Missions FAQ

WHAT ADVERSITIES WILL I ENCOUNTER?  You will encounter conditions that are very different from our daily lives in the United States. So that you can make a fully informed decision about participating, we try to mention below all possible adversities you might encounter. Here is a list that our travelers have compiled:

  • The heat. Lima is in a desert, where it never rains! All homes are constructed of masonry and concrete, and tend to absorb the sunlight and stay warm well into the night. None of the homes where we stay are air conditioned, and may not have fans for keeping us cool at night. Because Lima is close to the equator, the sun is directly overhead, and its rays can be intense. Because you cannot drink Lima’s tap water, you must purchase and carry with you any water or soft drinks. Because none of our hosts own cars, we will do much walking. All these factors contribute to stress on our bodies. (The good news- there are plenty of places to buy bottled water, there is shade, and there is the occasional breeze. None of our travelers have been overcome by the heat, except for times when doing hard physical labor.)
  • Air quality.Lima is a city of over 8 million people, and there are no prohibitions on outside trash burning or filthy truck engine exhaust. (The good news- none of our travelers have been affected by respiratory problems.)
  • The schedule. On past trips, our hosts have kept us busy from breakfasts at 7:30 AM until after supper at 8 or 9 PM. Some days start a 6AM if there is a long day planned. The first day in Peru starts after a night of little sleep due to the late flight arrival time. Generally speaking, we do not have time for shopping or resting. (The good news- our hosts are very considerate of our needs and will try to accommodate us if the schedule is too demanding.)
  • Bathing & Personal Hygiene.You will not have access to what we consider normal bathroom conditions. Most homes do not have hot running water. You may not be able to bathe or shower each day. Bathrooms may lack good functioning toilets. You can’t use tap water to brush your teeth- you must use bottled water. If you are a “high maintenance” groomer, you will have to temporarily lower your standards. (The good news- if you can think of your experience as a camping trip, you will have a more enjoyable experience.)
  • Food Sanitation.Kitchens are clean but if you are obsessed with germs, you may be disappointed. On each of our trips, at least one traveler has contracted diarrhea or vomiting of unknown origin. (The good news- our host families prepare delicious and nutritious meals, with chicken, rice, breads, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, and juices. They are aware of our concerns about sanitation and using only boiled water to clean dishes and for food preparation.)
  • Opportunity crime.Because the employment percentage is low in Peru, and because we appear very different to Peruvians, we can be targets of petty theft if we present an opportunity for someone so inclined. (The good news- Although there are dangerous districts of Lima, El Pinar is a safe community, and our hosts accompany us wherever we go, advising us with safety in mind.)
  • If we must travel longer distances in El Pinar, we hire mototaxis, which are 3-wheeled motorcycles with a back seat and canopy. The concepts of side impact protection or seat belts are nonexistent in mototaxis, and there are few safety regulations regarding who can operate a mototaxi or how they are maintained. (The good news- we have always made it safely to our destinations.)
  • Culture shock & disorientation.When we are so used to many material possessions and comforts and suddenly become immersed in an environment that lacks these features, it can be a little scary, especially since we are in a city of 8 million where few speak our language. (The good news- you will be accompanied by caring & experienced travelers, and we always travel with a fluent translator, and some of the El Pinar youth are becoming conversant in English.)

It is not possible for us to describe the warmth and hospitality of our Peruvian host families. Just ask anyone who has been on a trip, or look at the photos of our trips on this website. At the time of this writing, there have been 16 St. James parishioners who have participated in these trips, and all believe that the trip was well worth it. We received more blessings than we gave to them. If you are interest in making a trip to El Pinar, please continue reading.  To see an application – click here.

HOW DO I GET THERE?  We fly on Delta or Continental, with plane changes in Atlanta or Houston.  American serves Lima through Miami, but 3 flighs are required either way.  The international flights take 5-7 hours and usually arrive in Lima around midnight.  There is a time change of only one hour.  The return flight leaves Lima shortly after midnight.  As our hosts do not live near the airport nor do they have easy access to cars it is imperative that we all travel together to minimize inconveniencing them and ensure that we all get there safely.  We usually purchase air tickets about 2 months prior to travel.

