WHERE? PERÚ - a beautiful country in Latin America. In my opinion there is no country in all of the southern hemisphere that has so much to offer the tourist, with it's deserts, coastal areas, beaches, mountains, jungles, Incan ruins, pre-Incan history, diverse people, languages, food, culture, diversity of areas, animal life, vineyards, etc.
Yet, it struggles like many areas of the globe and this hemisphere with challenges of economic imbalances, earthquakes, government problems, tsunami's, mudslides, border problems, crime, and more.
All that being said, and after making nearly sixteen trips to this beautiful country, I would only hope that I would feel as safe and comfortable as an outside visitor elsewhere (Mexico, parts of the USA) as I do in all of Perú.
Some geographic terms for Perú are necessary. Perú is made up of 25 Regions (i.e. states) and the separate province of Lima, the Capital. Within each Region, there are provinces, within provinces there are districts, within districts there are cities, villages, etc.
I love all of Perú and there is much in the north that I have not yet seen, except for the beautiful region of Laredo (Iquitos) as well as Huaraz mountain area. But as a tourist in Perú many of your destinations are in the south (Cusco, MachuPichu, Ariquipa, Nazca, Paracus, Titticaca, Huacachina, etc. ) Three of these southern placenames I mentioned are focused in a very unique area, the region of Ica which is on the coast, only 3.5 hours south of Lima by car, 4.5 by bus.
Although there is much I could tell you about Perú, and also about Ica, my purpose for this column is basically to give you an idea of where this is in the world, and then to tell you why we are here.
WHY? - a Backgrounder: In August of 2007, an 8.0 earthquake did severe damage to the Ica Region of Perú, specifically the two provinces of Pisco and Ica (both within Region of Ica). A major reason that this earthquake was so destructive was not only it's intensity, but also where it hit.
Much of the construction in this area is made up of adobe, basically mud brick. And since it is such an arid area (allowing mud brick construction that would not survive in a wet climate), much of these adobe buildings are quite old, adding to their dryness.
The earthquake struck off the coast of Ica's Pisco province, bringing in fact a major tsunami through the fishing village of San Andres, which is the coastal part of the small city of Pisco where our founder was born.
The major population center to the south is the city of Ica itself (within the province of the same name). Many churches and other buildings, market centers, and homes collapsed causing a great amount of death and destruction. (click on the photo to the left for many photos).
Today (2016), 9 years after this earthquake, there is still much rebuilding going on. Especially slow to rebuild are the many farm worker villages and rural areas, especially even slower is the very agrarian district called San Juan Bautista within the province of Ica.
More importantly, the combination of remote villages, family life based on hard low paying farm work, children at home for long periods without their parents, lack of any spiritual guidance or support, and many other factors, have led this area into being very 'dead' to Christ, creating large problems. In El Olivos, there are problems with incest and witchcraft; public drunkenness is prevalent on the one day of week that they are not hard at work; there is no real active church in the area, a few churches have nuns that come from out of the area on weekends to have a mass. Childen miss school for reasons of being too poor to own a pair of shoes, or a pair of glasses they can't afford. There is no real relationship with God, but there is a tradition of religion that people have many relics and reminders everywhere for. Many homes are very delapidated from the earrthquake of nearly a decade ago, with falling walls, holes in their ceiling, lack of doors, toilets, and more. The need is great for an active vibrant mission in this area, jobs are needed, hope is needed, activities for the children, and a church that they can form a true relationship with Jesus in.
WHO? After receiving a land donation in a village in the San Juan Bautista district (north of the city of Ica), one of the most severely damaged areas of Ica Region, we created a non-profit ministry (Latin American Missionary Association) with the specific immediate goal of putting this land to use, and a broader long term goal of being able to possibly repeat what we learn by doing similar projects elsewhere. What to do with the land was an immediate question. Knowing how this village and the surrounding villages were hard hit during the earthquake, the area received a lot of different support from various sources but none of the support was permanent or repeating. People would come and go. Churches from Ica would do great things, help to rebuild homes, have outreaches, but then go back to Ica or elsewhere. No one stayed. There is a great spiritual void because of this lack of permanent investment in the area or people. What a great place for a Mission!!!
