(Part 3 of 3 articles about the ongoing ELS work in Peru, as seen through the eyes of visiting North American pastors.)
Leaving Lima, Peru, by car is often a harrowing event. The traffic, sometimes moving quickly, sometimes crawling along, always requires the attention of the driver. Painted lanes and oncoming traffic appear to mean little to most drivers as everyone tries for the best and fastest position. As we leave Lima behind, there is a sudden change from crowded streets to barren sand dunes. We are on the way to Chimbote and an exciting new project. The drive takes nearly six hours with only one brief stop. Gaps in the rolling sand dunes offers views of ocean on one side and mountains on the other. Finally, we enter Chimbote.
Chimbote is a major fishing port and claims to be the oldest fishing port in the New World. Massive fishing boats from as far away as China anchor there in the evenings and leave for the fishing waters each morning. Restaurants serving Peruvian Civiche — pieces of raw fish, shellfish, squid, and other seafood marinated in lime juice, red onions, and spices — are everywhere.
Chimbote is home to Pastor Segundo Gutierrez and Dios Es Mi Fortaleza (God is My Strength) Lutheran Church. This congregation has been meeting for many years, shepherded by Pastor Gutierrez. They have survived periods of violence in the area, including kidnappings and terrorism. Today, Chimbote is a much safer place, even thriving, and is becoming a tourist destination. And the congregation is growing.
They began meeting in a member’s home, but now have their own building. The members recently raised funds on their own to remodel the interior, adding beautiful tile floors and walls, a small office, and a bathroom. They hope to add a second floor with classroom space in the future and are hoping for outside assistance.
Seminary classes are held in the church building, training local men as pastors. Pastor Gutierrez and Pastor Jaime Cortez Milla share seminary teaching duties in Lima and in Chimbote, traveling regularly between the two cities by bus.
A new and exciting project has also begun in Chimbote. The congregation now streams their Sunday service live via the internet and Facebook. Regular video devotions are also planned. Services and devotions will be shared not only with the congregation, but through the church body website, they are available to the world.
It was our pleasure to see the interest in using this technology to reach out to others in Peru and throughout the world. After brief training, the pastors and members now run the project with high hopes as the first live stream attracted multiple viewers without any type of announcement or advertising!
We pray that this congregation will continue to be blessed by God and that their outreach efforts will bear much fruit!
-Rev. Paul Fries & Rev. Matt Behmer