SOFIA

                  When we returned to Lima in 1980, Sofia and her husband Octavio and six little children were attending the church in Panamericana Norte.   He had a long-time permanent position with Inca Cola, and helped us get Inca Cola T-shirts.  Sofia could not read or write, but she was a positive-thinking little lady.  Together she and Octavio bought land and built a house at Km 22 north of Lima on the road to Canta.  Glenn and I visited them there a few times;  I remember especially a birthday party for one of the children.                In 1993, while I was visiting in Peru, Sofia came to the seminar-campaign and came all the way to Valentin’s house (about 10 km. south of Lima) at least once to visit me.  She carried a baby boy in a blanket on her back and Jacobo told me a very sad story.Octavio and Sofia wanted their children to have an education so they helped their children go to college.  Their oldest daughter, Eva, went to La Cantuta in Chosica, which I think had been a teacher’s college, but at the time Eva went there it was a Terrorist nest.  Eva got involved with the terrorists and was picked up in Fujimori’s clean-up, brutally treated by the police, and put in prison.  Her son, Sadid, was born in prison and Sofia took him home to raise him.

He was a year old in 1993, and she carried him on her back while she worked in the fields digging potatoes. I think Octavio’s income was sufficient to support the family, but Sofia is not an idle woman, as you will see in the rest of the story.

She always brought us gifts when she came to see us that year… Inca Cola bath towels and T-shirts, an Inca Cola sports bag, and a fried guinea pig (cuy).  (I tasted the cuy, but I was glad when Valentin’s wife said she would be pleased to have it.)  Knowing Sofia could not read, I told her I would like to send her cassettes sometimes and asked her if she had a cassette player.  “Oh, we have a VCR!” she said. (I never did send her anything; it was just a good intention.)

But I did take a gift to her this time.  I took her the dramatized New Testament on audio-cassettes.  I took it to her partly because of her illiteracy, partly  because her children have not shown much interest in the church, and because Jacobo had written me that Sadid was somewhat traumatized because of the prison connection.

So, I arrived back in Lima after Arequipa and Cuzco on July 25, 2000.  That evening there was a special meeting at Los Pinos church, the one Glenn’s memorial fund helped put the roof on.  I was given a big bouquet of flowers and was excessively photographed.  Sofia brought me fruit and avocados.  She came to the ladies’ classes at the school near Jacobo’s home.  She brought me honey and more fruit and avocados.  When I was staying at Maximo’s house I had a very bad cold.  She brought me cane sugar water. When I was staying at Valentin’s she came to my ladies’ class at Miraflores and brought me a big Peruvian shopping basket of mostly very ripe avocados, which the Rios and all their company enjoyed very much…and there were a few of the firmest ones that we saved to take to Marco Leon’s house to serve to Manuel and Julie when they arrived.

But that’s not all of the story.

Sofia says she is learning to read, and I believe it.  She is an outspoken advocate of natural remedies and natural foods diets.  I guess she got started on it when Sadid was sick.  She goes every Saturday to a “Naturista” in Huachipa, occasionally to have tests, always to get some natural foods.  His name is Carlos Casanova Lenti, and later in driving around with Marco I saw his very beautiful grounds and simple, but architecturally attractive buildings.  As a going-away gift, Sofia gave me a copy of his bilingual natural living book.  Now you know I have been an advocate of natural foods for years…but I don’t eat three fruits and a blended nut milk at every meal.  (Cooked food is not recommended, but if you have space after eating the raw fruits, you can have some.)  I didn’t throw out every metal pan and cook all my food in clay pots.  I have not completely rejected plastic.  I don’t cook on wood only (Sofia doesn’t either).

She kept telling me about her chacra and how she wished I could go to see it.  I was having scheduling difficulties as it was, and didn’t see how I could spare the time for a 45 minute drive on up the road toward Canta.  Friday the 4th of August seemed to be the only possible day and I wanted to go and see an old sister Evangelina in Ventanilla, who lived on the coast, about an hour’s drive the other way from Maximo’s where I was staying.  Sofia said, “We have a car and we will take you to Ventanilla.”  And they did.  Her oldest son, Octavio Jr., drove, and he was absolutely the most cautious and careful driver I rode with in all of Peru.  I had hoped not to stay for lunch at Evangelina’s house, but you know that wasn’t possible.

I kind of suspected I was coming down with a cold when we left there, but I agreed to go to the chacra, stopping first at the home at Km. 22.  This is a nicely finished house with parquet floors…covered with plastic and about 200 of those round avocados the Peruvians use to make stuffed avocado salads.  She would be selling them to restaurants in Lima.  I met most of the other children, some of whom have finished college. None are married.  And we drove up the hill to the chacra.

Now this is like going up the central highway to Chosica, only in a northwest direction along the Rio Chillon.  It is one of the great garden areas for the vegetables and fruits that are sold in Lima.  Octavio and Sofia have bought 2 hectareas and planted 200 avocado trees, 100 chirimoya trees and 100 papaya trees and numerous other kinds of trees and plants.  They have built a solid concrete first floor one room house.  It has a double bed and still has the crib that Sadid slept in, because Sofia stayed at the chacra most of the time until he started to school.

Now Octavio has retired from Inca Cola and he stays at the chacra, or if not he, then one or two of the sons.  It is good I went there, because after Sofia served me my plate of three fruits, he served me a tasty chicken and rice dish he had cooked. The leftovers would be taken to Chorrillos to the prison the next day for Eva.  They take Sadid to visit her every Saturday, and usually one of them goes on Sunday also.  Oh, another gift Sofia gave me was a leather vest made by Eva.  Sadid was wearing a beautifully designed sweater his mother had knit.

I tramped around the chacra with Octavio, admiring the trees and plants and appreciating all the work they have done.  It was a pleasant ride and an experience I am glad I didn’t miss, even though I was not feeling good and spent the next two days in bed mixing Sofia’s natural remedies and advice with Dr. Gloria’s medical samples (and my vitamins, of course).

One other anecdote:  For years there had been a vacant lot across from Sofia’s house.  For years she had prayed for it to be made into a park where the gospel could be preached. She had memories of Glenn and Bert and the loud-speaker and the filmstrips, which I guess they had taken to Km. 22 several times.  Finally that lot came up for a proposed park in a lottery of some government bureau.  It is the kind of park that is fenced in and that the neighbors have to support with a small revenue each year.  Most of the neighbors did not want the park because they didn’t want to pay the tax, but they had Sofia and her prayers to contend with.  There is a nice park with a soccer field and the possibility of park preaching, which one religious group has already done.

In one conversation I told Sofia that she must be careful that she does not exalt her interest in physical health over the soul’s preparation for eternity.  She said, “People don’t want to listen to either one.”  She’s right.

What a sister!

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