Friday, June 19, 2015

Compassion International Peru Mission Experience

June 8, 2015
I thought the day would never come to see how God is using the Compassion Child Survival Program to love on the forgotten.  The forgotten here are mothers that live in remote areas in extreme poverty.  The remote area is just out side of Huancayo in a little village 11,000 Ft above sea level.   It is primarily a poor farming village of the most amazing people you will ever meet.   

On our entry to the village, the mothers, staff, and all the little babies were standing outside of a small adobe brick building structure, holding balloons and feverishly waving at our bus..   Why were they waving at us and why did they have big smiles on their faces?  Oh, my goodness,  when we got off the bus they hugged us and kissed us on the cheek and the baby/children were smiling.  Do they not know, they are the heros, that I have been waiting to see.   Why are they greeting us in this way.  They don’t know us.    They are the heros and yet they treat us like we are family members whom they have not seen in a long time. 

They are my heroes.  They raise their children under extreme conditions (limited food, limited healthy water, NO HEAT).  As a parent I wanted to make sure my children had the things in life to make them successful.   They have to worry about when and what their child’s next meal is, and if they get sick, how can they get the child to the medical center and how will they pay for the medication.   Can you imagine the anxiety a parent in that condition would feel?   But these mothers are holding their babies and waving, smiling, and hugging me!  What is going on here?

After all the initial hugs and kisses, they showed us all about the program.  They showed us how the program monitors the health of the pregnant mom and baby after birth.  They showed us how to keep the family healthy by good hygiene and what to do when the child is sick.  They also train them to cook and knit/crochet ( I have got to tell Peggy!) to earn a little money for the family.  The one thing we heard over and over again was the fellowship the center provides.  They provide discipleship training and most importantly,  they show the love of Christ.   One mother said even though the church was right around the corner,  she felt isolated and had no friend.  Once she joined the program she said  “I now have lots of friends that love me!”   

Glendy - Right
After the tour of the program,  we were blessed to do a home visit of one of the mothers participating in the program.   Her name was Glendy.  She had a 1 year old son.   We arrived at her home with many hugs and kisses.   She was so glad to see our group and so thankful we could come into her home.   Very soon into the visit, I was mortified with their situation.    Glendy was a 16 year old single mother.   She lived in what was her Grandparents home (both deceased) with her mother and two siblings.  Her father had recently passed away and her mother was deaf.  The only family income was when her mother got work in the fields and what is equivalent to $33 USD per month provided by the baby’s father.   My heart dropped.   How can you live on that?  That is not enough for just food for the family.  I find out during the meal that to be the case. 
The meal that the Compassion program provided for us contained the first meat that they had eaten in a very long time.  I found out that all they ate was what the very small garden produces or people give them.  Meat is too expensive for them to afford.  As a result of this diet Glendy is anemic and malnourished and she cannot produce adequate milk for her baby.   Compassion provides baby formula for her baby to address the baby’s malnourishment.    Glendy was so thankful for the baby formula and she thanked us so for providing her baby this.   Again can you imagine how it would feel if you could not even provide basic food for your baby? As our visit was coming to the end, we asked Glendy for her prayer request.  She asked for us to pray that God will continue to bless her family.  

Wow!  All I see is hunger; very poor living conditions, medical condition and she sees the blessings.    Forgive me Lord for not having her thankful spirit!  You have given me so much. I have not ever experienced hunger and most thankful that my children and wife have not as well.  You have blessed me more than I can imagine.   Thank you Lord for seeing this through Glendy.  Now Lord continue to watch over and bless Glendy and her family.   I know that their prayers are a sweet sweet sound to your ears and give you the glory you deserve.  Thank you for putting Glendy in my path!  Amen.  

As the day proceeds at the Compassion Child Survival Center, we find out they are happy that their God has used us to help support their lifeline through the Compassion program.  They see us as servants of God.  They are thanking us for being obedient to God by doing His work.   Oh this is so humbling.   I just give $39 dollars a month to Compassion with little thought and write letters, and pray, and they see me as a servant of God.   They are truly the Servants of God.   They are the Macedonia church of the bible:

“Now, breathern, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the Churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.  For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.”   2 Corinthians 8:1-5

Well it was time to leave this center and wonderful people.   I just did not want to leave.   The hugs and kisses started again and even though the bus was just outside it took us some time to make our way there.    What a beautiful Church!!!

