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Mission Peru 2020 (A Dad’s Perspective)
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By Mike Toth

Every two years West London Alliance Church takes a team of high school students to Trujillo, Peru, to assist a based mission team (Inca Link International) in ministering to local Peruvians. The students are involved in many activities, including work projects, teaching classes, leading worship, etc. My middle child, Benjamin, being a natural adventurer had been looking forward to this mission trip for years. On March 11, he got his wish and the team left for a grueling 8 hour flight followed by an 8-10 hour bus ride to get to Trujillo.

The trip is almost a rite of passage for the youth at West London. Many families have sent more than one child on these trips, as we probably will send our youngest on the 2022 trip (saying in faith!). For Ben, this trip was extra special as not only was one of his absolute best friends going but he plays high school football with the majority of the boys on that flight. Their flight made it safely into Lima, but on the bus ride to Trujillo the whole world changed.

On March 12th much of the world shut down as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Travel was restricted and gatherings over 50 people were banned. Suddenly, the team’s distance from Canada seemed to be insurmountable as flights were cancelled all over the world.

Fortunately, on the ground the youth were oblivious to world events. They had left their electronics at home and went out being both blessed and a blessing. They got to dig in to their construction projects, experience the local culture, and go to church.

Ben was thrilled he was able to go to the Trujillo garbage dump and spend some time with the kids who live there. While the youth were fulfilling their itinerary church leaders were in contact with Air Canada and government officials to ascertain what they should do in regard to getting home. Getting a flight earlier than their scheduled March 20 departure was impossible, then that flight, too, was cancelled. Peru then locked down, and the youth were isolated in at the compound that they had been staying in.

While the parents of the youth were of course concerned that their children were stranded south of the equator with no return date in sight, the youth were actually quite well looked after. The compound in which they were staying is well appointed and secure with a high wall, a deep well, regular deliveries of fresh food, and Peruvian cooks that made sure they ate quite well. From a quarantine standpoint they may have been better off there than at home with their families as there was less chance of exposure. We also able to talk to our children every couple of days via Facebook.

In Canada there was much work going on. Church leaders and parents were in contact with the Canadian government here and the embassy in Lima. Dave De Smit, the pastor in charge on the ground in Trujillo, appeared on CP24 news via Skype to make the team’s plight known. Several other media outlets, including CTV (Click HERE) , CBC (Click HERE) , and the London Free Press (Click HERE) picked up the story as well. It seemed like rumors changed hourly: There’s a flight tomorrow, Peru’s going to lock down for three months, for six months, etc.

While the leaders on the ground did a good job redeeming the unexpected time with a bunch of cooped up teenagers in the midst of all the uncertainty, the team that went to Peru to bless the local population expanded their ministry to bless people in the US and Canada as well. Almost every day, sometimes a couple of times a day, the group would broadcast their prayer/worship times. This was not simply a blessing to the families watching at home, but as the live worship was broadcast on Facebook many people who were not associated with any of the churches or ministries involved, including many non-Christians, were able to see the faith of the leaders and youth in action when it counted.

On March 26, about a week late, the group finally got on the bus for the long ride to Lima. They stayed overnight, then went to the Canadian Embassy for their tickets the next day and boarded the plane. They landed just before midnight in Toronto, and were home in London early in the morning on the 28th.

Much wonderful work has been done by the many churches that have been involved in the Mission Peru trips since the first in 2008. Of course, Ben is thrilled to have been a part of possibly the most unique one to this point. Praise God for His faithfulness in watching over the team and bringing them home safely.