Seth Graves participated in NF’s August trip to Peru. Seth is Spanish speaker, a UAB Graduate Student, and a member of Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham. He is passionate about sharing the love of Christ with children. Seth is from Decatur, Alabama and his home church is First Baptist Church Decatur. We are grateful to Seth for his willingness to share with us about his experience in Peru this summer…
I went to Iquitos, Peru with an organization called Not Forgotten from August 1 through August 9. The goal of our trip was to help with any construction and also to meet the boys and love them like Christ does.
We arrived Sunday and were able to have dinner with the kids in their homes before retiring for an early night. We ate each meal with the kids in their homes and would swap between the two homes at our discretion. I loved the meal times because they would sing a song thanking God for the food and then one of the kids would pray before anyone started eating. Each night before dinner, they would have a devotion where they would sing some songs and one of the house parents would tell a Bible story. My favorite was acting out Jonah and the big fish because I got to be the fish and “eat” one of the kids.
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday were all very similar. We ate breakfast with the kids before starting on construction. The project for this week was pouring cement for a new driveway. We worked for 3 hours in the morning before taking a break for lunch, and then we worked about another 3 hours in the afternoon. I did the math and we put approximately 616 buckets of sand into the concrete mixer while we were there. After finishing for the day, we had free time. I would normally go swim in the lake that they have on the property and then play a game of soccer with the local staff on their sand soccer field. After freshening up, we would have dinner with the kids and then head back to the hotel for a team debrief.
Wednesday was different. We took a break in the middle of the week and went on a trip with all of the school-aged kids. The trip was to a national reserve in the jungle where we were going to hike. To get there we drove 31 people in a 17-passenger van to a nearby town where we got on a very cramped boat. It took us about 4-5 hours to get there by boat because we had to stop and register at the reserve office. We hiked in the jungle, but the best part was stopping at a little beach area on the way back and swimming in the river with the kids. It was a 14 hour trip in total, but it was worth it getting to spend some time with the kids.
Saturday was also different because we left that night for the airport. That morning we took the kids to a zoo in Iquitos to see different animals. There is also a public beach area there where we played sand volleyball and got to swim in a lake. We dropped the kids off at the homes before going to Iquitos for a nicer dinner and then heading to the airport.
I work with kids in Alabama, and I knew that I would love meeting these kids; however, it’s hard to put into words the kind of impact these kids had on me. They have very little and come from very hard situations, yet they almost always have a smile on their faces. They are content playing with a stick in the grass for 30 minutes while I can’t even stand to wait 10 minutes in the drive-thru. The kids I work with in Alabama have so much more and can still whine and complain when they don’t get something. God really showed me how I can be the same way. It hit me like a brick this past week when I was telling the kids at the after-school program that the things of this world are NOTHING compared to the hope and joy we get from knowing that one day we will be with God. God used these kids to show me what true contentment in Him looks like – a reminder that I think we need every day. It was very difficult leaving these kids after even spending just a week with them, but I believe that God will give me another opportunity to return (and hopefully many more!)
This trip was exhausting with all the construction in the heat and then playing with the kids right after, but I would do it again without a doubt. I also can’t tell you how many times I made monkey and chicken noises after the kids figured out I was pretty good at it, but it was worth it seeing the smiles on their faces. Three of the kids are sons of one set of house parents, but the other 14 are children from 3 to 11 years old that aren’t with their parents for some reason. Regardless, these 14 kids have a real home where they are loved and where they can have the care that they need while learning about God who cares for them so much more. The kids all know that God loves them and that he cares for them thanks to what He has led Not Forgotten to do. It was sad leaving them, but it makes it better knowing that they are getting the food, shelter, education and love that they need all while learning about Jesus who loves them. I am incredibly thankful that I was able to go on this trip. I would like to thank those who helped me raise funds, and I thank God for what he is doing in the nations and in the hearts of the kids being cared for by Not Forgotten.