- Praise God that language learning with Grace is going ok.
- Please pray that I will be able to make some Malawian friends.
- Praise God that I managed to get a dog (Moya). She is a cross local dog and Rottweiler and a very loyal guard dog.
- Please pray that I will have no problems getting hold of the medications I need. They do have some in stock in Malawi but please pray they will have a regular supply.
- Please pray that the diesel shortage will be over so that HOPE for AIDS can continue to work in the villages.
It used to be when Peruvians asked us where we were from and we said, "Nebraska", they would reply, "It's really cold there, right?" mistaking Nebraska for Alaska. That all changed about 2 weeks ago. Now they say, "Like Peru, Nebraska?!" This should strike you as odd, as Peru, Nebraska has 569 inhabitants, and is one of only 3 towns in Nebraska that I haven't personally visited. But a month ago, Marca Perú, a promotional company decided to send a group of big name celebrities to Peru, Nebraska to make a video of them teaching the Peru locals how to act more Peruvian. It's quite entertaining, at least to us. While visiting a fellow missionary's church in Lima on Sunday, I was even introduced as being from Nebraska to give me some automatic cachet.
After dropping the kids off at school, and my morning swim, I started digging through the paperwork that piled up on my desk in the week I was in the USA. I had Skype conferences with a nurse in Florida, who will be coming in June for a medical campaign, and with the SIM International Personnel director, (former Peru missionary Helen Heron) about a Swiss couple applying to come to Peru. E***, a Peruvian planning to return to ministry in Asia, came for a meeting to discuss how SIM can help her logistically, and stayed for lunch. The afternoon included orthodontist appointments, buying school uniforms (We love school uniforms! No arguments about what to wear), and helping with German homework.
Friday, while I was in the States, Dámaris, our secretary, had gone to the bus station to pick up a package. In it were the passports and official Peruvian ID cards for one of our families that is going on home assignment soon. In a rough part of town, 4 young men reached into the taxi and grabbed the parcel. "Oh no! The passports!" she thought, and got out of the taxi and chased after them yelling, "Please! In the name of God, give me back the passports!" She followed them around a city block enclosing a market full of stalls, which they ducked into. Another woman started running after them as well, and they gave her back the package, including Dámaris' camera, about $150 in cash and the passports! She only lost her coin purse that contained about $10. If she hadn't gotten the passports back, the missionaries would probably have missed their flight getting their paperwork all in order. We agreed that she will always keep passports in a special case hidden under her clothes from now on, and not chase down thugs!
For Carlos, a taxi driver who recently accepted Christ. He gave me a ride home yesterday and asked about baptism, but more out of curiosity than a desire to do it himself. He seemed interested when I offered to study what the Bible says about baptism with him, but didn't give me a definite date to do so.
Actually, this is true. Don Wunderink was our mission bookkeeper, but he and his family are going to the States for home-assignment next month, so Amy has graciously agreed to take on his duties until he returns in January. It has been a challenge to learn a new system, and to use a Windows-based computer, but it has been a good challenge for her, as it is the first big project she's tackled where she has had to learn a lot of new things since her brain tumor in 2004.
There is currently a huge need in Peru. Peru, as with many other South American countries, has had times of political instability. In 1983 a Maoist group called the Shining Path attempted to take over the country and establish a communist state. There were numerous masacres and public killings. What this meant was the people lived in fear! God still used this time and in the ten years that the Shining Path operated, thousands, actually over a million people joined the Evangelical church.
So the evangelical church doubled in size going from 7% to almost 14% of population. As a result of this explosive growth there is a great need for training and discipleship, especially of young people. There are hundreds of young pastors that have only been a Christian for a short time themselves and have had no chance to do any training.
photo by Lisa Fitzgerald
Though the country is 85% Roman Catholic, the beliefs of people are often interwined with old animistic religions. At times it is very ritualistic and given that Spanish Conquerers brought this religion by force - it's sometimes just a thin veneer over what people have always believed.
After spending two months on a short-term mission in Peru we saw the huge needs and felt that God could really use us in Peru.
When we got married we decided to do a short-term mission? Christine was happy to go anywhere. I immediately suggested Bolivia in South America. I had been to Bolivia on holiday twice before. I felt a connection with the people and thought that this was one of the most beautiful countries in the world with the Amazon jungles and the Andes mountains. I had also sponsored a child named Junior in Bolivia through Compassion.
We approached the mission organisation SIM (Serving in Mission) with our plans for spending a couple of months in Bolivia on a short-term mission. Most of the contacts that SIM Australia had were in Peru and we were asked if we'd be happy to go to Peru instead. Peru borders Bolivia and is similar in many ways. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America and Peru comes next. We said we were happy to go to Peru.
While in Peru, we stayed with missionaries in a small village called Cotahuasi (pronounced coat-ah-wah-see). It is here that we saw the huge needs in Peru. We felt that working in a University ministry would address some of these needs. Peru is also a country of great opportunity for the good news of Jesus. There is now an incredible openess to the gospel and the church in Peru seeks to make a difference in their community. It is a time of political stability. The village where we spent two months during our short-term mission was just fifteen years ago out of bounds for foreigners because of the Shining Path who operated in the area.
