Reflections on Returning to Peru
By Davy Ellison
At the end of July into the beginning of August I travelled to Peru with the Baptist Missions Team for my third visit. Twelve of us met in Belfast at 10:30pm on Thursday 27th July to commence the two-day journey to our final destination. The primary purpose for my presence on the team was to teach a module in the diploma course delivered in partnership between Seminario Evangélico Bautista Del Sur del Perú and the Irish Baptist College. In addition to teaching, I preached at Pan de Vida’s twenty-ninth anniversary service, in the Immanuel church in Moquegua and at a joint service in Tacna on our final night there. Where possible I also tried to throw myself into all the team activities too. It was a great trip and a privilege to be back in Peru. Five impressions remain with me after returning.
- Hunger for Theology—When teaching the classroom was full, the questions serious and spiritual growth since my last visit evident. There is an ever-increasing knowledge and understanding among the Peruvian believers. Indeed, they think deeply and apply themselves seriously in a way that would put many Irish Baptists to shame. We are much too distracted by many other good-but-lesser things. Our Peruvian brothers and sisters possess a hunger for theology.
- Initiative is being Taken—My favourite part of the trip was our visit to Carumas Valley. Even though this necessitated a climb to 4,500 metres (halfway to the cruising altitude of an aeroplane), it was worth it. The sights were stunning, lunch was delicious, it was my first time at altitude and it was my first experience of hearing Aymara in the flesh. But above all of that was the opportunity to meet Pastor Henry and witness his efforts at reestablishing gospel work in the Carumas Valley and doing so at the direction of the Association of Churches in Peru. The Peruvians are taking the initiative regarding what work needs to be done and who needs to do it.
- Leadership—I met many godly men, who love their wives and children deeply and are serving Christ and his church sacrificially. Elisario Vargas in particular struck me as focussed, driven and exemplary. But he is only one among many. I do not know their hearts and none of them are perfect—we’re all fallen—but they are earnest in doing good. Elizabeth Almanza at the Seminary in Tacna is also offering quiet leadership in her diligence and thoughtfulness in keeping the day-to-day operations running smoothly. Given the leadership I witnessed I am no more fearful for the church in Peru than I am for the church in Ireland.
- Development of Youth—It struck me that young people, and young men in particular, are stepping up and taking responsibility. This is hugely encouraging. Pan de Vida’s anniversary service was a noticeable example, as the two pastors were not seen at the front until the end. The service was instead led by two young men from the church who, despite my limited understanding of Spanish, appeared to lead the evening very well. Young people appear diligent and eager to serve.
- Depth of Gratitude—The believers and churches in Peru recognise the huge investment and sacrifice of Irish Baptists in service of the gospel in Peru. It is humbling to see the depth of gratitude for our giving, praying and going. Our partnership with the Peruvians is not taken for granted. It is genuinely appreciated. Indeed, their depth of gratitude is something we would do well to emulate in appreciation of our spiritual forefathers.
As we inch towards celebrating 100 years of Irish Baptist involvement in the land of Peru in 2027, we should do so with thankfulness and hopefulness. Thankfulness for all that God has done and his grace in permitting us to play a small part in it. Hopefulness for all that God may yet do and in light of the promises in Scripture that one day people from every tribe, tongue and nation will gather around the heavenly throne in true worship.