The church is stepping up to care for society’s most vulnerable and often overlooked people groups, especially during the pandemic.
In a COVID-19 report, BBC News noted, “The latest figures out of Peru mean its death rate per capita is now one of the highest, if not the highest, in the world.”
Still in the grip of the pandemic, Peru’s capital and other ‘very high alert’ areas have a curfew, and businesses must close no less than three hours before the curfew hour. Other towns with less severe infection rates have slightly more relaxed curfew instructions, but residents are still living side-by-side with rampant infection and restrictions.
This ongoing burden of death, anxiety and economic stalling has been hard for everyone to bear, but it falls with particular heaviness on the elderly. For those who are widowed, the impact has been even harsher.
Honoring the Widow and Elderly
Neyda Amelis de Pina is seventy years old and has been a widow for five years. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which has set several challenges in her path as she works to provide for herself. She often hires out her services in the marketplace, helping to slice vegetables, organize fruits or bargain with customers.
Marketplaces are huge hubs of daily life in Peru. Most families don’t have refrigerators, or irregular electricity to their homes means that those who do own the appliance can’t always trust it to keep food cold.
In the past, this has ensured that Neyda could find day labor jobs there and provide for her basic necessities. The pandemic, however, has made her anxious about going out, and she unfortunately lost her home. She is currently living in someone else’s house as a caretaker. She heard about World Challenge’s partners who support widows who don’t have family members to rely on, and she joined the program. Now she receives some foodstuffs and little basic necessities from our team.
“She has no professing religion,” one team member explained, “but she does have a desire to know more about the one true God. Our hope is that she would enter into a real relationship with the Lord and know Him as her provider in these very trying times. Please pray for this widow. She is very poor and has no home or family.”
The team strives to obey Paul’s instructions to the early church, “Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God” (1 Timothy 5:3, ESV).
For some widows, this means helping them repair relationships with children or grandchildren who can support them. For others like Neyda, the church team is becoming their family.
Considering a Precarious Future
Since January 31st, Peru has gone into another regional lockdown due to a second wave of COVID-19. The team has not been allowed to have church services or formally meet, but they continue to serve and love the widows in their program throughout the cities of Chinchero, Iquitos and Cusco. They deliver food baskets and short devotionals to encourage these dear ladies.
The percentage of widows has sadly grown due to this virus, and the team is looking at how to best help their community. Many of these widows are young and have had little education to help them overcome the lack of work and faltering economy.
“Thank the Lord they have continued to be able to receive their biweekly food baskets,” the team shared with us. “Thank you for your continued prayers for these widows. We are so grateful for all of your support.”