I pray that we would all see the value in education, and that we would find ways to take advantage of the opportunities that we have.

Blessings to you all,
Skype: aroth.edify

They Destroyed My “Up” House

Up-House-MirafloresUp-House-MirafloresI had a clear view of the house like the one they used in the movie “Up” where I used to live in Miraflores, Lima. I mean look at this house. It’s a spitting image of it there, like a sitting duck amidst its giant neighbors. It was a house from the late 60’s, maybe early 70’s with a classic architecture. If you walk around Miraflores you’ll see some of these houses remaining. They are becoming more rare because of the current trend of building 10 floor apartment or condominium buildings. Some of these property values for the houses can go for over $300,000 and even up to $500,000, my guess is that the sale of a well-located property can fetch up to a few million dollars.

up-movie-posterWhen you look at my “Up” house here posted, doesn’t it look so out of place next to the towering apartment buildings next-door? I kept thinking that it was only a matter of time before the owners sold their property, and yet another classic house would succumb to the fate of other well-located houses in dense residential areas. It’s sad to me thinking about the loss of another house because I feel like this district loses more of its charm with every sale of a quaint residence. But if I were the owner, what would I do? Would I do the same?

I initially thought this house just looked like the house from the movie, but I wonder if the owner found him/herself in the same shoes of the protagonist. Maybe after the passing of their spouse, they wanted to just fly away and visit some faraway lands to fulfill a lifelong promise? Or maybe modern life had become to irritating with the worsening traffic and hustle up-house-miraflores-02and bustle of the burgeoning economy? Or they used the funds to help their children go after their life-long dreams?

It was strange to me because just six weeks ago the house stood their on it’s on, and now it’s gone. Slowly gone the way of the buffalo. And I expect in another six weeks, another small portion of Miraflores will lose its character to yet another residential developer.