During COVID-19, Peruvian Calvary Chapels Feed Desperate Countrymen and Refugees
Story by Carmel Flippen
Photos courtesy Calvary Bible Institute Peru
As the coronavirus pandemic has swept the globe, Peru has experienced some of the world’s most stringent lockdowns. Around 40% of the population has not received a paycheck since the virus spread. Many Venezuelan refugees and Peruvians are in danger of starvation. Calvary Trujillo, Peru, pastored by American Calvary Chapel missionary Cory Kilgus, has provided large bags of goods to those in desperate need.
This story originally ran in May 2020. A three-part update will run soon.
Calvary Trujillo church members were greatly moved by the responses they received when delivering food. For many families, the weekly delivery is the only thing between them and starvation. Some were so desperately hungry that they grabbed the bag and ran directly to the kitchen. Pastor Cory Kilgus has received many notes of heartfelt thanks for the food distribution ministry, which has become known as Bolsas de Amor, or Bags of Love.
Volunteers help Bolsas de Amor (Bags of Love), a ministry of Calvary Trujillo, Peru, prepare food for those starving in Peru.
After receiving formula for her newborn as well as several bags of food, one woman wrote, “Thank you! More than just the food, His Word has touched the heart of my husband and comforted my soul.” One young Venezuelan man declared, “I thank God, and all of you! God is using you as His instruments to help and bless those in need.”
Before the pandemic struck, Calvary Trujillo, a two-year-old church plant on Peru’s north coast, had already been partnering with nearby Calvary Bible Institute (CBI), Peru, to feed the hungry. (CBI is a one-year ministry preparation program, birthed out of Joshua Springs CC, CA.) About half of Calvary Trujillo’s nearly 100-person fellowship—including five of CBI’s six live-in students—are Venezuelan refugees. The church knew that many refugees in their congregation and community were already struggling to make ends meet; once quarantined, their lives were in jeopardy. They expanded Bags of Love to meet the growing need. Pastor Cory declared, “Throughout history, difficulty has not defeated the church, but rather witnessed her jump into action where needed most. That same thing is happening today in Peru.”
A child helps Pastor Cory Kilgus, director of CBI Peru, in preparing food for Bags of Love.
The Bags of Love are filled with beans, rice, oatmeal, and other essential items. CBI is delivering about 400 pounds of food per week along with other necessities, mostly via foot or bicycle. “Whether it is seeing the face of a child realizing that God is providing for them, or witnessing mothers receive formula and clothing for their newborn child, everything is done in the name of Jesus Christ,” Cory reported. “Each family receives encouragement and prayer.”
Treasure in a Trash Dump
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:40
Roughly half of each week’s food is distributed to refugees; the rest is delivered to a Peruvian slum. Built on top of a trash dump, the slum has no running water or bathrooms. Children play in puddles polluted with human waste. Before quarantine, they looked forward to special days several times per month when a bus would arrive from Calvary Trujillo. Christians would clean them up, feed them lunch, and bring them to the church. Cory misses seeing the bus pulling up, and 40 smiling children pouring out, excited to learn about Jesus. Until ministry can begin again, the Bags of Love are a reminder that their church family is still waiting for them.
A volunteer sorts fresh produce for hungry families. Many of those in desperate need are refugees from Venezuela.
From Refugee to Rescuer
“I love this ministry,” said CBI student Yeni Pacheco, “because each family gets to see the love of God in a practical way, and they know this comes from Him and not us.” Yeni and her husband Angel, also a CBI student, coordinate the Bags of Love ministry. Many of those now coordinating relief efforts are the same refugees who arrived from Venezuela a few years ago, needing help.
Students from Calvary Bible Institute Peru work alongside attendees of Calvary Trujillo.
While the Pachecos were already believers before leaving Venezuela, their faith caught fire at Calvary Trujillo. They were the first candidates for its discipleship house, a Christian community which was the precursor to CBI. While Cory had hoped to begin a Bible institute, the Pachecos’ commitment to study the Bible full-time was part of the impetus for CBI’s launch. They believe they are called to be church planters in Venezuela. They want to prepare themselves at CBI before returning to their country with the Gospel.
Assistant Pastor Ryan Heinz of Calvary Trujillo, Peru, (background, green shirt) helps pack bags of food.
For Such a Time as This
And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” John 6:35
A decade ago, when Cory felt the call to missions, he thought he knew his destination—Chile. Yet he felt that God made it abundantly clear that he should go to Calvary Chapel Bible College Peru in Cajamarca. Soon after arriving, he informed Director John Bonner that he would only be there a short time before leaving for Chile. John just smiled and said, “Well, we’ll see what God does.” Eventually, Cory saw that God wanted the Kilguses in Trujillo—though they had no idea why. Soon after they arrived, the city flooded with Venezuelan refugees—what Cory thought were detours had placed him perfectly to respond to a need only God knew was coming.
Since Calvary Trujillo’s first, small service two years ago, many Peruvians and Venezuelans have come to faith. The church and CBI Peru work side by side to offer biblical training and real-world ministry opportunities with the goal of preparing the next generation of ministers in Latin America. Ultimately, Cory dreams that some of CBI’s students will be able to start another Bible institute in Venezuela.
A volunteer from Calvary Trujillo prepares to make a food delivery. A strict lockdown has left the streets of Peru empty and brought many struggling families to the brink of starvation.
Venezuelans Alessandra and Gabriel Gutierrez, a sister and brother, related how they felt God tell them that they must leave Venezuela, but not why or where to go. They drifted purposelessly for two years before running out of resources in Trujillo. They felt discouraged, confused, and most of all, stuck. Gabriel met Cory, who shared his own story. “I told them, ‘God led me here because He wanted me to disciple Venezuelan refugees; I think that you are two of them,’” Cory remembered. “The brother and sister broke down crying because they realized, after years of difficulty, that God did indeed have a plan for them.”
The Gutierrezes committed to CBI just barely in time to start its inaugural semester. Now, Alessandra writes a note of encouragement to tuck into each Bag of Love. Rather than printing off the same message for everyone, she takes the time to pray for each family, and lets the Holy Spirit guide which Bible verse and personal message they need. She is well-equipped to encourage, as she has seen in her own story that when circumstances seem darkest, God’s good plan is often just about to be revealed.
Bolsas de Amor (Bags of Love), a ministry of Calvary Trujillo, Peru, perpares 400 pounds of food per week for those starving in Peru.
Calvary Lima and Calvary Chapel Pachacutec joined forces, working with food banks to deliver provisions. Missionaries from CC Cajabamba have provided health-care workers with food and protective equipment. Calvary Chapels in Cusco—a tourist town where most have been without work more than two months—launched their own program last week and are amazed at how food supplies are multiplying.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.