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Sharing Pandemic Voices of Hope

A Letter from Chenoa Stock, serving in Peru

May 2020

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Dear Friends,

Throughout these quarantine times, I have found myself singing more – children’s English and Spanish songs with our two-year-old Leandro, songs from high school and university choir, hymns, my mom’s songs or just humming random tunes. And if I’m honest, my singing is not always an expression of joy. At the time of writing this, we are on Day 64 (Monday, May 18) of strict quarantine in Peru and are only permitted to leave for groceries, bank transactions, and medical needs. Our curfew, complete Sunday lockdowns, and closed international borders are also still in effect.

Due to the continued rise of positive cases, despite the strict measures put in place early on, the Peruvian government has extended our lockdown in two-week blocks. The most recent extension is through May 24. Leandro and I have not left our apartment at all during these 64 days. Not one toe. My husband, Jose, is our grocery ‘warrior’ who puts on his obligatory armor of mask and gloves to retrieve our household’s needs. These have not been easy times, and I have found that singing is sometimes what I need to let my emotions out, and my voice be heard.

But how many voices have been lost during this time of COVID-19? In Peru, the inequality has been exacerbated throughout the months of this pandemic. While our middle-class neighborhood grocery stores check temperatures and require handwashing before entering, I am almost sure this type of control and care is not found on the outskirts of the city or in rural areas of the country. While many citizens have received government stimulus payments to assure economic security, many do not have access to these social safety net programs. While some citizens are able to work from home and protect themselves and their families from this immense health risk, many are part of the massive informal sector of Peru and have either lost their jobs due to the strict measures, or are forced to work illegally, despite the measures and the risks.

Due to unemployment, experienced by about one-third of the population, there has been a reverse mass migration from the city to the rural provinces in hopes of finding work in the agricultural sector. Many are escaping their life of living in the tight quarters of informal urban settlements. Families are returning to life on the land, where the harvest has begun, and the government quarantine measures are not so strictly enforced. Sadly, it is here that the virus could soon start to spread rapidly.

Amidst these voices lost in inequality, we find the voice of Jesus Christ, heard through our Peruvian partners. Two members of the Evangelical Church of Peru, Pastor Leopoldo and his wife, Jesusa, continue their ministries from their home in the city of Cuzco. Although about half of his congregation was part of the rural migration, mostly due to unemployment, Leopoldo shares sermons and messages with those who have access to online technology. For those who do not and who remain in the city, Pastor Leopoldo makes house calls with two families together to worship and study the Bible and offer pastoral support during these uncertain times.

Jesusa, whose religious messages were broadcast daily on the radio before the pandemic, had the necessary equipment installed in their house so she could continue sharing God’s word of love and hope with those not only in Cuzco but throughout the country. She is the regional leader of a vibrant women’s ministry and will soon be continuing her women’s ministry by giving online courses and lectures. Pastor Leopoldo and Jesusa’s faith and commitment to being God’s hands, feet, and voice bring a new tune to mission outreach during quarantine times.

And are we not all called to be this as Matthew 25 churches? Did Jesus not teach and show us that we are to walk with our partners and neighbors, even those on the margins—to be a voice that cries out for justice and equality for the least of those to assure that their voices are heard?

As we hear about Leopoldo and Jesusa’s ministry, we must remember that there are many more stories to be shared about how our partners daily live out our Matthew 25 call, and I would love to share them with you. We are all improving our skills of virtual worship, conference calls, creating videos, and communicating through different forms of communication so that we can both accompany our partners in their mission and accompany you in the U.S. Together, we can share a deeper understanding of Jesus’ commandments as we develop closer relationships with our partners. Please let me know if your congregation, your youth, or any other church group would like to hear more stories from our Peruvian partners, whether that be a pre-recorded Minute for Mission, Zoom meeting, etc. Their voices are waiting to be heard!

May these unique times create a space for us not to be silent, but to make our voices heard for the poor, the naked and the hungry. May our faith in God’s justice and love lead us to question the structures of inequality, now and beyond COVID-19, to sing a new song of praise and hope.

Peace and blessings,

Chenoa

We would ask that you keep Pastor Leopoldo in your prayers, as after the writing of this newsletter, he suffered a heart attack. He is still in the hospital, undergoing tests to ensure he is recovering well. Please keep him, Jesusa, and his family in your prayers.

Partners for Just Trade, a program partnered with artisans of the Peruvian Joining Hands Network, will be closing in June. They will be offering everything at 75% off and adding a donation of nativities to churches through the end of May. Please check out their website (partnersforjusttrade.org) to see and purchase their beautiful and original products.


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