A Mighty Fortress of Mercy
The LCMS is showing God’s love to children in Lima, Peru.
It takes time and patience, and the Lord has plenty of each. So does La Misión Luterana del Perú. Much of the work there starts with children — children who need love and care, children who need Jesus.
On the hard city streets of La Victoria, God is present with the children and adults He gathers at Castillo Fuerte (which means “Mighty Fortress”). He is the Castillo Fuerte for the children gathered together in the dusty cerros (“foothills”) of San Juan de Lurigancho. He is the Casa Misericordia (“House of Mercy”) for the little children whose parents are trying to start over in Chorrillos.
Rescuing them from poverty is not the mission, nor is the goal to bring a different culture. “Teaching children the love of Christ through Bible study, the Catechism and daily chapel,” says the Rev. Eddie Hosch, a career missionary through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), “that’s really what we are doing as we also meet their physical needs.”
God is at work in these districts of Lima, Peru. LCMS missionaries work tirelessly to bring the Good News of Jesus to the people of this South American city, thanks to the donations and prayers of Christians in LCMS congregations.
Lima is one of the largest cities in the Americas. Roughly 10 million people live there, which means that Lima contains one-third of Peru’s population. Lima is a Roman Catholic city, but as is all too common today, few people are active in their faith. The LCMS Office of International Mission works to ensure that people hear the Good News that changes lives.
A Refuge for Children
The staff of the LCMS’ Lima mission teach children the faith through Castillo Fuerte: Casa de Misericordia, with the hope that the children will hear and believe and, as a result, their parents will hear from their children and come to learn as well. The children bear witness to Jesus in their community and schools as well as in their homes.
“God is our refuge and strength” (Ps. 46:1). Castillo Fuerte is a refuge for children who need a safe place. Each Castillo Fuerte location offers food, care, tutoring and, most importantly, Jesus.
“Castillo Fuerte is needed because parents are often in a situation in which they are unable to provide for their children,” Hosch explains. “We provide that in a place where they are cared for and loved. But most importantly, we provide the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Castillo Fuerte is also a Casa de Misericordia (House of Mercy). “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4–5).
“We provide more than just a safe place,” Hosch notes. “Each Castillo Fuerte is also a Casa de Misericordia, where the kids come in after school for after-school help, chapel every day and 15 minutes of Bible stories. As they continue to grow, we bring them into confirmation where they memorize the catechism.”
Currently, there are three Castillo Fuerte sites throughout Lima: La Victoria, San Juan de Lurigancho and Chorillos. La Victoria and San Juan de Lurigancho also are church plants, and Chorillos is working toward offering confirmation classes and further Christian education opportunities. The mission also operates two other locations in Lima: San Borja, which houses the mission office, a church plant and a teaching center; and Los Olivos, which hosts a congregation.
“It is very exciting to see how well the children know their catechism and that they are excited about it,” observes Deaconess Jacqueline Duke, another LCMS career missionary to Peru, reflecting on the children at Castillo Fuerte. “They come to worship by themselves. We hope their parents will see their excitement and come also. Even now, some of their parents are starting to learn the catechism.”
In San Juan de Lurigancho
The journey to Castillo Fuerte San Juan de Lurigancho requires a public train packed with Peruvians, a public bus that haphazardly weaves in and out of traffic, and a motorcycle converted into a people transport.
And then the adventure begins. Even the makeshift transports can’t ascend the hill. The unpaved rocky dirt “road” reflects the government’s refusal to recognize the neighborhood’s existence. Dusty roads filled with chickens, stray dogs and garbage head straight up the side of the mountain in the middle of the cerros.
After the long ride and the arduous ascent, covered in dust and with burning legs, Hosch finally arrives at Castillo Fuerte San Juan de Lurigancho. Children whose lives are defined by their environment of poverty and, in many cases, dysfunction run to their pastor for a hug, a high-five or even a quick dance. He is their pastor, not because they belong to his church, but because he teaches them the Word of God.
On Tuesdays, Hosch holds Divine Service for the community of San Juan de Lurigancho. The vast majority of his congregation are children, including teenagers and young adults. They come without their parents and by their own choice. Due to the lack of instruments and musicians, the children have learned to sing the liturgy a cappella.
In the midst of the dust and the struggles of life in the cerros, Jesus is present. In His Word. In His Supper. In His body. Just as He promised. And He is pleased to be present with His children.
In La Victoria
On Saturday evenings, the Divine Service is held at Castillo Fuerte, La Victoria. The rest of the week, this Castillo Fuerte location offers safe and affordable care with a focus on Jesus to children whose parents work in the nearby Gamarra textile district and can’t afford to send their children to a safe place during the day.
