Helping Hurting People

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Monday night 8:30PM

We’ve finished our first full day of ministry here in Chepen and all of us are worn out. But I wanted to post a few comments to keep you guys informed. More than that, I want to let folks know–especially those of you thinking about taking this kind of mission trip–what it looks like.

Wake up call was early and we walked out the door to breakfast at 7:00AM. All our meals are at a local restaurant a couple of blocks away so we took the short walk and sat down at what’s become a community table. Together with the national believers who are a part of our team, there’s about twenty-five of us. This morning’s menu was barbecue sandwiches (not bad) and Peruvian coffee, which deserves a blog all to itself. I’ll just say it began with a cup of hot water, maybe two-thirds full. Per my translator’s instructions, I stirred in a couple of tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk then added several teaspoons of sugar. Finally, I was ready for the main act: adding small portions of thick, black espresso from pitchers scattered around the table. I put in way too much and ended up with a tar-like substance so thick that my spoon almost stood up in the cup all by itself. But it was delicious.

We arrived at the small church (basically, just a room in a larger building about the size of small specialty shop at a mall with no windows and only one small light) about 8:00AM and proceeded to set up for the day. A desk and chair were placed to one side of the front entrance to register the people who needed to be seen. After registration the people were directed into one of two tracks.

The first track was to two of our doctors who were doing general medical evaluations. Each doctor had a translator working alongside and the patients were treated one by one under a large tent pitched immediately outside the front of the church, taking up the sidewalk and some of the street. The patients were seen and prescriptions written. They were then directed to the spiritual counseling area inside the church, where they were talked with, presented the gospel and prayed over. The final stage of their visit was when the went to the pharmacy to receive the prescribed medication.

The second track was for those with eye problems. After registration, this group went in small groups first to a separate area, outside and further up the sidewalk, where they received the same kind of spiritual counseling as those in the first track. From there, the patients were directed to the back of the church, where our Ophthalmologist had set up shop to do do thorough eye evaluations. From that point the people would move on to the pharmacy in order to receive any prescribed medications.

Two of our team–including a young college student–did a fabulous job of setting up and giving out the medicines our church collected during the previous few months (over $50,000 worth was donated). Other team members had gospel conversations with the patients and provided spiritual counseling.

If all that sounds complicated, it was. To add to the complexity, most of the ministry took place in such a confined space that we often were stepping over each other because so many people showed up. Eighty-one people came for general medical care. Sixty-two for eye care. Most exciting, of that combined number about thirty people invited Jesus into their lives when they were presented with the gospel–hallelujah! That’s the reason we came.

Tomorrow we’ll do the same thing again. Only our national partners tell us that word is getting out from those who came today and so we should expect a much larger crowd. Then, on Wednesday and Thursday we’ll take the clinic across town to another church so that we can reach out to a different group of people.

We shut down the clinic at 2:30 when the last patients left and began to prepare for the children’s VBS at 3:00PM. About twenty children showed up and our national partners led them in games and Bible teaching. Most of them stayed, along with their moms, for the evangelistic service that followed at 5:00PM. One of our team gave his personal testimony at the service and I followed with the sermon.

We got away about 6:30 and went to dinner. The final experience of the day was our evening meeting when we went over all that had happened during the day and began looking at what we need to do tomorrow.

I love these end-of-day get togethers because that’s where the inner work of missions teams really happens. I mean, the things we’re doing are making a real impact in other people’s lives. But when we have the chance to reflect on how God is at work in this ministry, well, that’s when our own spirits get stirred up. One of the amazing blessings that result from these kinds of trips is how they have a way of deepening our own walk of faith. People who step out of their comfort zones in order to go on a mission trip often have such an unforgettable experience that it alters the very trajectory of their lives. Some get called into full-time missions themselves. Others find their normal routines and expectations disrupted by encountering the desperate existence of people in other nations. Still others discover how their practice of prayer is deepened by the pressing need of calling on God in unfamiliar and maybe threatening circumstances.

The evening time of reflection, testimony and prayer offers the kind of window into people’s souls that you rarely get in the normal routine of church life. As a pastor, it’s where I see the real value of mission trips.

Anyway, I’m done for the day and heading for a shower and bed. More tomorrow.

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