My name is Zach “Swish” Cunningham, and this was one of the best weeks of my life. It’s hard to put into words what the Lord has done this week, but TJ told me to, so here’s my best attempt.
Goodbyes are hard! They’re especially hard when you’ve experienced what the Lord did in the hearts of these loving Peruvian kids, their faithful counselors, and my awesome friends. It’s just now starting to hit me that I won’t be waking up tomorrow morning at 5am (because when the sun comes up, the kids come up) only to say “Cinco mas minutos” for two hours. I won’t be walking to breakfast or reading during quiet time and look up at the endless range of the glorious mountains. I won’t be trying to piece together what little Spanish I remember from school to try to communicate with my group of the coolest, most fun five Peru teenagers while also trying to figure out if they were making fun of me. But what I will be doing is thanking God for opening my eyes to a world much bigger and way different than my small world in Texas.
The rest of the team may argue with me, but I had the best co-counselor in the world. His name was Ricardo, and he was the man. I could go on to tell you about how he asked his wife to be his girlfriend four times, only to be told “No” four times, and then how he proposed on the fifth attempt like a dang boss. This dude was for real. Or I could tell you how he danced in the talent show with TJ and completely crushed it, and the numerous other things he did to provide the best experience for the kids. But the thing I’ll most remember about Ricardo, and the thing I’m most thankful for, is his overwhelming joy and his love for the Lord. I got the blessing to sit next to him at Bible study as he passionately and lovingly taught our boys about the Lord. I never knew what he was saying, but there was never a moment where I didn’t trust that he was speaking truth and love into those boys. It’s a humbling experience to realize that whether at this Spanish speaking camp in Peru or at our English speaking camp at Pine Cove, there’s nothing we can do apart from the Lord’s sovereign grace.
Today I had to say goodbye to Ricardo and my boys, Jose, Jose, Josue, Antonio, and Rivalo. Right now, I can’t think of anything more difficult than saying goodbyes to these guys. Today our team had our last breakfast, reflection, and worship with our campers, and it was bittersweet. I told myself I wasn’t going to cry, but I quickly realized that I had lied to myself. We took our cabin pictures, exchanged names for Facebook, and said one final prayer with the whole camp. We said our final goodbyes, shared some tears, and watched our new friends get on their bus and leave as we chanted “Adios” and sent them off. There was this weird feeling of sadness mixed with trust that the Lord worked his will this week. I guarantee you there wasn’t one person of the team that wouldn’t have been down for Week 2 of camp. I pray that the Lord will allow us to see those kids again, but if not here, then in heaven.
Our team quickly turned around into a time of clean up, sharing the coolest time of debrief with our co-counselors, and our last lunch with them. It was a cool time to reflect on all the Lord had done this week!
All of a sudden our team and the camp leaders were on a bus riding through hands-down some of the Lord’s most beautiful creation. I’m still pleading with the Lord he would rise up some mountains in the plains of North Texas. After a two hour bus ride, we pulled up to the Pacific Ocean for our day at the beach! A week full of cold showers couldn’t have prepared us for the ice bath that is the Pacific Ocean. We lined up as a team and charged into the freezing water, held hands trying to fight off the huge waves, yelling “HOLD!” over and over again while being tossed by the strong (and probably dangerous) current. After hours of trying to beat TJ and Trent at Spike-ball, tossing the frisbee on the black beach sand with a professional ultimate player, and eating the best empanadas this side of the Equator, we showered off and changed, and got one last look at the beatific sunset over the ocean!
The night really took off from there, as we went downtown to get dinner and celebrate one of the Peruvian leader’s birthday. We pretty much took over a resturant, ate some chicken and fries, had a delicious cake, and sang Happy Birthday to Anna Lu!
After that we took to the streets and went for a walk through the town square. The people there saw us as this huge group of tourists and we really embraced it. We went to an art gallery, told some lady’s Facebook live we were an American soccer team called the FC Texas, and took a picture with the Queen (or some random lady wearing a tiara, still not sure). We walked through crowds of people and instead of going back to the bus, we decided to take a longer tour of the city, which later became obvious to be one of the best decisions we made. We walked passed a man on a microphone with a pretty small crowd, and he called out to us looking for a volunteer. Naturally we pushed Trent to be our representative. He wanted Trent to dance for the people. Instead, TJ pulled up one of our favorite Pine Cove dances on Spotify, grabbed the aux cord, and all of a sudden our entire group was center stage doing the Kinfolk dance in front of what became a pretty big sized audience of Peruvians. It couldn’t have been more perfect. I don’t know if we’ve ever had more fun dancing – there’s not a lot that tops a flash mob downtown in Peru! When we walked back by there a few minutes later, they were screaming for an encore!
Today was sad, satisfying, relaxing, crazy, and fun, and it was definitely one for the books. ¡Uno mas dias en Peru!