Local couple seeks to aid Peru’s poor

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 19, 2007

LIMA, Peru – Situated on the Rimac River, the capital city of the South American nation of Peru is one of the country’s top 10 destination spots for tourists.

Unfortunately, the picturesque scenery of the coastal city of Lima hides a condition of poverty and desolateness that threaten to destabilize a nation that has seen more than enough of it’s share of violence.

Sunbury’s Vicki Hollowell and other members of House of Hope Ministries are putting their best foot forward to help many of those who have fallen victim to the endless cycle of hopelessness that has befallen many of those left behind from civil war and guerrilla style violence.

Hollowell and husband James are members of a vast network of volunteers who have assumed the role of international missionaries and made the effort to feed and teach many destitute children and other family members in the more impoverished areas of the capital city.

&uot;We started out with a mission to feed the children,&uot; Hollowell said. &uot;The effort has since grown into much more than that.&uot;

The Hollowells, members of Beulah Baptist Church in Sunbury, recently returned from the South American nation where their efforts to help Peruvians has evolved from providing food to hungry children to a full fledged Christian initiative.

&uot;Our group have become crusaders for Christ,&uot; Hollowell stated. &uot;We are trying to make a difference in the lives of these families who have been abandoned because of circumstances beyond their control.&uot;

Earlene Hartley of Chesapeake, VA, who founded House of Hope Ministries with husband Albert in 1999, said the number of children who have no stable housing and living conditions is partly the result of political violence.

&uot;Lima is home to untold numbers of street children who lost their parents to terrorists,&uot; Hartley said. &uot;Political violence in the region has run rampant for years.&uot;

Since the 1970’s, guerilla style fighting has occurred between the insurgency group ‘Shining Path’ and the government of Lima as peasants in the region looked to topple a regime that had created an economy perceived by many as oppressive.

&uot;Many people have been killed in the ongoing violence,&uot; Hollowell said. &uot;Peru has no welfare system or social programs designed to deal with the result of so many citizens being murdered.&uot;

Hollowell said there are untold numbers of children who have been orphaned due to the violence and there is no governmental relief.

&uot;Free public schools and things like food stamps are not available to these children,&uot; Hollowell said. &uot;The school system that does exist is also beset with corruption.&uot;

House of Hope began in modesty, feeding approximately 100 children every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

That number has swelled to over 2,000 today and the effort has included the construction of several facilities as well.

&uot;We have four facilities that double as feeding and community centers,&uot; Hollowell said. &uot;We also use the facilities to conduct bible studies and spread the word of Christ.&uot;

A recent letter Hollowell received from a team member living in Peru informs her that a ‘Vacation Bible School’ was averaging approximately 130-140 children per day.

On Hollowell’s February’s trip her group conducted dozens of baptisms.

&uot;There’s very little clean water available to the poor, so we rented a swimming pool for the baptisms,&uot; Hollowell said. &uot;We baptized about 80 people last month.&uot;

Hollowell said the monthly feeding budget alone for their non-profit organization approaches $6,000 per month, and the group has taken clothes, hygiene supplies, religious material and candy as part of their offerings.

As unstable as the region has been, Hartley said there have never been any fears from her or any of the hundreds of volunteers to continue their work in the foreign nation.

&uot;We like to think we are a lighthouse for Christ in the region,&uot; Hartley said. &uot;We are motivated by the great commission of the Bible which is to spread the word of the gospel to those who are in most need of it.&uot;

For more information on how you can help House of Hope Ministries, call Al or Earlene Hartley at (757) 482 – 0876.