written by Abby Fish (Summer Intern 2010, Ministry Intern 2012)
I’m currently in my first year of a master’s program in speech-language pathology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. I first came to Inca Link as summer intern in 2010 after my friend and fellow North Park University student Elizabeth Ahlem (Peru intern, 2009) told me about her experience. In 2010, I lead teams and made a cookbook of Peruvian recipes as my creative project. I loved my time working with Inca Link Peru so much that I had to come back as a ministry intern for five months in 2012! As a ministry intern, I lead teams, helped out with the different ministry projects, and spent a lot of time at the Inca Link Daycare getting to know the kids and trying to better connect them with their sponsors.
One of my favorite roles to play during my service with Inca Link was to facilitate and translate for North American supporters meeting the children they sponsor at the Inca Link daycare. Each year, the kids wait and hope that their sponsor will come to Peru to meet them, and each year, a few lucky kids’ sponsors do come. Witnessing the special moments sponsor and child spend together is a reminder of how profoundly the sponsors’ prayer and $32 per month can impact a child’s life.
During my last week in Peru, I was able to witness a particularly special meeting. Twelve-year-old Jair and his sponsor Susan have been writing letters to each other since Jair was eight years old. In every letter, Jair would ask, “When are you coming to Peru to meet me?” After four years of his proding, Susan was motivated to come meet Jair. All through July, Jair asked me, “Is my sponsor Susan here yet?”
One afternoon Jair’s teacher from the daycare, a young, Peruvian woman named Yackorry, took Susan and me to find Jair’s house. As we drove down the dirt rode to the daycare, we saw Jair sitting outside a house with two other boys from the daycare. We stopped to get off and talk to him. At first he was bashful, surprised by the visit. He asked her to take off her sunglasses, and then he recognized her by a distinct birthmark on her forehead between her eyes. He smiled and hugged her.
We got back on the bus, and Jair directed the driver to his house, a few blocks away from the daycare. As we walked to his home built of adobe (unfired mud-bricks), we were overwhelmed with the stench of his family’s herd of 50 pigs living across the street. A swarm of flies residing in trash on the side of the house greeted us at the door. Jair knocked on the wooden door, and his mother answered with her two toddler-aged grandchildren behind her. She did not invite us in. I peered inside though the half-open door. Inside I saw a dirt floor, a small TV playing, a passage to another room, a puppy, and a rooster. We spoke for a little while, asking about the family, their health, the pigs. We learned that Jair is the youngest of seven children, the family is in generally good health, and they’re satisfied with their life. Yackorry encouraged the mother to come to church, as the family does not attend a church and may not be believers at all.
After an afternoon of playing soccer and taking pictures together, Susan shared her thoughts on her experience. She told me how Jair often asked for prayer in his letters and asked what he could pray for them, how he’d drawn a beautiful picture of the risen Christ one year at Easter. “If his family doesn’t go to church, then the daycare must be his main, maybe his only, exposure to Christianity,” she reflected. “I knew my money was allowing him to attend the program and eat good meals, but I never thought about the spiritual side. My $380 a year is affecting this child’s salvation!”
It’s easy for me to be preoccupied by the physical needs I see: dirt floors and adobe houses, dirty kids with sores on their skin from infection, with rotten teeth, with anemia from malnutrition, people scavenging in the garbage dump just to get by. Why don’t we just send money to meet these needs? Susan and Jair reminded me why. We are more than physical beings. We need more than physical care. God could have healed the sick and fed the poor from heaven, but he didn’t. He sent Jesus to be here in the flesh with us to meet our spiritual needs. So must we go to be in relationship with people and share with them the love of Christ.