May 17-18th, 2019
As a parting gift from our Compassion International hosts, they are taking us to Machu Picchu, the spectacular ancient ruins of an Incan civilization discovered high up in one the most breathtaking segments of the Andes Mountains. The ruins were discovered in 1911 by an American archeologist named Hiram Bingham and are believed to be over five hundred years old. They were built in the classical ancient Incan style and are considered to be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
We woke up this morning after traveling yesterday from Lima to Cusco by plane, from Cusco to another village by bus, and then by train to Aguas Calientes, where we spent the night (El Mapi Hotel). After breakfast this morning, we got on a bus and took a three mile drive up a steep, winding road to the entrance of Machu Picchu. We met our guides and began the hike ascending into the park.
The views are like nothing else in the world. As we walked through the extensive layout of the ruins, it was so evident that the people who once lived here knew that there was something spectacular about this place. They took full advantage of the views, their architecture and farming synchronized with the contour of the land, and they recognized their ideal climate that allowed them to farm endless varieties of crops.
But it was also evident that they gave no acknowledgment to the God who created them. There were traces of many different temples scattered among the ruins and according to ancient Incan historians, they worshiped the sun god as their primary deity, but other deities were also part of their worship. Were there any ancient Incans who placed their trust in the One and only Creator God? We won’t know on this side of eternity, but the need to share a clear message of hope through the gospel is definitely needed right now for Peru! For much of this area, ancient pagan traditions and Catholicism have been intermingled over the years to produce a confusing and blurred religious system that doesn’t acknowledge salvation through faith in Christ alone.
While we were exploring the ruins of one of the pagan temples, I pulled Ryan Burns and a couple of other pastors in our group aside and asked them if they wanted to take communion there. Ryan had brought the elements with him, so we broke bread and shared the cup and prayed over this nation, that they might call upon the only name that truly saves - Jesus. It was a beautiful opportunity to glorify the Savior and allow His sacrifice to be honored in a place where pagan sacrifices had once been offered.
We finished our tour, at lunch at Sancutary Lodge right onsite at the ruins, then some of us hiked down from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes, the village where we spent the night last night. We met the rest of the group there, then caught a train to Cusco (about a 3 hour and 20 minute trip). A bus picked us up at the train station then took us to our hotel in Cusco (J.W. Marriot Hotel Convento de Cusco - it used to be a monastery/convent at one time, but has been converted to a hotel). We immediately went to dinner at Incanto, nearby the hotel. Then we all walked back to our rooms and hit the hay by midnight.
We woke up, ate breakfast, and then walked around Cusco. It was packed with thousands and thousands of people, gathered together to celebrate graduation. It was quite the event. The population of Cusco is about 428,000 people and it felt like half the city was there! We grabbed lunch with some of the other pastors, said our good-byes to those who are staying behind, then boarded our bus to the Cusco airport.
We’re now preparing to head home and start to unpack all that we’ve seen, heard, and experienced during these remarkable two weeks. There will be lots of conversations, discussions, and prayer with our church leaders as we consider our next steps with Compassion, Jesus Responde, and all the other churches, pastors, and opportunities we encountered over the past two weeks.
“I will magnify myself, sanctify myself, and make myself known in the sight of many nations; and and they will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 38:23
Serving God alongside you all,
May 16th, 2019
Woke up to a beautiful morning in Piura, ate a delicious Peruvian breakfast (fruits, breads, eggs, meats), then got underway for another day of visiting CI partner churches, sponsored children, and their families.
We’ve been learning so much about Compassion International and really, the more we learn, the more impressive they seem to be. When we first arrived, the CI staff implored us to be purposeful about allowing space to make meaning from what may otherwise be a blur of experience. So we’ve been listening carefully, watching closely, and reflecting frequently.
It’s the fervent desire of CI is to release children from the cycle of poverty in Jesus’ name. Poverty steals hope. Compassion wants to restore hope through the gospel. CI was actually founded in ‘52 by Everett Swanson, a military vet, because of all the children he saw orphaned through the war. His dream was to connect American believers with orphans worldwide.
