LIMA, Peru (BP)–He stumbled upon Oasis by accident. But missionary Kevin Shearer doesn’t believe in accidents.
While looking for an impoverished squatter community, Kevin discovered an area called Oasis outside Lima, Peru, where huts share common walls made of mats and children play in the partially covered landfill at the village’s edge.
As Kevin began sharing his faith with a woman there, a community housing official took notice.
“Who are you?” the official named Martin asked gruffly. “What are you doing here?”
Kevin explained that he is a missionary and wanted to share the Gospel with Martin’s people and pray for them. He asked permission to go through the small community’s labyrinth of alleyways.
Rather than evicting Kevin on the spot, the man’s face softened into a smile. Leading Kevin through a small walkway, zigzagging through Oasis’ crooked streets, Martin stopped in front of a 12-by-16-foot building.
“You see this community center?” Martin asked. “You’re welcome here” -– on one condition: that he start a church there.
Weeks later, a short-term mission team of senior adults from Germantown (Tenn.) Baptist Church arrived. Rather than renovate, they built a new community center.
When it was time for the first church service at the new building, Martin announced over the community’s makeshift public address system, “The Baptist church meets at the community center, and you’re expected to attend.” Every five minutes for the next half-hour the announcement reverberated through the village.
More than 50 men, women and children attended the first meeting and heard the Gospel. That day, 22 adults accepted Christ — including Martin. He told the people, “There is one Savior. His name is Jesus Christ. And you need to get onboard with Him.”
Today, there are more than 50 believers in the squatter village of 3,000 people. Some were baptized early this year. On average, about 100 people attend worship services in Oasis each weekend.
The townspeople have reorganized their homes with straighter streets in hopes of becoming a government-recognized village. Kevin and his wife Pam pray for a long-term Peruvian worker to shepherd the church at Oasis while they continue to encourage believers and bring in volunteers to evangelize the area for Christ.
“So God opened that door for us,” Kevin says. “He’s answering our prayers. And He’s using these volunteer teams to help us start churches in areas that otherwise we weren’t going to be able to get into.”
Dea Davidson covered this story as an overseas correspondent with the International Mission Board.