Joy, hope and relief – these are just a few emotions that radiated from residents of Collique, Peru, as 15 TBM volunteers became the first foreigners to visit the mountainous town in over two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The TBM team sought to meet needs and share God’s love as members partnered with Operacion San Andres (OSA), an organization that focuses its ministry in Collique – an impoverished community of more than 100,000 residents located on the north side of Lima.

Tight pandemic restrictions in Peru made a steady income and adequate food supply nearly unobtainable for many people in Collique, explained TBM Ministry Advancement Coordinator Sabrina Pinales. In response, OSA opened 60 soup kitchens in the region. Over the course of only two days, TBM volunteers delivered a special treat to all 60 kitchens – chicken for added protein to the soups.

“Seeing people literally running to get chicken when it’s so readily available for us at home was really cool,” said volunteer Alex Stevenson. “After delivering chickens, we always prayed over the people, and you could see how much they were touched by it. With everything we did, we explained we did it for the love of God.”

High up on the mountainside, the team also constructed two houses for families in need. With the foundations already in place, the volunteers worked together to place frames, walls, doors and windows.

One woman was so excited about her new home, she swept it daily after the team retired for the night and began painting and decorating as soon as she possibly could.

“Obviously we knew having a home would be good for someone,” Stevenson said, “but you could just see how excited she was, and that was really neat.”

Stevenson, a junior construction science major at Texas A&M University, and four other college students volunteered as summer missionaries through Go Now Missions. They partnered with more experienced TBM volunteers.

“So many generations were represented – retired, young professionals, college students,” Pinales said. “To see everybody come together for the same purpose and use their gifts was extraordinary.”

Volunteer Jim Kneale and his wife, Mako, were among the experienced TBM volunteers and came to appreciate the diversity.

“This was the most diverse mission trip I’ve ever been on,” said Kneale. “There was something for everyone to do. Everybody was able to participate in some way on every project. I thought that was really important.”

When they weren’t building houses or visiting soup kitchens, volunteers interacted with children participating in the OSA Educational Enrichment and Nutrition program, which provides supplemental educational support for children ages 6-11. 

Go Now Missionary Logan Baker, a recent graduate of University of Texas at Tyler, said the kids were thrilled to see foreigners and most excited to share the English they’d learned.

“The kids are the future of Collique,” Baker said. “(OSA) knows that’s who they need to be pouring into.”

On the final day, a local pastor took volunteers into Collique and whistled loudly. To their surprise, dozens of children came running with great joy and excitement. Saturdays are for Bible study they quickly learned, and that was a good reason to be excited.

Despite the language barrier, volunteers returned home confident that God’s love was shown through their actions and service.

“Showing the love of Christ doesn’t always have to be verbally sharing the Gospel,” Baker said. “There are lots of other avenues - such as physical labor - that plant seeds for salvation down the road.”