Rising from the seaside in steep elevations, the barren mountains surrounding Collique, Peru, outside of Lima, reflect the hopelessness seen in the eyes of its people. Devoid of life. Buried beneath layers of grayish-brown soil. Crushed by the mass of humanity. Gridlocked in hopelessness.
Every step taken by the hundreds of thousands of people populating the hillside in lean-tos constructed of cardboard and tin, kicks up powdery earth, making it hard to determine if the haze above the sprawling squalor is pollution from Lima or dust from under foot. To the American eye Collique is both alien and alienated. A friend called it “the mountain God forgot.” No grandeur in its creation. No grace in its spirit.
Staring into the haze, I was reminded of God’s word in Matthew 5:16…
“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”
God calls us to good work. To reach out to the harmed and the hopeless with helping and healing hands, offering change to body and soul. Beyond the immediate impact. Beyond the experience of one. The kind of change that sustains from one generation to the next. Such is the power of Christ. That a single life changed for good, now possesses a soul with a burning desire to make a difference in the lives of others.
We are called to make a difference.
I had the privilege this week of serving with members of South Main Baptist Church, Pasadena, and Christians from across the country, on a mission effort in Collique, providing improved shelter and health care for those living on the steep, dusty slopes of the forgotten mountain. Sponsored by Operation San Andres, an extraordinary effort led by Houston cardiologist Dr. Luis Campos, OSA stands as an oasis of hope and help amid poverty deeper than anything you can imagine.
Our team worked quickly to build a two-room home on the side of the mountain for a family of six, little more than a backyard storage shed to us. Yet, it was a dwelling that would make a difference to 10-year-old Maria and her family.
Maria’s smile and personality captured my heart upon meeting her. She radiated intelligence, curiosity and affection. She would peek around a corner in wide-eyed wonder at the work being done only to duck way when noticed. It was not long, however, when our smiles and encouragement drew her out. The lives of Maria and her family exuded joy that only God can bring to those living in such conditions. As we showed them through their new living quarters, their expressions of delight were contagious. Through the existing language barriers, we felt their gratitude and shared a blessing we all knew came from God.
The new home will make only a little change in their current living condition, but it is a chance. A difference. Among a people who seem beaten down and battered by a brutal life existence, OSA makes a difference. We will never know the generational impact of the seed planted here and now. OSA and its many volunteers reach out with the practical expression of God’s love, renovating a lifestyle and rejuvenating the spirit of those whose lives are touched.
I am now certain. The mountain was not forgotten by God. Psalm 90:1 reminds me…
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place for generations. Before the mountains were born from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.”
In other words, God knew what he was creating among the mountains of Collique. Created in his wisdom and for his purpose. God does not forget his creation.
Then again in Psalm 90:17, we extend our prayer…
“May the favor of the Lord rest upon us. Prosper the work of our hands.”
God grants to us opportunities to serve. Opportunities to make a difference. He takes that simple service we offer and makes it prosper, grow, expand and extend for generations to come. What we did this week made a difference to Maria, my little sister-in-Christ. As God prospers the work, that little difference, coupled with the hope of the better life it provides, will, through Maria and her family, change the people of Collique for generations to come.