The last thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a missionary. I couldn’t understand why someone would give up the comforts and security of this country and go to a place where everything is more difficult, where creature comforts are gone, where great distance separates them from their loved ones and where at every turn you are overwhelmed with need.
In 2000 I went on an Upper Columbia Academy mission trip with my daughter Risha. We were support staff to Elder Dwayne McKee, who did a series of meetings in Iquitos, Peru. I thought this would be a great time to do some father-daughter bonding while being involved in some meaningful ministry work. Little did I know!
Before we left for Peru I asked God for three simple things:
1. “I want a God-given love for the people in Peru.” I knew that my ability to love people unconditionally was limited.
2. “Let me be instrumental in bringing one person to Jesus.” This needed to be more than just a glorified vacation.
3. “Send someone to mentor that individual so they won’t fall through the cracks.”
God answered all three requests as an entire family heard the gospel for the very first time. With this amazing outcome I promised to come back and so one year later I returned to Iquitos alone.
My new Peruvian friends and I found 150 people that needed medical attention, whole villages that needed food and parasite medicine, and countless opportunities to preach and teach in the poor communities. All of these efforts were supported by people back home who got excited about saving lives as we took people to the Ana Stahl hospital and paid for their exams, lab work, medicines and surgeries. God used our efforts on that trip to literally save the lives of some dying people and to bring the gospel to those who had never heard.
I became a man possessed! When God gives you a love for a specific work, many of life’s other priorities get rearranged and our family’s focus turned toward full-time ministry in Peru...but how? We owned a small logging company in Eastern Washington and all the financial burdens that go along with it. We had two daughters in academy and no obvious way to transition into the ministry that we felt God was calling us to. Then came the third trip.
Late one night after feeding street children on the plaza I met two little girls that changed my life. Martha and Candy were 8 and 10 years old and had been living on the streets alone for two years since the death of their mother. They were filthy, hungry, filled with parasites and covered with lice. As I knelt on the sidewalk and listened to their story, something happened in my heart that I still can’t explain.
At that moment I knew that Sandi and I would spend the rest of our lives rescuing kids in crisis, and I knew that Martha and Candy would be our daughters. This process is amazing. When you fall in love with someone, everything that stands in your way becomes less significant. We bought a small house in Iquitos on that trip and moved a Peruvian family into the home to care for the girls. From that time on, our energy went toward redirecting our life into full-time service in Peru. We closed our business about three years ago and started the People of Peru Project.
God has used a variety of organizations and individuals to support the work we do in Iquitos. The Little Debbies company purchased our headquarters facility three years ago, and ASI provided the funds to renovate it so that we now have housing facilities for volunteer groups who want to serve in the Amazon jungle.
Community Development, Inc., in Caldwell, Idaho, has given us sponsorship for our administrative costs here in the United States. This has allowed us to channel all other support directly to Peru.
Pacific Press Publishing Association purchased the land for our crisis foster care facility where we have teen girls and babies who have been abused or abandoned. Families from Walla Walla came in December to start the construction of our dormitory with grant money from our local Northwest Chapter of ASI.
More than 20 groups have joined us in the last two years, including Kettering Hospital, whose staff did 65 plastic surgeries, ER doctors from Loma Linda University, and Libby Dental group from Anchorage. We host Washington State University School of Nursing as part of their International Studies Program and have given free medical attention, all totaled, to more than 9,000 people.
The academy groups have come to do medical and dental clinics, Vacation Bible Schools, construction projects, crisis intervention and evangelistic series. This June we will host our first sports camp using volunteer Christian athletes. The groups also go to our jungle facility up the Amazon River to give support to our agricultural engineer. In this primitive village he teaches the children, instructs the adults in agriculture and studies the Bible with families. These humble people are meeting Jesus for the first time.
God has used hundreds of ordinary people to change thousands of lives. I am so humbled to be a part of this work. God gave us the commission to feed, heal, teach and love so we have absolute assurance that this is His work and He will supply the passion and all the resources that it takes to do it.
As a child I never wanted to be a missionary. Now? How I could do anything else?
When we blend our lives with those in need, a tapestry is woven from threads beyond this world. A pattern rich and vibrant eclipses every possible combination that we alone possess.
Read the whole story at PeopleofPeru.org and ask for a free DVD. Be careful, this could change your life!