Quito, Cali, Lima and Santiago, Summer, 2009
Quito, Ecuador July 20-24
Quito is a city of 1.8 million nestled in a high valley in the Andes. Being at such high elevation situated exactly on the equator, it always has days exactly twelve hours long and virtually unchanging weather. It is surprisingly cool-in the 50s oF at night and in the 60s or 70s during the day. This is a very old city, having been founded by the Spanish in 1538. The old colonial center is an architectural wonder with its spectacular cathedrals, hospitals and other buildings in the Spanish style. Surprisingly (to me) it is not the largest city in Ecuador with its 1.5 million inhabitants. That honor goes to Guayaquil. Ecuador is a country of great contrasts, with hot and humid weather at the coast, a wide strip of very high plains and mountains and much cooler weather in the center and very hot Amazonian jungle in the Eastern lowlands. The mountains here are massive. We can see the volcano Cotopaxi which is 21,000 feet tall. Quito itself is seated on very large hills. There is much poverty here. It was surprising that somewhere around half of the passengers in our flight were Christian missionaries of some sort. Ecuador is a country with a very strong Roman Catholic past, but it seems open to other kinds of Christianity. The food here is rice, corn and lots of potatoes. There are an unlimited number of kinds of fruit here. The national food, or one of them, is arepas, which is made of ground corn, sometimes filled with meats or cheese.
The church we met with is made up of 150 members. They are led very capably by Mario and Mirella Gomez. We stayed in their house and had many wonderful meals with them and their wonderful children. They are very close to the churches in Colombia and have many relationships with a church in Nashville in the US. The church has experienced some difficult growing pains and is trying to put behind some discouragement. Hopefully our visit was a help in this. Despite this, the leaders here are very faithful and have a growing vision to do great things for God. The majority of the church is made of young families with younger children, with a number of singles as well. We feel very warmly welcomed here by our new family of Ecuadoreanos. We made some wonderful friends, such as Laura and Jaime, Amparito Campoverde and Lenin Vargas. On Tuesday evening Jan taught the women in Spanish on the mission of the women in the church. John spoke on the problem of pain, suffering and evil. After this we toured the central city at night. It was too beautiful to describe.
Wednesday we traveled to visit La Mitad del Mundo, which is a museum of Ecuadorian culture and through which the equator passes directly. I taught on improving our personal study of the Bible and on From Shadow to Reality to about 100. Thursday we went to the top of a 13,600 ft mountain and that evening I taught on Daniel and on Freedom in Christ to about 120. There were several visitors this night. We had wonderful fellowship until 12:30 in the morning over Ecuadorian pizza. Tomorrow we are off to Cali, Colombia.
Cali, Colombia July 24-27
We flew through Bogota to Cali. We were met by Fabio and Monica Castellanos, the couple who lead the church here. Cali is right up against some very large mountains. It is a city of 2.5 million. It is fairly hot here-about 90 degrees during the day, as the city is only at 3000 feet. Cali has a reputation as a drug cartel capital. There is no evidence of this as one drives or walks through the city today. It feels relatively safe here. This is not a wealthy city, with many poor coming here from all over the South and from the Western coast, on the Pacific, but Cali has come a long way. The people here are warm and friendly. The food is very good. We especially liked the paisano dishes, which actually are a specialty of Medellin.
The church we met with here is small. They have 25 members only. Less than a year ago they were about 15, as many moved to Bogota or other cities for work. However, they have grown fantastically in the past year and are very encouraged. We met many new Christians and others who are close to their decision for God. The church is very happy here. The leadership of Fabio and Monica helps a lot. On Friday evening I taught on From Shadow to Reality to about 35, after which we strolled through the entertainment area of the city. It is very lively here at night. On Saturday Jan taught on maintaining a close relationship with God while I taught on the Christian world view to the men. We also toured the city and visited an old person’s home to serve the residents. The church here has a great heart to serve the poor and the old. Most of the residents have been completely abandoned by their family. In the evening our daughter Kate came down from Bogota to spend two days with us. She is spending the summer teaching English in Bogota. It was a tearful hello after so long.
Church on Sunday was very encouraging. There were about 45 adults-about an equal number of guests and members from the church for worship and a lesson about Daniel. In the afternoon we had a birthday fiesta. The church here loves to dance. Dancing is one of the favorite things to do in Colombia. Salsa is the favorite, but they know many others. Children of five years already know how to dance. We made so many friends here in just a few days. It definitely feels like family. Many of the members are professionals, yet not a single one owns a car. We met a couple who are about to be baptized (Fernando and Andrea) who own a car. That will be good news on two fronts! Thanks to Raul from Houston and Carolina from Bogota who helped with the translation.
