Since here in Peru, on the southern side of the equator, summer is about to start, Christmas break marks the end of the school year and the start of summer vacations. So, yesterday was our last day of the year of normal programming at our Castillo Fuerte (Mighty Fortress) Mercy House in La Victoria, since we’ll be taking a couple of weeks off before starting up our summer programming. But, of course, even when our mercy ministries are taking a break, we’re never taking a break from offering our weekly Bible studies and church services, always giving people a chance to hear God’s Word and be eternally changed by it.
There’s nothing like seeing people come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And even more than that, there’s nothing like seeing people continue to grow in their faith-walk with Jesus here in this life while waiting for the eternal life that is yet to come. And because of all of that, I am so glad that God has sent me here to Peru to use me as his missionary to help people know Jesus and grow in their knowledge of him.
Just a couple of weeks ago, we celebrated the opening of our latest church plant in San Juan de Lurigancho (the largest district in the metropolis of Lima, Peru). To celebrate this event, transportation was arranged to give all of the attendees of our churches throughout Lima the chance to celebrate with us in San Juan de Lurigancho. I was in charge of gathering together all of the members in the church in San Borja and getting them onto a bus, which would then take us to our church in La Victoria to pick up some more people. From there we would head on to San Juan de Lurigancho. This whole trip probably took 1 ½ to 2 hours, since Lima is so huge!
During that whole trip, I could see God’s hand at work, for he used that long time in the bus to let us missionaries work on building our relationships with the different people that came with us. After all, mission work often starts when God’s people (whether they be paid missionaries or just normal Christians) reach out and befriend those outside of the Church. With those friendships comes the opportunities to share God’s Word and, from that Word, the good news of Jesus Christ and the eternal life that we can have through him. And through that friendship also hopefully there is the chance to not only tell that person about Jesus just once, but rather to continually guide that person as they grow in their faith relationship with God.
Thus, throughout that bus ride, as well as the ride back from San Juan de Lurigancho, I was busy moving up and down the bus from one conversation to the next. I was seeing God help me form new relationships with some people whom I didn’t even know that well but who had interest in becoming active in our churches. Some of these conversations were with people my own age, while other people were easily 2-3 times older than me.
And of course, if you’ve ever seen any of the pictures before on my blog, you’ll know that I was also enjoying that time to build my relationship with the kids who (accompanied by their parents) came with us as I encouraged them in their own faith relationship with God, while also just having fun with them.
After the church service in San Juan de Lurigancho, we had a lunch to celebrate the new work that God is doing in that community. Even as I was busy running around, trying to help pass out the food, I also took advantage of the time to be with some of the youth who had come from our church in La Victoria. Even the simple act of working together with the youth to carry heavy serving trays back and forth turned into moments to strengthen my relationship with them while also modeling for them what having a Christian servant-attitude looks like.
On the bus ride back home, the vast majority of us were far too fatigued by the heat to talk much (we had gotten a lot of sunshine up in San Juan de Lurigancho). I thought I was too tired to do anything other than sit back and relax…until I heard up in the front a couple of the kids from La Victoria trying to remember how to sing the songs that we sing all of the time in the Castillo Fuerte Mercy House there. I just happened to have a songbook in my backpack, so I pulled it out, dashed over to where they were, and while handing them the songbook, I joined along in singing with them. We were singing for so long that I was starting to fear that I would be losing my voice!
Thus, God was using me in amazing ways that day to connect with a bunch of people. And since that day, I have seen God continue to let those relationships grow and blossom as he continues to use me to share the good news with those people, and many more.
This past weekend has been super-busy for us missionaries here in Peru. We are currently hosting our semi-annual “FORO”, which is a conference for all of our major partners who are supporting us financially and spiritually. Besides just updating them on what we’ve been up to, we’ve also been having taking them around to some really special events within our churches here.
Hey everybody!!! It’s that time of month again!!! Check out my latest video blog episode, seeing what the kids from our Castillo Fuerte (Mighty Fortress) mercy ministry in La Victoria think about our program for them:
The bright, springtime sunlight beamed through the large, open doorway that led out to the street in front of our Castillo Fuerte mercy center. The noise and commotion from the mechanic shops across the street, the loud barks from the stray dogs that passed by, and the bustle of the passing cars were drowned out by the many voices of the children, as they sought their seat on one of the couches or chairs. As they continued chatting, one of them began to start passing out some songbooks. While the kids flipped through the songbooks, searching for their favorite one (so that they could then suggest it), I whisked out a guitar and began tuning it. At the same time, a youth and one of the kids pulled out a couple of cajóns—a classic Peruvian box drum with a large, circular hole in the front (see picture above). Once they had sat down on their respective cajóns and had warmed themselves up, I quickly began strumming away while calling out the song number, and the kids soon joined us with their singing.
This same scene has happened almost daily for me in the past few months. Ever since I got to Peru, I have begun to realize how God can use the musical abilities that he has given me. I’ve starting using them to help with the spiritual formation of many of the people that I am discipling here. The very first week I got here I saw the need to brush up on my guitars skills (an instrument that I had barely touched since I was in high school) when I saw that there was no organized music ministry in our church plant in La Victoria, and even less in the mercy center that is connected to the church there. Thus, I began playing guitar there, at first in just the church service, but it soon found its way also into the mercy ministry there as we began singing more and more with the kids.
God has been using this part of my ministry first of all to invigorate his people to praise and glorify him. In addition to that, I’ve been focusing on using our songs as a chance to teach the kids that I interact with every week. For example, in a culture where people often hold grudges for a lifetime, one of the songs that we sing speaks about the forgiveness and unity that we have as the Body of Christ. It goes something like this, though in Spanish:
We are all members of the same body.
