By S M Chen, posted Jan 6, 2016
‘… Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.’ – Matthew 25:40
I admit to not being particularly adept at geography (somehow managed to miss the subject in grade school), but have always been somewhat visual, and learned, as a preschooler, to identify certain places, including some countries and states of the USA by their imagined shapes, both inanimate and animate.
Florida, for example, was a pistol, gun barrel pointing toward the left/west.
South America in particular lent itself to animal association; it was no coincidence that the zoo was a favorite place to visit as a child.
Brazil I thought to be a (perhaps shivering) foreshortened moose, huddled into itself, nose/snout pointing left/west. And Venezuela a smaller (perhaps triumphant) elephant, trunk uplifted on its western border.
Peru? Peru was a kind of bear, using its right front paw to cling to something (such as a large tree trunk), ear upturned, head turned to its left (east/right, as we view a map), bottom resting against Bolivia and Chile. Its tongue seemed to be protruding.
Some of the above associations may admittedly require a stretch; I don’t know if anyone else saw things as I did, but it really doesn’t matter. At least it helped me (and still does) remember some states and a few of the almost 200 countries of the world.
A brother invited me on a humanitarian trip to Peru in 2005. Invited by a friend, he helped build a church with Maranatha on the outskirts of Lima, and both of us helped paint churches with a Christian group thereafter. The trip, during which I was able to immerse myself in a different culture, albeit briefly, and use words of a language in which I was far from fluent, was a highlight that year.
So it was with some interest that I recently encountered something that happened in Ferreñafe. I’d never heard of the place; I had to look it up on a map.
Ferreñafe, a city of 47,000, is situated in the northwestern part of Peru, at the junction of the bear’s right front leg and body, less than 30 km from the coast as the condor flies.
What makes the place newsworthy is that which happened to an 83-year-old homeless man named Don Chuman. Although known as a city of “double faith” because of Catholicism and Shamanism, it was a local Peregrin Evangelical Church that took action.
“Peregrin” is Spanish for “pilgrim,” which evokes John Bunyan’s allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, written during incarceration and widely regarded as one of the most significant works of English religious literature. Translated into over 200 languages, it has never been out of print.
For reasons unstated (although one could make the case that the Spirit of the Lord was behind this), church members bathed and shaved Don Chuman, gave him a haircut and exchanged his ragged clothing for clean garb, in the process transforming him from the barefoot homeless street person he had been. Looking at photos of him after he had been tended to by church parishioners, I would not have guessed what he had started out as: a man with long, unkempt hair who purportedly had not bathed or changed clothes in years.
He was provided regular food, cash, and an ID card. Medical ailments were treated in hospital.
Upon becoming aware of the above, the mayor of the city commented, “It’s an act of humanity that sets an example to us all.”
While reading the post and viewing the photos (accessible here), I was reminded how all our righteousness is as filthy rags – no better than those of Don Chuman – to the Almighty.
It is only by His grace that those rags are exchanged for or covered by a pristine garment of light, and our messy, tangled past becomes a tabula rasa, as it were, acceptable to Him.
Like the mayor of Ferreñafe, I commend the kind, compassionate people who ministered to Don Chuman. May their tribe increase.