Political and economic conditions in Peru caused many citizens to emigrate in the 1970s and later. Two of those who were saved in Venezuela remembered the families they had left behind and heard the Lord’s command, “Go to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee.” They discussed this with me and I in turn found an exercise in a local businessman known for his interest in gospel work. The result was that these Christians and a few others accompanied us on our first visit to Peru in 2003. (My wife, Carmen, and I have been in full-time service in Venezuela since 1983.)
Visits to Peru are now being made semiannually, often consisting of more than a dozen believers. Air travel involves more trouble and expense than would be expected if made in North America, and bus travel within the country is exhausting and even dangerous. Broadly speaking, the Republic consists of Greater Lima on the coastal strip (population 8 million), the intimidating Andes mountains, and the vast interior. Santa Cruz and other cities east of the mountains consider themselves to be almost a separate nation, and the expanding narcotics trade is strengthening their hand!
The expeditions are all work, no play. We distribute literature, preach the gospel, and instruct new believers in homes, rented rooms, and outdoors. Our exercise is to purchase property in one location where the converts meet but do not yet break bread.
Opportunities abound. “Unto the poor the gospel is preached,” and we encounter many who are very poor, even by our standards here. If I were 30 years younger, I would be located in Peru. While it is true that, over the years, one or two of the group have traveled to distant locations to follow up on specific contacts, by and large we bear in mind the saying that is common here: “He who embraces much, squeezes little.”
Most of our work has been carried on in places where the Venezuelans’ relatives live. Of course, it has often been the neighbors, and not the relatives, who responded. We are concentrating on four centers: the capital, the far north bordering on Ecuador, and two in between. We have not been able to continue in some places where we wish to be, and, on the other hand, are being encouraged to visit outlying towns in the most northerly province.
Assembly work commenced in Peru in the 1890s and missionary annals tell of persecution and faithful service. From time to time we meet or visit the Lord’s people of diverse backgrounds. However, we believe the Lord has guided us to carry on in virgin territories. Souls have been saved and saints have been baptized. They need shepherding and teaching, and sometimes I make an in-between visit for this purpose. Also, others have remained in the country between the semiannual campaigns. A married couple in a Caracas assembly has been led of the Lord to locate soon in the Peruvian town that has shown the most promise, but is struggling.
Over the years, some sheep have been stolen and no doubt some wandered of their own volition in the absence of mature Christian friends and a fixed location for meetings. However, with all, we are very encouraged.