Day 9 Santiago, Chile: Public Transit to the Palace

Flying into Santiago the city is completely surrounded by mountains, like it is in a meadow amidst snow-capped peaks. The ocean lies to the west and is accessible through a valley pass while the majestic Andes to the east.

It is already reminding me a lot of Vancouver and there is a common expression here in Santiago like we have at home saying that you can ski in the morning and sail in the afternoon.

An organized city of 6.25 million it seems quite manageable both in size and because of  the subway system – the Metro.

James Matheson, a gifted younger leader, served as our host while here. He conscripted dad to meet us at the airport and take us to our hotel the night we arrived. The next morning James met me at the hotel and we walked to the subway to begin a day of interviews.

James is a communication major at university and works with YFC here in Santiago. He is a very networked guy and seems to know everyone. On the way to the subway we stopped and picked up Justine, daughter of a Baptist pastor from Dartmouth, NS who is in Santiago for the term and off we went, two Canadians and a Chilean. Bob stayed and rested today at the hotel.

Encuentro Con Christo

We travelled by underground to “Encuentro Con Christo” (Meeting with God). This church in a great location in Santiago with a large shopping mall under construction across the street and very close to the Metro.

The first person to greet me when I entered was Marlene – a close friend of my colleague Luz back at FBC and I was welcomed like family. They had set up a meeting room for me and I conducted interviews there in the morning.

Pastor Jorge Eduro is the teaching pastor at the church and has been here thirty years and what brings him greatest joy is building the team among the pastors.

Miner’s Home Place

Luis Castro is a leader of a home for miners children. He left a secure job and salary to work full-time helping vulnerable youth. They have on home with forty-five boys and girls and a waiting list of thirty.

World Vision Chile

Elza Fagundes is the national director of World Vision Chile where she and her team oversee over 35,000 sponsored children and then the many more family members who also benefit through their sponsorship program.

We met in their offices with other senior staff including a pastor responsible for church relations. I have visited staff of World Vision in over a dozen countries around the world and I am consistently impressed with the caliber of people working to save and protect children.

Next to Group Biblica de Universitad, the IFES group working in over thirty-five campuses of university and colleges. Their commitment to students is impressive and to hear that they are only able to touch half the campuses in this city is a little daunting.

The surprise addition to the day was a late invitation to come to the presidential palace. Alfred Cooper, Capellán Evangélico en La Moneda is the chaplain and spiritual advisor to the president and was a significant leader during the Chilean mine disaster. He called James and wanted us to meet.

More on this tomorrow.

Day 4 Lima Peru: No Problem

Hospitality and Excellence

Our teams at First have been hearing me emphasize two focus words for 2012 – Hospitality and Excellence.

Why? Well, we describe ourselves as a community, and that implies a relationship. To welcome people into a community requires an expression of hospitality and I think this is especially true for those living downtown. A core requirement for a community is interaction between the members and the downtown presents such diverse people groups that this can be hard. It is making me think a great deal about how we can enhance community building at First Vancouver.

Complex Communities

Pastor Samuel Reátegui and his daughter Susana met us to drive us to the ocean (Pacific) and to see more of the district of Miraflores. Samuel wanted us to see the beauty of the ocean (that we share) and a terrific view of the city. The view however was partially eclipsed by a heavy marine layer fog that often hangs over Lima during the winter months.

Miraflores is an upper class community of people living in multi-million dollar homes ironically bordered by barrios – housing made of metal and wood scraps strung over adobe bricks.

Interesting that they both have a million dollar view.

Real Community

Three thoughts from the day:

1. The differences between people groups that attend our church are not as readily visible as the contrast between barrios and mansions, but they still exist. How can they build community beyond their affinity groups?

2. Here in Peru, there exists a strong value on being in community. People love being together. Even among the very poor, their default is to join all of their belongings together. They may all be poor, but perhaps together something good will come of it if they face it together.

In our culture downtown, when people are going through tough times the tendency is to hide and make it through yourself. How can we make it easier for people to join into community during tough times and good times.

3. My final insight came through the example of Samuel, Margarita and their two daughters. We were strangers with the exception of a few email interactions prior to our trip to Lima. We left as family. The value of hospitality is such that they seemed to drop everything to welcome us, translate for us, transport us. Throughout the day we heard him enthusiastically express in one of his favourite English expressions, “No problem.”

Part of this instant community is being in the family of God, but beyond this there is a value where Bob and I were meant to feel as treasured guests, and they did this with excellence.

I’d love the chance to honour them with a return of hospitality in our city someday.

All to often in our busy downtown world we try to fit in guests around our already busy schedule. Is hospitality a spiritual discipline we need to practice more in our lives?