Our next destination was a new Compassion Child Sponsorship Project that has only been in operation for 2 months and they already are serving 175 5-19 year old children.  Upon our arrival 175 children were in two lines as we entered the building.  Each child wanted to shake our hands.  That is where I met Willie.  He is a 5 year old boy that squeezed my hand hard and then giggled like crazy.   He sat behind me and kept poking me in the back then when I turned around started the giggling again.    What a joy to be with Willie.   His smile was just infectious.   Everyone was watching him and when he laughed they laughed.    I don’t know much about Willie but I do know that he needs a sponsor.      Actually all 175 kids at this center needs sponsors.  Compassion started this center with faith that the children will get sponsors.   I pray that someone special will sponsor Willie that will write him often and get to meet him in person someday.  They will be in for a treat!
Once again we see the generosity of the members of the church.   This church has just started the Compassion program and they have already seen the need to expand the program.    We are talking two months of operation.  They have seen God working and they have wasted no time to join him.  While the members are poor financially they are wealthy in their love of God.  They have started bringing donations of bricks, sand and supplies to church so that they can soon start the expansion process.   What generosity!   They have nothing, but find a way to give!  I would not be surprised if the Pastor of this Church will soon be in the same position as Moses in Exodus 36: 5-7 when they had to tell the congregation to stop donating supplies to the Church because they had enough.     Wow, what an interesting building program.

The Lord ended my first day with the smiles of all the children as we departed this center but the memory of the generosity of the Church and yes Willie are the highlights of this day.

June 9, 2015,
I woke up on the second morning with a very cold room.   I knew it was down in the 30’s outside but why so cold in my hotel room.   What!  This Hotel does not have heat!   I am not saying it was not working, but it had no heat!   Actually none of the homes we visited or will visit on this trip had heat.   This is yet another obstacle the poverty in Huancayo must deal with.   I was complaining when my bare feet stepped on the tile in my hotel bathroom, but what if I woke up everyday in the winter in this cold and had small children?   The people we visited in Huancayo did not have a lot of clothing and had only a few blankets on their bed when they had a bed.  Many slept on the dirt floor.  Have you ever went camping during the winter and laid on the ground?   The ground acts like a heat sink pulling the heat out of your body.  You can put a blanket on the ground but still seems to pull the heat out.     As you can see my feet just hit the floor of my hotel room and God was already preparing me for the day!  I had prayed that He show me the people of Peru through His eyes.    He sees their suffering and made me aware as well.   So now what am I going to do about it?  What is the Church going to do about it? 

After an amazing breakfast,  we boarded the buses and headed to Rescatando Valores Church to observe their Compassion Child Sponsor Project.    Not until I arrived back home did I realize what their Church name meant “Saving Values”.   As you can just imagine,  the name fit this church perfectly.   They taught the children the saving value of proper hygiene, their culture, skills development and most important the saving value/grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.    They proudly displayed the sponsor letters on the class room walls as just another reminder that they are loved by God’s people.   Once again when we arrived and when we departed all the children were lined up to shake our hands and give us hugs.  (I tell you, I never got tired of this and really miss it since I have returned home).     
After touring the “Saving Value” Church,  we went on a home visit.   I was not prepared at all for that visit.  We arrived at a wall with a metal door.  We knocked on the door and two beautiful girls opened the door and ran to give us all BIG hugs!  Their smiles were absolutely beautiful.  They were allowed to stay home from school because they had “special guest” coming to their home today.  Maria (age 10) and Betzaida (age 12) were orphans.   Their parents were killed in an auto accident a few years ago, then they lost their grandparents a year or so ago.  Everyone they loved had been ripped from their lives leaving only a 20 year old sister, who now had the responsibility of caring for them.   20 Years old!   That is the same age as my daughter Rachel.   What a responsibility!  What was equally gut wrenching was their living conditions.  They did have a roof over their head and Compassion provided them beds but they had no kitchen or bathroom.  Their brother would allow them use of the kitchen but they could not eat any of his food and he would not even allow them use of his refrigerator.    I did not see any food anywhere in their room or in the kitchen.

