Meeting Jesus in Fray Martin de Porres, Peru

A game of Cuy


Let us love God, my brothers (and sisters); let us love God but let it be with the strength of our arms and with the sweat of our brows.      – St. Vincent de Paul

We had planned everything with care and dedication. It was September 20 and the Providence Associates of our area of Peru, with the Sisters of Providence, were heading to a small and very poor community for the day.

The truck departed very early with everything we needed: donations from Associates and others, food for lunch, medicines, banners, furniture and many other items. We were heading out 30 km on the Canta Highway.

By 8:30 am, the rest of the Associates arrived by public transportation. We were all filled with the desire to share our knowledge, joy and energy with the poor of this village. Like hard working ants, we set up the areas for the kitchen, health clinic, dentist, psychologist, massages, beauty parlour. We also set up the triage area for the nurses and the educational games area. Others hooked up electricity for the medical equipment and the microphone.  

Dora and Mirtha giving out delicious food

Other professionals came to help us. They set up in the spaces reserved for them. We were all ready! Now the people of the town had to come. 

The music started to play. Last Sunday we had gone from house to house to let them know we were coming to share our professional services and our talents with them. We would not share with them from bounty, but from whatever little we had. Now was the time to remind them. The voice on the microphone said loudly, “Friends in San Martin, we are here! Come; we are waiting to offer you what we know how to do: medical attention, dentistry, massages, haircuts, educational games! Come, we are waiting for you!”

Mila started the work of the day with a prayer and we sang a song. The first brave one to lie down on the stretcher in the improvised consulting room was a boy who needed a dental checkup. And so… little by little, everyone was coming to interact with all the different professionals. 

Fernanda entertained many children with a game of roulette. Everyone wanted to participate by answering questions about St. Vincent de Paul’s life, and then win a prize. Dora also had an audience with math and communication games. The most popular service was Maritza’s massages. All the while, the kitchen was operating. Women were preparing a delicious food called “carapulcra,” a stew of dehydrated potatoes, pork, chicken and spices.

At noon the dentists left and it was time for lunch. All who had attended any service had a ticket for lunch. Mirtha was in charge of ordering the plates of food for everyone. Mila took the microphone and started the prayer before lunch. They all picked up their plates and found a place to sit, either on the sports field or on some plastic chairs that we brought. More than 100 plates were served.

In the afternoon, the games for prizes started. Sister Sara, Tere and Mila watched how much joy a game of Cuy generated. Lourdes played the “world” game with other children – the world was drawn in chalk on the floor and children had to jump! At one point there was a mime presentation. It was beautiful to see the little ones’ faces with their laughter as they followed the story.

The people of the village kept coming and going all day long. Everyone was invited to the chapel to see the life of St. Vincent de Paul in drawings. The chapel acted as a projection hall to watch and hear the life of our Holy Patron. We ended by thanking God who cares for us and gives us life. 

After a day of hands-on service to the poor, we packed up again: furniture, equipment, banners. We returned home with less to carry, physically very tired, but very happy. Just like Vincent we had spent a day together, working for the poor. This is how we commemorated the witness of Vincent, our brother, friend, model for following Jesus as disciples. We came back singing.