Throughout the pandemic, churches have celebrated the power of online services. People who would never have set foot in a church could casually hop online for a bit of hope.
But for people in the community of Ciudad de Dios, going online for church is an impossible luxury.
Located on the outskirts of Arequipa, Peru, the neighborhood is made of people working simple jobs with meager wages. Any internet access comes in the form of cell phone data. And with schools online during COVID-19, families have had to use most of their data for their children’s educations.
Now, well into 2021, Peru is still under heavy pandemic restrictions.
So, how do you hold church in a community where people can’t go to a physical church, and online church is impossible?
If you’re the Christian Bible Church of Cuidad de Dios, you bring the church to people’s front doors.
Taking Church Door-to-Door
Like the neighborhood it sits in, Christian Bible Church (or Iglesia Biblica Cristiana) is a modest community. Before the pandemic, they had a regular attendance of 10 adults and 30 to 40 kids.
“Adults … love to send their kids to church, whether that’d be a free babysitter or whether that be because they really want their kids to grow in the knowledge of the Bible,” says TEAM missionary Jason Sheets.
Rather than lament a lack of adults, the church chose to focus on the flock God had given them. The Peruvian staff, along with Jason and his wife, Sarah, built up their children’s program. They taught Sunday school, prepared meals and visited children’s homes.
But when COVID-19 hit, Peru went under heavy lockdown orders. Regular church ministry had to stop.
Because most people in Ciudad de Dios can’t perform their jobs online, the lockdown put them out of work entirely. Christian Bible Church quickly realized there was a vital need for food relief — and providing it would let them keep ministering to local children.
“We went every other week or so, … and we met the parents of these kids,” Jason says. “We met their older siblings. We met their entire family because everyone was stuck at home.”
Growing through Peruvian Efforts
As word spread about the church’s efforts, other churches started sending donations. Some funding came from the U.S., but local churches also saw an incredible opportunity to get involved.
With the additional funds, Christian Bible Church put together more food packets, visiting up to 200 families during each outreach. One Peruvian believer donated an oxygen tank. Another paid for a nurse to go into the community and check on patients every day.
The impact of Peruvians serving other Peruvians has been powerful.
“They speak the same heart language, and they understand each other at a deeper level,” Sarah says. And when wealthier Peruvians serve the marginalized, she says, “They’re crossing a huge cultural boundary that … wouldn’t have been cross without Christ.”
Like many churches, Christian Bible started holding Zoom meetings. Very few local people had the internet access they needed to attend, but most do have DVD players.
The team made DVDs of teachings from Peruvian believers and handed them out along with the food.
“People loved getting those discs, and they were like, ‘We’ve watched it like five times. Do you have another one?’” Sarah says.
Seeing God’s Provision
For some people, the church visits have felt miraculous.
One woman, Jaquelin, shared how she, her daughters and her elderly father ran out of food. Desperate, they began to pray. That same day, a Peruvian believer knocked on their door with a bag of food.
In that moment, Jaquelin says she understood that God hadn’t abandoned her — that He knows and cares for her family’s needs.
Like many recipients, Jaquelin also promised to come to church when it’s allowed to reopen. It’s impossible to know yet how many will keep that promise. Still, the church rejoices that so many have come to realize God’s love and care for them.
Trusting God for the Future
As 2020 began, Christian Bible Church had just started a five-year plan. Now, that plan has been thrown out the window.
As churches looked to streaming services to save them, Jason’s team had to find other options.
And yet, this small, humble church isn’t discouraged.
“I’ve just learned that regardless of circumstances, that God is faithful to His Church and that it doesn’t really depend on me or my strategy,” Jason says. “It really depends on Him and what He desires to do and how He desires to do it.”
Please pray with us for believers in Peru and other nations under pandemic restrictions. Pray for good health, and ask God to grant them wisdom and favor as they serve Him.