What was really amazing with these girls was the hope they had for their future.   Because of their sponsors, they felt they could rise above their current conditions. When I asked them what they wanted to do when they got older, they both wanted to be Engineers.   This was a common thread we saw in our project visits.  We asked the children what they wanted to do when they grew up and almost all of the children state some professional career.

While it is easy to just state I want to be a doctor or engineer,  when you live in poverty, the biggest battle is not having big dreams to work toward.  When hope is gone you resign yourself to doing just what your family has done for many  years thinking that you can not change.   These girls have dreams and their “Saving Value” church and Compassion are keeping them alive even when everything else has been ripped from them.   Lord, thank you for showing me once again how you can use me to keep children’s dreams alive.   Use me to get more sponsors for these children so that more Maria’s and Betzaida’s can continue to dream and see their dreams materialize!

After all the Hugs and Kisses from the children and staff, we started on our way to another Compassion Learning Center.  On the way we stopped at the Regional Compassion Coordinators  home where he had prepared a Huancayo famous dish Pachamanca”.    This dish is a local favorite with marinated meat, vegetables, potatoes and spices, which is slowly cooked in a hole in the ground, covered with hot stones.    It was totally amazing!!!!   This is where I tried my first Inca Cola.  Brandy (I called her Brittney most of the time, and she let me get by with it), one of the trip coordinators from Compassion, offered a challenge that she would try it if I tried it.     How could I turn down that challenge?  I tried it and I can tell you “I am not a fan”.  The Pachamanca was better with water!  Well, there was another drink offered but cannot recall the name but was presented as “The drink that will restore the fate of your stomach”.  How could I turn that one down?   I wanted my stomach fate restored and this restoring tasted good as well.  

After the wonderful meal we made our way to the Los Etayros de Cristo  Compassion Child Sponsorship project.   At this project we were greeted like the others with fanfare and spent most of our time visiting classrooms.   Toward the end of our visit we had the privilege to meet with the high school age students.  They were very interested in asking us questions and wanted us to play games with them.   This was a very special time and we all enjoyed getting more familiar with each other’s cultures.    What a great wrap-up for the day.  We returned to the bus and headed back to the Hotel.

June 10, 2015
On this day we headed to Ebenezer Compassion Project.   This was a well-established and large Compassion project.   It served over 300+ kids and had many skill development programs for the kids.  They had a band where the kids learned to play local instruments as well as culinary and cosmetology programs to teach kids  skills.   This is where I met my buddy Anderson.   He was an amazing 12 year old Compassion kid that could tear up the bamboo pipes (zampona).  When I asked him how long he had been playing the pipes,  he replied two months.   He was really talented.    He would have never had the opportunity to learn to play if it were not for the Compassion program at this Church.    He was sharing joy through music.

After spending the morning understanding more about all the programs provided by Compassion sponsors, it was time for another family visit.   I get on the bus and there was Anderson again.   I was very hopeful that I was assigned to visit his home and tried out my Spanish indicating I would like to visit his home.   Once I spoke it in Spanish the translator started shaking her head and saying no, no no!  What I had just told Anderson was “I want your house”.   Anderson saw my face of horror when the translator told me what I said and he started laughing!     Well God had plans for me to visit another family.   This visit was very special and a blessing.  

