Semana Santa (Holy Week)
The 2012 Holy week will be one that is hard to forget. Most of the week, we were on retreat in the city of Ayacucho that is located in the south central part of Peru with Debbie Horne, Harry Horne, Kaley Anderson, Sean Delaney, Mary Morrow and Hannah Schonau-Taylor (to see more pictures check-out there blogs and/or my Facebook). So I thought I would give a breakdown for our holy-happenings.
Although my church in Lima did not include palms or processions, it was a special Sunday. The Adult Sunday School class hit the streets to clean up the neighborhood as part of the closing for a class on Scripture and the environment. Later, I led my cute yet troublemaking first graders to go out to pick up trash to finish what the adults did not have time to get. We carried banners explaining why we were there and talked to curious passer-bys about what a church group had to do with picking up trash. That night at the service there were still no palms, but we did talk about the Passion of Christ.
I spent most of the day prepping my sermon for the evening. I listened to a Palm Sunday sermon online to get my palm fix and enjoyed the Leten devotional of the morning. That night Sarah, a couple of YAVs and a guest went to the local Presbyterian Church where I preached in English on the Holy Monday scripture from John 12. It was a short service and we headed out to eat sushi afterward.
We spent the day packing but we did go out to a Turkish restaurant for lunch. It was a pretty relaxed day and then we boarded the bus to Ayacucho (14 hour ride). Of all movies they could have shown before we went to sleep, this bus line selected the Texas Killing Fields, which is a pretty disturbing moving based off a true story in Texas City. As the bus has to go way up into the mountains, Sarah had some trouble with altitude sickness, but thankfully she felt much better the next day.
We arrived to our destination on time around 9am. Then we got settled in at Hotel San Cristobal. We spent much of the day recovering and wandering around the Plaza Mayor. During the day groups of people where designing “carpets” in the road made of flowers, sawdust, sand and other random items to make pictures in the street. These were for the procession that evening which meant this art was soon to be trampled. Mary arrived safe from Huancavelica and we had pizza for lunch. There was also homemade ice cream being made by women in traditional dress. We had our first devotional and Bible study on the Gospel of Mark once Harry had joined us. The procession that night brought a huge crowd into the plaza, which also meant watch out for thieves. A friend that was not part of our group had her camera cut out of her zipped jacket pocket, which put our group on alert. There were three floats: one of Jesus carrying the cross with Simeon helping, another of Saint John, and another of Veronica (the woman who wiped Jesus face on the road to Golgotha). These last two floats encountered with the Jesus float. There was a band and singers that accompanied the procession. It was interesting and beautiful but we were all pretty tired from our travels.
For breakfast, I enjoyed a hot dog wrapped in a waffle on a stick and a waffle on a stick filled with cheese while the rest of the group ate normal things. As we went out to explore the city we watched part of a reenactment of Jesus carrying the cross and being tortured by Roman soldiers in the streets of the plaza. There was a walk to all of the 33 Catholic churches in Ayacucho but we did not participate. Instead we went to the museum about the violence that took place in Ayacucho during the years of 1980-2000. Many of the victims were innocent poor people caught between the Senderistas (members of the Shinning Path) and the Peruvian military. The suffering of the people was hard to bear but did fit the theme of the tortured Jesus. On a lighter note we had a great cultural lunch. I ate fried guinea pig and got to taste some of the traditional trout and pork. Lunch also came with a serenade by some university students in renaissance tights and they chose to dance with my beautiful wife. That night we did our devotional and Bible Study and shared the Lord’s Supper together in the upper room of the hotel (the roof). It was a beautiful way to end an emotionally heavy day.
A huge part of this day was spent preparing and eating a traditional pit barbeque (Pachamanca). We went to the house of Paco and Celia who live in Ayacucho and are friends of Harry and Debbie. They had started heating the volcanic rocks at 6am by stacking them over a fire in the ground. When the rocks were ready, I had the privilege of helping remove the rocks, adding the potatoes, sweet potatoes, chicken, pork, apples and peas to the pit, and then burying it. While we waited for it to cook we hiked up a large hill to get a view of the city from the look-out (mirador). When we returned, I was asked to help unbury and remove the food. They kept reminding me that I was earning my meal. The feast was delicious and most of us ate more than our bellies could hold. We returned to our hotel to do another Bible study and devotional and this time we closed with foot washing. Afterwards we headed back to the plaza to see another procession with colorful carpets with floats of Jesus and Mary. This time the mood was more solemn with candle lights and singing. Jesus was in a large glass casket carried by several men.
What better way to celebrate the coming resurrection than to be chased through the streets by bulls! Early Saturday morning the brave/adventurous/ slightly crazy YAVs (Kaley, Mary and me) put on our running shoes and hit the streets. First, we got to the starting point and waiting for the main event. Like most things in Peru it got going much later than was advertised. Once we found the group that was participating we were given free t-shirts and we jogged/danced up the street to the plaza. There we were prayed for at the Cathedral and it was explained that this event celebrated the rich traditions and celebrations of this town and its Spanish roots. Then we danced/ jogged back to the starting line. Our friends were watching but like us had no idea what was going on. Finally, the first bull was released into the street and I managed to get briefly tangled in the bull’s rope as he turned toward me. I thankfully slipped away with my heart racing and a tiny rope burn, yet had a much closer encounter than I was ready for. Our small group of three ran with two more bulls but were exhausted from running uphill on a hot day and decided we would leave the other four bulls for the late-comers. No one else got to see the bulls due to the immense crowd and the fact that they ended up in the wrong spot. The partying in the streets lasted all day and into the night but we had more than our fill of excitement after the morning. We had our last vocational discernment lesson and then had our own vigil in the form of a long bus ride back to Lima.
Mary was able to stay (as she had different travel arrangements) up until 4am to see the beautiful Easter procession (to see pictures check out her blog). The rest of us made it into Lima early. This gave Sarah and I the chance to rest, shower and catch the 11am service at the nearby Presbyterian Church of Pueblo Libre. It was nice to sing some familiar songs and celebrate the resurrection. We also were able to spend some time with our host family and took lots of time to relax and unpack. We had an exciting and eventful Holy Week, but we definitely were dragging when we went back to work on Monday.
Christ is risen!