A Mission To Peru
I recently returned from a trip to Arequipa, Peru with my church. It was a mission focused on being with the people and then going where wanted and needed. The people there are poorer than we could ever imagine – as in not having food for TODAY. Living in cinder block 8′ x 8′ huts with corrugated metal roofs, no insulation, no running water, no heat, maybe electricity in the form of one light bulb run off of an extension cord. Health wise, with no running hot water, they bathe infrequently in cold water, dental care is non-existent, medical care is scarce. Domestic violence is common. Men will go out looking for work 6 days per week and find 3 days of either fieldwork or construction work if they are lucky. But the abundance of their spirit is profoundly moving – the warmth, openness, generosity, humbleness.
I came realizing how very fortunate I am and we all are.
When I was there, I lamented that, as a lawyer, I had no “useful” skill like medicine, etc. But I soon realized that I could make a difference in other ways. I sat in on a round-table meeting of the lady workers at my friend’s card factory and one young girl spoke about how her father would not pay his child support arrears. Not surprisingly, the father did not want her working at the card factory as it is a place where women are being empowered financially and emotionally. From that, I accompanied her down to the volunteer lawyer’s office to start the process of bringing her father into court. She was scared, but when I asked her what it was going to be like when she was making more money than her abusive father, she lit up!
Bettye and I decided to sponsor 10 handicapped children, so I enrolled one taxi driver, 2 social workers and a translator to take me on home visits to each of the 10 so I could meet them. For $20 per month, I can have one lunch out or they can be fed, schooled and receive medical care.
We also decided to buy a new wheelchair for one of the workers who had Muscular Dystrophy (Charcot) just like Bettye. She had been using standard skinny tires – getting pushed half mile each way on loose dirt road from home to work and back. SO we got her a chair up-fitted with “sand tires” so now she can glide over the dust. While at the medical supply store, I enrolled the owner in throwing in a walker for her similarly disabled brother.
My church people said that they had never gotten so much done in a week.
What I also shifted for myself is that I put aside my conversation about “keep them at arm’s length, I don’t want to get sick” and embraced these wonderful people – physically and emotionally. I hugged and hugged, and never got sick. Instead, I made a difference for these people.
This trip was about transformation where the rubber meets the road – meet people who are in deep crisis and turn it around for them with employment, support, action and just whatever it takes.
Chris, Attorney NC