A Gift of Turkey, Another Home Blessed
Story by Dan Kunkleman, group leader of Providence Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, NC.
“Dan, there is a lady here with a turkey in a bag who wants to see you.” Fairly uncommon to hear in the US, but not in Peru. Traveling to Chimbote on a mission trip is always a new learning experience. With each trip comes increased confidence and comfort in the surroundings and the people that the mission serves. They have always been most welcoming and kind-hearted, like this lady whose new house we completed the day before. Through serving with other experienced groups, my fellow church members, friends and I learned how to craft a successful mission week. Now I coordinate similar annual mission trips for my home church, Providence Presbyterian Church, in Charlotte, NC.
Father Jack Davis and the parish choir visited our church in April 2009 on the US tour, following the Youth Mission Trip our church took to Chimbote in June, 2008 in which my wife and oldest daughter first experienced life in Peru. My wife loves to tell how I was not at all interested in seeing her pictures, or hearing the stories she wanted to share. She is right, of course. I did not yet grasp the significance this mission would soon have for my family, friends and church. Our good friend, Keith Guercio began traveling to Chimbote in 2006, and just as soon began asking, telling and convincing his friends to come see and help. It was not until 2010 after my parents both died that I was free to consider taking him up on the challenge. I believe the Lord prods each of us in His own time.
The people of the mission have so captured our hearts that my family undertook a private mission trip in the summer of 2013 so our rising high school junior triplets and their friend could have the same opportunity. Most of the people I serve with would say there is nothing more fulfilling and fun than the time spent together working in Chimbote. Walking alongside the people in faith and friendship, and creating greater quality of life for both them and us is our ultimate goal. Amazing works and lifelong relationships can be built in a week by a committed group.
Looking at the photo of what is clearly a trash pile tells a sad story too common in Chimbote. The day before, this was the interior construction, bedding and furniture of the family living behind the concrete wall. We learned that the reason for building walls in Peru is not just Protection, but Pride. From the outside we only see a solid, secure barrier. Through this photo, the full story emerges. For around $1500, our group constructed a complete new home for this family, along with beds, dressers, table and chairs. This family is fortunate to have a permanent wall; most in the barrios have woven reed (estera) walls simply secured with a well-constructed door.
At the end of the week our entire group visits each or our projects for a House Blessing with the parish priest. The next photo depicts the uncontained joy of three of our members as they prepare to enter the new house they constructed, and shower the family with a suitcase full of specially selected gifts. They are also holding one of the Home in a Box kits generously donated and sent by container from another group in the US. Two of the men pictured are veterans of numerous trips to Chimbote and the third is a first-timer. This represents the composition of our 2016 Mission Team. Five of fifteen were there for the first time. I love to watch and listen as the new-comers eyes and hearts are expanded.
This year we took two large buses full of the disabled and others from the community for an incredible afternoon beach outing, including a meal. Many had never been to the beach, located only a short distance from town, and others seldom get the opportunity. Our group also enjoys preparing a fish stew meal for our final evening, which serves 200-300 people living in the barrios and ACAF staff.
We all feel blessed to have this mission in our lives, and each year encourage more of our friends to join us. For those who are unable to partake in this life-changing experience, I would ask you to consider monetarily supporting Friends of Chimbote so they may continue their funding of the multitude of social services provided by ACAF, which are making a tremendous positive impact within this impoverished and hungry community full of beautiful, friendly and faith-filled people.