Houston Baptists transform lives in Peru
Operación San Andrés began as a medical mission to Peru but has become more in almost a decade of existence.
By Jeff Brumley
There’s what people can imagine, Houston cardiologist Luis Campos says, and then there’s what God can imagine.
“At the beginning we were totally ignorant of what it meant to create a ministry to people in extreme poverty,” Campos said. “I thought we were going to go in there and have a little medical clinic and help people.”
And that is what Campos and 15 other short-term medical missionaries did in 2003 during their first visit to Collique, a shantytown located outside Lima.
But a subsequent decision to keep going back to that community transformed the ministry into a base of operations supported by hundreds of visiting and full-time missionaries from Texas, other states and parts of Europe.
“And little by little,” Campos said, “this community has been transformed.”
‘It was providential’
Vince Smith, a friend of Campos and member of the South Main Sunday school class that created the ministry, said there was an early conversation on whether or not to return to Collique.
“I think it was providential that the decision was made to keep going back to this place to establish relationships,” he said.
Partnerships with Baptist, Lutheran and Catholic churches have since been formed, according to OSA’s web site.
The Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger is listed as a supporter as is the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which has two missionaries serving at the ministry's base in Collique.
The ministry has expanded its offerings, too. Besides making two medical trips a year, it has a team of social workers and psychologists and offers feeding, marriage counseling, construction, athletic and other programs year-round.
That consistency benefits volunteers like Smith, who leaves for his eighth mission trip to Peru on Oct. 5.
“There are several people I would identify as real friends,” he said.
‘Introduce them to Christ’
The benefit of making repeated trips to the same place is seeing spiritual and physical seeds blossom, said Susan Moore, South Main’s ministry coordinator.
Moore, who leaves for her 11th visit on Oct. 5, said it’s especially powerful to see children she began working with on her first trip become teens and adults.
“When I first started going and working with the children they were malnourished,” she said. “Now we can see such a difference in the children and how they’ve grown and flourished.”
It’s a similar story in regard to faith. Many in Collique either are not Christians or have very tenuous connections to any religious groups.
She leads vacation Bible schools and helps with home Bible studies to provide children and families a biblical foundation for their faith.
“Are we trying to make these children good little Baptists? Certainly not,” she said. “But everything we do is permeated by a strong desire to introduce them to Christ.”
Campos shares that motive because he was helped by European missionaries as a boy growing up in Peru.
But he’s also driven now by the knowledge that the ministry can become much more than it is now.
Plans for the next decade include preventative health care programs, a ministry for unwed teens, education programs and helping local residents better run existing businesses, or start new ones.
“I also dream of cooking classes and maybe businesses making and selling pizza,” Campos said.
Combined with religious education, such programs can convince those living under the oppression of poverty that God does care about them.
“That changes the way they live,” he said. “That’s transformation.”
© 2013 Associated Baptist Press, Inc.