God’s Table of Solidarity

A Letter from Chenoa Stock, serving in Peru

October 2020

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Dear friends,

During this pandemic, here in Peru, a white flag flying in one’s community is a call for help, food, and support. Many of these flags have been flown in communities on the outskirts of the city of Lima. When Pastor Pedro Pablo García began organizing his church, The House of God Presbyterian Church, a partner of the Joining Hands Network, he did not know that those flags would be God’s call to him to feed and care for the “least of these.”

The House of God’s mission outreach responded to the pandemic by delivering food baskets to these vulnerable ‘white flag’ communities. From March through early July, when Peru was in mandatory isolation, members of The House of God traveled the precarious dirt roads on multiple occasions and delivered 200 food baskets to 200 families. These communities are in isolated areas where sewage systems are non-existent, three or four families live together in poor conditions, and many who work as informal laborers became unemployed due to the pandemic.

Seeing this injustice and suffering, Pastor Pedro tirelessly raised funds with his church members throughout the pandemic, not knowing how many mouths they would feed or how many months their outreach would last. When we spoke to him in May, those uncertainties did not deter him. He simply shared that “God has prepared the land. God is the channel through which the church works.”

In my most recent conversation with Pastor Pedro, I learned that The House of God’s faithful work of loving one’s neighbor had spread much further than they could have imagined. With the funds that continued to arrive, to this day, to support their outreach, The House of God is now working with communities to create Ollas Comunes, or “Community kitchens.”

A symbol of solidarity, la olla común, is something that communities had organized long before the pandemic arrived. It is a way for families to share what they have and, particularly in these times, also a way for families to survive through mutual support. The House of God has delivered food products for 35 Ollas Comunes that feed 40 people per day for one week. The community’s women have taken the initiative to organize the cooking and distribution. They divide into groups, and each group takes a turn in the preparation. The neighbors who participate in these community kitchens are asked to donate a food product as well, so the idea of mutual sharing and fellowship is not lost.

When delivering food for Ollas Comunes, Pastor Pedro always explains the source of the food to the communities, because he hopes to create long-term relationships. The church team ends each distribution by thanking God for the community members’ lives, praying for them, and encouraging them to live life to the fullest, even amidst their current challenges. He does this because he recognizes the importance of changing the focus from being poor or a victim to being loved and part of a family community.

Pastor Pedro and The House of God members are most definitely God’s hands and feet in action, moving well beyond the church building. Before the pandemic, The House of God worshiped every Sunday by raising a tarp next to a highway and putting up their church sign. Though Pastor Pedro could have used these funds to buy land for a building that The House of God is yet to own, he and his members heard God’s call to be the church in a greater way by walking with and supporting these communities in need. As Pastor Pedro explains, “Through this work, we hope that they will see Christ through our actions.”

As a Presbyterian who has been to my fair share of potlucks and eaten a variety of delicious casseroles in a church’s fellowship hall, the Olla Común, which helps so many Peruvians survive around the country, allows me to view the act of cooking dishes and sharing a meal around a common table from a new and deeper perspective.

We are called to God’s welcoming table as an act of solidarity with our neighbor. We are called to God’s table in humility, offering what we have, little as it may be. We are called to God’s table, leaving behind our judgments and biases, offering our unconditional love because ALL are invited to gather and take part.

Though white flags might not indicate your call to God’s table, we can be assured by Pastor Pedro’s words that God will accompany us in finding it.

“God has allowed us to do this work. God will show us the way.”

Thank you for your accompaniment and support as we walk with our partners in inviting all of God’s people to the table. Won’t you join us?

In solidarity and faith,
Chenoa


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