A team of Georgia Baptist leaders first visited Lima, Peru, in the fall of 2021. The IMB Gateway Cities Team had been working diligently to coordinate our visit. Our mission was to learn what a partnership with a church in the Lima region might look like. What we received was an in-depth look into what God is doing regionally through the Lima Baptist association and nationally through the Peruvian Baptist Convention.
About midway through our visit, we traveled to the Finca Bautista, the Lima Baptist Association camp, to meet with the Missions Team for the Peruvian Baptist Convention. I remember commenting on their camp on the outskirts of Lima, saying, “This reminds me of a camp I might have gone to as a kid!” Their response was, “It should. You built it!” And that is the kind of mission force we have been in places like Peru. We bought land and we built stuff. We sent pastors. And while there may still be a need for those kinds of partnerships, the church in Peru is asking for something different.
The Mission Team was working on a new mission vision for the Peruvian Baptist Convention. Their vision was to plant churches more organically, empowering local churches and raising up local leaders. Their vision was strategic, planting churches and districts where there was little or no evangelical work. Their vision was responsive, setting a goal of planting churches in 10% of the human settlements around Lima in the next 20 years. There are upwards of 4000 of these places presently. When they shared these and other goals with us, my response was, “I am so glad to be here! I would love to be a part of this coming to pass!”
Certainly, there are other wonderful church networks in Peru, but to our team on that first visit, it seemed that God was inviting us to be a part of something quite special. What if a US church partnered with a church in one of the more populated areas of Peru? Places like Lima, Arequipa, or Piura? What if that partnership was not only to see both churches strengthened as Acts 1:8 entities locally, but also to see both churches become entities that multiplied themselves through raising up indigenous leaders and planting new churches? Would a partnership with a U S church make it not only more achievable, but also more effective for a Peruvian congregation to engage in this mission vision?
Opportunities for churches to be on mission in Peru abound! Any sized church with any gift set would have a place to serve and partner. Our team visited a church with a shelter for Venezuelan refugees, an urban church plant, a ministry to families with disabled children, a children’s outreach, a church plant in one of the human settlements, and four established congregations. Every one of these churches talked about planting other churches and most already supported numerous ministry sites.
A significant part of our regional mission strategy has been to raise up virtual strategy coordinators or VSC's who would develop strategies and assist churches in engaging a specific region in a partnering country. Jerry Alcorta, pastor of New Destiny Church in Lawrenceville, is our VSC for Lima, Peru. Jerry was born and raised in Miraflores, one of fifty districts in the city of Lima, and has pastored for 40 years in the US. He has provided a wealth of wisdom and resources in facilitating our partnership with Peru.
In early 2021, upon the recommendation of one of our IMB team members in Peru, Jerry began to help Stuart Lang, pastor of FBC Hartwell, connect with a pastor in Barranca, Peru, a city on the northern edge of the Lima district. Pastor Segundo was working with a network of about seven churches in his area, encouraging and strengthening them, with plans to plant more. After numerous virtual meetings, it was on this trip to Peru that Stewart and Jerry first met this group of pastors in person. This was the in-person meeting where a relationship was formalized between FBC Hartwell and FBC Barranca. After this weekend of pastoral training, fellowship, and worship, both congregations would agree to work together or co-labor in the gospel.
I am watching the same relationships unfold through my second trip to Lima that took place in the spring of 2022 where Craig Ward, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Clarksville, Ga., and Wade Lott, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Hiawassee, Ga., met potential partnering churches and pastors in the Lima district. Both churches have been in touch virtually with their new partners and are making plans for projects in the fall of 2022. What is my role? What is Jerry's role? We are there to facilitate next steps. I have scheduled and hosted several zoom meetings. Jerry has served as interpreter and coach. We are there for whatever these churches need as these relationships move forward.
Another of our VSC's for Peru, Robbie Brown, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Danielsville, Ga., will soon be returning to work with a network of churches he has partnered with for almost 10 years in the city of Arequipa. He and eleven members of Trinity will be leading a retreat for pastors and families. There is room for another church to send their pastor to assist in leading a time of pastoral training. Robbie would like to facilitate your engagement with Arequipa churches.
And in the very near future, Jerry Alcorta and Stuart Lang are going back to Barranca. There is room for you on that trip! While in Peru, Jerry is making plans to take interested Georgia Baptist leaders to Piura to meet churches and church plants in that area.
I have heard team leader of the IMB’s Lima Gateway Cities Team say in more than one meeting that we should always “plan toward vision.” Our partnership with Peru was born out of a vision. The Peruvian Baptist convention is casting a major new vision to engage their country with the gospel. Networks of churches in Peru have a vision to plant more churches and strengthen existing congregations.
So how does a church get started in this partnership or the one for your region?
Keith Ivey is the Missions Consultant for the Northern Regions of Georgia. To learn more about opportunities for mission partnerships in Peru, email Keith at email@example.com.