These are a few of the reasons we've decided to head to Peru. We are also glad that Spanish is a relatively easy language for English speakers to pick up. I have some basic Spanish having spent about five months in South America over three trips. Christine has had about two months of exposure to Spanish. We are looking forward to when our children can correct our Spanish.
It has been great that some of our long time friends have been missionaries to Peru. Phillip and Diane Marshall were sent from Blakehurst Baptist which was my home church for about 20 years. In the last few years we've learnt much from them personally and also in lectures. Phillip is a lecturer at Morling Bible College and has great cultural insights. Christine's Sunday School teacher also ended up being a missionary in Peru and she too has been the source of much wisdom (and laughter). Recently we've got to know Edwin and Diane Porter who have given us our most up to date information on Peru along with lots of very practical tips. Their love for the Peruvian people has inspired us.
Michael and Mary Foster were Australian missionaries to Peru who have worked with University students for many years. We have learnt a lot from their ministry and they have been an inspiration to us. Here they reflect on a time of persecution and a time of growth.
In the mid-eighties, a radical university student group known as the Shining Path started a movement on a campus in the highlands of Peru, targeting universities throughout the country. Their leftist teachings and demands for change caused a reign of terror and bloody revolution, which resulted in 63,000* deaths, including many university students.(* this statistic only released after a commission of Truth in 2003)
Christian Students on campus at the time when the Shining Path took over the university said that despite the difficult circumstances and persecution, the desire to share the gospel and proclaim its truth burned within her.
In fact this persecution was a major factor in the growth of a Christian groups on campuses throughout Peru. This student movement was started by Samuel Escobar in 1963. Samuel went on to be a well know Latin theologian and the group became known as the Association of Peruvian Evangelical University Students (AGEUP), a national student movement related to IFES.
Australian missionaries Michael and Mary Foster began SIM’s partnership with AGEUP in 1992 when they were accepted as staff workers. At the time they said, “It is an honour to be officially accepted as staff workers with these militant Christians who have counted the cost and strive to share the gospel in the light of Peruvian reality”.
In 1991 there were 12 AGEUP groups throughout the universities of Peru and by 2004 there were 64. Not only did God use persecution to grow the groups, but also the universities strategy of diversification. As satellite campuses were set up throughout the country, there were many more centres in which to plant Christian groups!
Dealing with Rapid Growth
As the movement grew rapidly, Michael, Mary and the four Peruvian staff workers couldn’t provide the training and pastoral care needed for leaders of all the groups and there were no finances available to employ more staff. They trained a team of 25 graduates who were committed to ministry and willing to work on a voluntary basis. This has been a vital key to facilitating growth and pastoral care on campuses throughout Peru.
The AGEUP groups are effective because they are based on student leadership and initiatives and are relevant to society. Social action and justice flow from evangelism empowered by bible teaching. They seek to have a prophetic voice in society in the Latin American context.
The incredible diversity of culture throughout the universities of Peru provides equally diverse challenges and opportunities. The prestigious private universities were virtually impenetrable to Christian work before 2001 when God miraculously opened a door for AGEUP to set up groups. By 2004 there were 5 groups in the prestiguious private universities, reaching out to students, many of whom will become future leaders within Peru and beyond. Students have even managed to maintain and evangelical witness on the large Catholic university campus in Lima!
AGEUP groups have already had a huge impact on the church and evangelical scene in Peru. The director of World Vision, director of Compassion and leaders of the Evangelical Alliance and other denominational leaders have all been part of the student movement.
Michael and Mary Foster and their son Camden returned to Australia for health reasons. They are still in regular contact with the students and staff who have been so much a part of their life and ministry for over thirteen years.
AGEUP is growing at an amazing rate and regional workers are working to capacity but finances continue to be a hindrance. A US-based foundation has helped AGEUP establish two Internet cafes in Lima, with the vision to raise funds to support much needed staff workers.
This is a strategic work, impacting generations of university students with the gospel and training young people for leadership. Jaime , a Peruvian-born Chinese architectural student, helps us bring sweeping statements of growth down to the level of strong personal testimony. Some years ago Jaime’s pastor came to the AGEUP office to discuss the change he had seen in Jamie’s life since his involvement with AGEUP. He was eager to know more about the student ministry because he had been impressed with Jamie’s maturity in the Word, zeal for the gospel and keenness to share his faith.
Before leaving Peru, Michael and Mary challenged Jamie to become a staff worker, even though they knew this would mean great personal cost for him. His honest response was that he couldn’t leave his career behind.
Recently Jamie wrote to say that God had been speaking to him and he could no longer say “No”. He is now working with AGEUP and is in charge of projects. This multi-talented young man is a tremendous asset to the student movement in Peru.
The Shining Path movement sought to bring change through revolution and a reign of terror. AGEUP seeks to bring change through the grace of God.
Quick Success Stories
Tanya is an amazing success story from a Compassion project in an inner city slum of Peru. She was studying law. One day she heard another law student crying in the university toilets. Tanya cared for her and introduced her to Jesus. Tanya is now totally convinced that the Word of God is applicable and helpful to all sorts of people in any circumstances. What a wonderful lesson to take with her into her career.
Joel’s involvement with AGEUP has helped him not only in his spiritual growth but also in many practical ways. He has learnt organisational skills and leadership qualities by training as a student group leader that have helped him establish his own computer business – abilities that his course didn’t provide. He is so grateful to the AGEUP leadership for this practical input.