How 11 days in Peru changed SouthLake seniors’ lives
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – Twenty-eight graduating seniors from SouthLake Christian Academy spent 11 days in a different world in late May. They left a part of themselves there – and a tribute to a friend who accompanied them in spirit.
Forty students, parents and faculty traveled to some of the poorest parts of Peru, the eighth year members of the senior class have gone on the mission. “The purpose of the trip was twofold,” Upper School Principal Phillip Horton said. “We wanted to serve others and show the love of Christ to them, and we wanted to open the eyes of the seniors to how the rest of the world lives and how we can serve and help others out of our abundance.”
While visiting an orphanage for boys, the students began construction on classrooms in a building that will pay tribute to Aimee Powell, a 26-year-old fourth-grade teacher from SouthLake who was killed in a head-on collision a little more than a year ago. Powell had taken mission trips to Peru and loved the country.
Students placed a plaque in the building to honor Powell.
The students left the comfort of Lake Norman on May 22 and returned on June 1. In Peru, they traveled to three towns, reaching their first stop, Kusi, after more than 11 hours on a bus through the mountains. There, they visited a home where two house parents care for 40 boys, ranging from 4 to 18 years old.
“A lot of the boys came off the streets where their only way to survive was to go into prostitution or steal food,” senior Meghan Bentley said. “They would get arrested and beaten by the police. All of the stories were so sad, but it just came to show God’s grace and His impact in our lives. I loved seeing their smiles every day. Nothing can ever compare to that feeling of being an important role model in someone’s life.”
The seniors conducted a Bible school with the boys and also worked on the classroom building in Kusi, making more than 800 adobe bricks, a new record for SouthLake mission groups. Each brick weighs 45 to 50 pounds.
The students wrote prayers on rocks to place in the concrete footing of the building.
The group next journeyed to Kawai, where they conducted a church service for 38 boys in another orphanage. The seniors entertained the boys with Bible school skits.
The final stop, in the village of Ica, may have proved the most telling on the SouthLake group. They brought water to a group of villagers who are living in cardboard boxes and grass huts with no running water. An earthquake devastated the village a few years ago, and when Ica residents heard the SouthLake group was bringing free water, they brought out anything they owned that could hold water.
“I saw hard, skeptical, careworn faces that silently brought us their water buckets and, with a whispered thank you, went back into their hovels,” senior Meredith Mayes said. “Children sat in the dirt with stray dogs and flies as their companions. The worst part was, there’s nothing we can truly do about it. All I found myself doing was praying without ceasing.”
Seniors said the trip really opened their eyes. “You finally understand why Jesus wanted the little children to come to Him,” Mayes said. “They’re fearless, abandoned, and they love like the Father loves us. It’s absolutely incredible. Suddenly, having to take a cold shower isn’t so bad.”
These seniors said they returned to North Carolina with humbled, changed hearts.
“They may not remember me in a year or so, but they will always remember how it felt to be loved,” senior Shannon Popoff said. “Even though we didn’t completely speak their language or look like them, our hugs and smiles and the time spent with them filled a need they had. And it’s a feeling none of us will ever forget.”
Katie Schoenrock is a rising senior at SouthLake Christian Academy. She is a guest writer from the school’s writing class.