By Anna Monteviller
Translation by Brian Langley
Each one of us grows in uniquely personal ways. In stages, with ups and downs, we grow and develop. The work of Word Made Flesh Peru recognizes this fundamental fact of human existence, so we respect each person on their terms, for who they are. The one who serves and the one who receives walk and grow together. In doing so, both are giving, and both are receiving something. In Latin American this approach is called “Misión Integral,” or “Holistic Mission.”
How do we walk and grow together?-
We have the privilege of serving and embracing groups of young people who at one time have lived on Peru’s city streets. Some have been on the street for mere days. Some for years. Each individual’s path towards freedom, healing, and health is unique so we strive to connect each one with the tools, attention, and environment appropriate to their situation.
Our approach has been crucial in helping many leave the vicious circles of street life, delinquency, addiction, and violence, and be able to forge a home for themselves and their families in new locations.
But this has been far from easy. For many this process has meant struggling to forge a completely new identity, to take on challenges for which no one prepared them, to develop a healthy self-concept with very little encouragement from others. In particular, many of the young women who grew up on the street desire to be good moms for their own children but were never taught nor modeled what that looks like.
This is where Word Made Flesh Peru’s model of relational, longitudinal, and wrap around services becomes even more effective. For the young families who relocated themselves off the streets, we created educational enrichment and a scholarship program, which was designed to magnify the investment these young parents were making in their own young children. In fact, not one of the children whose parents had grown up on the street yet who actively participated in our programs, are on the street today.
Our model seeks to empower each person in a vulnerable or high-risk situation to develop their own path forward. This is slower than other models and can often take years to see real change and growth. Yet we have also found that each of the parents who received educational funding through our programs are maintaining that investment in their children after leaving our program!
This is no small commitment, as many of these families are still classified as “extremely poor” based on their household income. They face constant pressure to earn more money just to put food on their table, and the lure of sending their child out to sell, work, or beg is real. To see families in these circumstances choose to NOT send their children to work, AND to invest their scarce resources in their education, is nothing short of incredible.
We believe in a God who restores, who is full of mercy, and always faithful. God’s work is always transcendent. We are witnesses how God has touched many of these young women’s hearts, who today are filled with compassion to help others avoid the life they had on the street.
Let me tell you about Evelyn*
Violence has always been right around the corner in Evelyn’s life. On more than one occasion she was a victim of violence and left with few options. In desperate circumstances and with little sense of agency she then found herself making decisions that exposed her and her young children to more danger.
Evelyn has always struggled feeling like she doesn’t deserve anything good in life. She also couldn’t accept that God was interested in her and has love for her. Even still, she was a
leader. On the street, she took care of her friends and they knew they could count on her. Despite her own struggle to feel deserving of love, Evelyn was known as someone who could
encourage. She was even able to help many of her friends find and believe in God’s goodness and love.
I vividly remember how Evelyn convinced one of her girlfriends who was desperately caught up in addiction and high-risk behaviors, to attend one of our women’s Bible study groups. Her friend experienced an amazing transformation as part of that group. Slowly, but surely, Evelyn herself was able to get away from street life, and she put down roots on a little plot of land on a hill in the outskirts of Lima. She and her extended family built her home there, literally, one brick at a time.
Being part of Evelyn’s life has a great privilege for me. She inspires me, she builds my faith. Recently, a new chapter in my relationship with Evelyn is taking shape.
Learning hope in violent times
According to Human Rights Watch, Peruvian women who are victims of gender-based violence are on the rise. All are traumatized; some are permanently disfigured; many are killed. Yet only 15% of the perpetrators (mainly men) of gender-based violence in Peru are sentenced. (For more information read the link at the end of this article).
This context has driven us seek out resources which specifically support women and children-to educate, to prepare, and to know how to respond if something happens. As we were explaining about these efforts to Evelyn, she immediately started canvassing and organizing women in her neighborhood, as we were able to secure a training titled, “Positive Parenting” through one of our organizational partners. Evelyn not only spread the word and signed up her neighbors for this training, she is hosting the events at her house! To date there are 21 more children who will benefit from this class.
This is Evelyn today. She is rooted, healthy, leading and caring for her family, and inspiring and organizing others to do the same.
Step by step, she is walking the path that God is tracing for her. Each step an opportunity to believe in God’s interest and love for her. To believe in herself. To believe that she deserves good things.
To choose this perspective on life is difficult. In Peru, women are constantly subjected to violence of all kinds. And when we are victims and we tell our story, we are not believed. Our society is very slow to accept and admit this reality.
This slowness can easily take away our hope.
But we see signs of hope.
We see God transforming lives and circumstances. We know that transformation will keep happening, and that we can and will inspire others.
Evelyn’s story touches me, inspires me, and changes how I live.
I invite you to be part this, that by helping us continue our work with women like Evelyn you are not only investing in our proven model of service, but that you might have more opportunities to be touched and transformed by God’s power.
Human Rights Watch- Peru country report 2017: https://www.hrw.org/world-
*name changed for privacy