WHAT WILL I NEED?  A passport is essential. (It takes about 4-6 weeks to get a passport, and there are fees involved, about $75. Inquire at the Post Office or online at the U.S. State Department web site. Only certain Post Offices in our area handle passport applications and they only do so at specific times. Passports can be ordered on an urgent basis, which takes 1-2 weeks, but costs $80 more.) Although Lima is not in the tropical area of Peru, we suggest you get tetanus and hepatitis A/B vaccinations. A variety of personal toiletries and medications to deal with common travel infirmities are suggested. During the pre-travel meetings, travelers will be advised on what pre-travel arrangements to make and what to pack. Your clothing needs will depend on weather, and the type of tasks we will be doing.

WHAT EXPENSES WILL I HAVE?  Airfare ($700 to $1000) Passport & security pouch ($90), Vaccinations (up to $200), special prescriptions from your doctor such as for antibiotic ($50) and Peru exit fee ($35). In Lima, the El Pinar Committee acts as our hosts and takes care of our food and transportation needs, and our Mission Committee reimburses them for such expenses. As you will be staying in their homes, you don’t have to worry about hotel expense. You may incur sightseeing/souvenir expenses during your trip, and photo processing after the trip, or taking our hosts out to a meal. It would be thoughtful to take a small gift for your host family. Because of the significant expense to participate, the Mission Committee typically reimburses a small portion of each traveler’s airfare cost after they return.

WHAT ABOUT THE LANGUAGE?  You do not need to speak Spanish, but it will be helpful if you have some background in it. Only one or two of the El Pinar committee members speaks English. At least one of the St. James traveling group will be bilingual. Bring a pocket dictionary, and you may be able to work on a few phrases. Our hosts, especially the youth, are eager to learn and practice English, so there is often an exchange of simple language lessons between our groups.

WHAT ABOUT INSURANCE?  Most American health insurance policies cover you when you travel abroad, so check your coverage. Special catastrophic health care coverage for travelers is provided by St. James Parish, which will cover your health care needs and evacuation from Peru if you have a health emergency. You should know that the Peruvian emergency response and health care system lacks the infrastructure to which we are accustomed; care may be slow and inadequate.

WHO WILL GO ON THE TRIP?  Participants should be in good health; willing to be flexible about climate, schedule, culture, diet, and with an open heart to learn about the faith of our Peruvian brethren. The group is usually selected from interested parishioners who can afford the travel, and who agree to the travel schedule negotiated between our committee and our El Pinar hosts. An interview by the Mission Committee or previous travelers may be involved, and preference will be given to parishioners who have participated in Peru Mission activities and fundraisers prior to the trip. Depending on the purpose of the trip, preference may be given to parishioners who have not previously visited El Pinar, to increase the experience within the St. James community. We would like to have a group of at least four, and no more than ten participate in the trips. If our group is too large, the logistics of transporting us and feeding us become difficult. Youth traveling without their parents should be at least in their senior year of high school, and their parents will be required to provide a statement approving their travel and authorizing other travelers to make medical decisions for their child.

WHAT DO WE DO ON A MISSION TRIP?  We will be hosted by the parishioners of our sister parish, and we will participate in activities that will allow our parish communities to get to know one another better. On past trips, we dug trenches for the foundations of church walls, participated in their fundraising activities, and went on charitable outreach visits to poor neighborhoods of Lima. We attend Mass with them, we go to the homes of their sick or elderly and pray with them. No doubt there will be a variety of new purposes and reasons for future trips.

HOW DO WE COMMUNICATE OUR EXPERIENCE TO ST. JAMES?  As missionaries, it is our responsibility to bring back information to the St. James community to help further the understanding of our sister parish in Peru. Travelers are expected to give presentations to the parish after our trip. Not all parishioners can go, so we have to show them how their generosity is being put to use.

WHAT ABOUT SAFETY AND LIABILITY?  We make significant plans and arrangements to make this a safe, enjoyable, and spiritually beneficial experience, and we plan to minimize the adversities discussed above. Our host families have kept us safe on previous trips and make decisions in our best interest. Travelers must understand that bad things can happen, as discussed in this text. Under most circumstances, even if you are alone during the day, you will be safe. Just like in Kansas City, there are areas where you should not go alone at night. If you wear jewelry, a fancy watch, or have money easily accessible you could be targeted, so we advise you against these practices. In this litigious time in our society, it must be understood that St. James Church and its employees, the members of the Peru Mission Committee or trip leaders, assume no liability for personal injury or illness or death, or property damage or loss, attributable to any event, condition, action, or omission, that may occur during or after a trip to Peru.

MORE QUESTIONS?  Please contact any of our past travelers, such as Susan & John Stolwyk. To email John or Susan, click here.