We had the honor to visit Liz and Stephanie and parents.  Just getting to their home was a real hike.  The Home was on a side of a hill and to get to their home you climbed down a dirt path which led to their home.  It was so nice to meet the whole family.   Liz had a sponsor from Australia but Stephanie’s sponsor had to stop sponsoring her and she is waiting for a new sponsor.   This visit really opened my eyes to the effect that family gifts have on the family.    Liz and Stephanie’s dad worked very hard as a taxi driver and when he is not driving his taxi cab he worked  on their home.    They were squatters and they had to show improvements being made on the home to keep living there.   The mother took us around the home and showed us all the items that they were able to purchase for the family as a result of Liz sponsor’s family gifts.   We are talking about a bed for the girls and dresser and blender and a hutch for the kitchen.  She was so thankful for the gift and prayed for Liz’s sponsor every day.   I would have loved to be able to talk with that sponsor and tell him the impact he has made on that family.    I wanted to just thank him my self for keeping the hope flowing in this family.    What an impact he is making in not only Liz’s life but the whole family.   If he saw the gratefulness in their eye’s,  I think he would be even more overwhelmed than what I was experiencing in the visit.

Well during the visit we asked if the family attended church regularly.   This was when Liz began to cry.   This is when one of the adults in the compassion group picked up on why she was crying and asked “Are you crying because your family does not attend church?”.  This is when the tears starting flowing from Liz, her parents and the whole team.   Liz’s heart’s desire was for all of her family to attend church with her.   Her mother opened up and told us that she did not attend church because of a situation that occurred the last time she attended.  They were let down by the church and it really impacted their family.    What was really amazing was one of the individuals that accompanied us from the Compassion Learning project was also a pastor and he had just started a satellite church just a few 100 yards from where they lived.  God had placed him in that home at that moment to minister to the family.  It was so beautiful.   When we left, the parents saw the desire of their Liz and indicated they would give the new church a try.  We told them that they needed the fellowship of the Church but just as important was that the Church needed their talents to reach out to others as well. 

Lord, I lift up Liz and her family that they may grow closer to you through their fellowship of your church.   I pray that you use the Pastor to help heal their hearts and turn their hearts on fire for your work.   

After the blessing of the Liz family visit, we provided vacation bible school to the Compassion project.  Our team provided crafts, sports, music, and bible story/drama. Jan and I helped with the Bible Story/drama.   For the young kids we used the Max Lucado “Hermie – A Common Caterpillar”  and had the kids act out the story that presented the message that God had created us all Extraordinary!   This was so much fun but then we were thrown a real curve ball.   They wanted us to talk with the older children as well.  In a panic we started trying to figure out what we can do with the older kids.  At that moment,  one of the Compassion Sponsors indicated he would share his testimony.    His testimony was around not dreaming with God.  It was very touching and he challenged all of us to continue to dream with God and just imagine what you can accomplish with Him.    I went to Peru to minister to kids and God used this message to speak to me and remind me that I need to dream bigger because God is all I need to accomplish those dreams.   Thank you Nick for being obedient to God and sharing your testimony.   I know that God put you there at that time to minister to me!
The vacation bible school was the icing on the cake of our Compassion Project visits.   It was such a blessing to meet all of the people that help with the projects and the children and adults that are ministered to by the projects.   We saw how sponsoring a child can change the child, their family, and a whole village!   Yes it is true.   You can make a difference in poverty by sponsoring a single child.   I saw it with my own eyes!

June 11-12, 2015

Over the next two days we went sightseeing in Huancayo, flew back to Lima, and took a tour of the Compassion Country Office.   There are lots of memories but my heart was looking forward to our last day in Peru.   That was the day we would spend time with our sponsor child, Jorge, and his mother.   Well, I want to jump to that day because it was the crescendo of the entire trip but I did want to mention a few things about the Country Office Visit.   

On this visit I saw the room that all our letters we send to Jorge flow through.   I met some of the translators that work with the letters. They see their work as a blessing to facilitate the relationship building of the Children/Sponsors.  We also learned about the entire new infrastructure they are putting in place to speed up the information sharing of the children between the country office and projects.   We learned that they are providing tools to those projects that have some basic Internet connectivity to help facilitate children’s needs.  I learned that Compassion’s desire is to improve the turn around time of all the letter writing.   Compassion is spending a lot of effort to support improved Sponsor/Child communications.   As you learn on your first Compassion Project visits, the letters are just as important as the medical care and the food.    Those letters from the sponsors are the life line of hope to the children and to their families.    Compassion realizes that and are working hard to improve the process even more.  

