Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Training Pastors in the Snow-Capped Andes

The Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon, GA invited me to preach at a pastors conference in Huaraz, Peru for the third year. They offer this annual training conference as a component of their ministry among the Quechuas in conjunction with the IMB’s REAP program. Our Peruvian hosts and IMB coordinator, Tommy Smith, were an absolute joy as they took care of every necessary detail for us during our week there. There were Christian brothers from seven different cultures participating. I had the unexpected blessing and privilege to meet and consult with leaders of the Asheninka tribe who came from the jungle to learn in our conference. They strongly encouraged me to come to their area and lead a conference for 300 of their leaders as soon as we can arrange it. What an honor and emotional charge that was. At the end of the week, I rode the 8-hour overnight bus to Lima with the Ingleside team and enjoyed an open-air Bible study in the Miraflores Park to welcome the dawn.

Following coffee with the team, I met with IMB missionaries to discuss theological education needs in Latin America and how The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Reaching & Teaching can help bridge the gap to train crucially needed leaders. The challenge of finding ways to train leaders is now exacerbated by a new Peruvian law that affects every evangelical missions organization that operates there. As of January 18, 2013, no evangelical agencies or organizations are recognized as legal entities unless they can meet certain qualifications. The previous President signed a law on his last day in office requiring all religious organizations to have at least 10,000 Peruvian members to be recognized.

Such recognition is crucially important for three primary reasons: it grants the entity exoneration of taxes on properties and purchases, it permits the entity to receive donations, and it allows the entity to grant missionary/religious visas to foreigners. I think all evangelical groups had hoped that the new President would repeal the law since he is the polar opposite of the last administration in many ways. How these organizations will grant visas, receive money from the USA, or avoid heavy taxes remains to be seen. Pray for a way forward that will allow them to continue their essential work of evangelism, church planting, and discipling. This new law will not affect Reaching & Teaching since we only go periodically and are not based in Peru to receive donations there or grant religious visas. I left our meeting challenged by the opportunities we discussed and burdened by the possible ramifications of the new law.

I arrived at the Lima airport in time to meet with pastor Angel who serves a Christian & Missionary Alliance church in Comas, Peru. He and his church have been given permission to provide chaplaincy for 490 schools in the area; each of the schools has 300-600 students (with families). Because they are not a huge church, they are only able to minister in 27 schools currently, and even this number is overwhelming. They are keenly aware of the open door that they have been given through the government permission to hold Christian conferences, give lectures, counsel students and parents, as well as pray with the students in any way they choose. Sadly, they lack the personnel and expertise to provide and train chaplains, but do not want to miss this amazing opportunity. Pray with us that the Lord will show the way forward.

God has been so good to us and continues to send people our way pleading for training to be done in their area. On paper, it is easy to say, “no,” since I work full time and we are still in our growing and developing stage. There is only so much money and time to go around. However, when I am on the field and see the needs, the opportunities, the open doors, and have to look in their eyes, saying no is one of the hardest things I ever have to do. Pray that God will send workers into His harvest field and that He will provide us funds to walk through the doors He is opening. Pray mostly that I will know and do all His will, in His way. Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s provision.” May each of us be sensitive to know and do His will today and always.

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