His dream exceeded his expectations. CI now partners with over 7000 churches worldwide who minister to children in various forms of need. CI is in 25 countries around the world and is unashamedly Christ-centered, child-focused, and church-based. They have been extremely effective in sharing the gospel and in 2017 alone, more than 133,000 children and adults trusted Jesus to be their Savior.
CI considers itself to be an outcome based ministry. According to their headquarters research, CI kids living in impoverished communities are highly more likely to be saved than kids who are not. CI kids stay in school longer. CI kids are more likely to become church & community leaders. CI isn’t a school, orphanage, or community development program. It doesn’t operate outside the church, and doesn’t send any of their funds directly to sponsored kids or families. Really, CI is a wholistic child development & sponsorship program.
CI serves three distinct eras in a child’s life. First, they serve mom’s with kids from 0 to 1 years of age (in what’s called CI’s Child Survival Program). Then they provide programs for early childhood (1-5 years), childhood (6-12 years), and youth development (13-22 years). CI sponsored kids are known, loved, protected, encouraged, & cared for. And CI is committed to using the majority of their funds to invest in their sponsored children. Over 80% of what’s given in sponsorship pledges to CI goes directly to benefit kids and their families.
The CI process basically flows as follows:
Child Information Process (registration, updates, record keeping, photos, etc).
Letter writing program (CI workers help the children know what to write - questions to ask, etc). Children who have sponsors who wrote them about Jesus claim the impact is undeniably powerful. One young adult woman who was formerly a sponsored child told us how she came to faith in Christ through the influence of her sponsor’s letters about Jesus and the gospel.
Curriculum development (educational, health, & spiritual) for various aged children. Training for the children also includes skill development (cutting hair, making crafts, etc.).
Although CI doesn’t specifically plant churches, they help other churches to do so. They’ve identified eighteen steps required for a church plant to be approved by CI. On day one of a church plant, over 100 kids can show up, giving access to perhaps over 100 families! CI works with church planting grants to establish a place to meet - a one time gift for construction (not including a pastor’s salary or ongoing expenses). A church planter is always an indigenous leader (trained by and sent from the ‘mother church’).
CI Peru began in 1984 and ministers to over 83,000 kids (31 million people in a nation the size of TX & CA). Almost a quarter of the Peruvian population currently lives in poverty. The CI Peru strategy includes three steps: (1) identify and move in areas of greatest poverty; (2) assist mature local church partners plant churches so more children and families can be reached; (3) provide a fusion of programs in line with the local resources available through the church.
The evangelical church in Peru is growing and open to expansion through CI association. In recent years, the Peruvian government hasn’t been interested in an organization that works with children, so they’ve not paid much attention to CI. But now, CI is encouraging local churches to communicate with their local governments so they can become familiar with what they’re doing which will hopefully encourage the local governments to stay supportive.
Sorry to include so much information about the guts of CI (and to sometimes be redundant), but I keep remembering important tidbits of information that will hopefully be helpful to us as we pray for CI and consider how we might partner with them in the future.
After we left our hotel, we drove for about an hour to a Nazarene Church in a village called Cura Mori. It’s actually a plant, funded by Menlo Church, and the mother church is a large Nazarene Church in Chiclayito. The mother church has partnered with CI for sixteen years and has planted ten churches. God has been anointing these church plants and they’ve been amazingly successful. One of the reasons so many people are flocking to these churches and responding to the gospel is because they’re meeting people’s needs - socially, emotionally, medically, relationally, and most importantly, spiritually. It’s common for many local individuals and families to come to the church, perhaps out of curiosity, or to investigate why their kids or their friend’s or family’s kids are spending so much time there, or to seek counsel, support, or other resources. Many people initially develop a sense of dependence on the church for assistance, but when they get saved, they realize they need Jesus, and his resources for them are often funneled through the church.
