On the boat with my girlfriend (now wife), traveling Maranon River to Nuevo San Juan where the Congresso was held. Photo Credit – Anna Friesen
Traveling Maranon River to Nuevo San Juan for the Congresso. Photo Credit – Anna Friesen

A Mission of the Heart

by Aaron Friesen

My name is Aaron Friesen.  This is my story about how my life was transformed during a volunteer mission trip to Peru. There were a few reasons why I wanted to go to Peru. First, I believed in the mission of the organization. Second, I wanted to do something exciting with my girlfriend (now wife) as well as with my sister. Third, one my best friends since childhood is the President of the organization, and I wanted to support him. Fourth, I wanted a way to be stretched spiritually as well as physically.

The first reason I wanted to participate in this trip is because I agree with the mission. Missions in the Amazon (MIA) has a mission statement that states, “Missions in the Amazon is a non-profit organization bringing holistic transformation to villages throughout the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest by forming sustainable, missionally-minded communities led by indigenous leaders.”  MIA provides spiritual teachings in line with the Christian message; helps each village improve their ability to foster local community; and provides guidance on the best way for each village to utilize their natural resources through a self-sustaining business.

The second reason I wanted to go to Peru was to spend time with my girlfriend and sister. Traveling together with both of them was a special and unique experience especially in light of all the amazing things we got to see and do.  I loved traveling down the Maranon River, seeing how bright the stars were in the night sky, waking up to a beautiful sunrise each morning, and encountering nature in an environment secluded from the industrialized world.

The third reason I wanted to go to Peru was that one of my best friends is the President of the organization. I’ve known Jason for a long time, and the passion he has for MIA and its’ mission is something I truly admire. The fourth reason is that I wanted to be stretched. There is a lot to say about this specific aspect of the trip. I was stretched, but I was stretched more emotionally then physically.  Although there was a lot of beauty, it was hot out, the bugs were bad, the culture was different, and I didn’t know the language. All of those things were challenging, however, the spiritual insight I gained during this trip was the most interesting thing to me.

I participated in an event called the Congresso. This event happens once a year and is a four-day conference where villagers come from multiple villages to worship God and fellowship together. They also receive teaching from pastors and leaders from around the world. During the conference, there are programs for adults and children. In addition, there is a medical clinic which is set up and staffed by volunteers and medical professionals. My wife is a nurse and helped in the medical clinic. My sister and I assisted with the children and youth programs. We, along with other members of the children’s team, got up early every morning to put on our clown makeup and costumes. We spent the morning and evenings with the kids. We would sing with them, teach them fun moves and actions to different songs, sit with them as different stories were told, and interact with them to try to show them we cared. The relationships built with these children were special, however, there were only a limited number of volunteers for a high volume of children. It was not always easy to accomplish our goal of making sure each child felt loved.

The children did not have to stay for the entire program as they were free to come and go as they chose. But, as told to me, when children leave they are unlikely come back. It was great to see a child smile, however, the emotional impact of seeing a child leave because they felt uncared for was a weighty burden for me to bear. That burden/weight was something I had not deeply experienced before. I felt this lesson was transformative for me and reminds how important it is to love all people well.

MIA Website – Missions in the Amazon