CHAVIN DE HUANTAR, Peru (BP) -- Jordan and Trevor Pennington know all about the Incan Empire, the South American civilization that seems almost mythic to most schoolchildren in the United States.
The boys have lived for three-and-a-half years in a mountain town in Peru, the country where the Incas rose to power centuries ago.
By the 15th century, the Incas had created the largest pre-Colombian empire ever in the Americas. In the 1530s, Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro overcame the mighty Incan leader Atahuallpa and demanded a room filled with gold for a ransom.
The Peruvian town that Jordan, 14, and Trevor, 11, moved to in 2009 with their missionary parents, Brian and Jenn Pennington, is the site of an even earlier civilization called the Chavín culture. This culture, which influenced a large swath of Peru during its time, dates to before the time of Christ and roughly coincides with the age of David and Goliath.
The temple ruins at Chavín de Huántar, within walking distance where the Penningtons have lived, are the civilization's most well-known archaeological site. The Chavín archaeological site is a UNESCO World Heritage site and draws archaeology teams each summer for research and conservation purposes. There is even a Stanford University project studying the architectural and instrumental "psychoacoustics" of the temple complex and its underground passageways.
This intriguing place of echoing passageways and a carved granite stela that depicts the form of a puma also draws international tourists, who make day trips to the site by taking a bus over the mountains from Huaraz, the capital of the Ancash region.
Jordan and Trevor, however, wander through the archaeological site's tunnels with familiarity, using their iPods as flashlights to explore all the nooks and crannies.
"We've already seen it like 20 times," Jordan said. It's the standard "tour" his family does when visitors or missions teams pass through town. The Penningtons have worked in Chavín de Huántar as part of the Ancash Quechua team that lives in the Conchucos Valley to reach the Quechua people there with the Gospel.
So a visit to the ruins has been just another day in the boys' life in this Peruvian Andes mountain town. Does the proximity of so much history make history their favorite subject? Not necessarily.
The boys are homeschooled, mostly by their mother. Both Jordan and Trevor agree that science is their favorite subject. Jordan said grammar is his least favorite subject. His father helps in the homeschooling by teaching grammar.
"I drew that straw," Brian said with a grin.
Most of the boys' days in Chavín de Huántar have begun with doing schoolwork at home.
"We go in and have all our work set out," Jordan explained. "Once we finish all our work, we're done for the day, unless we want to do extra to get ahead." He bemoaned that his younger brother usually finishes first. "He's smart so it's really easy for him. is easy, too, but it takes me awhile. If I get it wrong, I have to go back and do it again."
After school, the boys often head outside to play pickup basketball games with their dad and neighborhood boys in a nearby schoolyard. Basketball is a fun way for their family to connect with boys in their town.
Another activity that tops Jordan and Trevor's list is skateboarding. They can't skateboard well in their town's rough streets, but they occasionally take their boards to a local park. When their family makes a trip to Peru's capital, Lima, they like to tote their skateboards along with them to ride in the city’s skateboard park that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. They often meet other boys while they're skateboarding there as well.
There are obvious differences between living in the mountains of Peru and their hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. "No Mexican food" in Peru is one of them, the boys said. The fast-paced lifestyle in the United States is another.
However, Jenn said the boys love both places. And they enjoy getting to see extended family when they visit Texas -- cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Jordan said sometimes children he meets when he visits the U.S. imagine his life in Peru a lot differently than it really is.
"A lot of people think Peru is like deep jungle,” Jordan said, “so when you tell them you were watching TV, they say, 'Whoa, you have TVs there?'" In addition to a television, the Penningtons also have a family dog named Rocky.
One constant of the missionary life is change. Late last year, the Penningtons learned that they would be taking over a different assignment. That change meant they’d need to move from their mountain town to Lima. In their new assignment, the Penningtons will assist U.S. churches and their Peruvian partners in training, strategy and logistics to plant churches in more than 100 communities in Peru.
Life in a megacity like Lima will be different from life in a quiet mountain town. The boys said they will miss the pickup basketball games with neighborhood boys and hiking in the mountains. City life will be a little more fast paced. They will attend a school there with other missionary kids. But the good news is that Rocky gets to move with them.
Elaine Gaston writes for WMU and IMB. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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