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Humility in Partnered Service

A Letter from Chenoa Stock, serving in Peru

June 2019

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I could not understand what he was saying as he responded to the questions in Quechua, the local language of the high jungle. But, judging by the reactions of the on-lookers and of his wife, this older man, who was on his knees washing his wife’s feet although he was most likely the “man” of the household on any other given day, was learning not only about hygiene, but about humility and love as well.

In the high jungle province of Convención, six hours north of Cusco, the older man was one of many community members waiting to be seen by a medical mission team that arrived from First Presbyterian Church Bryan (Texas). The hygiene classes were taught in the waiting area of the Evangelical Church of Peru’s Sajiruyoc Bible Institute, where the medical campaign was carried out. Given that health services are not always easy to come by in these remote jungle areas, this man and his wife may have walked several miles or waited from 3 a.m., as many other members did, in order to receive the free services of the team’s doctors and physical therapists for ailments they would have probably otherwise ignored. During the week’s campaign, the team identified a two-year old girl with cerebral palsy who had been carried in by her mother and assisted the girl in taking her first steps with a pediatric walker they had brought. Many patients seen by the physical therapists were given exercises to help ease their body aches and pains from their daily manual labor, while others were seen by general practitioners and nurses for different ailments.

First Presbyterian Church Bryan has worked in partnership with the Evangelical Church of Peru’s Sajiruyoc Bible Institute and its members since 2013, when they helped to prepare the land and construct the institute’s building over a number of years. With the construction now complete, FPC Bryan held the first medical campaign last year in order to bring together a team with diverse medical knowledge to continue to serve their brothers and sisters in the high jungle. This year, the medical team was complemented by four Peruvian nurses who helped in the pharmacy and registered patients; Manuel, an interpreter and colleague of PERUSA who speaks Quechua; and Urpi, another friend of PERUSA who led the hygiene classes and imparted other life wisdom to those in the waiting room.

But, as is always the case in partnership, those who arrive to serve and give receive as well. For four days, the Sajiruyoc Institute was full of metaphorical foot washing. Doctors, physical therapists, nurses and others were present to support and care for hurting community members. They gave medical advice, prescribed medicine and taught these patients how to use equipment. But in working with these community members, learning about their lifestyles and hearing their stories, one cannot help but bow on bended knee and be humbled and inspired by such loving and persevering people. We could of course not serve the entire community in such a short amount of time, but the relationships built and moments shared with the patients who were seen are ones that will continue to encourage and push this medical team to humbly wash one another’s feet, as Jesus did, to open our eyes to the greatness of God’s love.

And what marvels me about God’s great love is how it has no limits, especially when we talk about mission. As this trip focused on direct medical care came to an end, our goodbyes soon became more hellos when we joined a Joining Hands delegation from the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, partnered with the Joining Hands Peru Network, Uniendo Manos Peru (RUMP). This group of nine was on a Joining Hands Reflection/Action trip to learn more about RUMP’s advocacy campaign for human and environmental rights. The 20-year partnership between RUMP and PC(USA) congregations and presbyteries has seen this campaign evolve, always following the network partner’s needs and initiatives. It has focused on economic development by creating a fair-trade partnership through Bridge of Hope and Partners for Just Trade between artisans in Peru and customers in the U.S. It has also focused on the environmental contamination by a lead smelter in La Oroya, a city in Junín Department, and international trade agreements. Building on all that has been learned in the past, it is now prioritizing passing a national healthcare bill.

This learning time together included hearing from communities affected by the lead smelter and mining contamination, seeing a locally-driven reforestation project in response to the contamination and visiting artisans who work for the fair-trade market. As we traveled through the mountains of the Huancayo Province in Junín, one could easily note the devastation on the white, vegetation-bare mountains. A presentation from youth in La Oroya taught us more about the various types of contamination and their effects, but also gave us hope by sharing alternative ways to live in order to save the planet and future generations. We also felt this hope when visiting a reforestation project initiated by one affected community, Villa del Sol. The project now has planted 32,000 trees that cover more than 50 acres and has brought the community together to labor hand in hand while working to protect their land and home. The idea of community organizing is definitely not lost on the Peruvian people. We also visited Usibamba, an autonomous community that is affected by a nearby mining operation but has come together to declare their environmental rights, demanding that the operations respect their rights and not contaminate their land, water and air. During our visit, we sat in on their community meeting. As members debated the next course of action, one could feel the passion in the room and a commitment to call for change.

So, after 16 straight days of traveling, God’s people, both here in Peru and our U.S. partners, have shown and taught us more than we could have imagined. We saw the positive effects of immediate and direct medical care, but we also learned about the need to address the deeper, systemic issues at hand beyond immediate care, and to call for long-term, national health care legislation that would protect all Peruvians, especially those affected by industrial contamination.

In our lives, Jesus calls us to wash one another’s feet — to be humbled by our neighbor and learn from him/her by accompanying, listening and serving. How is God calling you to accompany, listen and serve? We of PERUSA would invite you to hear that call by joining us in Peru on a delegation trip to learn more about and be present with our partners here. Or, if that is not possible, to support our work here through your financial gifts and contributions. But the best gifts of all are your prayers for our mission here and that we continue to grow in our knowledge and relationships with our global partners. We could not be here with them without your support and partnership and are graciously humbled by that.

With great gratitude,

Chenoa

You are invited to the Peru Mission Network Gathering on October 4-6, 2019 at Webster Presbyterian Church, Webster, TX (near Houston)!

This gathering will bring together Peruvian partners and PC(USA) mission representatives and congregations to exchange experiences of participating, engaging and supporting God’s Mission in Peru; share perspectives; develop best practices; collaborate; organize; network, worship, study and LEARN!


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