In the past, I haven’t been a particularly religious person, but God got to me. My heart was broken in a million pieces, ready to heal stronger for the poor and the orphans. I looked out over the city of Lima on the outskirts in the slums, and I wept. I was wholeheartedly overcome with emotion as the vastness of the need and the human suffering penetrated every fiber of my being. It was clear that I needed to see this, and I need to change my life to start to think about the legacy that I can leave behind in just my actions and thoughts alone before I leave this earth. It started as a mission for us to come to Peru to change lives and change eternities, and it was already starting as a mission to change us, to change me and my entire ideology on life and business.
The original vision 14 or 15 years ago when I bought that Frommer’s Peru Travel Guide that has been sitting on my shelf in my office, collecting dust, was to check off our bucket list item and see Machu Picchu. I had traveled the world from Japan to Russia, from England to Finland, and beyond and always wanting to check off that ‘bucket list.’ This was the original motivation, but little did I know it was much, much bigger than that. God had called our family to serve, and to give back.
My wife and 2 kids and I had been discussing going on a mission trip, and we looked into different trips our church offered. It’s funny sometimes how God works. One night, while discussing our desire to see Peru and do mission trips, we
received a text from our good friends. They asked us if we would ever think of joining them in Peru to help them on their family’s mission to help the orphans and poor there. It was exactly at the moment we were discussing it! My wife and I looked at each other in complete amazement and disbelief. This was more than a sign from the Universe, it was a calling from God. We were in and responded immediately to that calling. Of COURSE we were in. Do we have time? Nope. Do we know how we are going to fund it? Nope. But we knew we needed to go.
OUR DESTINATION: LIMA, The Lost Children of Peru, and Casa De Luz
We met several times ahead of traveling to Peru, and even though our guide and friend to Peru was extremely prepared because she had done this many times, the gravity and the seriousness of what we were doing had not really sunk in for me. We made plans, we raised money, and we got the kids and our family excited to go down to Peru. Nothing at all could have prepared me for just showing up, and for what I saw when we got there. That’s it, we just had to “show up” to truly experience this.
Lima is just a short 6 hour plane flight from Houston and that’s not too far from Denver. The plane trip was easy, and our excitement grew every mile closer. We arrived at night into Lima and went straight to Mira Flores, which is the best part of Lima. It is where all the tourists go, and our hotel was very high standards. We went to bed, awaiting our travel to the “slums” of Peru in the morning.
We awoke, grabbed breakfast, and set out for our destination, Casa De Luz. Casa De Luz is a youth center created by a Missionary Larry Goode with the sole purpose to help kids. Larry has a very deep and inspiring backstory, and we’ll interview him later for another series. In short, Larry was inspired 15 years earlier to leave his very successful business in Alaska, to adopt 2 orphans that he ran into during his trip to Peru, and then come back and build this center after selling everything he had.
Casa De Luz is truly a light in the darkness. You can even see from the pictures that I took that it stands out visually from the rest of the landscape, but spiritually and in function it does as well. We left the safety and cleanliness of Mira Flores, and we trekked in Larry’s van across town more than 30 minutes. As we got closer to the center, the cityscape got dirtier, we saw more trash, Larry asked us to lock our doors, and we pressed on. I looked at the local people in the streets going about their daily business, and the picture just got more and more bleak. I looked up to the mountains, and shack upon shack was piled on top of each other with essentially squatters seeking out an existence in the harsh landscape on mud roads with wooden and tin shacks. But suddenly, we arrived at Casa De Luz, a bright brick building and like a beacon, we arrived to excited, happy, and very beautiful kids ready to welcome us.
My kids, 8 and 11, were immediately welcomed by hundreds of these kids by grabbing their hands, holding them, dancing with them, playing games with them, and trying to talk in broken Spanish and English. We took a quick tour of the place, led upstairs to the rooftop. This is where I stepped off to the side, and I just let it go. I wept. I couldn’t believe the way we had been called here to help by God, and the kindness and openness with which we were received. I saw the face of those kids and the face of our kids, and I realized that we are all the same. We are all one circumstance or so away from each other. We are no different, and we are so fortunate in our own lives, and that comes with such a responsibility.
