A letter from Sara Armstrong and Rusty Edmondson in Peru
We travel in Peru about six months of each year, visiting partners, hosting delegations and preparing for future mission teams. We frequently accompany our Peruvian partners as they introduce us to "new programs with great possibilities."* Sometimes our trips take odd turns!
On one such trip we accompanied Pastor Leopoldo Aguilar to Quillabamba, a small, high jungle community about four hours east of Cuzco over high mountain passes. It had been raining in the Andes and as we traveled over a 16,000' pass, we were stopped by a small landslide. Travelers cleared the road and we were soon back on our way.
Pastor Leopoldo travelled with us to introduce us to several programs in the Synod of La Convencion. But the new Bible School for lay pastors at Sajiruyoq was our real destination. It continued to rain the entire evening and most of the following day. By the time we arrived back in Quillabamba to get the bus to Cusco, we discovered that a huge landslide had covered the main road out and it would be a week before it could be re-opened. The transportation office was filled with travelers concerned about the delays. The drivers calmly refused to offer any solutions to the stranded travelers. Pastor Leopoldo took a driver to the side and after a brief conversation announced to us that we could travel by back roads to Cuzco. A few other Peruvians had overheard the conversation and wanted to travel with us. Leopoldo and the driver agreed and 11 of us set out.
The adventurous return journey to Cuzco took 14 hours. Crossing numerous flooded rivers, driving under waterfalls and over bridges that had been "forgotten" by everyone but Leopoldo, driving through, around, and then clearing landslides. We persevered through the night. The roads were dirt, muddy, even snowy as we traversed the high passes into the Andes Mountains.
I was curious why the driver and other Peruvians would trust Pastor Leopoldo, a man they did not know. So I asked him. He smiled and replied, "I walked these roads before they were roads, when they were only slender foot trails. Look around you. I walked all these mountains and valleys to share the message of Christ—to teach, to train, to begin new churches, to find and support leaders, to search for and find "little Leopoldos," Christians like me. This driver, these people ... they may not know me but they know of me. They trust that I will guide everyone to Cuzco, safely." And so he did.
We have since traveled with Pastor Leopoldo accompanying U.S. Presbyterian groups. The adventures we encountered were not quite so dramatic as that first visit—thanks be to God! These teams and Pastor Leopoldo are forming mutual partnerships that will support and build up each other's ministries. Pastor Leopoldo has never worked with a U.S. delegation. His ministry has never formed an international partnership. It is interesting that when he is asked questions by U.S. folks, he smiles and looks at one of us. What he is quietly saying is, "Please guide me, you have been down this trail before."
In Acts 11:22-30 we read about a man named Barnabas, a man who was an encourager, enthusiastically teaching and growing the church:
The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
In fact, as we read more about Barnabas and get to know Pastor Leopoldo .... well, we think he is the 21st century version of Barnabas in Peru. He was sent by his presbytery into the jungle to start this new ministry. It is a privilege to accompany such partners, and a challenge to work together in new areas.
We know that many of you are praying for our work and supporting us, and we thank you. Please pray also for the partners who offer such a tremendous witness by their sacrificial lives. We invite you to come to Peru and take part in the surprising and rewarding work of people such as Leopoldo.
If you have not yet joined in God’s mission in Peru, we invite you to consider coming alongside us through your prayers, correspondence, financial gifts, and visits! With your partnership, together we can continue to build toward the kingdom with our brothers and sisters in Peru.
Sara Armstrong and Rusty Edmondson
*NOTE: In 2012 the PC(USA) signed a new covenant with the Iglesia Evangelica Peruana. We were invited to form new partnerships between the PC(USA) and IEP churches in the three most southern synods of the IEP. La Convencion is a “synod in formation” in the jungle region of the state of Cusco. As we began to plan a future in this whole new area we travelled more frequently to meet people and to develop proposals for mutual work, in order to recruit new U.S. teams. The New Covenant Presbytery around Houston, Texas, is establishing a formal partnership with these three IEP synods.
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