PERU (INS)—High up in the Andes Mountains of Peru, Churches of Ayacucho missionaries partnered with Intercede International have an intensive ministry among poor children—teaching them the Bible and providing for their physical needs, such as food and clothing. These missionaries believe that children are the future of the Peruvian church.
The Quechua people of Ayacucho have a need for hope after decades of oppression and poverty. For instance Shining Path Communist terrorists swept through this region in the 1980s and ’90s—killing people and burning down or taking over entire villages. The scars still remain, but the Quechuans are finding that Jesus is their hope.
In early 2015 COA started a feeding centre for poor Quechua children located at Cedepa, a shanty-town in the suburbs of Ayacucho, where many Quechuan refugees live.
“Our ministry feeding centre has been operating for the fourth year and we praise the Lord for His mercy and provision for the needy children of our region,” reports the leader of COA (name protected for security reasons). “The number of children that attend the feeding centre fluctuates between 70 and 100. Our ministry provides for them one meal a day, helps with their school homework and teaches the Bible. The majority of children are doing well in school and have good grades.”
The feeding centre has 12 teenagers who help with the young children—with tasks such as: keeping order, attending to the children at lunch time, and cleaning the kitchen utensils. “Helping us at the feeding centre teaches them responsibility and gives a sense of belonging to a family,” explains COA’s leader.
“With sadness I need to share the cruel reality as some of these teenagers have received proposals to work in bars, accompanying male customers and for each bottle of beer that the male buys they can receive a tip. Also, some were asked to work in brothels. As part of our ministry, we have had times of dialogue and biblical counseling with these girls. We are doing a follow-up with them and encourage them to complete high school and dream to attend a university.”
At Cedepa, most children have low learning achievements and, when they go to their homes, there is no one to teach them since their parents are out working until 8 to 9 pm, earning little money. Some children are left in the care of their grandparents or relatives who are illiterate, so they can’t help with the school homework. For those reasons, COA is doing everything possible to support them with their school homework. “We started providing after-school reinforcement classes twice a week and helping them to do their homework at our feeding centre,” reports the leader. “Every Sunday afternoon we hold Bible school, sowing among them a culture of Christian values.
“One of the challenges we faced came when the owner of the house we used to rent, a Christian brother, announced that he will no longer rent out the house to us. So we prayed for a response, and the mother of Pastor Francisco offered a barn that was being used to raise chickens and other farm animals. She said that they could move the animals to another place. With the help of the brothers, and also some of the children we started to clean up and do some renovations to the place. Now by God’s grace since August of 2016 we have moved to the new place and many non-Christian children come to be fed here, and to receive also the Word of God.” Currently COA needs $15,000 to buy the land. COA missionary Francisco B. is in charge of the Pastoral Program for Quechuan Children—including the ministry in Cedepa.
“The children at the feeding centre have a lot of confidence in us so they tell us their anecdotes from the school, and from their everyday lives,” reports COA’s leader. “Also, they share sad stories about what happens in their homes such as seeing their parents insulting or beating each other. In those cases we give paper and pencil to the children to describe or draw how they would like their father and mother to behave at home, and then we pray and teach them to have faith. In addition, we visit some of those homes talking with the parents about loving their children and teaching them how to prevent any attempt of sexual abuse. We also share the holy Gospel for the strengthening of the families.
“Thanks to your support, we can welcome and care for children who live in poverty and are unprotected, with the purpose of telling them about the Kingdom of God. At the same time the children get to know each other, building lasting friendships and, in the future, become young leaders of hope and change in the society of the Andes of Ayacucho.”
Since early 2016, COA missionary Delia has been supporting the ministry among Quechuan children. “She is helping children from four villages, supporting them with their homework and school learning,” explains COA’s leader. “As part of her ministry she walks with the children to their school, which is located one hour away. Sometimes Delia fears for her safety as she has to walk alone along the desolated Andes dirt paths. Despite her concerns, she trusts in the Lord.” Delia accompanies children to schools for protection against the drug dealers and vandals of the areas—in spite of putting herself on the line.
Delia reports: “I like to support the children and I want to contribute. Here in the mountains children have fewer opportunities to study at a school or learn a trade. Teachers teach only three days a week. For elementary school there is only one teacher and for high school there are two teachers.” Her ministry has opened the door to dialogue with parents about Jesus and how important it is to send the children to school.
Children’s Lives Transformed by COA
Javier, a boy who is helped out by COA, walks 20 minutes every day to get to his school. He is in Grade 5. His parents live away in the jungle of Ayacucho so he lives with his aunt who works long hours in the city making little or no money. Javier works on Saturdays and Sundays at the local market helping to sell fruits. In the past, when he came home after school, he found nothing to eat. He used to wait for dinner to have some broth or just a piece of bread. Now Javier is happy for our ministry feeding centre, where he can daily have a lunch. He is studying a lot and in the future he would like to become an engineer.
Roxana is 10 years old and she is in Grade 4. In the future she would like to be a teacher. Roxana and her little sister live with their mother. The land where they live is borrowed; their father is a farmer in another village and he comes to visit them five to seven times a year for a few days. Roxana’s daily duty is to care for her little sister while her mother works long hours washing clothes or selling candy, earning very little. COA’s feeding centre is a place where Roxana can have a meal and be part of a family.
COA’s missionaries are grateful for the assistance they receive from Intercede International. “By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the ministry among our Quechua brothers is effective, thanks in part to Intercede’s co-operation,” reports COA’s leader. “We want to say that our Heavenly Father has proven to us that He is Jehovah Jireh—He is our provider.”
Photo: Roxana (second from right) and other Peruvian girls enjoy a meal at Churches of Ayacucho’s Cedepa feeding centre.