Yesterday I had the privilege of traveling several hours south of Lima to the areas hardest hit by the recent earthquake. Through the help of Baptist Mid-Missions world relief fund we were able to help purchase hundreds of pounds of supplies and provide for the purchase of much needed building materials. We felt blessed to be able to play a small part in helping restore the lives of many families. The trip was filled with joy as we helped many and yet filled with sadness as we saw how much still needs to be done. It would be impossible to describe everything that we saw yesterday.
The destruction to our south is incredible. The roads and highways were literally pulled apart. We saw sections of roadway that were split wide open by the forces of the quake. Literally thousands of homes have been destroyed. It was a horrible experience to drive through towns and see crumbled houses as far as the eye could see. There are massive piles of debris everywhere. Many families are forced to live in tiny tents or shelters made from plastic tarps. All along the way families held up signs saying "Please don't pass us by...Help us!" Small children waved Peruvian flags and stood along the road hoping for help.
We listened to several accounts of the earthquake. One young lady shared her story of being at an ocean-front camp when the earthquake struck. She thought the worse was over until a massive tidal wave rolled in and carried her across the campground. She narrowly escaped by fleeing to a nearby hillside. She later had to walk through the darkened streets to find her family. She is still horrified by the memory of the dead neighbors she found in the streets. Another story was told of a family of four in a small village called Santiago. The mother and father ran out of the house when the quake started. When the children didn't follow behind the father went back inside to find his children. They never came out and the house collapsed on top of them. They father was found the next day with both children in his arms.
The highlight of the day had to be when we visited the home of an 83 year old single lady. She lives in the same home where she was born. The house is over 100 years old and has survived several strong earthquakes. When we arrived we were horrified to see the terrible condition of her home. She invited us inside to sit down. The walls were all leaning significantly. The ceiling was sagging in several places. Massive cracks were covering every wall. The only thing left undamaged was the dirt floor. She told us that she was home alone when the earthquake hit. She tried to leave but the shaking was so violent she couldn't walk. She sat down in the chair and prayed. She went on to tell us that she wasn't really alarmed. "I know the Lord took care of me and my little house." We went on to explain to her that the house was not safe and that she needed to move out. She commented, "No, I live by faith that the Lord will protect me. I know he will. " She has spent her entire life in that old failing house. She seemed joyful despite the desperation that surrounded her. We talked to the pastor about possibly providing funds to build her a new home. He doesn't think she is interested. She only wants the cracks in her walls patched so she can keep living in the family home place. We pray that the Lord will keep that old house standing a few years more.
We had several opportunities to witness during our brief trip. We were also able to help several unsaved families make connection with a local church. We are thankful to report that several people have trusted Christ as their savior since the earthquake hit on August 15th. Thank you for your continued prayers for the people of Peru!