We are all one in Christ.
When someone sins we forgive them,
Just as the Father forgave us.
Of course, the goal isn’t to simply teach these kids different facts about Jesus. The goal is to see the Gospel take effect in their lives, that they would come to have faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, who suffered, died, and rose again to give them (and all people) forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life with him. Music is one of the many tools to help people learn about this Gospel message, as well as a way to help them grow in that faith and continue in a life-long relationship with God.
There’s lots of joys as I continue to find old hymns that I grew up singing (e.g. “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”) that are also in Spanish. And I also have been using the Spanish skills that God has given me to translate some songs on my own, as well as write a few new songs (e.g. the song above, based on Ephesians 4 & 5).
It’s also been exciting to see how God has used this music ministry to gave me chances to spend more time with people connected to our church, as God uses me to raise them up as musicians in the church, so that they can continue doing the work that God has started through me and the other missionaries here.
Thanks so much for all of your continued support as you keep me in your prayers! Us missionaries here could always use some prayers as the work of sharing Jesus Christ with the people of Peru continues.
Here’s just a few photos from the work that I’ve been doing this week at the Castillo Fuerte Mercy House in La Victoria (in Lima, Peru)…as we continue to share the grace and mercy of God with the people of Peru, helping them along in this life with our mercy ministries, while also striving to see them gain eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus…
Today, at the Castillo Fuerte Mercy House in La Victoria, we celebrated “El Día de la Canción Criolla”, a Peruvian holiday (that is the same day as Halloween) that recognizes “Criolla” music. Besides simply celebrating some Peruvian culture, this was a great opportunity to bring in a lot of the parents of the kids that we work with, so that they could better see what Castillo Fuerte is doing to help their kids. Also, we had our Saturday night church service in the middle of the event, so a lot of people got to get a taste of the Gospel, hearing about what Jesus Christ did for us to bring us the hope of eternal life. Of course, the more important thing is not that people just come to our big events, but rather that they continue to come and grow in their faith walk with God, which is why our relational ministry to these people continues even after we have a big event like this.
Mission work (no matter whether you’re a “professional” missionary or simply someone being used by God to share his Gospel with the world) often isn’t about the flashy stories of huge events (e.g. 75,000 baptisms in one day or 92 million poor families helped in one day). Often times it’s the day-to-day discipleship work that includes a bunch of sharing God’s Word and a lot of simply building relationships with people…including the kids in our mercy ministry programs…as you can see from the pictures below (all taken today)…
The cold night air of the desert crept into the hotel lobby where I was sitting, as I patiently waited. The chilly air, combined with the darkness of the night, made the idea of simply curling up in my sleeping bag up in my hotel room very attractive, especially since Pastor Herb and I had already had a very long day. However, the two of us had one last task that night—teaching the basics of the faith to a couple of kids that previous Lutheran missionaries had baptized years ago.
Pastor Herb Burch and I were in the small village of Lunahuana, which is about a 2 ½ hour drive from Lima, Peru, where we live. Not too long ago, there had been a few Lutheran missionaries living in the area of Lunahuana, sharing the light of the Gospel in an otherwise very dark place. Long-story-short, the missionaries had simply moved their focus more onto Lima, and so now, a few years later, Pastor Herb and I have been reconnecting with some of our key people in that area, in part by teaching their children the basics of the faith. Due to our work in Lima, we’ve only been able to get out there once a month.
Despite being quite tired from the drive through the desert, both Pastor Herb and I were delighted that one of the families was able to meet up with us in the hotel lobby, as they had been faithfully doing for a few months. We studied together the meanings of a couple of the Ten Commandments, talking about the deeper meaning behind the commandments. The two boys were yawning and struggling to keep their eyes fully open when we finally finished our time together with a hymn, which I got to play on my guitar.
The next morning, after some brainstorming and prayer, Pastor Herb and I headed off to the neighboring village of Lucumo, where a different family lived. Crossing over the bridge that loomed over the gushing Cañete River, we drove past a series of orchards and otherfarmlands. While Lunahuana in the past few years has primarily turned into a tourist destination, Lucumo has remained a quiet, small farming community, lying on the opposite side of the Cañete River.
Pastor Herb and I had soon found the right path toward the family’s property, and when we had finally disembarked from Herb’s van and looked around, we ran into one of the youngest daughters of the family. Still being just a bit too young to go to school, she was simply wandering through the orchards. She was soon leading us to her home, taking us past small groves and over a small irrigation ditch. Arriving at her home, we were able to talk with her mother a bit about plans for future visits, while also getting to simply spend some time with them.
After our visit with them, as Pastor Herb and I headed back through the groves, we ran into the family’s neighbors, who were also farmers. Pastor Herb and I were soon sitting on the ground near them, sharing a Bible passage with them and explaining who Jesus really is and how we can have forgiveness of sins and eternal life through faith in him.
Currently, my trips to Lunahuana are just a tiny part of my work here in Peru, and only time will tell how much Lunahuana will be a part of our overall work. Either way, God continues to work through me and my fellow missionaries, as we continue to spread the good news of Jesus Christ with the people of Peru. Whether it be spontaneously talking with a couple of farmers in an orchard in a remote village, or teaching a Bible class to kids in the concrete jungles of Lima, Peru, the goal is the same—to see more and more people come to have saving faith in Jesus Christ, who gave up his life to give us forgiveness and eternal life.