Peru floods impact MB churches


Missionaries, church leaders request prayer, financial support

From reports from Joanna Chapa, MB Mission, ICOMB

Thirteen Mennonite Brethren churches in Peru are being impacted by heavy flooding, and MB missionaries and church leaders in the area are requesting prayer and financial support as they work to show the love of Jesus during the crisis.

A local El Nino phenomenon is blamed for the abnormal warming of coastal waters that has resulted in rainfall 10 times the norm, according to a March 20 article by Reuters news service. Latest counts estimate the floods have killed at least 94 people and displaced 700,000, and the rains are expected to continue for at least another month.

The MB churches are all located in the hard-hit areas in northwestern Peru—in Piura, Trujillo and Sullana—and have a total of 467 members, per the latest numbers from the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB). MB Mission workers Joanna Chapa and Stacy Kuhns serve in Piura; Lianna Penner serves in Trujillo.

Damage to both homes and churches is extensive. In some areas, the river overflowed levees, leaving whole areas under several feet of water; one observer compared the damage to that in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In other areas, flowing water has caused mudslides, washed out roads and bridges and left residents stranded. ICOMB executive secretary David Wiebe says that several MB churches as well as homes of members are flooded, although exact counts aren’t yet available. Many have been evacuated and will not be able to return to their homes for some time.

Electricity and cell phone service are unreliable, which means that communication with Mennonite Brethren in Peru is spotty, but what communication does get through demonstrates the extent of the devastation. MB Mission workers in Piura identify collapsed sewer lines, flooded streets and homes and water-borne diseases such as Dengue and Cholera as immediate concerns. Photos show desperate rescue efforts in thigh-high water and mud.

Prices of basic commodities have skyrocketed, some up to 200 percent, according to MB missionary Joanna Chapa. “We are running low on basic needs like rice, clean drinking water and canned meat,” she says.

In an email to prayer supporters, Chapa describes devastation and desperation. “As we drive around, I’m amazed at the amount of damage that is around us—and they keep saying the water will keep coming,” she writes. “Pray we bring hope in Jesus.”


Churches are points of hope

Response to flooding over 30 years ago was a catalyst for the birth of the Peru MB Conference. According to an article in GAMEO, the online Anabaptist encyclopedia, MB Mission responded to flooding in northern Peru in 1983 by sending food, medicine and workers, which led to the formation of Bible studies and, eventually, the formation of the Mennonite Brethren Church of Peru, Iglesia Evangélica de los Hermanos Menonitas del Perú.

MB missionaries and church leaders are hoping to similarly spread the love of Christ as they respond to this disaster. “These churches are now points of hope and ministry in the affected neighborhood,” says Randy Friesen, general director of MB Mission. “This is another opportunity to practically live the gospel and communicate the love of Christ with our family in Peru.”

Chapa and fellow missionary Kuhns have been working alongside local church leaders to provide immediate relief. They have distributed over two tons of rice, 1,000 mosquito nets, 160 water filters and building supplies to churches and their communities.

When a family close to their ministry was stranded due to flood waters in nearby Catacaos, Chapa and Kuhns helped evacuate them. The Atarama family is well-known to many who have participated in short-term ACTION trips with MB Mission, since teams often host outreach events at that home. “Their house is a place of refuge for many and is certainly a beacon of light in the town,” writes Jessica Garcia, part of Chapa’s support team, in an email update.

Because the road to the town was submerged, initial attempts to reach the Ataramas failed, but the family was later able to make their way through the water to safety. They are now staying with Chapa and Kuhns.

“Seeing the people being pulled out of Catacaos is one I’ll never forget,” writes Chapa.

Chapa and Kuhns are also partnering with other organizations to provide support. On March 29, 2017, they worked with the Red Cross and the U.S. Navy to provide water and insect repellent to 250 families in Chato Chico who had been stranded on the top of a hill for three days, including the pastor of the Chato Chico MB Church and his family. Funds from supporters helped supply those needs.

Disaster response is expected to continue for some time. Rains are expected to continue at least through April, and even after the waters recede, disease risks and rebuilding challenges will remain.


How to help

Prayer is the first line of help for affected missionaries and churches. ICOMB’s Wiebe encourages USMB congregations to put Peru on prayer lists and make weekly reminders to pray. Specific requests include:

  • Pray for provision of food and clean water.
  • Pray for the health and safety of missionaries, church leaders and members.
  • Pray for unity among churches and organizations providing relief.
  • Pray for Antonio Garcia, president of the Peru MB Conference, as he leads through this difficult time.
  • Pray for the rains to end.

Chapa notes that long-term relief could include a need for teams to help with rebuilding. “Encourage your church to send a team,” she says.

MB Mission is actively assisting with emergency food relief and support for affected families. Donations are being accepted through the urgent relief fund, #C0140. Donate by clicking here and noting in the comments that the donation is for Peru. ICOMB is also accepting donations for this purpose. Donate through the ICOMB website and note that the funds are for Peru.

Photos provided by ICOMB.  





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