Each synod in the ELCA has one or more global companions, Lutheran Churches in other parts of the world with whom we share fellowship. Our companion synods are the Lutheran Church of Peru and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic.

In March of 2020 I was scheduled to attend the Lutheran Church of Peru’s Assembly in Lima, but, well, we all know what happened. I never used that plane ticket. Now that things have calmed down a bit, they asked Bishop Felix Malpica (LaCrosse Area Synod which also has a companion relationship with Peru) and me to come and meet with their leaders to map out our relationship moving forward. This post will gather photos and some of our conversations.

My first trip to Peru was in 1999, for the ordination of the first five Peruvian pastors. We have been friends and coworkers in the gospel for nearly a quarter of a century.

I’m in the top row, far right, a young 30-something. Front row far right is Rafael Malpica, Director of Global Mission at the time. Next to him are the five pastors ordained in 1999, L-R: Adita Torres, Benjamin Navarro, Irene Poncé, Patricia Cuyatti, and Pedro Bullón. Pedro is now President/Bishop.

And many, many Texas congregations have joined in and visited over the last 23+ years.

We remember with sadness President/Bishop Adita Torres who passed away from COVID during the pandemic.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

United flight from Houston to Lima. 6.5 hours, arriving around 9 pm. Hotel arrival 11 pm.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022, Holy Cross Day

Bishop Felix Malpica (LaCrosse Area Synod) arrived on the red eye at dawn. We met with some members of the Conferencia Pastoral, then with the Board of Directors (Council) for the Lutheran Church of Peru.

There is not enough space to recount all we heard. We spent a lot of time processing the pandemic. In areas where people didn’t have computers or perhaps even cell phones, communication was tough. People moved away during the pandemic. Congregations struggled, but some were lifelines. Like us, they went online for those who had internet.

When the president of the church, Pastora Adita, got sick with COVID, then the Vice President got sick, and other leaders, they struggled to keep things going. Then Pastora Adita died, and it was a huge blow. They scrambled to keep things going.

Pastora Yoli in Iquitos spoke of the break down of families. With children out of school and everyone in homes, domestic abuse went up, affecting women and children.

Congregations

I asked who was serving which congregations in the area and this is what I discovered:

In conversation with ILP

1. Cristo Rey, Lima – Armando Capcha

2. Galileia, Huacho – Eliseo Mandmiento

3. Luz Divina, Lima – Benjamin Navarro

I know it looks like we are eating all the time and not working but, okay, we were eating all the time.

L-R: Obispo Felix Malpica, Daisy Urquizo (ILP staff), Irene Poncé, c’est moi.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Bishop Felix went to El Buen Pastor and I went to San Juan Camino de Esperanza in the Santa Elizabeth neighborhood of the San Juan de Lurigancho District. I have been to this congregation three times, twice when I served Grace, Conroe as pastor and then once as bishop. This was my first time in this building. They now have title to this property for which they paid $18,000. The property is worth $200,000 today. This was made possible by the generosity of the members of Grace Lutheran in Conroe and the diligent attention of Grace member Tracy Behnke, an ELCA grant, and others.

The pandemic took its toll here too. Families worked desperately to put food on the table while children stayed home from school, kids caring for kids. many are behind. Some have gone to work and given up on school. They are having success getting kids into training for professions.

Their dream is now to start a K+ school. They will need to finish the roof first ($5K). Then some start up funds will get them going.

They received some gifts of paraments and a Spanish-language Book of Concord, compliments of Texas Pastor Fred Krebs, who served here in the 90’s.

L-R: Yours truly, Pastora Ana Maria Jara, Youth Worker Jennifer, Treasurer Gladys Machado, Maria Cruz Mendoza de Guerra, President Mainor Velásquez Ruíz, Hilda Espinal Mendoza.

After our visit we went to the home of Pastora Ana María, where I have not been for twenty years. She made pachamanca for lunch, a traditional Peruvian meal with beef, chicken, giant corn on the cob called choclo, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and habas (fava) beans. It was delicious. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day here and I was stuffed.

In the afternoon we met with leaders of the church’s Administration Department, then with the Project Review Team: Coordinators and Administrative Support of the Lutheran Church of Peru’s projects.

Murals

Some do the murals remind me of Houston and New Orleans.

Friday, September 16, 2022

We took some time to introduce Bishop Felix to Peru. Pedro Velíz joined us.

In the afternoon we headed to the Santiago Apóstol Catholic Retreat Center in Barranco for a pastors’ retreat. The retreat center, situated on the Pacific Coast, is stunningly beautiful, even in their winter (which is much like Houston winter).

Over the next 24 hours, we shared the realities of our ministries the last two years. Joys and sorrows, sorrows, laughter and tears. Then we shared hopes and dreams and began to imagine a way forward in our relationship together.

Election season. For whom are you voting?

Food

Sunday, September 18, 2022

On Sunday, Bishop Felix headed over to Vida Nueva (New Life) Lutheran Church for worship then lunch with some members.

I was invited to Belén (Bethlehem) Lutheran Church in Breña on Sunday morning, where I consecrated the elements, distributed communion, blessed children and visited with the youth after lunch.

Blessing children, one of my favorite things.

They even have a Lutheran prayer dog who attends worship.

Juan Leyva led music, a friend I have known nearly 20 years.
Juan and his family are some of the 1 million plus people who have poured out of Venezuela into Peru during the Venezuelan crisis. They have been welcomed with open arms at Belén and are living in the church house while they get on their feet. This is what welcoming the stranger looks like.

Afterwards I got a chance to meet and hang out with los jóvenes, the youth. Some of them are doing quite well with their English.

It was fun to see Adriana Espinoza again. Adriana attended the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston.