On October 19, Deb and I left Chicago to visit churches in Peru and Guyana in response to an invitation by two local Baptist associations. In 2007 we were privileged to be in seven countries while visiting seventeen international partners.
We first visited Trujillo, Peru, which is about an hour’s flight north of Lima. A work started in the 1930s by Baptist Mid-Missions has grown into twenty independent Baptist churches ministering to this city of 750,000. The Jonathan Stilwell family warmly received us into their home—our haven away from home.
Ironically, our first two ministry opportunities, scheduled for Sunday morning, were cancelled because of a nationwide census. The government ordered that every family in Peru had to stay home from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., so we held a family service with the Stilwells. Sunday evening I preached at Gethsemane Baptist Church, pastored by Jonathan Stilwell. This church meets in its own three-story building. The first two floors have adequate space for about 350 worshipers, and the third story, designed to be the pastor’s home, is under construction. We met about fifty warm and receptive people who attended that evening.
Within walking distance of the Stilwells’ home lies the four-acre campus of the Baptist Seminary of Peru. Deb and I were privileged to take part in the seminary’s thirty-sixth anniversary celebration. I preached in chapel twice daily, and Deb and I both taught classes. On Thursday night more than eight hundred people attended a concert by choirs and special groups. On Friday night more than five hundred guests enjoyed a wonderful banquet. Reverend Enoc Principe directs this fine seminary of about one hundred students. The campus includes dormitories for both single and married students. The main three-story building comprises a cafeteria, classrooms, a library, and a chapel. Aside from studies, campus life seems to center around the snack shack and the soccer field.
Baptist Mid-Missions missionaries started the seminary. It would be hard to exaggerate the impact BMM has had on the seminary and the Body of Christ in Peru: Nearly four hundred independent Baptist churches have been established there, and most of them are pastored by seminary graduates.
On Wednesday night of the conference, Deb and I enjoyed good food and warm fellowship with Pastor Julio’s family. Pastor Julio of Ebenezer Baptist Church invited us into his home, where his family served us a delicious Peruvian-style meal.
On Thursday morning I met with the officers of the Association of Baptist Churches in Trujillo to discuss the ramifications and application process of partnership in the International Partnership of Fundamental Baptist Ministries. At the association’s annual meeting on Friday, representatives from the churches in the association voted to proceed with the application to become part of the IPFBM. Praise the Lord!
We said good-bye to the Stilwells on Saturday, October 27, flew to Lima, and were welcomed into the home of ABWE missionaries Steve and Kelly Frerich. Lima, the Peruvian capital, is a bustling city of nearly ten million people, where the poor live as squatters in shacks, while the rich occupy luxurious homes. Neither rich nor poor seemed to heed any traffic regulations, so we didn’t want to drive ourselves or take a taxi. Steve graciously drove us around the city to see several ABWE-sponsored churches and pastors.
One of Steve’s closest Peruvian friends pastors a church of about forty-five people in a poorer section of the city. Meanwhile, missionary Tom Pace pastors an upper-class church with a beautiful facility. I was privileged to preach Sunday through Tuesday in Steve Frerich’s church, which averages 140 on Sundays and is searching for a Peruvian pastor to take Steve’s place.
God has used ABWE missionaries David and Evelyn Stone to start four pregnancy centers, one strategically situated near the university campus. The facility was impressive, but Deb and I were thrilled when we saw a bulletin board with almost a hundred stars representing the number of women who have accepted Christ as their Savior.
On the education front, Neil Heim directs a seminary with eighty-two evening students. The seminary is housed in a wonderful three-story brick building that the seminary shares with a local church and Christian school. Rich Davis administers the school of fifty elementary students, primarily from upper-class Peruvian homes, and Peruvian Pastor Salvatore leads the church. We also visited a great school for missionary kids under the direction of Allan Frey of Baptist Mid-Missions; twenty-seven students are currently enrolled.
Getting to Georgetown for the next leg of our journey was arduous. After many flight delays, we were happy to finally meet Everard Cadogan, president of the Guyana Association of Baptist Churches, on Friday, November 2—thirteen hours late. These churches arranged for Deb and me to stay at Guyana Bible College, where Ken and Karen Glover served as our hosts.
The partnering association of Baptist churches in Guyana is composed of five local churches: Two are in Georgetown, and the other three are approximately 125 miles away in Berbice. On November 3, representatives from all five of the churches met with me to discuss the challenges of their ministries. The purpose of the meeting was to build the relationship that is vital to a partnership. I came away with several ideas on how to enhance our common vision. On Sunday I preached at both churches in Georgetown, with a special service with the deaf and Sunday evening with Brother David Cole.
Brother Cadogan and Brother Cole both took the day off from their full-time jobs to take us to see the churches in Berbice. Brother Allen Bhajan, who pastors two of the three churches in this area, also took off work and joined the tour. Each of Pastor Allen’s churches has about eighty children and forty adults, despite the competition the churches face from Hinduism and Islam. Ladies from Village 73 prepared a delicious chicken-curry lunch for for us and the church leaders.
Deb and I concluded our ministry on Wednesday. Deb conducted a Bible study for the ladies, and I spoke at prayer meeting at Kitty Baptist Church in Georgetown. At 3:00 a.m. on Thursday, we left the guesthouse to catch a flight back to Chicago.
Summary and Reflections
While GLS has been supplying resources for many years to several South American countries, this was the first IPFBM trip to our neighbor continent to the south. The Guyana Association of Baptist Churches has the distinction of being the first South American partner; and, the Lord willing, the Association of Baptist Churches in Trujillo, Peru, will be the second.
What a blessing to enter local churches in these developing countries and see Regular Baptist Press materials, Sunday School papers, VBS posters, and other educational helps aiding the spread of God’s Word.
Our fellow ministers in South America have unique needs to make their ministry more effective. Our creativity, generosity, and prayers could assist them. For example, Bible students in the jungle of Central Peru desire to build a Spanish seminary library. Perhaps a Bible college in the States would challenge its students to buy books for this library.
Then in Guyana, three churches in the Berbice region are cut off from Guyanese Bible College. Travel difficulties make it almost impossible for their pastors to access the available education and ministry support.
In addition to pastoring, the three pastors work full-time jobs, as do their wives. These men of God serve without compensation or complaint. The churches in Guyana could use a partnering local church in the States to assist them in projects beyond their means: One church needs a roof; another needs a pastor, but the people can supply only a small amount of support. If an American church could commit $500 per month for two years and then perhaps decrease the amount by $100 each year after that, this church could, by God’s grace, become self-supporting. Think about the impact of a local church in the U.S. partnering with a local church in Guyana!
“Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”
Chris Hindal is director of GARBC International Ministries, coordinating Gospel Literature Services and the GARBC’s participation in IPFBM.