It is day 67 of quarantine.
Sixty. Seven. That is a long time to be closed in. We have had the privilege to get passes to be out buying and distributing essential food products. There are so many kids who literally have not stepped out of the front door in over two months. Even worse, there are quite literally millions of people in Peru who have not known for two months where the next meal is coming from for their precious kiddos.
Two months ago, this felt like a nice little break. Reading, watching movies, spending time in the Word…it was awesome. At the same time, we immediately started thinking, “But what are people going to do for food?” We wanted to help but there were so many restrictions it seemed impossible. As one week passed and checking on our friends in Jicamarca, an extremely poor area just outside of Lima, we knew something had to be done. We did not believe it was possible that God planted us in the middle of this chaos just to say “God bless you” and “We are praying for you.” We certainly were praying for them, but genuine faith requires action.
We went to the local grocery store, since my usual bulk purchase spots were off limits, and made an order to fill 40 large grocery supply bags for families in need. We broke the law the take this food to Jicamarca, but at every police checkpoint (and there were TONS of them since Jicamarca is over an hour away), God gave us favor with the police and they ushered us on with no problem.
When we arrived we found the problem worse than we imagined. The tension in the air could be cut with a knife. Desperate moms and dads pleaded with us to give them something, anything to pass on to their kids. We knew immediately this is not stopping with this trip.
We began coordinating with local leaders and with you, those of you who so often and consistently pray for and support us. We were able to fill up 220 bags to take around to the whole community. We made a promise to ourselves not to say a flat out no to anyone who was asking for food. So to the hundreds who came to us asking, we gave and have given the same answer every time, “Make a list of EVERYONE in your community, do not leave anyone off, and let’s see what God does.” Every time, God has provided for them. He cares much more than we could possibly care for these precious people. That is just Him. He is Good, beyond Good. Over the weeks, God provided great supplies for families in the ELEVEN surrounding communities.
These are hillside and hilltop communities. Founded on dust and rocks. Thousands of people living with no running water, and some of them still do not have electricity. They are not easy places to get to, much less to live in.
Week after week God provided, even with a truck to use free of charge (a real miracle for someone to lend something for FREE in Peru). With each bag, we handed out a note that communicated the incredible love of Jesus for those families. We also collected many contacts and made a group on whatsapp to send English videos and Bible study videos.
At this point in writing, I have to pause. There is something that I want to communicate that is just difficult to get out. That’s because it has to do with faith and emotions.I can’t tell you how many times I have had to die in these two months (obviously I mean die to my personal wants and needs). I have days where I want to mope a bit or be whiny, like a child. It is always tiring to make the long trip to Jicamarca and all up and down and all around the mountain in the hot sun. Add in tons of people with desperation in their faces hoping they can get even just something small to feed their kids, foregoing the satisfaction of eating food themselves…this is a difficulty that I guess cannot be explained in words or pictures. You’ll just have to trust me on this one, it is not a comfortable or pleasant experience. And that is why we can’t say no.
Some will say but you’ve done a good job, and you’ve done what you can. I’m sorry but I’ve never seen God give up on chasing me in my need and rebellion. I see Jesus in my mind’s eye looking at the crowds on that beautiful hillside by the Sea of Galilee; He communicates the feeling they gave Him in His heart. He had compassion on them and would not send them away to fend for themselves. He fed them spiritually and physically.
I’m no savior, but He sure is. He is showing Himself mighty amongst the people of Peru.
These are the ups and downs I’m talking about. Thinking of Him in his majesty it is EASY to love on these people and give generously. As a lowly human, my eyes tend to wander and my heart tends to pride. I fight with God and said, “But I can’t do it! I always start well and don’t have the stamina to keep up the pace…” “Are you sure you want me to be the one doing this? I think others are more qualified.”
I’m tired of myself sometimes. Then here comes God to pick me up again. He is Good after all, would not want you or ME to forget.
Let’s fast forward to Monday, May 18. We took another 150 bags which we hoped to be the last distribution of individual bags. We had already delivered over 1300 bags Each time we hope is the last, not to stop being used by God but that the quarantine will lift and people can start working again. By the way, if you even try to work here in Peru you will get a huge fine which I don’t know how people will possibly pay. Their hands are tied, so once again we find ourselves asking God to provide.
We would like to do another round to this area, just some basics like rice, beans, eggs..to have something on their tables. (This would be in addition to the mini-soup kitchens that we launched in partnership with community leaders). Somehow my phone number has gotten out to other communities, and daily I receive calls and pictures and videos showing people in extreme situations. I have at least 500 families that we have never met praying that God would send us something to share with them. Our friends at the Yahua tribe are also going to need more supplies soon, as things in Iquitos are even worse.
There are places in the deepest reaches of my heart that I can’t fathom how to help, like a group of tribes deep in the Amazon currently dying with little to no help arriving (Yes, I am trying to make contact with the right people to see what the Church of the living God can do for them).
It’s a lot to think about. I know it doesn’t depend on my efforts or strength, nothing would happen if it did.
Still, I find myself wanting this to end. Obivously, it would be awesome if it would. But if it’s still going, God must have some purpose in it. I have to admit, it is getting harder and harder for me to keep that promise that we made to ourselves…”if someone asks for food, we are not going to say no.”
I just read in Hebrews about persevering. I read about not growing weary. I think of Paul saying He struggled with all God’s energy (Colossians 1:29). I think of the kingdom advancing violently and violent men taking hold of it.
I suppose my point, dear friend, is let’s be those people described in the Bible. Those people who trust God with their souls, their possessions and their very lives. Reaching neighbors, reaching across borders, reaching into unknown villages, and the closest and the farthest reaches of your world. Let’s be counted today with the faithful.
To what God puts in your path, say yes. I know it’s hard to keep caring. It’s hard to see the pictures, videos, stories of people hurting in Peru, India, Yemen, Venezuela…all over the world. But WE MUST KEEP MOVING hand in hand with the Almighty God.
If that yes involves sending funds to buy food for Peruvians, we would be happy to get it directly to them. You can click here to donate, choose Keith and Mila then EMERGECNY RELIEF.
Love you all.
After ten years of visiting Peru on mission trips, Keith began serving full time just over 6 years ago. Three years ago he married Mila and they have been laboring together since. Their biggest prayer is just that they be faithful to what God tells them to do. They want to love people with the love of God in places that no one else goes to. That is why they started Frontera Missions.
Keith and Mila are sent by Launch International. You can get more info here: http://www.launchinternational.net/keith—mila-smith.html
Frontera currently has a small team working with Keith and Mila: Donna who works in the Amazon, and Estefania who serves with them in and around Lima. See pics and stories here: https://www.facebook.com/fronteramissions/?ref=bookmarks