In early March of last year, my wife Courtney and I visited a retired missionary couple in our home state of Georgia. This couple had served for many years in Peru, where we’ve been missionaries since 2017. We’d never met them, but it didn’t take long to become friends. We talked for hours and hours about people and places all over this intriguing, mountainous country. Just days later, the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest, and we spent much of the rest of the year figuring out how to get back “home.” Peru had become a part of us.
For all the challenges of missionary life, we learn to love the places we serve. When we packed up our lives, Peru was little more than a dot on a map. But we came in faith, committing ourselves to deep discipleship in a country and among local churches that desperately need it. What we saw in part the Lord has since shown us in full, filling in that dot on the map with the faces of dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
For us, Peru is now much more than the land of llamas, alpacas, and Machu Picchu. It’s where we daily see God’s goodness, and where we ourselves work for the good of others. Because we love the people of Peru, we’re giving ourselves to working with them for their joy in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:24). More specifically, we’re working for the good of faithful pastors and loving, missions-minded congregations.
For the good of faithful pastors
Evangelical missionaries have been laboring to plant churches in Peru since the 19th century. Christianity is no longer new and foreign to this place. And yet, pastors lack something I often took for granted: generations of ministerial faithfulness.
By God’s grace, the United States is full of faithful pastors who have both seen models of godliness and been trained in matters of doctrine. In Peru, however, the situation is different. Many pastors have received some measure of training, but they’re full of unanswered questions and without men to imitate. These pastors hunger for more than American books and American sermons on YouTube. Peruvian pastors hunger for friends in the ministry because they want to turn theory into practice.
We’re here, Lord willing, to meet this need. We open the Bible with them, as Priscilla and Aquila did with Apollos, to bring them to a biblical understanding of Christ, the gospel, and pastoral ministry. We also bring with us the many accounts of pastoral faithfulness that we’ve seen. I think of men like my grandpa, my dad, and many other faithful-yet-unknown pastors. They shape how I answer difficult questions. Faithful pastoral ministry often extends itself far beyond the walls of a particular local church.
For the good of loving, mission-minded congregations
Peru is full of Catholicism and many so-called evangelical movements that emphasize superficial and ritualistic obligations. Because of this, the connection between faith and practice often needs to be recalibrated. Peruvian Christians need to understand how sound doctrine leads to godliness, how true belief in the gospel leads to heartfelt obedience. As Paul writes, this will “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10). By God’s grace, we want to model lives of thankfulness which reflect true gospel belief.
Peru has struggled for quite some time. Its feudalistic hacienda system—that ended only as recently as the 1970s—paved the way for the terrorism of the Shining Path in the ’80s and early ’90s. These hard years created a general spirit of suspicion. Simply put, Peruvians struggle to genuinely trust one another, and that is of course an obstacle to spreading the gospel.
We want our Peruvian friends and our Peruvian churches to be marked by trust and unity. We want Peruvian church members to love one another well. For this to happen, we encourage churches to unite around the truth of the gospel. This will help their life together and it will help their evangelism. With God’s help, these missions-minded churches throughout Peru can care deeply for the souls of fellow Peruvians for generations to come.
We aim for a ministry like the one Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 6:11: “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open.”
The theoretical goodness of going to the nations can turn into the tangible joy of forming deep, enriching friendships based on the gospel. God might use a longstanding interest in a particular culture, such as he did for my wife and me with the Spanish language and latino culture. But such interest is only the beginning.
Soon enough, the experience of knowing real people takes over. Courtney and I have known this kindness from the Lord. Now that we know and love the people here, we want for them everything that is good, biblically speaking. Again, what was once a “dot” on the map has become our home.
This is why we love Peru. Or, maybe better said, this is how we seek to love Peruvians.