It was a public holiday today, so we had planned to go with friends, David and Charito and Cesar and Haydee, to the waterfalls behind Ingenio, since none of us had ever been. Unfortunately, Rachel was feeling a bit under the weather, but insisted that the rest of us went anyway.

Two more stove bases built today, as shown in the photos. One of the families currently cooks under some very low corrugated iron propped up on some makeshift brick walls. It hasn’t been that temporary arrangement for the family though, as evident by the black smudges on the walls…

So, the stove project finally got on the road today and, despite some difficulties (my expert builder not turning up to show me how to do it for the first one and one of my volunteers not turning up either), we have managed to build the foundation of the stove for one family. The base for the afternoon family is unfortunately only 60% done and that we had to do in record time before the light faded since the space marked out by the family for the stove was basically in the middle of a room filled with junk and we spent 1.5 hours clearing it out and levelling the floor before we could start. Tomorrow I’ll remember to take the camera…

It’s official – we now have our flights to come back to the UK in September. When we get home there’s no clear plan as yet (much depends on jobs) but, with the work here with the Peru Children’s Trust about to enter a new phase, we nevertheless felt it was the right time to pack up and make the move.

So, the stoves project has started like a bonfire made up of wet leaves. We got as far as the place where I’m storing materials before a phone call revealed that today’s family had had a change of heart and decided that they didn’t want a wood stove (which is fair enough, since it transpires they usually cook on gas). Just glad that we hadn’t started shifting all the bricks and sand into the car…

An early start to get to Aco (a village about an hour away) and to pay my contact there for making me a dozen combustion chambers, moulded and fired and ready to withstand very high temperatures at the heart of the stoves I’m making. I also became the proud owner of about 0.5 tonnes of white clay, which will be the finishing material applied to the outside of the stoves, since it will help keep the heat inside.

This afternoon, I’m off to buy 6 tonnes of sand, 20 bags of cement and 1,600 bricks. Then the fun starts tomorrow….

I staged my equivalent of The Apprentice yesterday, asking each of my small business teams to present their business plans to a panel of potential investors. Some were good and some weren’t, but I could never be as harsh and ruthless as Alan Sugar. Using the very small fund that we’ve created from selling my text books, we have decided to invest in 6 businesses which will be running for the next 4 weeks (and possibly longer if they proved to be money-spinners). The businesses are 2 yoghurt businesses, a taco and an oriental style empanada (pasty) businesses and, from amongst my fashion design and sewing students, 2 businesses that specialise in short, fashionable (here at least!) waistcoats. 4 weeks to the day of reckoning when we find out who had the most successful business and whether I have any money left in our “investment fund”.

Now that we have stepped down from Vineyard, it seems to be the case that we’re being given different opportunities. Yesterday, I was approached and asked to preach at one of the largest churches in the city. I am yet to accept this invitation (and might well not), but I have agreed to meet with their leadership team next week and spend some time speaking to them about the benefits of small groups and my experience in them.

The church in question is from the IEP (Peruvian Evangelical Church) denomination, which is fairly formal and traditional (as much as you can be when the evangelical church as a whole is less than 100 years old), but they are keen to explore new ways of doing church and their status as a very large church means that any idea that is implemented successfully there is liable to be taken up elsewhere too. With my experience in Vineyard, I am convinced of the benefit of small groups and it is exciting to think that God could be using me to make a difference in the wider Peruvian church.

Our forthcoming departure means that, more than ever, we need to try and make the most of the time left. We have had some precious times recently. We were invited to visit a family and chat with them because of some family issues they were going through. The husband said that they had decided to chat to us because, along with one other couple, he felt that we were the only people he could trust and he considers us as family. In Peruvian culture, this is very significant and encouraging to know that we have made a difference to one family at least.

Yesterday, I found myself up a mountainside with the same bloke and spent about an hour chatting and listening to his struggles as a father and as a husband. It was again precious to be able to share that time with him and just be there for him as a friend.

Since Friday we’ve been playing hosts to 3 Americans from Vineyard who have come up to Huancayo with a view to relocating here (one already lives in Lima) or to somewhere in Peru, but the altitude has affected one so badly that I’ve just put her in a car to take her back down to sea level and another one is in bed with headaches and nausea not wanting to go anywhere just yet. Is this encouraging anyone else to think about visiting us?!

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