Dinner Show Helps People in Peru
Local entrepreneur, Gracie Freese, of Gracie’s Groomingdales and the popular Poodle Lady Paparazzi impressed the audience with her guitar playing and vocals on Saturday, October 6. The songs were a mix of Gracie’s favorite hymns and folk music. The event was the first show in the Cameron Area Arts Council (CAAC) “Dinner and a Show” series.
Heartfelt renditions of songs meaningful to Gracie were sang to raise awareness and funds for her children’s mission in Peru. There were even a couple songs sung in Spanish in honor of Peru, “It is so poor and so beautiful at the same time,” mused Gracie. A slide show of her 18 years of mission work in Peru were on display during the concert.
It was on a mission trip to Costa Rica with the Cameron Methodist Church back in 2000 that Gracie met Rev. Caesar Llanco Zavaleta. The purpose of the trip was to build housing for married students of the Latin American Bible University. Caesar was a student at the time and would join thee group in the evenings as they sat around, played instruments, and sang song together in Spanish and in English.
After a few discussions with Caesar about his country Gracie was determined to figure out what could be done to help his people. She came back to the States and started asking how to get a team together to go to Peru. There were no missions into Peru at that time, but I went to team training and “God really does work in mysterious ways” because two weeks later she got a call from a group planning on going to Lima. An earthquake hit Peru before the group left and Gracie asked if they could raise money for disaster relief and give it directly to the Bishop. Not getting a straight answer and unknowingly decimating the chain of command she called the head office in New York and asked. She was told that they didn’t see why not and so that is what she did. God would later use that relationship with the Peruvian Bishop to open doors for mission work for her group.
In 2002 Gracie brought her first team to Peru. She recalled seeing the children and being struck by their beautiful rosy cheeks and the horror of realizing they were wind chapped from constant exposure and that their feet were blue from having to wash their clothes in freezing water in a bucket (if they were lucky enough to have water). Gracie’s group was able to build a small wooden building for the people to get in out of the weather and put a water tank on the roof, making it one of the few places with running water (until somebody stole the tank anyway). The group called it the “carboard church” project. To make it happen Gracie raised the money to buy the plot of land and transfer it to the Bishop so that they could build. The next year students from Duke University bought the adjoining lot and were able to build a three-story church for the community. The next year they went to another part of Peru and renovated a dilapidated building “it was like a bomb shelter,” said Gracie. They put in a kitchen, basic bathroom, and flooring. Most of the group’s mission projects span two or three years.
Each year Gracie and her team raise money and go to Peru to do some basic construction, repair buildings, paint walls, provide food, clothing, mattresses, and sanitary stations for the children of Peru. Caesar identifies a list of projects and needs and Gracie tells him what she thinks they will be able to cover that year. “It is a hard life—it just hurts you to see it. Seeing children suffering with little to eat and chapped from constant exposure to the cold. It becomes difficult for the team members to witness the hardship and the disparity in cultures.” They try to raise about $2000 annually that goes to food to sustain the children in the project areas of Huancayo, San Jeronimo, Jose Olaya, Ventanilla, Lima, Azapampa, Ahuac, and Concepcion. The highlight of which is called the “Breakfast of Love” for children in the Jungle and Mountain districts. Once a week a church in those districts will provide a protein rich breakfast to area children with milk, fruit, and meat (likely the only milk or meat the child will eat in that week). Gracie also tries to bring a team of about 10 people to help with the building and renovation projects. Each member of the team contributes about $200 to the project and pays for their own airfare and food during the trip. “It doesn’t cost much,” insists Gracie. The team usually stays with Caesar and his family and there is some opportunity to tour.
“Mission work is hard to describe,” said Gracie, “What you do for yourself on a day-to-day basis is whatever but what you can do for others that you know wouldn’t get done otherwise…that for me has meaning.” Gracie emphasized “It isn’t just going there and slapping some paint on a wall. They cannot do that for themselves. Paint is very expensive there. They don’t have nice things. Kindness means a lot.”
The CAAC Diner and a Show event raised $518 for Peru. Donations can be set via check to the Maysville Methodist Church writing Peru in the memo.