La Manta: Our Invitation

I think I have neglected to mention one fact in particular about my trip. We were invited by each organization to come work. I did not quite realize this until a welcoming service with the Joining Hands Network on Tuesday.

During the service, the members of Joining Hands presented us with a manta, or very colorful blanket as a gift of welcome. The manta is orange with purple, blue, brown, and black patterns sewn throughout it. It’s beautiful craft. It was made by one of the member organizations of Joining Hands, which is itself an umbrella organization for NGOs throughout Peru.

It was presented to us by the head of Joining Hands, Conrado, who stated that the many colors and patterns represents each one of us coming from a different place to work towards a larger more beautiful purpose. At least, that was my takeaway.

I appreciated the metaphor and it started to dawn on me that I have a strong support network here in Peru just as among the YAV program in the United States. Later during lunch, we ate our first official Peruvian meal outside of the house. As we ate, the various members of Joining Hands laughed and joked together. They helped us where our Spanish or cultural knowledge failed and made us feel welcome. It was clear that they wanted us here to help and appreciated our presence first and foremost.

Presbyterian Mission emphasizes that we are better together when working in partnership. That’s how the Albany-Mam Presbytery Partnership works and while I’ve long supported that partnership, I’ve just been less involved in the nitty-gritty to really see that this was anything more than a rebranding of historical examples of mission.

Jed and Jenny are both mission co-workers with the PC(USA) that means they work in tandem with Joining Hands and the YAV program in Peru to maintain partnerships. Jenny works to secure the YAVs invitations from various organizations. This year, no YAVs are serving in Lima because the invitations did not line up with any of our skills and abilities. Instead of us just giving an organization a random YAV, Jenny matches abilities based on needs to the best of her abilities.

When we received the manta, I realized that the organizations here valued her work and our presence. We feel that together we can accomplish greater acts and benefit mutually in a way that would not be possible in more paternalistic or hands-off approaches to mission and/or humanitarian work. I’m proud to be a part of it.

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