Nov. 4, 2017, was a significant day at the mission — confirmation, complete with cake and cookies afterward.
Victoria, Naomi, Siomi and Margiory stood in front of the altar and confessed Christ to the Church and the whole world. These four young ladies made up the first youth confirmation class at Castillo Fuerte, La Victoria. They were joined by two adult confirmands, Walter Fernando and Laura Consuelo.
Hosch could not contain his joy as he confirmed each person into the Lutheran church. The same joy was reflected in the confirmands.
“I’m very happy,” says Fernando, who was confirmed with his two daughters, Victoria and Naomi. Fernando explained that his daughters’ involvement at Castillo Fuerte led him to attend church. He says that when he saw them reading the Bible and learning more about Jesus, he “wanted to learn more about the Gospel.”
“I am so happy, because I am God’s daughter,” says Consuelo, who helps with teaching English at the mission in La Victoria. Smiling from ear to ear, she also expressed her joy in being confirmed. “To be here in the Lutheran church is very important to me.”
The evening highlighted both the blessings and struggles of mission work. The juxtaposition of childlike faith and the influence of the community was obvious.
Before worship, at the adult Bible study, one woman spoke her mind. She doesn’t believe hell can exist, she said, because she thinks that all people are basically good.
Upstairs, girls prepared to receive Holy Communion for the first time. One of the girls sat patiently as her hair was being curled. Another was nervous and excited as she played with her white dress.
Outside on the street, a man dug through trash as he competed with the street dog for daily bread.
But the doors remained open. Even though the street noise is distracting, with its barking dogs and car alarms, the open door affords visibility as people witness the worship and hear the singing. The Lutheran liturgy rings out from this group into the neighborhood.
A young girl looked longingly as her sister received communion for the first time. A new generation desiring Word and Sacrament. Even in their youth, the young people of Castillo Fuerte are witnessing to the love of Christ to their peers, their siblings and even their parents.
“Naomi is our little evangelist,” says Deaconess Caitlin Worden de Ramírez, an LCMS career missionary to Peru. “She’s always telling others about her faith and inviting them to church and to Castillo Fuerte.”
And the cold air flowed in, as did the sound of the traffic on the street. People coming and going from the clothes factory that shares the building opened and closed doors and talked. The sounds of the city were as prevalent inside the sanctuary as the music sung by the congregation.
Many would consider the noises a distraction. Many would close the doors to keep the cool air out. But the Word of the Lord permeates this neighborhood. It is a word of repentance, mercy, hope and love. It is the message of the cross and the empty tomb. It is the Word of God to Lima, Peru, and to the whole world.
Across the street from Castillo Fuerte, Krochet Kids works with young mothers to help them get back on their feet. Krochet Kids assists mothers — primarily in single-parent families — who have experienced hardships and made poor decisions.
By the time the young mothers complete Krochet Kids, they have learned the life skills necessary to get a job, manage their finances and make better life decisions. They are equipped to start over again.
Recently, at a ceremony celebrating their completion of the Krochet Kids course, the majority of the women said they couldn’t have done it without also having Castillo Fuerte to provide a safe place for their children to go that is only a few steps away. They don’t have to worry about where their children are while they learn life skills that will enable them to provide for themselves and their children in the future.
In Chorillos, the children range in age from infants to middle-schoolers. Thus, Castillo Fuerte provides different kinds of care. Some children stay all day, while others come before or after school.
While the children are at Castillo Fuerte, they learn academics, but they also learn about God’s love for them in Christ.
Castillo Fuerte: Casa de Misericordia. A Mighty Fortress: A House of Mercy. That’s exactly what this is: a safe place where God’s mercy is available. In Jesus’ name.
“I love the kids. Everywhere,” says Hosch. “The opportunities here are huge to share the Gospel in a simple way: a lunch, a hug, friendship. All allowing us to teach the children the Word of God.”
The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises, but patient. And so the LCMS mission in Peru works with the children of the underprivileged and the disadvantaged. They work with the prayer that the Word of God will produce faith in this generation’s children and their parents. They work with the hope that these children will grow up to bring their children to Baptism and communion. They work with those who need Christ’s love and mercy. They work with those who need forgiveness. They work to show mercy. And the children of Lima need it all, just like we all do.
Listen to Lutheran worship in Lima
Pray with Us
Heavenly Father, You are a mighty fortress and a refuge and strength. Be with the children who need protection and provision. Bless those who work to care for them, and enable their parents to fulfill their vocations. You, O Lord, are a God of mercy. Grant faith and forgiveness to all who hear Your Word through the work in Lima. Bless the missionaries and all who share the love of Christ. Hear us for His sake. Amen.
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