This morning we suffered a great loss. After a battle with COVID-19 Pastora Presidente Adita Torres, leader of the Lutheran Church of Peru, claimed her baptismal promise and was welcomed into the arms of her savior. She was a friend and colleague for over two decades. Adita died on her 61st birthday, August 10, 1959-2020.

In 1999 I was a young pastor in his 30s when our Gulf Coast Synod bishop announced the ordination of the first five pastors in the Lutheran Church of Peru, one of our two companion synods. Prior to this, Peruvian Lutheran congregations had been pastored by missionaries, and in some cases by lay leaders. These five were the first Peruvian pastors to be ordained in what was then called Iglesia Luterana Evangelica del Peru. 

Bishop Paul Blom issued an invitation for anyone who desired to come along and participate in the ordination at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Lima. I jumped at the opportunity, and was privileged to become aquatinted with the Lutheran Church in Peru, and befriended by these five new pastors and many members of the young Peruvian church. They are an expressive group. I don’t think I had been kissed so often by so many ever in my life. 

The five newly ordained pastors are pictured below, starting with Pastor Adita Torres, second from the left in the front row. Next to her is Benjamín Navarro, Irene Poncé, Patricia Cuyatti and Pedro Bullón. Next to Pedro is I ELCA director of global mission, Rafael Malpica. I am behind Rafael. In the center of the back row is Bishop Paul Blom. It is hard to believe this was 21 years ago. 

1999: At her ordination, Pastora Adita Torres is in the front row second from the left.  
 1999: Peru trip.

What followed was an explosion of enthusiastic interaction. Grace Conroe partnered with the congregation Iglesia Luterana San Juan Camino de Esperanza. Living Word partnered with Luz Divina. Other Gulf Coast Synod congregations partnered with other Peruvian congregations in Lima, Trujillo, Cuzco and other places. Many trips ensued in the 2000’s. Friendships were built. Peruvian visitors like Patricia Cuyatti were guests in our home. People on one continent were asked be godparents for children on another. The synod-to-church relationship was complicated, but filled with prayer, kindness and love for one another. 

2001: Pastor President Patricia Cuyatti, front-center, visiting Grace Conroe.
 2002 Grace Conroe Peru trip
2005 Grace Conroe Peru Trip
2005 Living Word Peru Trip

In 2008 we had something like 50 people from six or seven Gulf Coast congregations visit the Lutheran Church in Peru. Below are a few of them:

2008 Gulf Coast Synod Peru Trip
Some Friends at Talitha Kum Lutheran Church in Cuzco, 2008.

2009 marked the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the ordinations of the five pastors. 

2009: Pastora Adita Torres receives a plaque commemorating the 10th anniversary of her ordination.  
2009: Pastora Adita Torres communing her mother at the 10th anniversary of ordination.
2009: Pastor Benjamín Navarro at the 10th ordination anniversary, with Bishop Mike.
2009: 10th anniversary. Pastora Adita is second from the left.
In 2011 we brought a number of youth from various congregations, including my son John.
The 2011 Peru Trip included Dr. Javier Alanis from the Lutheran Seminary Program of the Southwest. Pastora Adita is in the back on the left end of the mural.
2011: Two children from Philadelphia Lutheran Church were Adita served as pastor.
2012 Peru Trip

In 2013 Pastora Adita travelled to the U.S. to take part in the Gulf Coast Synod assembly at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas. It was an honor to have her present with us as I was elected to a second term as bishop. 

2013: Gulf Coast Synod Assembly with bishop election. L-R Sandy, Mandy, Bishop Mike and Pastora Adita Torres.

In the summer of 2013, following the assembly, we also had a synod group to Peru:

In May of 2019, Adita was elected President of the Lutheran Church of Peru. Women have played a key role in the Peruvian Lutheran Church from the outset. Three of the first five pastors were women. Adita studied at the Comunidad Teológica de Chile on a scholarship, and then at the Methodist Theological Seminary in Lima. 

Pastora Adita serves Philadelphia Lutheran Church in Lima. Their sister congregation in our synod is Lord of Life Lutheran Church in The Woodlands. 

Pastor Adita and a Lord of Life in The Woodlands member at Philadelphia Lutheran Church in Lima, Peru
2019: Friends at Philadelphia Lutheran Church in Lima, Peru

Every few years a gathering of the presidents/bishops of the Latin American Lutheran Churches gather with the leaders of their companion synods in the U.S. Last year that event was held in Antigua, Guatemala. The Peruvian church has three companions synods: the Gulf Coast Synod, the La Crosse Area Synod, and the British Columbia Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Representatives are pictured below.

Front row L-R

  • Bishop Greg Mohr (BC)
  • Pastor Lori-Anne Boutin-Crawford (BC)
  • Pastor/President Adita Torres (LCP)
  • Pastor Irene Poncé (LCP)
  • Pastor Sandy Jones (GCS)

Back row L-R

  • Bishop Mike Rinehart (GCS)
  • Bishop Jim Arends (LAS)
  • Jennifer Carr (LAC)
  • Gustavo Driau (ELCA Regional Representative in South America)

This year, 2020, Pastora Presidente Adita was to travel to Texas and Louisiana to visit Lord of Life Lutheran Church for their 50thanniversary, a partner congregation of Iglesia Luterana Filadelfia, where Adita served as pastor, and the Gulf Coast Synod Assembly. Some of us were going to travel to Peru as well this summer. Unfortunately, the outbreak of COVID-19 cancelled the trips and the assembly. 

Adita was a stong advocate for women’s rights in Peru. She worked tirelessly across ecumenical lines. She did this work with gentleness and diligent persistence.

Pastora Presidente Adita died on her birthday, August 10, 1959-2020. She will be greatly missed, remembered for her kindness, patience and faithfulness to the gospel. 

Rest in peace my dear friend and colleague, Pastora Presidente Adita Torres. You are much loved.