International Ministries

June 2010 - Ruth in Peru

June 14, 2010 Journal
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June 2010

Dear friends,

When the class began to sing praises to God in Quechua, I knew this would be an unforgettable experience. I looked into the faces of this group that I would be teaching all week, many of whom had traveled 6-8 hours from remote jungle towns to attend this Christian Education class, and prayed that God would use me to provide them with needed skills and understanding for their churches.  I was in Huancayo, Perú, a 7 hour bus ride from Lima, straight up the Andes Mountains, at the San Pablo Seminary, affiliated with the Universidad Bíblica Latinamericana.

The seminary is under the leadership of a committed and visionary couple, César and Karina, Methodist pastors who studied at the UBL in San José. They have created a beacon of light for the entire region, serving churches in distant jungle villages, offering theological studies for both women and men in a culture that marginalizes women, and creatively interacting with indigenous culture to “incarnate” Christian faith.

My students, as in Guatemala, were diverse: Methodists, Pentecostals, one Baptist, one Catholic, and many from the national Peruvian Evangelical Church, some just beginning their ministry and others near retirement, some from the city and others from small towns.  They were reserved at first, but gradually opened up and shared their stories.

Andrés, who felt God’s calling to form an evangelistic musical group with his family, confessed that he had not understood the readings, had not done the required preliminary work, and was not planning to come to the class. But his wife attended my workshop the Saturday before and was impressed enough that she convinced her husband to try at least the first day. He was hooked, and learned twice as much as his colleagues because he had to repeat everything he’d learned to his wife each night.

Pastor Daniel was fascinated by my presentation of a new book that I had just read regarding older adults, The Creative Age, Realizing Human Potential in the Second Half of Life (Gene Cohen)  that validates post-retirement as a tremendously productive and creative time. Daniel said that it would change his entire ministry as he worked with the older adults in his congregation. He told me about a vulnerable older woman in his church whose children are impatient for her to die so they can divide her land among them. He says he will try to empower the “seniors” in his church to be more independent and to use their creativity.

I was in the heart of Incan culture, surrounded by women in colorful dresses and bolero hats with babies comfortably tied onto their backs with woven cloths. The first Sunday my hosts took me to the Artisan Fair: blocks and blocks of weavers, potters, carpenters, jewelers. . . displaying their intricate and beautiful shawls, sweaters, wall hangings, bowls, boxes, musical instruments, wood carvings, filigree silver earrings and necklaces. . . I was awed, especially as many of the artists were working on their craft as they talked with us. These ancient skills have been passed from father to son, mother to daughter for hundreds of years.

Peruvian Christians have a number of special challenges, as they seek to “incarnate” the message of God’s redeeming love into ancient Incan culture, blended with modern capitalistic values, in the context of a struggle to meet basic needs and form a more just and equal society. I was humbled by the vision and commitment of the seminary and my students.

Together in ministry,