I'm still on a short-term missions trip with Operation Christmas Child in Lema, Peru, to help deliver gift-filled shoeboxes to children.
I meet my roommate for the week last night, and I had the chance to talk to him a little before exhaustion got the best of me. His name is Evans Sabwami, and he is from Kenya. His stories of growing up in Kenya held my attention. It is not often that you meet someone who improvised with so much ingenuity in a difficult circumstance.
Please be in prayer for Kenya. Evans informed me of the violence and political unrest sweeping through his homeland. (See here and here.) It's a scary world we live in.
Evans is a pastor at a Vinyard church in New York. May God empower Evans´ ministry and help him to honor the gospel message.
This was our first day to hand out shoeboxes. I was overwhelmed. I had been warned that this is often the case, but I had no idea.
Our first stop was Hogar de Cristo Orphanage in the Cercado area of Lima. This orphanage is the home of over 120 children. Nearly half have made their home there since the earthquake in Peru at the end of last year. (Follow links on the quake here.)
The orphanage is also the home of several adults and older youth with mental disability. We gave them shoeboxes too, since their mental capacities are those of children. I sat down in the third row as a well-thought-through presentation by the a team of national Peruvians began.
I had not noticed a young girl sitting next to me with her attendant, but as I leaned back into my chair, she clasped my forearm. I noticed the older woman who was caring for her move forward to catch the young girl's hand. I realized that my arm was gripped by a child, a child in a young woman's body.
No translator was in earshot. I did not know how to communicate with her. I held her hand against my forearm, and I just looked into her eyes. Her big brown eyes seemed to reflect a beautiful light. I looked into her eyes and knew I did not have to call for a translator. She saw Christ's love when I looked at her. She knew why I was there and what I had to say.
I learned latter that this young woman probably will never be able to understand a presentation of the gospel. But, despite the fact that the notion does not set well with the theologian in me, I know she learned of Christ's love through a simple gift packed thousands of miles away.
As the boxes were being opened I stood at the back of the room. I noticed a girl named Yohana who was passing around a slip of paper to several of her friends seated near her. I walked closer and saw she was looking at a letter someone had placed in the box they had packed. A picture of a girl in a softball uniform named Maddie was stapled to the letter.
A lady on our team named Lliana Salazar from Orange County, California, walked over and took the letter. She began to translate the letter to the young girl. She read a few short details from the life of the one who had packed her box. About half way through the letter, the girl's face changed.
When the translator finished, the girl quickly but carefully folded the letter and put it in the corner of her box. It was as if she had decided that the letter was her´s now, to precious to subject to the whims and fancies of another.
I will include letters in all the shoeboxes we pack at our house from now on.
We went to the Assambleas de Dios del Peru in Manchay this afternoon. This church is situated in the Pachacamac District of Lima. It never rains in this part of Peru. The land is rocky and dusty. The dust clings to your body. It seems you can even see dust in the air.
Standing in stark contrast to the beautiful new LDS church next door, this Assemblies of God church is little more than a shed with an improvised roof of tin scraps and loose boards. But don't let the humble appearance fool you; this church is the vangard of the Lord's army in this depressed area of Lima.
You can feel the power as the assistant pastor stands in front of the crowd of 60 or so children and plainly and clearly explains the gospel. He uses a demonstration with clean and dirty water to show what Christ did for us on the cross. He puts chemicals into the water that make it appear filthy. He places other chemicals from a red bottle into the water, identifying them as the “blood of Christ.” The water clears up almost instantly. He shows that all of the sin in our lives is made clean and clear for us by Christ when we trust Him.
I wanted to talk briefly to the Senior Pastor, I had a gift for him. I am a member of the local camp of the Gideons, and they had sent several copies of Spanish New Testaments with me to give away. I knew some of them had to go to this embattled pastor. He had little time to talk because he was doing his job: seeing to the children God had placed under his spiritual care. He was very grateful for the New Testaments, and he hugged my neck in response. Shoebox gifts, some basic supplies, Christian literature and Bibles were delivered to the front lines of an intense spiritual conflict. May God deliver His power to the members of that church in response to our prayers.
It is humbling to see the face of God reflected so clearly in a little child's smile. It is awesome to see God's concerns etched across the furrowed brow of a pastor’s face.
May God bless the children and their protectors.