20 years after 1997 flood, faithful send relief following devastation in Peru

by Todd Mickelson | Friends of Chimbote

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A women examines the damage to her home after the flooding and mudslides that began in Chimbote, Peru in March. (submitted photo)

The Mission of serving the poor of Chimbote, Peru is now in its fifth decade. Tens of thousands of lives of benefactors and recipients have been forever changed. Donors, mission visitors and volunteers have walked the path of Christ to serve the least of our brothers and sisters in Chimbote as did the founders of Friends of Chimbote, Father Jack Davis and Sister Peggy Byrne, both of the Fargo Diocese.

While separated by 4,000 miles, language and culture, we have cared for each other as members of the same family. The recent devastating rains and floods in Chimbote and the coastal desert in Peru were the worst in over 40 years. Tens of thousands of homes were lost including all of the meager belongings of the poorest we serve.

Amidst this catastrophe, the story of love, compassion and solidarity emerged of what occurred when Grand Forks flooded in 1997. When the Chimbotans were asked to pray for the people of Grand Forks, ardent supporters of the Mission, the poor of the barrios wanted to do something more. They raised money and bought two cases of sardines, a Peruvian staple, that were delivered to Holy Family Church in Grand Forks.

The compassionate act of the Chimbote people to send canned sardines in support of their friends was confirmed to me on Holy Thursday by parishioners of Holy Family. As I contemplated this during Mass that evening, the miracles of Christ in his public ministry and the disciples came to mind.

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Parishioners of Holy Rosary Church in LaMoure assembled 40 boxes of baby supplies, 60 school backpacks and 60 boxes of home supplies for those affected by the flood. (submitted photo)

When the multitudes gathered to hear Christ and tobring him their sick and hurting, the day grew late. There was nothing to eat except five loaves and two fishes. He told the disciples to go and feed the people. After giving thanks to God, the loaves and fishes fed over 5,000 men plus women and children, a great multitude, with baskets of food left over.

The people of Chimbote need our help. One of those cans of sardines from 1997 was recently sent to our Friends of Chimbote office. Can we multiply the can of sardines into a basket of goods for the devastated people of Chimbote? As the hands and feet of Christ, I believe we can.

The efforts are underway. Nativity Church in Fargo, who has supported the Mission with monthly financial gifts for decades had a special collection on Holy Thursday, and raised $10,000 including a match from their Care and Share Ministry and a generous parishioner. The funds from the Carrington Knights of Columbus annual supper will feed people through our Mission soup kitchens. St. Michael’s Church in Prior Lake, Minn. raised significant funds to rebuild homes. Holy Family Church in Grand Forks is organizing fundraisers.

We are also putting together an emergency container to ship to Chimbote in addition to our annual fall container. Home in Boxes, Baby Bundles and School in Bags have been assembled by Mary Ann and Darwin Bitz and parishioners of Holy Rosary Church of LaMoure. Quilts are being made and provided by Pastor Becky Lee’s congregation at Atonement Lutheran in Fargo. Helen Geinert, 93, from Holy Spirit Church in Nortonville is making blankets and rosaries in continuation of her 20 years of service.

The basket of goods is multiplying. If you would like to help, our Mission workers are serving every day in Chimbote to bring comfort and relief to the very poor who have no government help like our FEMA in their recovery. Your financial help, assembling of kits for a container shipment and prayers are all in great need. You can learn more, contact us or make a donation at our website at friendsofchimbote.org or (701) 364-0162.