Lima, Peru July 27-Aug 1
We flew from Cali to Bogota, where we said a tearful good-bye to Kate. The flight from Bogota to Lima gave us a cross-section of Peru. It carried us across the Amazon basin, with its seemingly endless jungle and innumerable broad, winding rivers, over the massive peaks of the Andes range, into the bone-dry desert of eastern Peru, finally emerging at the fog-shrouded coast to the chief city of Peru: Lima. This is a city of ten million. It is surprisingly cool here because there is an almost permanent fog created by the confluence of the fairly cold Pacific current and the hot interior. Lima is a crowded and dusty city. It rains here very rarely. It is also a very old city. It was established by Pizarro in 1535 at the site of a major Incan city which was, in turn, built on a pre-Incan city. We saw massive ruins of an ancient city as we drove into the city. It is also a very Roman Catholic city (and country). We saw a massive idol of Mary and the baby Jesus immediately upon leaving the airport in Callao, the coastal suburb of Lima.
We were met at the airport by Cesar Herrera and Daniel Goycochea who lead the churches in Lima and Arequipa with their wives Paola and Karen. We are staying with Gisela Gomez. On Tuesday I taught two classes for the church. One was on Freedom in Christ. Today is the national independence day for Peru, so a class on freedom seems particularly appropriate. The other was on "Meeting the Needs of the Church" about how to meet the benevolent needs within and without the church. There are many poor here, so this is not a small issue. The church in Lima has about 90 members, the church in Arequipa, in the South of Peru has about 25. Also, the leaders of the church in Trujillo, in the North of Peru are here for the conference. They are Fernando and Narda. The group in Trujillo is 15. These young churches need much support and encouragement. The churches here would love to receive some visitors from other countries so they can stay connected. After a wonderful lunch of local Peruano food, I taught a class for the leaders of the Peruvian churches on how to accomplish the purpose of the church. They have many questions about the ministries of the deacons, shepherding and teaching. The fellowship with our brothers and sisters out on the mission field is very encouraging. As we go to our apartment we are amazed that we are so fortunate to be in this exotic city serving God in this way.
On Wednesday we visited two sites of pre-Incan cultures. One was the pyramid of Huallamarca, which is quite large. It was built by the Hualla people about 200 BC. We are surprised to hear of ruins from as early as 1000 BC here. I taught two classes: one on From Shadow to Reality, and the other on the question of "falling away." The church here is struggling to understand this doctrine, so we spent time in Hebrews talking about predestination, the possibility of losing salvation and God’s assurance. Thursday included a visit to Nilo and Rebeca Castro. They have five children, all of whom are Christians. They have the shepherd’s heart. I can see an elder being appointed here very soon. After seeing the architecturally wonderful old city, with its cathedrals, palaces and beautiful wooden balconies, I taught another class for the church titled, "The Bible, From God or Man?"
Thursday was a day to explore Lima, including getting our feet wet in the Pacific Ocean (it is surprisingly cold here because of the Humboldt Current, which is also why this area is a desert), eating fantastic ceviche (which is raw fish here in Peru), and a visit to the old heart of the city with its wonderful cathedrals and Spanish architecture. This is a very charming city. In the evening I taught a class titled, "The Bible, From God or Man?" There were about 50 present, including several guests. It is surprising that there is a fair amount of skepticism and even outright atheism here in Lima, at least among the university students.
Friday included a two hour trip north of the city along the coast to visit a school for extremely poor children. We are hoping to send our "Gifts of Hope" boxes to help these children this year. The coast is the starkest desert I have ever seen. There is nothing here-not even small plants that we can see. It is totally desolate, yet the poor people live here in housing that is tragic to see. We are proud of the church here which wants to help these students, and hope to become involved ourselves. After this came a class by Jan on the women’s place in the Christian ministry and a class for the men on integrity, humility and leadership in the home and the church. We leave Lima wonderfully encouraged for the dozens of new friendships and with a heavy heart because of the many needs we leave behind. Who will come here to help?
Saturday we were up at 3:30 AM for a flight to Santiago, Chile for 11 days in this amazing and breathlessly beautiful country down under.