We listened to many stirring testimonies from men and women in the church. Four young men in particular stood out to me. They were all Compassion kids (they had been sponsored), had come to faith in Christ, and were now pursuing dreams they would have never thought were possible before. One has become an architect. One is studying to be a pilot. One is studying business marketing, and another is in high school. But all four are actively involved in serving the church and standing boldly for Christ in their communities. Hope has devoured poverty. And hope in the name of Jesus has produced salvation that’s saved their souls. God is so good, right?
We walked from the church to visit a young woman whose children are sponsored kids in the program. Her name is Maria (or Erica) and she has six kids in total. Her husband has left her and started another family in another village. Life is hard. Cura Mori (the name of this village) is barren, hot, and mosquito infested. She lives in a tin roofed hut and she and all her children share one large ‘family bed’. She’s not yet placed her trust in Jesus, but she said she attends the church. She allowed us to pray over her and her children and we prayed for her salvation, for the salvation of her children, and for God’s protection and provision for their lives.
We walked back to the church, at the lunch that some of the ladies at the church had prepared for us, and then they presented us with gifts - typical Peruvian straw hats! They were beautiful - and fun! We all put them for a group photo and some of the pastors in our group wore theirs for the rest of the day!
We prayed over the pastors and CI leaders at the church, said our good-byes, then drove back to Piura. Once we got back to our hotel, we all gathered together for a time to debrief what we’d learned and observed. It was a fruitful time of discussion. One observation that we all made is that CI has broken the code for successful church planting in Peru. Providing a place for kids to gather, outside the home and school, in a culture that still trusts the church, almost guarantees that a throng of kids are going to show up. And they do. The CI model is a winner and the resources they provide for parents and children keep them both coming back. This creates gratitude and trust, so when the gospel is introduced, the kids and their families are very open to the message. They’ve seen the love and truth of Jesus modeled in the lives of the pastors and CI volunteers and that’s made the gospel even more believable and relatable.
We spent some time in prayer, ate a poolside dinner, then headed to the Piura Airport to fly to Lima. On the plane, I sat next to pastor from Medford, OR (Jim Meredith) and we had a great time to debrief our experience so far, exchange contact information, and perhaps partner with some ministry opportunities in the future.
We landed, walked to our hotel (literally across the street from the airport), watched the last four minutes of the Warrior’s game (as they defeated Portland), then got last minute details for tomorrow before heading to our hotel rooms. Spent time reading and praying before drifting off to sleep.
Again, please remember to pray for God’s care, protection, and salvation for Maria and her family. Pray for or all the pastors as we bring back our reports to our church communities and then discern what next steps we are to take. Thank you for praying for me. I’m encouraged, excited, and eager to walk through each new day God provides for me here. He is at work in this nation, souls are being saved, the church is expanding, and Jesus’ name is becoming more and more known!
With great honor to partner with you in serving the Savior and advancing His Kingdom,
May 15th, 2019
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them for such belongs to the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. Mark 10:13-16
After breakfast this morning, we loaded a bus, and headed north toward the Peru-Ecuador border to visit two villages for the day. We were greeted in the first village we visited at a church that partners with CI. There were hundreds of people from the village who were there to greet us - primarily children and their moms. They were singing and waving banners and so excited for us to be there. We were escorted into the church and asked to spread out in the auditorium and sit with the children. They were all so curious about us being there and thrilled at the same time.
Then the program began and some kids welcomed us. Then some prayed. Several groups of kids came forward for different presentations - dramas and dances depicting Bible stories. It was an adorable program and we all loved it. Afterward, the children were dismissed to their classes and the pastors were divided into five different groups to visit the five different stations CI has set up at this church for what they call their ‘Intervention’ programs. The five programs include:
1 - Infant motor development (teaching kids how to move, walk, etc.)
2 - Family Financial Stability (developing skills which can produce income)
3 - Child health (nutrition, doctor consultations, check-ups, etc.)
