Great to be back in Australia! We’re looking forward to catching up with family and friends.
Our family after the long flight
The twins in front of the Qantas jet that brought us home on a beautiful and sunny winter’s day
What happens when you get together students and Christian staff workers from universities all around the world, from places like Australia, Ghana, Palestine and Peru? I’m really grateful to have to have been part of this amazing event called the IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) World Assembly.
One student from El Salvador shared how students live with the fear of bandits who take advantage of the instability in the country. She’s once had to dive to the ground when gunfire opened in the streets. Other students shared how they operate in countries where it is illegal to share their faith. It was also sad to hear that in countries in Europe that we’d consider peaceful and open to the gospel, the University administration treats evangelical groups with suspicion while being open to other religions. One administrator told a Christian group that he believed they were only growing because they used manipulation and coercion. For me this was encouragement to fully take advantage of the openness to the gospel we currently have in Peru.
Working in Peru has it’s own challenges so it was helpful to talk to others in a similar situation. I’m the only full-time staff worker in a University with over 20,000 students. There are two other universities within walking distance with over 10,000 students each. Clearly to reach such an enormous number of students we need processes to disciple and empower Christian students to reach their friends. It was great to connect with Peter Sholl, an Aussie missionary, who has a programme for providing theological education for University student while they continue in their studies. Daniela from Mexico (video in Spanish) spoke about how syncretism where Catholicism mixed with other beliefs results in a world view that is distant from what the Bible teaches. She shared some ideas of how their group engages with students in this context.
The conference was also a good opportunity to speak with the leaders of the University ministry from several different Latin American countries about our Uconecta project. The students from Mexico were particularly interested. I learnt a lot from a student from Chile who showed me a system that his University used to share information.
Here’s an article in Christianity Today that features a photo of someone you know. When the photo was taken I was just asking a question about the financial statement - not making one of the five world changing ideas. :) I did however get the opportunity to share about the Uconecta project at the Latin American gathering.
About 24 Peruvian students spent a weekend immersed in English. Apart from practicing speaking English, we also learnt about where we should look for truth. Jesus said “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life”. A team of 4 from Tyndale University in Canada helped by leading sessions about the Bible and running workshops. We played also played games, sang and got to know each other. David really enjoyed the camp because having more time to talk meant deeper conversations. One student shared how he had earlier made a commitment to Jesus but struggled to stay committed. Other students opened up about different challenges that they faced. Several Christian students were encouraged in their walk with the Lord.
The evaluation forms were overwhelmingly positive and everyone wanted another camp. Someone even wrote in the what could be improved section “Less free time” which makes us laugh as Pervians do love organised activities.
What was the best thing about camp? The bonfire, making friends, playing games, playing card games, talking with campers, the preaching, the talent show, the food, new friendships, sharing knowledge about God, conversation in English.
Marisol:- “the best thing was the preaching of the gospel and the talking about Jesus as the truth, because that's the most important thing in our lives”.
What did you learn about God or the Bible? About Jesus and the faith, The differences between Catholics and Evangelicals, proof that the bible is true, I learned that being with God we can have or I’ve live in the truth, the meanings of biblical words are more clear than in Spanish (now).
Elizabeth – I learnt that God is the truth, his words are the truth, I will obey God's word. I will walk by the voice of God.
We thank God for the help of the Canadian team. It was a blessing to many and helped build stronger friendships with our students. The team are safely home for which we also grateful to God as we had two day of protests and strikes during their visit. Once we narrowly escaped injury when soccer fans got unfriendly in the main square. One person from the team named Adam has stayed. He was on the team last year and will and will stay for 3 months working with the English ministry and more. Please pray for Adam that he will connect with students and inspire them in their spiritual walk. Please pray for the students in Arequipa English and especially the ones that we are following up.
On Tuesday 1st of April last year our friend Paulo went to be with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It was a shock to everyone as he was only 34 years old.
He was faithful in serving the Lord each week, playing the piano while his brother played guitar and sisters sang. About two years ago, he received the honour of being invited to be part of the Orchestra of Arequipa in a town where there are very few paid music jobs. He played the double bass and his colleagues described him as extremely talented.
I felt a connection with him because he encouraged us in our desire to get our girls learning the piano and appreciating music. The kids (and us too) loved to go to see Paulo play in concert often in beautiful old cathedrals. Thankfully, being a double bass player, he was standing so we could see him :-).
We had hoped he could teach them piano but because of his commitments with the orchestra (and his health issues which his Mum had told me briefly about) he recommended a music school right near our place where he studied himself. We knew of the place and had met him nearby accidentally many times as we played in the parks close to the school. He would spot us or the kids would spot him as he walked to his classes. It seemed he was ever keen on improving his skills even though he was already so good. So through these meetings, music events and the church I got to know him well. He was a gentle person, kind, faithful and interested in others.
He died of a heart attack in the waiting room of the hospital. He had some prior blood pressure issues and health concerns and was awaiting a heart operation, though few knew the gravity of his problems which he did not mention. It saddens me greatly to think his death could have been prevented. He had gone to the hospital the day before (Sunday night) with pain in the heart but they just asked him to come back the next day. We trust that he is in a better place. I am grateful that about a month before his death his parents had returned to live with him and this gave them some precious time with him.
His death was a shock. We got a phone call from a friend and then an SMS from his brother-in-law. There was a “wake" that very night in the funeral home with the funeral the following day. Thankfully our pastor (brother-in-law) was able to, despite his grief, point people towards God. Both events were well attended by friends and family and orchestra members too paid their respects with music.
His brother was devastated after Paulo died but we were happy to see that late last year God gave him a lovely wife, no doubt a comfort in this time of distress. They make a beautiful couple and it was a joy to attend their wedding in November and see his joy. The brother returned to leading church after a break mourning Paulo's loss.
Paulo did not run the race in vain but served God and others in his short life – may we be encouraged to do likewise. It seemed fitting to post this a year on in memory of Paulo – I miss him and sometimes feel myself choking up when I think of him. It took me a little longer to make friends here in Peru so when someone makes an effort, with some English thrown in, it touched my heart. We miss you Paulo but know you served God with enthusiasm with the talents he gave you.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...
We recently had two teams come to help us with our ministry in Arequipa. We were able to speak to hundreds of people we normally wouldn’t have been able to. We visited schools, English Institutes, the University as well as running various programmes. The first team came from Canada and the second from much closer to our home in Australia - from the Wycliffe Christian School in the Blue Mountains in Australia.
These are my highlights from the Wycliffe team…
1. Singing My Jesus
The team was requested to perform a song called "Mi Jesus” (My Jesus) at an English Institute in Arequipa to more than 100 students. This was after we were strictly instructed not do anything religious. Visiting the institute helped connect us with many new students.
There was a student who had been through some tough times and who had stopped coming to our Christian group. She happened to come to one of the small groups led by the Australian team and shared her moving testimony.
3. Visiting a kids club in a poor community
It’s always moving visiting kids clubs. Here a local church is reaching out to a community where young kids are often home alone while their parents work. This was extra special because the Wycliffe team brought a donation to help this programme.
4. Special Times
We also had special times with the team sharing in our struggles, sorrows and joys.
Thanks also to the team for bringing donations for several other ministries here in Arequipa too - for the Breakfast Programme, a kids programme we mentioned and funds to assist with a roof for a new church plant. So thank you Daniel, Sandy, Emma, Rachel, Caitlyn and Tom.
Our next post will be the highlights from the Canadian team who came from Tyndale Bible College and University.
Please pray for the many connections we have made and that some of these students will continue to study the Bible with us. Pray for students who have reconnected with us - that our group will make them feel welcomed and loved.