A letter from Sara Armstrong & Rusty Edmondson in Peru
Culture Shock Ripples
I have been working with our partner denomination the Iglesia Evangelica Presbiteriana Reformada en el Peru for a year now. One would think I would be at home. But a recent trip into the Andes Mountains sent culture shock ripples through my life once again. My husband and I were privileged to visit the Bible Institute in the high Andean city of Huanta. The ten hour bus ride doesn’t seem to get any easier. It takes us up over the spine of the Andes at about 16,000 feet and then back down to 9,000 feet in Huanta. We took the day bus to see what damage the recent rains and flooding had brought on the countryside. The waterfalls were rushing and road work was evident, clearing recent landslides. We visited a family whose home and land were carried away in the floods. But we were glad to have very little rain during our week of travel.
We arrived at the Bible Institute in time for morning worship. What a surprise. The chapel preacher was a student and a woman! The Institute planners had been expecting 50-60 students and had even considered cancelling the event because of all the flooding. Over 110 students arrived at the beginning of the month of February for four weeks of study. They were sleeping wherever there was room, sharing mattresses and blankets, the men and women in separate quarters. They get up at 6:00 for personal devotions, and prepare for breakfast at 8:00. Morning classes are at 9, 11 and 12 with chapel at 10. Lunch is the big meal of the day and is served at 1:00. Classes resume at 3:00 in the afternoon (except for Tuesday afternoon which is set aside for soccer games.) There is a small meal in the evening and then people settle in to study.
The students are sent and supported by rural Quechua speaking churches all across the southern part of Peru. They hear about the Institute through Radio Amauta which broadcasts in the Quechua language morning and night and reaches most of Peru. Some students traveled for days to come. One church sent a goat as partial payment. These lay pastors in training are expected to go home and share what they have learned with their congregations. The members of the host church in Huanta are housing as many students as they can. They cook huge amounts of food on wood fires three times a day, peeling potatoes, boiling water to drink, chopping vegetables, preparing chickens, and washing pots. Teachers include current and former missionaries, pastors who are able to leave their churches, recent seminary graduates and lay embers of churches in the area. Everyone gives as they are able.
I was continually struck by the perseverance of these students. They left their farms, families, and communities for a month to sleep on the floor, eat what the ladies could afford to prepare, and study six days a week. On Sundays they walk to churches in a three hour radius of Huanta to preach and teach. Some had colds, one went home with non-infectious typhoid and another was hospitalized in severe pain. Someone from the United States mentioned bed bugs and an upset stomach, but I heard no complaints from the students. Those in their last year were preparing a final project with very few books or resources.
The contrast with my training could not be more stark. The fruits of their training multiply tenfold when they head home. New communities of believers are forming each month. My challenge in Peru is to bear more fruit. “To whom ’much has been given,’ much is being asked.” Lord, help me to be as faithful as your servants in Huanta!
Sara Armstrong shares a mission co-worker position with her husband Rusty Edmondson. They are based in Lima and travel with teams and to visit, preach and teach with partner churches in many parts of Peru. The Radio Amauta will be building new facilities this year which will also accommodate some of the Bible Institute classes. If you wish to support these building efforts or buy books for the Bible Institute library you can go to this website. Click on “Projects” for more information or on “Support” for ways to give.
The 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 294