Friday, 20 October 2023
For many church leaders and aspiring pastors in Peru, getting access to ministry training and mentoring outside of the urban centres is not easy. In the Peruvian Andes, the rough terrain, limited access to transport and commitment to farms makes it difficult to leave. Aware of this need, Mike and Kerry are serving in Peru to help train church pastors and leaders in the Andes of southern Peru.
When Mike became a Christian as a teenager, he was part of a mission-minded church. Understanding that he was “not his own but bought with a price” and having an interest in South American culture, he wondered if he could one day serve as a mission worker in the region. Kerry’s parents had been mission workers in India and also grew up with missions on her heart.
“We met in Melbourne at the Summer Institute of Linguistics, and got married a couple of years later,” Mike shared. The couple have been pastoring churches in West Australia for 25 years. Now their three daughters are no longer teenagers, they pursued the call to serve cross-culturally. He said, “Missions and South America have always been part of our thinking. As it turned out, we didn’t get to South America for nearly 30 years, but in God’s good time here we are.”
Mike and Kerry, along with their daughter Meghan, arrived in Peru in 2021 and settled south of the country in the historic city of Arequipa. At an altitude of 2300 metres, the family has adjusted to the high UV levels, thin air and dry desert climate. While learning the language and culture, the family has been getting connected with a local church and visiting the ministries of other SIM workers in Peru.
Mike has been accompanying a fellow SIM team member to visit isolated villages to meet with church leaders and students doing ‘Theological Education by Extension’ (TEE). Many of the students travel on foot for a day or more to attend these gatherings. The annual meeting for the 20 TEE students provides the opportunity for them to fellowship with one another, share in Bible teaching and receive new materials for next year’s coursework.
“Filipa is a TEE student who studies hard and also helps a lot with the organisation of TEE meetings in her area,” Mike shared. “Not having had the benefits of much formal education, many concepts we would take for granted are new for her.”
“For example, once she was puzzling over how to make sense of a table of comparisons; the fact that some of the text was not perfectly aligned had her side-tracked for a while, as she wondered what the significance of that might be! Now it’s easy for us to ‘filter out’ such little anomalies without thinking, but that’s only because we have learned that these things are to be ignored. Filipa, however, isn’t cowed by these challenges, and she just keeps on studying and keeps on learning. And then she will do the three-hour hike home from where we drop her off on the side of the dirt road.”
As Mike has developed relationships with Quechua believers, they have shared how moved they are that a Christian from the other side of the world would come to their village and get involved in what they are doing. During these visits, Mike identified the need for a Bible overview course to be developed in their language.
“For any reader or student of the Bible, having a grasp of the ‘big picture’ is crucial if they are to make sense of particular texts or passages,” he said. “But in the absence of understanding how it all hangs together, unhealthy doctrine can easily take root because ideas and texts are cut loose from their context in the unfolding story of the Scriptures.”
Mike recalls when he read the book ‘Gospel and Kingdom’ by Graeme Goldsworthy and realised how vital it is to understand the “big picture” of the Bible. It helped him merge many ideas that he’d been grappling with while reading the Bible and revolutionised his approach to teaching the Scriptures.
“Coming to Peru, we have found that there is an almost complete lack of ‘big picture’ resources available, and so this has been an obvious place to start,” he said.
So far, Mike has shared the course in both urban and rural environments, receiving positive responses from the students. “In spite of (at times) my faltering Spanish, it was great to see plenty of “Aha!” looks on the faces of the course participants. For example, when Christians can start to see how the pattern of the Exodus is repeated and then fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus, they stop thinking of the Old Testament merely as a sort of plan that didn’t work. Instead, they start seeing how the person and work of Jesus was always God’s Plan – ‘and beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’ (Luke 24:27). For us as well as for the disciples on the Emmaus road, that’s the kind of thing that sets hearts on fire (v.32).”
As the couple continue to deepen relationships and develop their ministry in Peru, they look forward to continuing to visit churches in rural areas, build relationships with believers and figure out how they can best serve, support, encourage and train them in effective ministry.
Meet Thomas and Joannah!
Thomas & Joannah live in the Andean city of Abancay, Peru. They hold monthly meetings for young adult leaders fostering unity and collaboration between various Peruvian churches, circulating preaching between each congregation. They are developing a weekly English practice outreach for young adults, plus transport local pastors to remote villages to grow the evangelical church.
Abby serves the unreached indigenous Saraguro people of southern Ecuador. In her ministry she is involved in evangelism to communities; serving alongside local believers to run a Bible program for children. She also disciples local believers in their faith and with boldness, take the Gospel to others in their community and their region.
Pray for our workers serving in South America as they evangelise to least reached communities and disciple local believers. Visit www.sim.org.au/southamerica
to find out more.
Do you want to partner with SIM to send people into a diverse range of ministries in South America and around the world? You can partner with SIM by visiting www.sim.org.au/missionglobal
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