We spent a good amount of time exploring how to best put this property to use. It was an extremely long (450 feet) but narrow (approximately 22 feet) piece of land, however strategically placed right in the village square, directly across from the earthquake destroyed Catholic church (built in 1779) and community outdoor enclosed park.
Many outreaches were made to the community, through evangelism, distribution of eyeglasses, clothing, bibles, dental materials and a good deal of love. With much feedback from the community, and a great deal of legal, engineer and administrative work, we finally had a vision (and blueprints) for what this property needed to be.
WHAT? LAMA became committed to building a mission/community center to service the earthquake damaged farming village not only of El Carmen, where the property is located but for other surrounding villages (Los Olivos, San Pedro, Invacion, Altura, etc.), all within the northern part of San Juan Bautista district of Ica Perú. This village is typical of many in the area, made up of farm workers who work 6 days a week, 12 hour days, and earn from $8 to $18/day per person, at most. With a typical family being 4-7 people, this is a hard life.
2012 - Our first challenge was the design of a structure, and then the clearing of the land, which we accomplished for the most part in 2012. Next challenge was finding a construction contractor to do the work. Our major challenge in these negotiations was the fact that the neighbors earthquake damaged adobe wall (about 10 feet tall and 2 feet wide), was just too dangerous to dig a footer next to. We had a real hurdle with this property as far as how to move forward. After taking a trip to Lima accompaning a missionary who was returning to the USA, we returned to the mission preparing to interview yet another contractor . We then had a surprising visit from our neighbor who basically wanted to 'gift' us his portion of the family property next door! He also had a sister and brother (5 siblings total) that wanted to sell their portions, giving us 60 percent of their family owned property which was coincidently one meter longer than the length of the building plans we had drawn up and included the 'wall' in question! (The Lord made Himself known that day).
With only a handshake, we immediately started tearing down the large adobe wall, and putting a brick barrier wall up about 12 feet to the north, taking in most of the newly acquired property. After about two weeks of this taking down of old walls and building of new, we returned to Lima and actually signed papers for the new land acquisition. We then returned to the USA with a pretty good idea of what our next trip would be about - the building of the mission. Now it would also be a much more functional, wider, more useable mission as well!!
In early 2013, we returned to El Carmen. After one failed start with one contractor. we finalized a great relation with a local contractor. After 6,000 bricks, 1,400 ceiling blocks, 415 bags of concrete, and a ton of rebar, we built the walls and ceiling for the 1,360 square foot first floor of a much wider and more functional building than we originally had the architect draw up. We accomplished an unbelievable goal in a short period of time, just 6 weeks.
We planned to do the same to the second floor on our next trip, however after much prayer we decided differently. Later the same year, in September, we returned and completed the first floor, so instead of having a two story unuseable shell of a building, we aimed to have the first floor of a functioning missionary / church location!
WHEN? During that trip, the local population was excited and asking “when will the Mission be open!” With that in mind, we opened the center in October 2013, even though we only had the one floor, and we started having wonderful results, with weekly church services and youth outreaches being held at the Mission. (below picture from a November 2nd 2013 outreach at the mission). We were not quite yet where we planned to be, but we were, through prayer and His guidance, where God wanted us to be.
In 2014, we extended our credit line much further and broke ground (so to speak) on the 2nd floor. We also initiated a major update on the courtyard construction as well as painting, doors, windows, glass and more on the first floor. The Mission is taking shape, it is getting used, it is very much appreciated and has so much more that it can do.
In late 2014, we made initial brick and column construction on the top (3rd) floor, primarily for a major meeting area, a small kitchen, bathroom and small bedroom area. We still had a lot to do to finish both of the upper floors before they are useable, but in good time they will be.
