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Building Relationships in Peru

When our flight to Peru left the Atlanta airport on June 9th, I never imagined I would be struggling over words to describe what I experienced during my time in Lima. So often, words can seem shallow and meaningless when used to describe such life changing events in our lives. There is no way I could fully explain what God had in store for us during that week, nor the effect it had on my heart.

Our week began as our bus pulled up to the entrance of our partner church on Sunday morning. The children and church leaders were lined up inside the door with curious faces eager to greet us with warm hugs and kisses. It was such a joy to worship alongside such loving faces and to hear God’s word and familiar songs being sung in a different language.

Women gathered at the church on Tuesday and Wednesday evening to worship, share testimony and hear the Word of God. Over 80 women came to join us. Heather Yates led our time together. She spoke about what it means to be a true woman and shared from Titus 2 and Proverbs 31. With the language barrier and cultural differences, we were concerned about how we would relate to these women. But as God opened doors and allowed opportunity for us to share our own stories, we began to connect in a deeper way than any of us imagined. I will never forget their faces.

One of the most memorable moments of the trip was meeting my sponsor child for the first time. Janela, who is six years old, lives in Northern Peru. To get to Lima, she rode 20 hours on a bus with her mom and two year old sister, Tania. When the child in the photo on the refrigerator back home came to life, I saw on her face how much I meant to her. It melted my heart. These are real children with real families who live in desperate situations. The most important thing to her is not the money that I send every month. She wants to hear from me. She wants to know she’s loved. She needs to know how much God loves and cares for her. It was such a privilege to spend time praying for one another and sharing about Jesus.

I’m not sure I fully understood what it meant for Grace Fellowship to be in partnership with a church through Compassion International. One thing that stood out to me the most during this trip was seeing the impact of continued relationship between members of our partner church and our own team members who have experienced previous trips to Peru. For some on our team, it was like going back to visit old friends. This is such a unique opportunity for GFC. We as a church have the opportunity to go back year after year and continue to encourage, build relationships and grow together as believers and followers of Christ. I look forward to going back to visit our new friends in Peru. I have come to love them so much.

When I was able to see with my own eyes the physical poverty that surrounded me; in a culture where people live from day to day struggling to survive, I couldn’t help but examine my own heart and I wasn’t pleased with what I saw. Most people I encountered have no running water. Electricity is often a single light bulb. The toilet is a dug out hole in the ground. Some can barely afford enough propane to heat a fire to boil eggs for food. Health care is not affordable or accessible. Affording education is second to providing food for their families. Yet, their hope in the Lord is strong and steadfast. Their complete dependence on God and the gratefulness I saw in their spirit cut through my heart.

Stepping off the plane after coming back from Peru, I hadn’t realized how hard it would be to readjust. It was hard to come home. I felt out of place. Seeing such cultural differences helped me realize the spiritual poverty in my own life and how much I take for granted…it broke my heart and left me longing for change. I have gained a new perspective and it has been a challenge to gain my footing and start applying and living out what I experienced.

Our team leader, Rich Riesz, encouraged us throughout the week to look for a small object that we could bring home to remind us of our time in Peru and the work that God is doing. For some, it was a crooked nail or a piece of wood that reminded them of the construction project they helped with. For others it was a bag of potato chips or a handmade bracelet. To most, these items would seem worthless. To the 14 of us that went to Peru this year, these items are priceless. To us, they represent a new friendship, the overwhelming strength and faith of a 16 year old teenager, a little girl who is holding out for hope or a woman whose smile we will never forget. It’s not about the item. It’s about Hope. It’s about the reminder of what I’ve learned from my time in Peru and who I want to strive to be…completely dependent and fully surrendered to God.

To see more photos and reports from the June trip, visit the team's facebook page.

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