Peru is a country like many others. In many ways it reminded me of Brazil. The crazy traffic made us afraid for our lives on more than one occasion. The food was simple, yet delicious (rice, potatoes and chicken at most meals). The streets were loud and bustling with activity at all hours of the day, and the people were welcoming and friendly, hugging and kissing in every interaction.
Our days were long, and our sleep was short, but our experiences were unmeasurable. Each morning we took the nearly two hour trek from the hotel to the mountain to spend the day working alongside Cristo el Salvador in their mission to reach the people of Jicamarca. Our mornings were filled with hugs, smiles and broken conversations with children who were excited to see us and hear about Jesus.
We would begin our mornings entertaining the kids who had arrived early, playing games and making kids laugh as we spoke through interpreters. At 9:30, when VBS “began” we would sing our Spanish children’s songs and jump around doing the motions along with the members of the church leading the music. Each day the children would rotate between crafts, games and Bible lessons. Swift Creek was responsible for crafts and Bible lessons, and the members of Cristo el Salvador led the games and music. We worked together to run the program, and I was very impressed with how smoothly it went. Overall the whole event was extremely successful, and we were encouraged as the numbers of children grew each day beginning from 25 and ending with 72.
VBS was a huge part of what we did every day, and we enjoyed interacting with the kids, engaging in the activities and loving them all morning long. However, if you ask any of the team members what left the biggest impression and what was their biggest take-away from the trip, I can almost guarantee they will each tell you stories of their afternoon visits with the people of the community.
Each afternoon our team and a few of the members from Pastor Zevallos’ family stayed up on the mountain and made house visits. We split into three groups (because we had 3 interpreters) and went to visit with people in different parts of the village. Each afternoon we returned to those same homes. By the end of the week we were celebrating 4 new sisters in Christ!
My group went the furthest up the mountain. We met with Christina 4 afternoons during the week. Christina had turned part of her home into a store and often had customers during our afternoon visits. She was a believer who went to church when she was able, but church was far away at the bottom of the mountain, and the trek was long and tiresome.
Her husband worked long hours as a taxi driver and Sunday was his only day off, so going to church was not his priority. We spent time encouraging Christina and talking to her about neighbors and other people in the community that she could connect and share Jesus with.
Two houses down from Christina lived Laura. Laura was not saved and after living in Jicamarca for two years, she knew less than a dozen people in her community. This particular week, her little sister Abigail was visiting from another part of Peru (9 hours away) on summer break.
Thursday afternoon as we were making the climb up the mountain, I was talking with Javier, our interpreter, about how cool it would be if we could get Laura and Christina in the same place and have a conversation with them together. We wanted to connect the two of them and allow Christina the opportunity to share her faith with her neighbor.
When we arrived at Christina’s home, we saw Laura and Abigail buying something from her store. We quickly took the opportunity to ask if the two of them wanted to stay and chat with us that afternoon. Laura excused herself to take her son home to change his diaper, and never returned, but Abigail chose to stay.
We casually chatted with Christina, while Abigail was very quiet and shy. Throughout our hour and a half visit, Christina had various customers and would jump up and help them as needed.
As Christina got up to help another customer, we were preparing to leave for the day. But before I knew it, Heber (the Pastor’s son-in-law) was asking Abigail if she had ever heard about Jesus.
In the next 35 minutes, Heber shared a complete detailed account of the Bible, history of man and sin, and the gospel plan of salvation. He was clear, in depth, and bold in his words. At one point he even grabbed a bucket and 2 liter bottle and shared the analogy of the chasm between us and God and how the only way we are able to get across the divide is through the death of Jesus.
Abigail sat listening intently the entire time. She read from his Bible as he recalled Scripture that emphasized his points and answered his questions. At the end of his explanation he asked if she was ready to receive this gift of salvation that Jesus wanted to offer her, and by the end of our time together we were celebrating a new life in Christ! It was an amazing experience to be a part of, and it was something I will never forget!
Abigail is 15 years old and isn’t from Jicamarca, so our prayer is that discipleship will begin before she goes back to school, and that she will be connected with a local church in her area. Heber and Pastor Zevallos are looking into where she lives and how they can help her find a church there.
Abigail joined us Friday morning on our last day of VBS. She showed up with her 1 year old nephew and stayed part of the morning until she realized he was too young to participate in the events. It was encouraging to see her again that morning, and my prayer is that God continues to speak to her heart as she grows in her new relationship with him.
My biggest prayer coming away from this trip is for Cristo el Salvador to continue in the discipleship process as decisions are being made. They have created a discipleship book they use when someone is saved, and a member of the church goes through each lesson with them. It is encouraging to watch and I pray that it continues and grows as people make decisions for Christ.
As you pray for Cristo el Salvador, Pastor Zevallos and his family, pray that they will be able to continue discipleship with these new believers. Pray specifically for our new sisters in Christ: Abigail, Jamima, Malagi and Rosa.