Huge celebrations occur around Mother’s Day in Peru. This year on Mother’s Day weekend, away from the noisy streets and large crowds, we heard a mom’s cry that we will never forget.
One of the newest little boys in the Orchard Children’s Home was rescued along with his mom from homelessness in their mountain town. Once a professional worker, this mom now suffers from a debilitating disease that left her without a way to care for herself. From what we know, they only have one another. The local officials planned to separate the two of them by sending the boy to an orphanage in Pucallpa and his mom to an institution in Lima. Upon learning about the situation a few months ago, in the midst of a very “weak” and difficult time for our Children’s Home due to staff transition, the director along with those of us supporting her felt compelled to respond to this need. Rather than see this mother and son separated permanently, our director appealed for her to be placed in a very special “hospice”-type center in the city of Pucallpa, where we have a good relationship as a ministry. With this arrangement, this boy can visit his mom every couple of weeks. On Mother’s Day weekend, our family took him for such a visit.
Upon meeting his mom, we observed that her limitations were significant, but that her awareness remained sharp. Her delight upon seeing her son overflowed with hugs and many words that we could not understand because of her impaired speech. Her little boy was likewise very happy being with his mom. After we sat in on a chapel service together, I (Mark) quietly told the little boy that we needed to leave, so it was time to say goodbye to his mom. Though she had a hard time walking, she immediately grabbed him by the arm and led him up the hallway where she sat down in a chair, and then she clutched him in her arms and began to cry loudly. She did not want him to leave. He gently and repeatedly expressed how well he was doing and that he would return to visit her. Eventually, she let him go with many assurances of more visits and the special care he received in his new home. We walked away with our own tears falling, grieving over the pain in this mom’s heart. At the same time, we knew we just witnessed something very near the heart of God, and our hope increased for the comfort to come on that day when all crying will cease, and goodbyes will be no more.
On Father’s Day, we visited a local indigenous church where we have had a long-term relationship. During this particular service, we were struck by the number of women shedding tears during the Father’s Day recognition. From a young lady to the elderly, and some in between, we observed an outpouring of emotion over what seemed to be the absence of certain dads. These painful tears stood out in a community that typically does not display emotion. One specific moment caught our attention when a teenage mom with her newborn baby cried and went forward to her dad, a leader in this church. Through many tears, he and his daughter embraced while holding her son – his grandson. Thankfully, his presence for his daughter and grandson brings security in the absence of the baby’s dad. Again, we realized that we witnessed something very near to the heart of God, and our hope increased for the comfort to come on that day when all absence will be filled by His presence.
Both comfort and calling flow from our Father’s presence. His presence provides comfort in the revelation of our calling to belong to Him as sons and daughters. As a child, I remember the times when my dad was away, and how his return to the house brought a sense of security. I also remember timely words he spoke to me along the way that cultivated and confirmed a sense of my calling.
In our community, the absence of dads, or even their unhealthy presence, strips families of their security and hinders their awareness of calling. However, rather than abandon His purpose for family, God’s answer to the cries and longings of the brokenhearted comes through His redemptive family. Two or three gathered in His Son’s name ensures the Son’s presence. This presence brings comfort and restores security while opening hearts to hear the Father calling. Kids Alive Peru embodies this hope of redemptive family through the presence of Christ-centered caregivers in the lives of the children we serve. Such holistic ministry heals hearts, restores relational security, and reveals God’s call to be His and do unto others as He desires.
Following Jesus’ birth, a vivid prophecy about Rachel’s weeping found fulfillment in the time of Jesus’ escape to Egypt, when the young boys in Bethlehem were tragically killed (Matthew 2:13-18). Consider the hopefulness that ends Rachel’s weeping from the original context in Jeremiah 31:15-17:
“This is what the LORD says: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.’ This is what the LORD says: ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,’ declares the LORD. ‘They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your future,’ declares the LORD. ‘Your children will return to their own land.'”
Now consider the way Jesus’ story fulfills this hope. In the verses that immediately follow the reference to Rachel’s weeping in Matthew’s gospel, we read how the child Jesus returned to the land of Israel from Egypt, after having escaped Herod’s murderous attack on all the young boys. As a child, Jesus’ exile and return from land of the enemy to the land of promise foreshadows the ultimate exodus from the enemy’s rule of death to the rule of the Father through eternal life in His kingdom, as made possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection. This same narrative compels the ministry of Kids Alive Peru, along with our own family’s testimony of God’s victory by His grace with all of our partners. Here in the jungle, we continue to sense God’s pleasure in the many ways we see His arm of rescue extend to abandoned and vulnerable children, bringing them out of darkness and into His eternal light. Here are some updates related to rescuing children from the land of the enemy and restoring them to life in “the land of promise:”
The team at the Orchard Children’s Home (three couples of house parents plus the director and her husband) continues to settle into their roles and responsibilities. The girls now live in one house with the boys in the new house. We rejoice to see the healthy community taking shape through this team’s development. They also received a significant gift from a friend of the Orchard to help with their daily transportation…a van!