Santiago and Viña del Mar, Chile July 31-Aug 11
We were met at the airport by Christian and Luz Amestoy and by John and Kay Hoyt. The Amestoys lead the church here in Santiago. We are staying with them and their son Franco. The Hoyts are here as a missionary couple from Florida to help with the campus and teen groups. Santiago is a city of six million (out of sixteen million in the country). It is in a large and lovely valley between the massive Andes range and the coastal Cordillera. The unfortunate result is a rather big problem with air pollution here. The Andes peaks here reach well over 20,000 feet, dividing Argentina from Chile. It is winter here, with the temperature dropping into the 30s at night, and rising to the 50s or 60s during the day. We can see huge snow capped peaks to the East. Chile is the most prosperous country in South America. Santiago reflects this, but there is still some very stark poverty. It is funny that in the summer here (winter in the US) we eat fruit from Chile but in the winter here (summer in the US) they eat fruit from the US. Like the US in North America or South Africa in Africa, Chile is the country in South America where migrants want to go. Many Peruanos and others are here. Chile is a country of stark economic division. Santiago has a more modern and more European feel than other cities we have been in on this trip. The Spanish here is quite different as well. They speak faster and drop a lot of sounds at the ends of words, making it harder for us to understand when people speak.
On Saturday we met with the church and I taught a class on the parenting of teens. About 40 parents came to the class. They have not had a lot of teaching on Christian parenting. After this, we went to a wonderful dinner of pasta with Jorge Iban and Maria Lucia Cardona. This is a wonderful family with two daughters 16 and 11, and an adopted son who is two. They have all the qualities of elders for the church in Santiago, and we have a lot of vision for that to happen soon.
On Sunday I taught part I of a class for the church on church history. I am being translated here by Christian Amestoy. The worship service had nearly 300 in attendance (with 270 members). I taught part I of a class on Daniel, Prophet to the Nations. They also had an awards ceremony for their soccer league. They had 6 teams which competed for five months. They are really into football here. Saturday evening there were roving bands at 12:00 at night celebrating a soccer victory, chanting in the streets. We spent many hours talking with the Amestoys about relationship and ministry issues for the church here, as they are quite young and fairly isolated here in the southernmost country in South America. They work with a singles group which makes up almost half the church here, as well as with the marrieds. The campus and teen group are fairly small, each having about 15 or so.
Monday was a day of relative rest, with long talks about the work of the church here in Santiago with Christian and Luz, and dinner with our very good friends Luis Fernando and Fani Herrera who we know from Caracas. This was followed by classes Tuesday by Jan on forgiveness for the women and by John on Leadership and Membership for the single men Wednesday was a class for the whole church by John on part I of From Shadow to Reality, attended by about 150. We also spent time with Hector and Monica Munoz both days. They work for the church and help with the married ministry here.
Thursday and Friday we took a side trip to Viña del Mar. This is a resort city about two hours from Santiago through the coastal cordillera and many beautiful farms of grapes and other fruit. Viña and its sister city Valparaiso are about 1.5 million people. The setting here is wonderfully beautiful with cliffs and rocky coasts as well as beautiful beaches. The only problem is that the ocean is quite cold here. The seafood is really great. We stayed at the home of the church leaders Christian and Pati Escobar. The church is quite small, with only sixteen members. They are also rather isolated, seeming to be almost at the end of the earth here, but they are wonderfully faithful. The class on Thursday evening on biblical inspiration had 30+ in attendance and many Bible studies were set up. We were so encouraged by this wonderful group. The next morning, despite it being a work day, half the church showed up for a class on Church history. John taught in Spanish, without translation, for the first time, which was on goal of this trip. We returned to Santiago wonderfully encouraged.
Friday through Sunday were very busy because this weekend in Santiago is the site of the South American version of the ICMC (International Campus Ministry Conference). Surely this is the smallest of the various campus conferences, with eight students from Bolivia (La Paz and Santa Cruz), nine from various cities in Brazil and one from Paraguay. With the group here, this makes about 35 attendees. They made up for the smaller numbers with great zeal. Friday we had a class on God and Science at the University of Chile Law School with 110 in attendance, including about sixty invited guests. What a great victory for these students. The next day, many of these guests came to a class titled "The Bible, From God or Man?" I also taught a class for the singles on Freedom in Christ. We had a quiet time on the top of Mt. San Cristobal with the students, from where one can see a fantastic panorama of the entire city and the snow-capped Andes in the distance.
As our visit drew to a close, I taught part two of Church History as a class and part two of Daniel, Prophet to the Nations as a sermon on Sunday. Church seemed so much more encouraged and there was a nearly packed house, with much enthusiasm generated by the campus group. We had a number of appointments with people studying the Bible and others who are trying to grow in their service to the church here. Monday morning Jan taught a class for the married women on their role in the church and in the evening John taught part two of From Shadow to Reality for the church. We are beginning to run out of energy, but not out of encouragement. The last morning, Tuesday, Jan and I put on a pancake breakfast-bringing a little of the US to some of our new friends here. The Hoyts were especially encouraged, as they still miss many things from home. We bid a tearful farewell at the airport to the Amestoys, the Herreras, the Hoyts and the Munoz.