Today was an incredible but exhausting day, both physically and emotionally, and can be summed up by a sign at the first Church we visited this morning, Jesus es Salvador…
(The Word of God has life and power. Hebrews 4:12)
Over and over today we saw how Jesus radically transformed lives in midst of desperate situations. We started by driving about an hour south to Jesus es Salvador which is in an area similar to the area we visited Saturday (San Juan de Miraflores), neighborhoods which about 30 years ago were settled by squatters and have since become established neighborhoods; poor but established nonetheless. The Church, Jesus es Salvador, has been in this area over 23 years and this woman has been there from the beginning.
(Unfortunately I can’t recall her name)
Marco is a lay minister who serves both Jesus es Salvador and Mision San Andreas de Oasis and studies at the seminary in the evening...whew! After giving us a tour of Jesus es Salvador, which has a beautiful new building, Marco and some members of the Church took us down to a district called Oasis.
(the new sanctuary of Jesus es Salvador)
On the way there they were careful to tell us that this area very poor. Somewhat ironically, Marco and co. are from an area that itself is very poor, so for them to describe where we were going as very poor was startling.
While San Juan de Miraflores (the first shanty-town we visited) was poor, people lived primarily in brick homes, had legal power, etc. In Oasis people lived in makeshift shacks made from whatever materials they could scavenge, dirt floors, illegally acquired electricity by tapping into lines, etc. This was certainly the worst poverty I’ve ever witnessed. And, like all the shanty-towns we've visited, what you see in this pictures seems to go on forever.(Look closely and you will see a cross next to the red and white flag, modeled on the Peruvian flag, which says "Oasis")
Marco made pastoral calls on a number of families and took us with him. He asked for prayer as serving two Churches and studying at night is taxing on him but he loves the people in his care. Please say a pray for Marco to have strength, refreshment and encouragement in his ministry.
(Sarah - a British missionary who was our translator today, Marco from Jesus es Salvador, Rosa and another young girl whom he made a pastoral call to. Marco loves God's people immensely.)
(the lovely family - Rosa, Giancarlo, Elva-mom, Grandma and Grandpa)
One lovely family we visited invited us all into their home. We learned that around the time the Mision San Andreas de Oasis was started the father, of the family pictured above, was murdered and the priestvRuben (who is working currently in the area hit by the earthquake) counseled the family through it and they all subsequently gave their lives to Jesus. Gloria Dios! They were an absolutely beautiful family and I was again humbled to sit in their simple home (their entire house was about the size of a typical American’s living room) and see the joy on their faces in spite their circumstances.
During our visit to Jesus es Salvador Marco was kind enough to show me a charango (a small Peruvian stringed instrument similar to a mandolin) they use for worship. Some of the ladies traveling with us took us to a music store who sold high quality charangos for a very reasonable price and after Marco (our guide, not be confused with Marco from Jesus es Salvador) inspected one meeting his discerning eye, I became the proud new owner of the coolest souvenir I’ve ever gotten overseas! (And all for $40). And I also got a real zampona (pan pipes) for mi hijo. I can’t wait to learn to play it. Michael and Sven purchased box drums like that used at last night’s show. We’re hoping to rock out some worship songs Peruvian style. Arriba!
(the world's newest charangista)
In the shanty-towns one thing I found fascinating was that even in the worst slums there were Internet Cafes, sometimes in the same kind of makeshift buildings as the homes I mentioned.
(If you look closely in the left of this picture you'll see a vertical, blue sign that says "Internet")
(A young boy sitting on the side of the road playing his charango and zamponas who was elated when I stuck my head out the window to snap his photo)
We then drove two hours from the south of the city at Oasis to the far north to visit the community of Collique to visit a new mission of the diocese. This area was another shanty-town that is known for being home to many thieves and bandits. Most families here are a single mother with children from numerous fathers who are not present. While the other areas we visited were poor, they didn't feel unsafe. Collique was the first place we visited that seemed to have have a threatening vibe.
(A typical scene in Collique - a shack with laundry hanging, mangy dogs and pigeons wandering and the mountains surrounding the community)
The mission does not have its own building yet and meets in the home of local woman named Suzy who donated the 1st floor of her house to the mission. She had to add a second floor in order to make room for herself to live!
(Jerry; Suzy and Edith, Jerry's wife)
Suzy herself was a thief who gave her life to Jesus and now runs an afternoon program Monday through Friday for the local children teaching them Bible lessons and then giving them a small meal of bread with jelly and a beverage of powdered milk and quinoa (like oatmeal). This is the only evening meal these children eat each day.
(This picture the children made of the Good Samaritan was riveting to see here in Collique, seeing as we too had to come through a roadway known to be inhabitted by bandits to get there.)
One of the main purposes of our visit was to help paint Lucy’s home. While helping paint was fun we had the time of our lives with the 80 children who came for lessons and a snack today. I could talk about it...but the pictures tell the story(Before...)
(Sandy with our new friends)
(These little cuties were delighted when I showed them their picture in the display on the camera pointing and covering their mouths and saying in Spanish, 'Look it's me! It's you Luis!')
(Marco - our guide and Micah playing volleyball with the kids)
(Bill fell in love with the little ones in Collique)
(Ellora being mobbed by 'ninas' as we prepare to leave)
(Joe saying grace with the kids before snack time)
(One of the best moments all day, Mark was staining the door when he got a surpise hug from Jesus...we have now officially dubbed Mark "Cuddly-Bear")
We fell in the love with these kids. Praise God for changing the lives of women like Suzy, the theif-turned-Bible Teacher. We saw so much joy and hope shining forth in this area today. In such a desperate, hopeless set of circumstances the only explanation for the kind of joy, hope and faith we saw was Jesus' Presence. Amen. Amen. Amen. Gloria Dios!