Feliz Navidad from Peru (Maria)


I have just come back from Huanaco. The construction of the soup kitchen there started 5 years ago after our first LJH mission visited Huanuco. As Christians we are called ‘to believe, trusting in the Lord with all our hearts, not leaning on our own understanding’ and ‘loving our neighbour as ourselves’ While we all fall short of that, there was a moment of ‘enlightenment’ and “walking in faith” when we were touched by God and decided to start supporting the construction of the current soup kitchen.

It was faith that moved us. We are a small Catholic community in Vanier with less than 50 members, many poor and destitute. Since then more than half of the community has visited Peru (including children and people over 80 years old). It’s been a process of “More of Him and less of us” with the hope to become ‘salt of the earth, light of the world’. The material help was important to the people of Huanaco but even more important is what has happened in the hearts of people. Here are some stories of the kids.


Four days before my arrival, Ruth, my God child, had a dream. She saw me coming to Huanuco. She shared this with her family and some people at school. Nobody knew I was coming and people laughed at her. The first thing I did on my arrival was to go running up the hill to the soup kitchen. People were amazed when I showed up. So my dear Ruth has gained new respect in the eyes of others and is a testimony of God’s love in many things she does.

I’ve been praying for this 11 year old girl since she was six. The first time I met her she was a little girl without shoes playing in the garbage. Less than two years ago Ruth together with other 5 kids and an adult traveled for 9 hours from Huanuco to the Camp of Faith and Prayer in Lima. Now she has a Bible and knows more than most kids about God’s power and love.

I’ve been sleeping on the second floor of the soup kitchen. It feels so close to the stars and the beautiful scenery of Huanuco can be seen from the balcony. Ruth brought her mattress and slept at the soup kitchen all the time I was there. It was important to share with this 11 year old girl about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The first night we sang for a while, lit a candle and prayed. The overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit was so strong that Ruth started to cry. We were sitting on the mattress and couldn’t get up for a while. Everything was dark except for the candle.


This six year old kid joined us the second night. He followed me everywhere and did not care about walking in the rain without shoes. He learned to read during the time I was there. This is a major accomplishment considering his parents don’t know how to read. He is a smart kid and not fearful of anything. Sadly, when he asks too much or is too ‘active’, his mother hits him. I gave him a little motorcycle toy and a pencil sharpener I got at ‘garage sales’ in Ottawa. Treasures for him.


On my third day, Alex managed to stay at the soup kitchen too. One night he held me and shared with me that two years ago a fellow at the market forced him into a bathroom and sexually abused him. Alex said he can’t forget his face. He is now 10 years old and I am the first person he shared that with. Not even his parents realize what he’s gone through.

That night, the four of us (Ruth, José, Alex and I) prayed for all the people in the mountain and shared 1 Corinthians’ 13 about the importance of love. Around 3 am José, half sleeping and half awake, started to sign the song that calls the Holy Spirit. There has been much prayer coming from the kids in this visit.


This kid is already 13 but looks more like 11 due to malnurishment. He helps the household economy selling candies or working at the fruit market after school. He does not have a father. He’s been sending me very encouraging Bible based messages by e-mail for the last 2 years. He’s always smiling and helpful. In May 2010, when the last mission came to Huanuco, I met his mother who was in need of an operation in the uterus and also had very bad gastritis. We prayed for her (all I could do). Recently she started to feel better and has already gone to 3 doctors to be tested and the 3 of them said there is nothing to operate, she does not have gastritis problem. This must be a miracle. is it not?

Movie Night and ‘Shalom’

After the movie I taught the kids a song I know in Spanish. It is about calling the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and justice, that I sing when I am sad or going through something only God can change. Ruth sang with me and all the kids were just listening. After that we did the “Shalom”. In this activity you sing and hug the other person wishing him or her peace. At that moment you are suppose to look in the eyes of that person and think of the one that has hurt you the most in your life. The 4 orphans couldn’t look in my eyes and were in tears (their father killed their mother and is living with another woman). The wounds that hurt the most are the ones that can’t be seen with our physical eyes but only love and forgiveness can heal.

Swimming Pool

This past Sunday we went to a swimming pool. 13 kids (14 people including me) in a couple of “taximotos” (motorcycles with seats at the back). They are suppose to have a maximum of 3 people, including the driver. We were 7 in each moto taxi!. This children enjoyed everything so much. While they were swimming I was dancing around the pool with “salsa”. Going to a swimming pool is a major treat for them. They don’t have washrooms at home (they use latrines). You can make them happy with so little. The little things I buy at garage sales in Canada are treasures for them.

Life in Huanaco

Almost every family has had 2 or 3 kids dying before they were 3 years old (usually stomach problems or accidents). The rate of child and mother mortality is extremely high. Cases of rape are usually within their own family (brother, uncle, etc). There are many single mothers. A 12 year old girl gets up at 4 am to work at a butcher and is pay less than $1 a day. She has 4 sisters and the father is involved with another woman and only gives the mother 50 soles a month (less than $20).

Different people brought me food every night. It was very moving that one of poorest woman had killed her little pig to cook it for me. She brought it with “cancha” (dry roasted corn).

Time was short. I taught math, and read various books according to the age of the kids, visited people in their homes, etc. Because I was living as them they were more open with me (sharing their hearts, food and love). Most kids don’t know the basics for their age but almost everybody is eager to learn. At school the teacher hits them and teaching is poor. The kids love to be encouraged. I had to give marks and congratulate them all the time. On my last night at the soup kitchen I was reading a story until very late with Jose. He’s learned to read in 6 days! a major accomplishment considering none of his parents can read.

On my last night I stayed at the hostel in the main plaza. Some of the kids came to say good bye. They were soaking wet because of the rain. We had a drink of quinua and a sandwich and I gave a big and long hug to each of them. Ruth made me promise that I will pray for Huanuco and her every day at a certain time that she knows, she will also do it. Alex felt embarrassed to cry but at the end he broke in tears. We all prayed for Jonathan who had an accident a couple of years ago (falling from a two story house breaking his teeth and hitting his head badly). It was a way of showing love, solidarity and faith in the One that can create new things from nothing. At the end Jonathan felt something strong happen and ‘felt as if his whole body had changed’ (that is what he said).

There were many divine appointments, especially meeting someone that also works with kids. This person lives the Bible without talking too much and kids respect him. When we started the missions to Peru the Lord gave me Isaiah 58:6-9 about the kind of fasting He wants. I’ve tried to be faithful to that. We’ve responded to the Lord’s call (all the kids at the soup kitchen) and He’s answered: Here I am.

All my love to you and Merry Christmas!


Acknowledgements: Much thanks to all those wonderful people beyond the walls of our immediate LJH community that also made many contributions. LJH is grateful to each of you.  “If you give, you will receive.  Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over” (Luke 6:38)

One Response to “Feliz Navidad from Peru (Maria)”

  1. fr bob poole Says:

    Hi Maria,

    What a fantastic article. It was wonderful to read about the children at Huanuco and to know that the soup kitchen project is still bearing fruit!! Thank you for all the wonderful ministry you are doing out there at this time. I loved the photographs also.

    I feel proud that our community has been a part of this wonderful outreach.

    Fr Bob

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