5 Stories from Peru
So my church is in Lima, Peru. We have a group of 7 of us that are spending time worshiping with the people at Camino de Vida (see my previous post) and doing various missions in and around the city of Lima. This trip has been a mix of significant emotion. I go from singing praises to God to arguing with Him about how there can be this much injustice in the world.
I want to share a few of the stories of the people we served and possibly even a few pictures (if I can figure it out on this site). We started our mission trip by learning how to build a wheelchair. Not an easy task. Each wheelchair took a team of 2 people about 20 minutes to put together. Basically, this is a lawn chair attached to pieces of metal pipe. As Pastor Nick of CdV said, “this Chinese wheelchair, sent to Peru, constructed by Americans, will bring a Peruvian absolute joy.”
So let’s fast forward to the first man. He is 94 years old and broke his hip when the dogs, which run throughout the city, knocked him to the ground. The man has not been outside his home in over a year. He lives in a room right off the garage in his house. This gentleman spends his entire day sitting just outside the door of his room. We brought the wheelchair and he immediately said that he was happy because he could now go outside and watch the kids play soccer, his favorite sport.
What broke my heart with this guy, and caused me to walk away from everyone for a few minutes in tears was that he blamed God for his ailments. We spent almost 2 hours with him, talking to him, and showing him God’s love. He was just about to give his life back over to Christ when he felt that he was not well enough to praise Him just yet. We laid hands on him and prayed for his continued mercy and grace from God. His brother-in-law pulled out his guitar and started playing and singing in an original Peruvian language while his daughter pulled out the Inca Kola and poured each of us a glass to toast with.
Move forward about 2 hours. We worked our way, after lunch, across Lima and ended up at the house of our next new friend. This man is in his late 40s/early 50s and suffered a fall 20 years ago out of a 4-story building. The woman in the house lost her husband last year to age, is 83 years old, and has 15 children and 34 grandchildren! They are very strong believers in God, and are practicing Catholics. The man has legs that are so broken that he cannot even bend his legs and they are bowed out as well.
He lives on the 4th floor of a shanty in the middle of the city. Most of his brothers live with him in this 4 room apartment. When the door to one of the bedrooms opened, I saw literally bed after bed after bed with no room to walk. I must admit, I don’t exactly know how he will get use of the wheelchair in such a small apartment on the 4th floor, but God will make it work.
After visiting him and delivering his chair, we got on our bus and headed to another section of the city where we met Fernando. Fernando is a single dad. His wife walked out on him a few years ago and left him with the two kids. One child was blind and mentally disabled, but she is not why we were there. You see, Fernando, a 30-year old single dad who drives a taxi at night when his kids are asleep, took it upon himself to take care of his niece who has cerebral palsey as well.
This girl was affected pretty significantly by the receiving of the chair. A girl that had almost no smile when we arrived was filled with smiles when we left. A girl who was afraid of all of the “gringos” who came to her house turned into a very touchy, hand-holding girl before we left. And a dad who was filled with pride and almost rejected our offer to give him a free wheelchair was broken and in tears, asking all about the church and about God before we left.
I was so very in tears as I left that house. The pride of a single dad broken, leaving him as a defenseless, little man made me cry so much I had to walk away. The house smelled of feces and urine. The dishes were piled high. The daughter felt the need to show off for us and I could see the whole family was dirty and hadn’t washed in a long time. I wanted to scoop up that little girl and bring her home with me. I wanted to just give them all my money and go home and send more to them. I wanted the world to realize what a big, servant’s heart this man had.
We left her house, not a dry eye in the group and headed to the inner city. Our fourth story comes from a 60 year old man who has been on crutches all his life. When we got there, we were on a time schedule. We had dinner reservations planned and wanted to spend only 20 minutes delivering this chair. Plus, this was in a very dangerous part of town, so we did not want to be here too late. But when we got here, the guy was nowhere to be found. He was out in the middle of the busy street corner, 5 blocks away, selling candy to passing cars. 30 minutes later, he walked in.
This man has tried every outlet in Peru to get a wheelchair. They either cost too much or he didn’t qualify because he did not own his own place. His crutches were all broken and bent, so I am sure they were hurting him more than they were helping him. He broke down into tears, immediately went out and bought a few liters of Coke and celebrated this moment with us.
Again, I was a blubbering mess in the middle of the street.
We were late to our reservation, but, guess what…we didn’t care.
The next day, we started our day taking 140 boxed wheelchair pieces from a warehouse to the building site, but that was not what broke me down that day. It was the fact that we were called on to build a home for a family that lost their home in a fire. She works as a babysitter and I don’t know what the husband does. But the fact that they have done everything to make it work while living with someone, their community purchased a small plot of land at the top of a very steep hill.
Our team carried all of the pieces of this house up this hill because it was too steep for the bus and truck to make it up the road! This isn’t a hill like you might think of a hill. There is no grass. The path, although in the picture looks solid, is very loose shale and was crumbling under foot. We were all breathing heavily and sweating a lot, but we still had a house to build. And when I say house, this is something that we wouldn’t even consider for using a shed back here in the states. There is no electricity. No running water. No bathroom. No kitchen. Dirt floors with large gaps in the foundation.
But to this family, it was home.
And after we were finished, again there was not a dry eye around even though the terrain was very dry. And the smile on the face of the mother was more than priceless, it was God looking back at us as if we had just given Him a new house.
So what will tomorrow bring? Hopefully more of the same for God’s glory. He called us here. He wants us here. He expects that great things will happen in His name.
And you know what?
(to be continued after more stories are experienced)