After I composed myself, we went downstairs and the games and the celebrations began. We danced, we laughed, we played games, and we just loved on those kids. We got to prepare beautiful meals and serve the kids. We became servants, in the service of the Lord and just soaked up every minute of serving those little kids and enjoying them. I can never explain the joy and love we felt, but we felt it and it shattered our hearts and made them stronger at the same time.
To better explain Casa De Luz, I’ll just use text from their site to paint the picture of what they do and why they do it.
Taken from their website directly, they best explain their mission here:
CASA DE LUZ AND THE LOST CHILDREN OF PERU VISION
Our vision is to positively impact single mothers, their children and orphans of Peru in order to let them know that Jesus is the One who saves, the One who loves, and the One who provides. We are merely helping serve where He has called us to serve.
Our mission is to love as many children as possible, while making Jesus famous along the way. Approximately 35% of Peruvians live in poverty, and are unable to care for themselves or their children. This leaves thousands of kids starved for love, affection, and basic needs.
James 1:27 (ESV)
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
1 John 3:18 (NIV)
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
Romans 12:12 (NIV)
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
Psalm 46:1 (NIV)
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Larry, the Missionary running the show introduced us to the family for which we were going to build a new house. It was a beautiful older couple named Gregoria and Leonidas. The conditions that they were living in were absolutely unbelievable. The floors were mud and dirt, flies and insects coated the walls and flew around us, and the ceilings leaked as though they were not there at all. It was a crude shack of lean-to material that they could find. They said they were fortunate just to have that spot on the side of the mountain in the slums of Peru. They had been squatting there for a very long time, and their sons had left them there with no one to help them.
We toured their “home” and spoke to them for a while, talking about how they survive. In order to survive, they cut hair bands out of discarded automobile tires, and they have to cut 100 of them to make $0.80 which could take them most of the day. Sometimes they won’t even get paid that small amount for months. To eat, they serve in the kitchen of Casa De Luz, hoping to get the scraps left over by the kids from the meals they help prepare. If there are scraps left over, they eat and bring it home for meals. They feel blessed to have Casa De Luz so close to help them.
Our kids let the family know that we had raised $2500 that would go towards rebuilding their house with concrete floors, brick walls, windows, a roof, and a locked door. For this very small 12’x12′ home (smaller than most of our bedrooms) they were grateful. They said that they “could never repay us” and that it was the blessing of their life. Think about that, $2500 absolutely changed their life in a way that they could never ever imagine. It shook me to my core to realize that this could give them a home, something they have never had and they were so thankful! It makes me revaluate my life, what I hold dear, and what I should be thankful for.
WATCH our video here of Leonidas and Gregorio and their story. It is SO powerful.
We left the family, promising to track their progress, and went on to speak with another woman neighbor nearby who lived in a similar situation with her kids. She slept outside of the house that was being built for her family so that her kids could be protected from the sun, the heat, the cold, and the danger that lurks in the slums from predator people. She said that she was blessed to have the house for her kids to be safe, and that as a single mother she could withstand the dangers and the elements because she was just thankful her kids were safe. My wife Hunter translated in Spanish, and we thought she was the MOST remarkable woman and mom we have ever come across. Her strength radiated from her, even in this place where she had nothing, she had everything. She had her faith, her kids, their safety, and sometimes meals.
We returned to Casa De Luz and the rest of the day we spent time brainstorming how we could help. We lost track of time playing with the kids. We rented a soccer field, brought the kids down to play games, and even though we didn’t speak each other’s languages we communicated through laughter, fun, and a moment where the world around us was suspended in time. We did team building activities, played Soccer, heard about the Word of God, and we prayed. The night fell away and we eventually had to leave to go back to our hotel, but we promised that we would never forget and that we would work to help the many that could not help themselves.
In order to hear more about our trip after visiting Lima, stay tuned for the next Blog as we traveled to the Elim Orphanage in Cusco in the Mountain Region, not far from the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. PART 2 of our trip is coming soon.
If you would like to follow Casa De Luz, you can do so here on FACEBOOK
PLEASE GIVE HERE if you feel moved to do so. 100% OF YOUR DONATION GOES TO THE KIDS IN PERU. The organization Lost Children of Peru does not take ANYTHING from your donation.
Chief of Chaos, Matt