The Mission of the Trip is Building Faith
By Dan Kunkleman, Providence Presbyterian, Charlotte, NC, Mission Visitor and Group Leader
The pulse of the Parroquia Nuestra Senora de Perpetua Socorro beats within me. The spirit of Chimbote resides in my being. The hearts of the people of the barrios are ever-present in my daily life, giving guidance to my choices and decisions. I have been possessed, chosen, called to action and ministry on their behalf. A day does not go by that I am not in thought or prayer over them, and more truthfully, scarcely a waking hour.
I cannot clearly say how this transformation has occurred, but surely it began as I first made acquaintances, then friends on my initial visit in 2011. Mission trips were not a new thing for me. I had been leading youth trips about ten years for my church, Providence Presbyterian, in Charlotte, NC. Nor was it a novel idea befriending some of the families and churches I visited.
When I decided to make my first journey to Peru, I had not flown commercially for about 29 years. I had recently lost both my parents in 2010, with whom I had worked since graduating college in 1985. Also keeping me grounded, I increasingly cared for my parents physical needs in their later years. My pre-destined time had apparently come to begin a new phase of life, and mission ministry. I think the time manifests in all our lives when we desire to give more, and give back.
I learned the ways of this mission serving with the long-established group, Go Fish, for three years. In 2014 I began organizing the annual Providence Presbyterian Chimbote Mission Trip. I felt confident in doing so after leading a mid-year family trip in 2013. A particular interest and joy of mine is telling others about this trip, with the goal being to introduce first-time missionaries to this well-run program provided by Friends of Chimbote and ACAF. We all benefit by new cultural awareness. This service opportunity returns far more to us than we can hope to give. New friends, experiences and education help to ultimately form better understanding, and stronger faith.
Peruanos and Peruanas are industrious, smart and highly capable, possessing the foundations for success, and are ready when opportunity for advancement comes. The success of the ACAF Micro-loan program is more than enough proof of this, however, economic growth is painfully slow in Chimbote, and suffering, desire and lack are great. Visiting serves as a reality check and a call to action.
Besides being the most meaningful week of the year, it is easily and consistently the most fun. It is safe to say that my best friends accompany me, and also that many of my great friends now are Chimbotanos. Personally I find the Peruvians exceedingly friendly, loving, loyal and faith-filled. It is with great anticipation that I return each year, and I have come to love and respect this very different culture.
I have learned during my nine odysseys to Chimbote that the Peruvians know more about construction than we do. As I trust their lead physically in building a house, I have also learned to trust the Lord in improving my own, spiritually. Matthew 7: 24-27 cautions us of the folly of building a house (our faith) on sand. The Chimbotanos have little choice in building location, it is pretty much all sand, but they are excellent examples of building faith upon solid rock. The floods do come down periodically, laying waste to their belongings, but they do not waver in their belief the Lord suffers along with them as he envelops them in his loving arms. May we continue to learn from each other as we mutually grow our faith.