June 13, 2015 – The Crescendo!

While each day in Peru was absolutely amazing, this day was the day I had been waiting for since January, when the trip planning began.   What is my boy like?   The boy God has laid on my heart to pray for each week.  But what do I pray for?   I will soon have the opportunity to ask him and his mother that question.   I will soon get to see his personality and learn more about what he likes and what he wants to do when he grows up.   All these questions and statements were floating in my head for some time.    And the day was finally here.    Let me start off by saying,  God could not have blessed me any more.  Meeting this little guy was more than I could have ever imagined!

So where do I start?  Maybe  I should start when I first got a glimpse of him from the distance.   Compassion treated the Sponsors and the children to the Lima Zoo.   It was a perfect place to get to know my little guy.   I was waiting, but not very patiently,  to get into the zoo when I got my first glimpse of Jorge.   As soon as I saw him, he started to smile!   Once we got into the Zoo, he ran up to us and gave us a big hug.   The mother hugged us as well.   All my questions seemed to disappear.  All I wanted to do was enjoy that contagious smile of his.   I just wanted to watch him grab our hands and we started to walk.   While walking through the zoo I learned so much about him.   He loves to fish!   His dad takes him fishing 3 times a week (that is their main source of meat).   He fishes with worms!   I learned that he was the only one in his family that liked to fish.  You could tell that the time he spent with his dad fishing was very special with him.     The boy can eat as well.  He ate what was equivalent to ½ of a chicken when we went to the restaurant.    
We got to play checkers, the game Sorry and my favorite thumb wrestle.    During our lunch he kept stepping on my foot under the table and then just grinned.    


 I learned that my little buddy wanted to be a doctor some day.   I tell you these compassion kids dream big and I know God will honor those big dreams if they continue to seek God in those dreams (thank you again Nick!)

While we spent a lot of time wrestling and picking on each other we did have some serious time with Jorge and his mother.   I learned that Jorge has not accepted Christ yet.  Well God gave me something specific to pray about now and now I know what to write in my letters.   I told Jorge that Christ was the answer to all of life.   It was Christ that connected us and Christ that has provided the assistance that he gets through Compassion.  And yes it was Christ that made all those fish he likes to catch.  I told him that he needed to listen at the compassion project more about Christ and please ask his teacher/pastor if he has any questions.     I am so grateful for the Compassion Project because I know that they will teach Jorge about my Savior.

I also learned that Jorge’s father will not step foot in the Church.    He feels that the people in the local Church will judge him harshly because he may want to have a drink every once in a while.    Thank you God for another specific thing to pray for.    Another prayer request came from the mother.   Jorge’s sister is 15 and is a single mother.  They need prayer in that situation as well.     God really loaded me up on a list for prayer items for Jorge and his family.   I would like to request that you too pray for Jorge and his family as well.

While walking at the Zoo,  I had another God moment that totally amazed me.    I was asked by Jorge’s mother how I like Peru.   I was talking about all we had seen and experienced and told her there was one thing it looked like I was not going to experience, tasting the Peruvian delicacy of Guinea Pig.  Yes I know you are probably saying  “Ewww”.   Yes I did want to try it.    When I said that, Jorge’s mother started smiling!   She had smoked me three guinea pigs and brought them with her.   I had been caring them around the zoo the whole day.   I would not have traded that smile for anything.    In Peru it is a great honor to receive a Guinea Pig.  It is only for special occasions.  She had cooked me three of them!    I felt blessed.  

Oh what an amazing day.  It had come to the end but I was finding it real hard to turn loose of Jorge.   How can you feel like this with someone you just met?    I am supposed to help him but this little fellow has just changed my life.   How can this be so?   This was a trip to show Jorge my family loves him but instead my life has been totally blessed by just a few minutes with him.    I will pray for him and I really hope I will be able to visit him again soon.  

Thank you God for Compassion and the children they serve!   They can teach us sponsors a lot and I saw this over a week in Peru.    Thank you!