At first glance, the gathering looks like a typical Sunday school class. Boys and girls learn Bible stories and spend time with their friends in a safe place, cared for and guided by believers with a heart for the next generation.
But these are children from the streets and poorest neighborhoods of Lima, Peru.
Many of their houses lack electricity and running water. Air quality is poor—even dangerous—and they don’t have access to green areas. They are so happy to be able to roam on the grass in the compound of Segadores Ministry where they meet in Lima, a city of 9.75 million.
Their lives are full of hardships. When the children introduced themselves, they mentioned what they had for lunch that day. Maria Fernanda, 6 years old, could only say in a sad voice, “I ate yucca with water.” That would be similar to an American child lunching on a piece of bread soaked in water. And in Latin America lunch is usually the largest meal of the day.
Later, the teaching team learned that Maria and her mother had been abandoned by her father. Admiring her courage, the teachers determined to pray for her and show her the love of God.
Finding a purpose
The Segadores teachers see immense potential in these little lives. They sense that the hurting children have great capacity for love. So they strive for more than the usual Bible stories; they seek to spark what every human being craves: Why do I exist? What is my God-given purpose?
For Segadores (the name means Reapers), the answer is taking the gospel to those who have not yet heard. The ministry’s primary aim is to reach the remaining unreached tribes in Peru. And they are putting a passion for missions in each little, fertile heart!
As they show love to “the least of these” in Lima, the Segadores team tells the children about the lost and ignored children in other parts of the country.
Eight people groups—each with its own language and culture—exist in the rainforest of eastern Peru and have never heard the gospel. Other groups have been evangelized, but still do not have much Christian presence.
So the teachers prepare lessons on “Peru’s Unreached Tribes.” And Segadores missionaries from the field share about their work. The children learn how the natives live, how they dress, and what they believe. And the children pray for the missionaries God has already sent to them.
A different kind of life
The children of these indigenous tribes live hard lives as well. Parents typically keep their distance from younger children, entrusting their care to older siblings. Alcohol is a big problem. At a very young age the indigenous people learn to like masato, an alcoholic drink traditionally made from cassava.
They take their water from the rivers. There is not a child in the jungle that does not have parasites. Medical care is limited. Many parents see no benefit in school, so illiteracy is high.
The indigenous peoples are animists, believing that spirits live in everything—every animal, every tree, even the waters and the sky. Fear predominates as the people continually try to appease the spirits. Witchcraft, spells, and curses abound.
As the Segadores teachers tell the Lima children about their counterparts in these remote tribes, they see God developing a heart for the lost in the children. They even pray regularly that the gospel will reach those who have never heard!
Please pray for the teachers to receive wisdom from God and the perseverance to bear much fruit. Also pray for the children that their lives will be changed so that God’s light will shine even in their homes. And finally, pray for precious Maria Fernanda, that God would bless her spiritual life and provide food and everything else she needs for this life. Who knows, someday the Lord may use her experiences as a hurting child to minister to a distant tribe herself!