Nelson Twp. – Last Sunday, during their morning worship service, Nelson United Methodist Church (NUMC) hosted Chris Charvat, a missionary who serves in Peru. Charvat, a former Garfield school bus driver now spends most of the year serving those in Peru. She does return to Garrettsville periodically to see family and friends and to take care of personal business.
A single mom of four grown boys, Charvat has spent the last 12 years ministering to those in Peru. When Charvat first went to Peru on a short-term mission trip 12 years ago she never dreamed her first question after that trip would be, “When do we go back?” That trip birthed a love for the Peruvians and their culture. Because of her love for the people, she now spends six – seven months a year ministering to their needs. She has since learned the language, teaches the children, delivers supplies to remote areas and shares God’s love with them.
This week, she spoke at the church sharing what God was doing in Peru and how she landed in the mission field. She shared how God was able to use her life experiences, good and bad, to relate to those she now serves. Charvat shared that she came from a dysfunctional family that did not show love and her father abandoned the family when she was young, leaving her to feel that she was unloved, unwanted and rejected. She was well into her adult years before she came to the understanding that she was loved because she was she, and not because of anything else. Once she understood that, she was determined to make sure the Peruvians who had experienced being unwanted or unloved knew they were loved. Her ability to reach out to those that were in similar situations helped her developed a great relationship with many in her village. In fact, many of the neighborhood children visit her often for their daily dose of hugs, which she freely gives to all of them.
Life in Peru isn’t like here. Families reside in small grass and mud huts. Many times, one will find multiple generations living in one hut. To build a hut there costs about $200- $300, however, the wages there are very low and it takes time for them to earn that kind of money. This would be about a 10’x12’ hut with a dirt floor. Charvat was able to obtain land there because a local boy offered to squat on the land for three months for her while she was back in the states. This is how Peruvians claim land to live on. While squatting the land, the young man built a hut on the property to live in temporarily.
Charvat eventually built a house there, that is more modern than the huts, but still in line with the Peruvian culture. She has running water of sorts and a toilet, which she said she could not live without. Her house is not only serves as her residence; it is also a retreat home for pastors who need a break and for missionaries who might need a place to stay. When she opens her home to pastors and missionaries she does this as a service to them and not for money.
Transportation is very different there as well. Cars are few and far between and most transportation is done by foot. Those blest enough to have other modes of transportation can be seen making the most of it. The “family car” could be a motorcycle or a bicycle hauling five or more riders. Yes, that was five. They will have dad on the seat, a child or two on the handle bars and cross bar, mom on the back and a baby or toddler in a backpack, a common sight seen on the streets, if they are not on foot.
Charvat lives in a town about the size of Ravenna but travels up and down the river by barge to take supplies to remote river villages. Some of the villages she visits are so remote, she will spend days traveling down the river, through the jungle, on a barge and then several more days in a hollowed-out canoe in crocodile- infested waters before reaching the village. She will deliver supplies and maybe spend a day or two there, only to make the long trek back to town. Charvat said getting supplies to these villages is difficult but worth it in the end. She has seen many lives saved because of her willingness to go where most won’t venture. The villagers are so grateful for her deliveries they welcome her with open arms. Their expressed appreciation keeps her ministry passion alive as she continues to minister in the jungles of Peru.
Following Charvat’s time of sharing, the church hosted a meal for those in attendance and the ladies presented 757 handmade dresses and 322 blankets for Charvat to take back to Peru to distribute to those in need. The ladies from the church had been sewing blankets and dresses since this past April to present to her. Charvat expects to return to Peru sometime next month.