Saturday, November 21, 2009

God at Work in Peru

“[Viracocha] is ancient, remote, supreme, and uncreated. Nor does he need the gross satisfaction of a consort. He manifests himself as a trinity when he wishes…otherwise only heavenly warriors and archangels surround his loneliness. He created all people by his ‘word,’ as well as all huacas (spirits). He is man’s Fortunus, ordaining his years and nourishing him. He is indeed the very principle of life, for he warms the folk through his created son, Punchao. He is the bringer of peace and an orderer. He is in his own being blessed, and has pity on men’s wretchedness. He alone judges them and absolves them and enables them to combat their evil tendencies.” This is the summary of the beliefs held by ancient Incas of Peru concerning the one creator God (Richardson 34). Peruvians articulated these beliefs long before any missionary stepped foot in South America, indicating God’s work in a people, already preparing them to receive the gospel. This is just one example of how God has moved in the country of Peru. God has been working in this country in many ways, and many strategies have been used to fulfill the Great Commission, from the Spanish conquerors to the earliest missionaries with the Church of the Nazarene to new strategies being used to expand the Kingdom of God in Peru.

It is most helpful to look first at the status of the church and missions in Peru in the modern day. The religious composition of Peru according to the 2007 census is 81.3% Roman Catholic, 12.5% Evangelical, 3.3% other, and 2.9% unspecified or none (CIA World Factbook). There is clearly a large Christian influence in this country. However, according to Joshua Project research, 4.8% of the population is unreached, five different people groups.

The earliest examples of mission work in Peru perhaps come in the form of Spanish conquerors. During the Spanish conquest and settlement of the Americas, “the crown saw the conversion of the indigenous peoples as a way of justifying their occupation of the newly conquered lands…Thus, the Spanish inextricably linked territorial conquest with converting those they considered ‘heathens’ to Christianity” (Schwaller). While the main strategy implemented by the Spanish mission groups—namely Dominicans, Mercedarians, Franciscans, Augustinians, and Jesuits— was to convert by simply teaching the basics of Christianity, they soon learned that conversion is a process, often taking generations rather than months or years. They therefore replaced the former strategy with one that proceeded at a slow, methodical pace, while trying to extirpate all vestiges of native religions in order to avoid syncretism. Although the effects of this early missionary movement in Latin America can be observed in religious terms, especially evident in the prevalence of Roman Catholicism there today, the effects must also be observed in social and economic terms; the church provided means for hospitals and capital on credit (Schwaller).

When other missionary movements began to occur, many other denominations entered Peru, including the Church of the Nazarene in 1917. Roger Winans and his family opened the work of the Church of the Nazarene. This was not something that was ever planned or expected, however. General Superintendent H.F. Reynolds reportedly responded to Winans’ call to go to Peru by telling him that the Church of the Nazarene would probably never so further south than Guatemala, but, “Brother Winans, we cannot send you to South America; but if God has called you, you will go or backslide” (Morgan 13).

The Nazarene mission work in Peru began by holding church services in the Winans’ home and having English classes. Roger Winans visited small villages and did some open-air preaching. However, since there may have been a question of legality concerning this practice, he sold Bibles to the people in the villages. Esther Carson, another Nazarene missionary, started a Sunday school in the village of Falco Grande as an outreach program. The early missionaries held meetings that were used to share the gospel with the people, and Roger Winans pastored a church and was district superintendent. He also did a lot of travelling, mostly by horseback, to many villages to extend the work. However, this work was not without great sacrifice; Roger Winans lost his wife, Mary, and baby son, and his other two sons were sent to the United States to attend school (Winans). Missionary Mary Miller said of the Winans, “If it hadn’t been for the commitment of pioneering missionaries Roger and Mary Winans, there might never have been a work in Peru at all. These early trailblazers overcame countless obstacles to tell the story of Jesus to its lost inhabitants. Every missionary who followed them has been grateful for their sacrifices” (quoted in Morgan 15).

