We asked Emily if she would be willing to expound on her experiences with us in Peru so that we could share them with you. Our organization is grateful to highlight this testimony and to illustrate the impact that Christ has on our lives as we love and are loved by these boys.
Thank you Emily for the openness, willingness and passion you have for Christ and the boys in Iquitos; you are a wonderful part of our ministry!
I was in my Adult Bible Fellowship class at my home church, First Bible Church ofDecatur, when I first heard about the Not Forgotten ministry. It was there I learned about these precious Peruvian boys that desperately need to know they have not ever been forgotten and they will not ever be forgotten. I immediately felt a desire within me to go to visit these boys and bring them the Good News. I prayed daily that if it were God’s will for me to go on this trip, He would provide the money for me to go. I am a single mom to my daughter Lenox, a full-time college student, and I do not have a full-time job. I knew I could not afford to go myself, but I trusted God would provide the way for me if it were His will for me to go. I wrote support letters and the money came pouring in from fellow believers eager to support the furthering of the Great Commission. And just like that, I was off to Peru. I find when I am describing my trips to Peru that words are inadequate and can only partially explain the emotions, revelations, and truths within my heart.
It was emotionally gratifying to get to be part of the first team to break the land where Not Forgotten’s own future orphanage will be. Of all the many ways this first trip there changed my life, these three results were the most important:
- One- I learned that God does not need me but instead, he chooses to use me. God’s work is going to happen in Peru, and everywhere else on earth for that matter, whether I choose to take part in it or not. It is humbling that God would choose to use a wretched sinner like me to further his kingdom. God used the testimony of my own brokenness and sin to show these boys what God’s grace and forgiveness looks like.
- Two- I experienced forgiveness. I had been at a place in my life where I knew the hatred I had towards my daughter’s father ever since he abandoned her was keeping me from comfortable communion with Christ. I had been praying and working the principles at Celebrate Recovery for months and months with the hope of cleansing myself of the hate I had for him. For some reason, it took me going to Peru to be able to fully forgive him. It took God opening my eyes to these precious boys who have it ten thousand times worse than I do to realize that I, too, could overcome the burdens of my own life. It took me building relationships with a couple of my Spiritually mature team members in order for me to finally see examples of forgiveness that were right in front of me. I remember the week I got home from Peru, after I had a discussion with my mom about forgiveness; I was driving in my car and kept hearing, “How many times have I forgiven you, Emily? How many times?” With tears flowing, I felt the Spirit completely relieve me of that burden I had been carrying for so long. It was finally over, Christ already died for that. I’ve never felt so free. God used Peru to do that for me.
- Three- I was consumed with a deep, fierce love for those Peruvian boys. I knew in my heart I would be going back.
My second trip to Peru, during the summer of 2013, was an even richer experience than my first one. I had already met these boys. I had already fallen in love with them. I already knew that lasting friendships with team members would be created as a result of our experiences together this week. All I had to do was dive in.
During this trip I was able to deepen my existing relationships with many of the boys of Scripture Union’s orphanages in Puerta Alegria, which is smack-dab in the Amazon jungle, and in the city of Iquitos. Once again I experienced the truth that God’s love breaks all language barriers. Nothing can hold back Christ’s love from being displayed. You know how parents claim you’ll never experience a love so strong as when you hold your child in your arms for the first time? And those who are not parents do not get it? Well, unless you have gone where I have and met these boys for yourselves, spent time with them, and opened your hearts to them, you cannot know. You cannot even imagine how much we love these boys, boys who speak a different primary language and have a different culture than us. It is unreal how much of our hearts they manage to steal in such a short amount of time..
This trip, I was mesmerized by the beauty of Christ and of his creation, most notably—the jungle. Even among the poverty and heartbreak, God’s glory still shines. Psalm 19:1-4 has never been so true for me, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world…”
I asked some of the older boys to highlight their favorite bible verse in my bible. One of them highlighted Isaiah 43:1-2, “But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel; ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” When I read what he had marked and I paused to look around and study the faces of these older boys, I saw this verse in a whole new light. I thought about what they had been through; I viewed the scars some of them walk around with. I had tasted a little bit of the life they live through my two trips here. As a result of all of this, I have never been more encouraged. Though not all the boys here have relationships with Christ, some of them do, thanks to God’s grace, the Christian Peruvian leadership in their orphanages, and mission teams that come here. The fact that one of these young men was able to acclaim this verse over his life is breathtaking. These boys have surely passed through the waters. They have walked through the fire. But they are not burning. God is lifting them up and setting them free in Christ. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.” I pray God will redeem the entire nation of Peru, starting with these boys right here. I know he can and I believe he will.
I have come away from my experiences in Peru with a spirit more giving, a heart more compassionate, and a mind that thinks moreBiblically. I have found myself becoming less materialistic and more dependent on Christ. Just as these Peruvian boys are engraved on the palms of God’s hands (Isaiah 49:16), they have been forever engraved in my heart. Even my two and a half year old daughter knows about my “Peruvian babies.” God is using this ministry, started by passionate young people, in mighty ways. I am so grateful to be a part of what they are doing in Peru and in turn, I am grateful for what it has done in my life. To God be the glory!
-Emily Reeves of Decatur, Alabama