From May into June, seven interns from Azusa Pacific University in California lived and served among us. Their humility, eagerness to learn, and abounding thankfulness made for exceptional bonding and blessing for all. During their stay, the Mission TEC Care Center held a two-day camp for the elementary children in our homework club. Thank you, Renee (one of the interns,) for putting together this video to capture some highlights from the camp!
Our Care Center staff also hosted a Mother’s Day program to show the moms in our community how special they are to God, which our teachers have identified as a key for helping the moms to treat their children as special too.
Mark helped to lead a two-day retreat in Lima for the ministry site directors from all of Kids Alive Peru. Mark presented two sessions on how formation occurs in our lives, with a focus on the children we serve. Out of this gathering, further initiative will follow related to child protection, preparation of our caregivers, and the ongoing formation of the children in our programs.
We accompanied the entire staff of the Care Center on a full-day outing to a waterfall situated in the mountains, over three hours from Pucallpa. A nice day turned dangerous when heavy rains changed a peaceful waterfall into a chaotic scene of crashing water, falling rocks, and a mist that carried with it lots of dirt and debris. All of this made it difficult for us to exit this tourist site, as we waited under a pavilion right next to the waterfall. Thankfully, we all made it to our cars and out of the area without being harmed by any of the falling rocks along the walking path and the roadway. Our family ventured out first. When we reached an area of falling rock, Kristin and Rachel prayed that they would stop falling, which they did as we ran past that location, across a long footbridge, and then reached our truck to wait for the rest of the group. The powerful water imagery throughout the Psalms takes on new meaning when witnessing it firsthand in God’s creation.
Near the end of May, a visiting medical team hosted a one day clinic at our Care Center. They were able to meet with several hundred people from our community.
Mark has provided weekly training on the basic needs of children for the staff at the Mission TEC Care Center and the Orchard Children’s Home.
The first week in June we hosted a youth team from Great Oaks Community Church in Illinois. They primarily focused on serving at the Children’s Home. By keeping the focus on what they can learn and how they can establish lasting relationship with the ministry, we laid the foundation for their church to sustain the impact through their partnership with Kids Alive Peru.
The young mothers’ group continues to meet every other week in our home, with Kristin serving as one of the leaders. Themes from the past couple months included first aid, the importance of health and exercise, and values related to personal responsibility. Moms and babies also enjoyed an outing to a local pool together.
For two afternoons at the beginning of June, the Care Center team took the AWANA Bible club program out into our own neighborhood to draw in more children. The attendance of these programs has remained very strong.
Mark participated in a two-day meeting in Pucallpa for missionary leaders within Kids Alive Peru. KAI’s Vice-President for Latin America led these meetings and facilitated the exploration of important steps forward for the ministry here in Peru.
We have now welcomed our second group of interns, with one serving for three weeks. He just graduated from Lancaster County Christian School, and had visited this site this past November. The other two will serve for six weeks. One will be entering Lancaster Bible College in Pennsylvania, and the other is a sophomore from Union College in Tennessee. One aspect of their service is teaching English to children in our programs. Their time is off to a great start.
Our children finished their school year at SAM Academy and enjoyed the annual field day event, at which Jacob carried away ten blue ribbons! The three seniors graduated a week later. Mark enjoyed teaching the seniors and the other high school students through his Bible class. Caleb shaved part of their head for his presentation of William Carey, the father of modern missions, in a school project. Rachel also participated in a swimming class after school during the month of May. Take note of their friend, Elijah, holding his his new pet boa. Caleb and Jacob are taking care of this snake for the first half of the summer while Elijah is away.
For Father’s Day, we welcomed our dear friends, Scott and Erica Dienner, for the beginning of their week-long visit with us. Erica lived in Pucallpa and taught at SAM Academy for a couple years before we moved down here ourselves. Their encouragement has been a gift to our family. Together we visited the Shipibo village of Victoria Gracia in the early morning. We noted progress with the church building and also saw the beginnings of a school in the community. After this visit, we attended a worship service at Nueva Era, where Victoria’s Fund first began in 2008, and continues helping children with basic medicines to this day. During the service, Mark had the privilege of leading a child dedication for a baby boy.
Caleb, Jacob, and Rachel are enjoying each day of their summer vacation. To keep them focused while we continue with our daily work, they complete a variety of activities in accordance with THAGS (“Three Honored and Great Subjects: Word, Form, and Song,” from the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson). Their latest video creation features an ad for a “favorite” hair product.
A couple fun pictures with Rachel!
Grace and peace to all of you,
Mark, Kristin, Caleb, Jacob, and Rachel
Missionaries of Discipleship and Development based in Pucallpa, Peru
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