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A letter from Sara Armstrong and Rusty Edmondson in Peru

November 2013

Miracles in Peru/USA Youth Partnerships

We believe that full partnership between U.S. and Peruvian Christians implies travel both ways.  However, this is really hard to accomplish.  When members of the Presbytery of San Gabriel in Los Angeles proposed inviting two members of their Peruvian partner synod to attend our national youth gathering, I was very dubious.

Abel Sanchez with other representatives at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium

We just received a letter from the Peruvian participant in our national youth gathering last summer.  Before I translate it for you, please let me share the miracles that took place in order that Abel Isaías Sanchez Cruz could represent his country at the 2013 PC(USA) Youth Triennium.

The Peruvian Synod of Ayacucho nominated two young college students who are leaders with the youth to go to the U.S.  The folks in the U.S. sent $500 to cover their visa application costs.  The first step was to travel on an overnight bus from high in the Andes to Lima to take out their Peruvian passports.  They were to cover their own travel costs, a commitment for these students.

Isai Lopez Cahuana was nominated, but despite months of effort on his behalf, he could never straighten out a problem with his national identity card.  So Abel came to Lima by himself, his first time in the big city, and went home with his new passport the next night.  

The U.S. Embassy allows applicants to download the U.S. visa application and start filling in the 14 pages. But it is all in English. So on our next trip to Ayacucho five of us spent hours helping Abel fill out all the questions and carefully document his reasons for travel and, more important, the reasons why he would be returning to Peru. We took his photo and attached it electronically.

Letters of support for his application from the PC(USA) national offices and from the Presbytery of San Gabriel were carried to Peru by hand by various travelers.

The next step was to call for a visa appointment on a day when he could take a day off work and travel two nights.  On the day of his appointment he came to Lima and straight to our house to practice for his five-minute interview at the U.S. Embassy.  

Most young people who apply for U.S. visas are denied.  Too many visitors have stayed illegally in the U.S. to live and work without papers. His task was to tell the interviewer the purpose of the trip, how his costs were covered, his family ties in Peru (including a girlfriend!), his employment at the Radio Amauta, and compelling reasons why he would return—all in five minutes. Most young people would have been flustered at this point but Abel just kept smiling and, in short order, had memorized five reasons why he was coming back.  One of them was to finish his thesis for his college degree. He is writing about education in his native language of Quechua. I kept telling Abel that he would probably be denied his visa. I did not want to raise his hopes of traveling too high.

Abel Sanchez (in orange) with young people from the San Gabriel Presbytery at a joint youth retreat in Peru.

We went to the bank and paid S/.476 new soles or about $180 for the visa appointment. Receipts and his new 2” X 2” photos in hand, we left for the hour-long taxi ride to the Embassy.   Only the applicant is allowed to enter the imposing U.S. Embassy.  Applicants must leave their electronic accoutrements at the door and be searched.

I went with our friend the taxi driver to have a coffee and wait. After his interview, Abel did not have to wait to hear if he had been approved.  He found me with a big grin and said he had a really sympathetic interviewer who already told him that he got his visa.  I was amazed almost to the point of tears at this unexpected miracle.  The actual passport with a visa took two weeks to arrive at our local DHL office. San Gabriel folks quickly bought his ticket (four weeks before his flight) and planned his visit with them and his travel to Indiana.

We helped him pack representative items for Peru, and then we sent one very excited young man off to the U.S.  His father kept calling us for news and repeatedly asked when he was coming back.

Here is his report on his time in the U.S.:

Abel Sanchez at work in the Radio Amauta station in Huanta, Peru

I am very happy and grateful to have participated in 2013 in the U.S. Triennium. First I thank God and the San Gabriel Presbytery for allowing me to participate in this activity.

I gained many experiences and in this short report I could not begin to tell about them all, but I will highlight the main ones.

  • We exchanged experiences between different countries, cultures and ways of thinking, but with ONE FOCUS: JESUS, THE CENTER OF OUR LIVES.
  • It was amazing to participate in a Congress of more than 5,000 young people from different states and countries. I learned that there are no limits when God wants us to UNITE AND TEACH to take his word to the nations.
  • In the Triennium I learned to work with young people. This was one of the best tasks and the most beautiful. [I shared about my country and learned about yours.] Just as the U.S. has 50 states, here in Peru we have 26 regions, although there are still some areas without Presbyterian churches.
  • In the Triennium we learned that we have to have big dreams and short-, medium- and long-term goals, focused on bringing the gospel of Jesus to the youth.
  • In the Triennium I was strengthened in my spiritual and ministerial life. As a youth leader I learned that nothing is impossible for God and we can do great things with God’s help.
  • I met great people and marvelous people who love God and want to do his will. All together we can continue sharing Jesus with young people.

As a result of participating in the Triennium, I am making a proposal [to work with] the next congress of young Presbyterians in Peru. All the strategies and experiences I gained in the U.S. are helping me a lot.

There is much to share... A hug to you all!

Abel Sanchez

U.S. short-term mission teams only spend a few days in Peru. But the long-term relationships are both life-changing and a means of revealing God’s grace. The contacts these young people make do change lives.

As mission co-workers, Rusty and I are joining with the PC(USA) to increase designated giving for our support and for our partner ministries here in Peru. Please let us know if you would be interested in contributing. Our new goals are set high, in order for our church and its workers to continue in ministry throughout the world. Thank you for taking part in our mutual work, that of Abel, all our partners, and each and every one of you.  

Qué Dios les bendiga ricamente! 

Sara Armstrong

The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 31
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