The first thing Aaron Coe noticed after landing in Lima, Peru was the sheer volume of people.
“It’s a city of 11 million people,” Aaron commented. “Driving on your way from the airport to the hotel, you’d notice vans had been converted to buses and were holding 15-20 people. You’re just aware of the fact that you’re in a densely populated area.”
The population density of Lima impacts the region’s poverty, which is the reason Aaron traveled with six American pastors to Peru. Aaron leads an initiative with Food for the Hungry (FH) which invites churches and businesses to partner with FH by entering a Community-to-Community partnership, allowing an organization to walk alongside a specific community as they seek to graduate from poverty over an 8-10 year period. “We’re excited to have kicked off our first season of Vision Trips for the year,” Aaron explained. “Vision Trips allow church and business leaders to engage with the life-changing work first-hand as they are exploring ways to partner with FH, and each trip is hosted by a Catalyst Leader who is committed to mobilizing his sphere of influence to join with FH to end poverty.”
Brown Hills and Vibrant People
“There are adobe houses up and down the hillside,” Aaron said. “You don’t know where one ends and another begins.”
On their trip to Peru, Aaron and his team drove to the outskirts of Lima where residents make their homes on steep mountainsides. “These are people coming from rural areas to find job opportunities in the city,” he said. “It was as far as the eye could see once you got in there, community after community. There are little adobe houses up and down the hillside. You don’t know where one ends and another begins.”
“The land is desolate,” Aaron said, reflecting on the landscape. “There are no trees and it’s very dusty and dry. But then you step into the community center!”
FH works with local communities to develop community centers where adults and children can learn and grow. “They welcomed us with the most colorful balloons and beautiful, vibrant fruit,” Aaron said. “The barrenness of the land simply did not depict the people. They overflow with joy and hospitality, and they care about their community and what they are building for their generation and the next generation.”
Overcoming Domestic Violence
“They welcomed us with the most colorful balloons and beautiful, vibrant fruit,” Aaron said. “The barrenness of the land simply did not depict the people.”
FH staff have spent years observing and listening to communities. From their studies, they discovered that domestic violence is a pervasive problem in these communities on the outskirts of Lima. As a result, preventing domestic violence has become a strong focus area.
“We heard from a woman who grew up in a violent home, and then had a lot of conflict with her husband, which she was passing on to her children,” Aaron explained. “Thanks to FH, she now understands just how damaging that is and that there is a different way to resolve conflict and show love to one another. Now she is a leader in the community and goes door to door helping women identify domestic violence.”
Stages of Partnership
Aaron explained that an American church can begin a partnership with a community that is at any of the three stages of the partnership. “At the very beginning, the community leadership is being established and you spend time understanding the needs of the community,” he said.
“In Stage Two, you see a plan of action take shape. We implement programs that focus on health and livelihood. In Stage Three, you’re building community centers and addressing spiritual development, schools and programs that help families thrive, not just survive.”
Churches can get plugged into FH programs by committing to a partnership with a community in Latin America, Asia or Africa. “The mutual transformation that takes place for a church or business alongside a community is what’s powerful,” Aaron said. “We’re expectant for what’s ahead as organizations learn about this opportunity.”
Ready to learn more or take the next step? Read about other churches’ experiences with FH, or visit our Church Partnerships page and fill out a contact form.