VALPARAÍSO, Chile (BP) -- Maria had reached her limit. Seeing no other way to escape her troubled life, she was considering suicide. But because of the faithfulness of Chilean university student Ruth Aguirre and Southern Baptist missionary Karen Wright, she chose to live for Christ instead.
(IMB) photo by Sophia Hayden
Maria had received a Gospel of John when Aguirre and Wright were prayerwalking on Polanco Hill, one of the 42 hills upon which Valparaíso, Chile, is built. By the time Aguirre visited her several weeks later, Maria had read the entire Scripture portion. That day she accepted Christ and agreed to let Aguirre begin a Bible study in her home.
Aguirre was even more amazed when Maria's husband said he, too, wanted to learn more about Christ.
Aguirre has "adopted" Polanco Hill as part of the "42 Hills Project," an initiative begun by Wright linking U.S. churches with Chilean believers to reach the 42 hills of Valparaíso -- Chile's chief seaport -- with the Gospel.
For Aguirre, it was during a vision trip with Wright that she felt called to reach Polanco Hill, a dangerous place for any outsider but especially for a single 22-year-old female. Aguirre realized she would be trusting God with her life every time she set foot there.
"It was difficult at first to go," Aguirre said. "I was afraid. But once I finally began going and praying, I became very aware of the needs of the people."
Like much of Valparaíso, Polanco Hill is dotted with brightly colored houses. But beneath the cheery appearance is an area riddled with poverty, crime and violence. Alcohol is cheap and readily available. A house on one street is painted completely black, a sign of its use for drug deals. Unemployment rates are among the highest in the country.
Many of the youth in Valparaíso suffer from broken homes and a lack of role models. A majority of teens never finish high school. Faced with a bleak future, they often turn to theft and dealing drugs. Throughout the city, groups of young people loiter in the streets with nothing to do -- a perfect breeding ground for peer pressure and poor life decisions.
Aguirre sometimes prayerwalks the area alone despite the risk.
"It's a little hill, but there's a lot of need," she said. "There's a strong sense of abandonment, of desolation."
But she also sees the hand of God at work in her adopted community. Many people are beginning to share with her about their lives and struggles -- such transparency is uncommon here.
"I feel like God has put a sign on me that I can't see, but that other people must see," she said. "It must say, 'Talk to me, tell me your problems!'" Read More