WORK IN PERU 1998-2000 REPORT OF BILL & JEAN WILLIAMSON
ORIENTATION -We arrived in Peru in August 1998 after two and a half years in England and went to Arequipa, Perus second largest city. We lived with a Peruvian family for two and a half months in order to study Spanish in an institute and learn about the culture, which is very different to that of Chile, where we had previously worked for three and a half years. In July 1999 we visited Pucalpa, a jungle area of Peru, in January 2000 we visited Huaraz, a beautiful highland area and in June 2000 we visited Huancayo, a highland area from where a number of the people we work with originally come.
FINDING OUR FEET - Just before Christmas 1998 we returned to Lima to live in the home of missionaries on Home Assignment. During our six months there we looked after the adjacent SIM guesthouse. We had anticipated working in Childrens Homes, as we did in Chile, but on investigation felt our gifts would be better used in the shanty towns where over one third of Limas eight to ten million inhabitants live. These are vast swathes of previously unoccupied land, mainly on the outskirts of the city, where people from the jungle and highlands settle in the hope of finding better lives. Originally people came to escape terrorism. That problem is now under control, but people still come in the hope of finding work, better education and an improved lifestyle. The majority of the settlers are Quechua speaking with Spanish as their second language. Most of the adults have never completed primary education. The shanty town typically starts when a community of people move into vacant, desert land and set up four walled, one roomed homes of wicker cane work with earthen floors and polythene roofs. There are no facilities such as water, sewage, electricity or rubbish disposal. Gradually the people improve their homes to wood or stone and an infrastructure is begun. Most homes remain half-built, without facilities for ten years and more. Schools and clinics are built by the local community and rough roads and bus routes become established. Over half the population of Peru is under 18 years of age so children are in abundance.
RELIGIOUS SITUATION The country is predominantly Roman Catholic, mixed with animism and superstition. The gospel has only been clearly preached in Peru during the last hundred years, but has prospered in the last 30 years, especially among the poor. So have the sects. The upper class of Peru is little reached with the gospel, but there is a growing church amongst the middle-class. In spite of growth of the evangelical church amongst the poor, the church remains poorly taught with weak leadership and many problems of immaturity and division. Baptisms in shanty town churches are held on public holidays in the country, when the whole church will enjoy the outing.
POLITICAL & ECONOMIC SITUATION President Fujimori came to power democratically in 1990, when he did an excellent job of providing stability by controlling terrorism, which was ruining the country. However, at present unemployment in all sectors is high, overall estimated at 50%. An average of four hundred companies were going bankrupt per month during 1999, although there appears to have been more investment from abroad. Most people feel the economy is worsening. The majority of those who live in shanty towns do not have regular employment and earn their living street selling. Basic education and health care are free for children, though all equipment and medicine has to be purchased. There is no national health service, and of course, no such thing as benefits as we in England know them.
SANTA CRUZ & DEVELOPING OUR MINISTRY In February, after visiting many situations we began work in this six year old shanty town on the east side of the city, about an hours bus ride from where we live. A small evangelical church had a daily lunch programme for 150 children aged between 2 and 12. (Funding for this programme comes direct from Switzerland. No salaries are paid, but food is free for the workers and their families. There is a small charge for the meal). The church had just experienced a split. Attendance had sunk to about 15 adults, they had lost their pastor and were struggling. Three teenage girls, (aged 12 & 14), were trying to give spiritual teaching to the children before each meal. We began attending some Sundays to give moral support, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays to help with the devotional and lunch. It took time to establish discipline, but then developed into a useful and happy time.
STARTING HOMEWORK SESSIONS - We introduced the opportunity for children to return to do their homework at Santa Cruz. Primary school is from 8am to 1pm, and secondary from 1.30 to 6pm. Homework is an essential part of the system. This is problematical for poor families where parents are often Quechua speaking, may be out working all day, leaving pre-school children to be cared for by their siblings and where there may be no light, table or chair in the home. Attendance to our homework sessions is voluntary. Since commencement we have averaged between 60 and 90 children per session. We provided educational reference books, since most cannot afford these, other reading books and educational games and activities. We helped improve the church lighting, provided more tables and benches and encouraged the church to install a toilet. One problem was the pre-school children who are left in the care of their older siblings so we provided a nursery type room for them, equipped with toys. Victor, who is responsible for the lunch programme, helped us with the homework sessions and learnt much in the process. So did Maria, an 18 year old church member hoping to go on to further study. (They continued the sessions whilst we were away, with some help from a part-time pastor). In 1998 we co-operated with their holiday Bible club and in 1999 we ran it with them, training the young people of the church. For the 5 days we averaged 125 children during the 4 hour periods. Through donations received we also helped provide Sunday school materials and an amplification system, which they now need, having an average attendance of one hundred adults.
COMPASSION - In April 1998 we also attended a one week full-time training programme with Compassion, an interdenominational organization funded from abroad. Three days a week it provides lunch and homework for sponsored children, who receive benefits such as Christmas presents, educational equipment and medical help. We then attended one of their projects twice a week for 6 months, working as tutors. This was to gain experience while we considered how to develop our ministry. We decided that whilst much they do is very good, our gifts would be better employed elsewhere. However, they put us in touch with a church that wanted to join their programme, but could not fulfill the requirements. In July 1998 we began to work in HUAYCAN, a ten year old shanty town on the east side of the city, a similar distance away as Santa Cruz.