Roger Winans and Esther Carson soon united to share the burden of reaching the lost in Peru; they got married, and explored the various areas in Peru, familiarizing themselves with the land and the people. Together, they moved to Aguarunaland to live among the people Roger had long dreamt of ministering to. Esther began the work of putting the Aguaruna language into written form so that Scripture could be translated into their language. Shortly after moving to Aguarunaland, Esther died following giving birth to their second child together. Although dismayed, he continued ministering, and later married missionary Mabel Park. After years of evangelizing, in 1948 they retired (Morgan 20).

One of the most important aspects of the Nazarene work in Peru is the Nazarene Bible Seminary in Chiclayo, founded in 1921. The seminary trains pastors, but the students have been responsible for much of the church’s growth in surrounding areas by implementing outreach programs (Morgan 33). The future leaders here were encouraged to go into the villages on Wednesdays and Sundays and put what they had learned into practice by holding services. These students became strong leaders, even filling positions formerly held by missionaries. “Through the efforts of these national leaders, the Peruvian church has become one of the fastest growing groups within the Nazarene denomination” (Morgan 45).

In spite of this, however, the case of Peru is an interesting one because the growth is concentrated in only one portion of the country. Field Strategy Coordinator and district superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene Segundo Rimarachin remarked on this issue saying, “In 1914 the first missionaries came to the north part of the country. The focus of the mission work was always in the north part of the country but never implemented the mission work in the south” (Pottenger, Peru). The church has prospered in the north with more than 50,000 Nazarenes dispersed in over 800 churches, while the south has about 300 Nazarenes in a handful of churches. This is not just a denominational issue though; Brian Tibbs, Global Director of Extreme Nazarene Ministries, said, "When we were going around visiting the cities, we found a lack of other denominations. It's not just that there's no Nazarene churches" (Pottenger, Extreme).

To combat this problem, a new strategy is being implemented, using young volunteer missionaries from the United States and Peru to pair up and plant churches in communities across the south of Peru. This strategy, called 40/40 because it is pairing forty Americans with forty Peruvians, begun by Extreme Nazarene Ministries, seeks to plant 120 Nazarene churches by 2012. “The 40/40 partners will go into the communities, knocking on doors and asking to share their testimonies, building relationships, inviting people to accept Christ and discipling new believers through Bible studies hosted at the cluster houses. Eventually, the Bible studies will grow into church plants” (Pottenger, Extreme). Rimarachin also said, "Peru is going through a period of acceptance and very receptive to the Gospel, so we want to take advantage of that to advance the kingdom of God" (Pottenger, Extreme). Besides door-to-door ministry, the missionaries involved in this project will also be working with other societal needs, including prostitution, alcoholism, and poverty. The main goal is to bring the light of Christ to a dark and hurting people desperate for hope.

God is at work in all nations in ways many people do not even see. God was revealing himself to the Incas in ancient history, and is still revealing himself today as he prepares people to receive the gospel when missionaries come to tell the story of Jesus Christ. When Roger Winans sold Bibles to people in small Peruvian villages, God was working in the lives of people, even calling them to be pastors and church leaders. When God was laying it on the hearts of Peruvian Nazarene leaders in the twenty-first century to reach people for Christ in the unreached places in the south, God was also working in the hearts and lives of North Americans to go and be a part of the expansion of God’s kingdom there. God will continue to work, even in the darkest places of the world to bring glory to his name.

Works Cited

"CIA - The World Factbook -- Peru." Welcome to the CIA Web Site Central Intelligence Agency. Web. Nov. 2009. <>.

"Joshua Project - Ethnic People Groups of Peru." Joshua Project - Unreached Peoples of the World. Web. Nov. 2009. <>.

Morgan, Lela. Venture of the Heart: Nazarene Missions in Peru. Kansas City, MO: Nazarene House, 2000. Print.

Pottenger, Gina. "Extreme Peru deploying ambitious four-year project." Engage Magazine. 27 May 2009. Web. Nov. 2009. <>.

Pottenger, Gina. "Perú Extrema: Segundo Rimarachin." Engage Magazine. 26 May 2009. Web. Nov. 2009. <>.

Richardson, Don. Eternity in Their Hearts. New York: Regal Books, 2006. Print.

Schwaller, John F. "Missions and Missionaries: Spanish America: Information from" Wiki Q&A combined with free online dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedias. Web. Nov. 2009. <>.

Winans, Roger. Gospel Over the Andes. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill, 1955. Print.

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