From its desert along the Pacific coast to the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Jungle, Peru is one of the most ecologically diverse places in the world, rich with natural resources. Cultural diversity is also part of Peru’s story. Once home to the Inca Empire, it was invaded by Spanish Conquistadores in 1532, and later received thousands of African slaves and Asian indentured servants that were forced into harsh labor. Due to its vast territory and gold and silver production, Peru was considered one of Spain´s most important colonies. Declaring its independence from Spain in 1821, Peru continued to exploit the resources of the land for its own economic growth and development.
Today, the Andes continue to have great mining potential and the Amazon basin has rich oil deposits. Increased exploitation of such resources, known as extractive activity, has led to major economic growth in recent decades, yet the gap between rich and poor in Peru is one of the highest in the Americas. Among the most impoverished peoples are indigenous populations whose livelihoods and way of life are gravely impacted by contamination of air, land and water. Furthermore, Peru is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. It is in this context that Presbyterian World Mission joins in ministry with its global partners, Joining Hands – Peru (RUMP) and the Evangelical Church of Peru (IEP).
Joining Hands-Peru is an ecumenical network comprised of eight Peruvian churches and faith based non-government organizations (NGOs). Network members come together to identify root causes of poverty and related injustices and to address them in their local contexts by shaping and participating in strategic advocacy campaigns at the national and local levels. Joining Hands – Peru tackles issues such as environmental contamination by the mining industry, the growing water crisis due to global warming, and trade policies that disadvantage many Peruvians. Joining Hands invites Presbyterians in the US to join with them in this work through active mission partnerships that include joint advocacy initiatives and hands-on service opportunities.
In a largely Catholic country, the Evangelical Church of Peru is a large, historic Protestant denomination in the Reformed tradition with a significant pastoral presence in Quechua-speaking regions. For more than a century the IEP has placed major emphasis on leadership training rooted in local culture through a network of Bible Institutes.
Through the Peru Mission Network, PCUSA churches and presbyteries partner with Joining Hands members and with IEP churches and Bible Institutes discerning together how God calls us to learn from one another in service to God’s mission.
Representing Presbyterian World Mission in Peru are three mission co-workers, Jed and Jenny Koball and Chenoa Stock.
Jed serves the Joining Hands – Peru as a partnership facilitator between the network and PC(USA) churches and presbyteries promoting participation in advocacy campaigns. In this role he leads mission study trips for Presbyterians, and serves as a resource to the network in Peru as needed.
Jenny is the Peru site coordinator for the PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program, which sends people aged 19 to 29 to serve in communities of need in the United States and abroad. The YAV experience encourages participants to live in intentional Christian community, while promoting spiritual formation and vocational discernment. Each YAV in Peru is placed with and accompanies one of the member churches or NGOs that form Joining Hands – Peru.
Chenoa serves as delegation and partnership coordinator for the PERUSA program of Joining Hands-Peru. This program provides opportunities for Presbyterians to participate in short term mission service with IEP churches or Bible Institutes or with Joining Hands-Peru member groups.