In 2015, it looks like we are getting to the end of our construction phase and look forward to that. We completed a water supply system with a 12 cubic meter cistern, a roof water tower with pump, added parapets and columns to the 3rd floor, tarajeo'd (stucco-like process) both the 2nd and 3rd floor, adding electrical and plumbing. For our final trip of 2015, we put all 3 floors to use, completing all painting, electrical, plumbing, doors, bathroom tiling, toilet,sink and shower installation.
We then also received our resident missionary family in October to operate and run the mission, the Sanchez family. With the presense of the Sanchez's they had a phenomenal affect on the Mission and it's acceptance with the local residents, the accomplishments, the outreach, the resident bible study groups, the growth of a church plant, the childrens outreach and more. Their living amongst the people served added a great deal to their being quite efffective, to the point that they needed assistance. After quickly taking over the Sunday worship service, they also assumed full leadership of the youth programs near the end of 2016.
In November of 2016, Irma Reyes, also from Mexico on her first trip out of her home country at the age of 70 (but the energy level of a 35 year old) came to assist. What a wonderful gift of encouragement and fellowship with the four of them residing here, showing the love of Jesus to all and living among the locals at the mission to further show their dedication and interest in the well being of each of them.
In late 2016, we initiated the building of a childrens' center in a second building at the property, primarily due to the missionary efforts and resulting need. We returned in early 2017 and completed it, adding all needed windows, doors, electrical, water, and more. We also added a 2nd floor to this new building, focusing on creating a staff quarters with 4 bedrooms, kitchen and dining.
In 2017 we had our first Samaritans Purse session with 160 children. This program ran for 12 weeks of training, leading 40 of these children to a fuller understanding of our Saviour and appreciation for their Christian walk.
Sadly, our Mexican missionaries ended their residency at the end of 2017. We welcomed in a new family, the Barriga's, from Venezuela who arrived in April of 2018. Their story is quite fascinating, and although it was a very difficult transition and hard to say goodbye to our Mexican missionaries, we also are very excited about our new family and all the skills they bring.
In 2018 we had a busy productive year, free (mostly) of mission construction with strong focus on the outreach and needs of the people we serve. We had our 2nd Samaritans purse year, accepting 200 children and leading 60 of them to the Lord after the full 12 week program. Here's an update video of the mission, it's purpose and achievments as of this year. [Want to just come on down? Here's some immediate info on how to find us.]
HOW Can YOU help? LAMA is a 501c3 non-profit charity in the United States. We are uniquely focused on this geographic area, to come alongside those that have so little and give them hope and awareness of love and support from other places.
Most importantly, you will not find another charity that has it's entire founding members, working board members and missionaries totally self funded. We have no salary expenses. Nor do we have travel, room and board expense since all missionaries are also self funded, gaining the bulk of their support from their sending locations. No other charity applies more of your donated funds to the specific needs of the people than we do.
We look forward to all missionary visitors, short or long term, that would like to work with and help the local villagers. [We are in fact about to open a resident building for long term missionaries that would like to live right at the mission.] We look forward to being partnered with your church, your community. Here's a complete separate web page (click me!) that will detail some trip planning on timing, costs, short or long term, etc.
We plan to offer English classes, working with professionals (dentists, doctors, etc.) to interface with citizens, hold movie nights, bible studies, teach skills, music, bring supplies, etc. Help us to put this facility to the maximum use for Jesus Christ for this and the surrounding villages.
We welcome your joining us, short term or long term, and putting this location to work for the benefit of these villages. Please help us put this missionary center on your churches map of where to send and support your missionary help. Please refer to the home page on our website for contact information. We plan ourselves usually two trips a year of a multi-month duration, but our sister "partner-church" is down there all year round between these two trips so anything is possible.
Also with the new round the clock missionary resident management now a reality, just pick your time and we can help you with any further input or planning. We even make your stay in Lima, first stop for many, as cost effective as possible. We can take care of your group from when you land to when you take off, as long as it's focused on Lima and Ica. Come on down! If you are more interested in long term mission work, we definitely want to talk to you. The Sanchez's can use help! Would love to discuss your interest, skills, desires. There are so many areas of needs that can be fulfilled with additional long-term missionaries. [More information on missionary trip costs and planning at this link.]
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