4 - Child social and emotional well-being (healthy interactions with others)
5 - Child spiritual development (teaching foundations of the Bible & the gospel)
We were all so impressed at organized the program was and devoted the volunteers are. The mother church receives the donations from child sponsors ($38 per month), and that gets pooled together to sponsor these programs, and take care of kids who have been carefully selected as ‘at risk’ or ‘in need’ and would benefit most significantly from participating in the program. US churches can also fund and sponsor church plants which helps potentially connect even more kids and families with Compassion.
A local church either seeks partnership with CI or CI discovers a potential church partner through a variety of means (reputation, number of church plants, etc.). The church must then be qualified through a series of investigations (doctrinally, financially, minimum size, reputation, etc.). The church must also recruit a team of church leaders who will serve with CI in their own church and oversee the various ministries for CI which the church will sponsor.
Once the church has cleared this preliminary investigation and recruited its team of leaders, it qualifies to partner with CI. Then, CI workers look for children in the community where the church is located who would qualify for sponsorship, based on financial need, family dynamic situation, and other reasons. The families of these children are interviewed to see if they qualify to be sponsored kids. If everything ‘checks out’ their photos and names are released to CI in the US and people are given the opportunity to sponsor a child. The local partner church is required to keep meticulous records about all funds that are sent to it from CI so that they can prove their trustworthiness and effectiveness in carrying out the CI program and managing the funds that are sent to it for each sponsored child.
A church may decide to plant another church and want the new church to partner with CI, even before the new building is constructed. The ‘mother church’ helps develop leader(s) for a church plant so that the new church will have its own pastor (simulcasts are uncommon in South America). After the leader(s) has been identified, the mother church communicates with CI to tell them that they want to plant another church. CI will determine if the new pastor is ready, reliable, properly trained, and in agreement with the doctrinal statement of CI. The ‘mother church’ must also purchase the land where the new church plant’s building will be constructed. Once all of these criteria are satisfied, the mother church can contact CI and asked to be considered for a US church to fund the building for their new church plant. US churches will often come to the country seeking support, meet with the pastors from the mother church as well as the pastor of the church plant, to make a decision about support.
Several pastors on this journey have funded church plants for CI. CI makes it clear they’re not in the church planting business, but new churches are essential for more Compassion kids to be invited to participate. A church building is used as the meeting place for all the CI programs and without this central location, provided by the church, new children can’t be brought in to the program. If a US church decides to sponsor a plant, they pay the required funds (usually $75,000) to CI and then CI distributes the funds to the church. Once again, meticulous bookkeeping is required for this operation.
US sponsoring churches don’t pay for pastor’s salaries or provide for ongoing church expenses. The US church may not even be aligned denominationally with the church plant. But because many US churches see the church plant as a training center for CI kids, they’re not always overly concerned about the denomination of the church, as long as it is in compliance with the basic doctrinal expectations from CI. A CI representative is required to check in with each of its church partners twice a month to ensure the church is honoring its obligations and to provide any necessary support or guidance for CI related issues. CI has broken relationships with churches that have drifted from their commitment to remain in compliance with CI, but fortunately, that hasn’t happened very often.
As we were getting ready for lunch, one of the CI staff members with us from CI’s National Headquarters in Colorado Springs (Rob), pulled me aside and asked if I’d be interested in sponsoring another child. He explained that they usually don’t push sponsorship on trips like this, but he met a little boy who he thought would be a great match for me. I didn’t even hesitate to tell him yes, and within minutes, I met Emilio Sebastian Aldhair, my new Compassion kid. Very few people ever get to personally meet the child they sponsor, so I was extremely thankful for the opportunity to meet Emilio and his grandmother (both his parents work and they were unable to attend today’s ceremonies). We ate lunch together and had a lot of fun laughing, playing games, and learning about each other. Please join me in praying for Emilio’s salvation. He’s five years old (3/24/2014) and his grandmother faithfully brings him to church. Pray that he when he hears the good news about Jesus, he’ll trust Christ for himself.
After lunch, we loaded up the bus and headed for another village, a church that’s been planted by the first church we visited today. Once again, it seemed like the entire village had come out to welcome us - music, cheering crowds with signs and banners, and many children dressed in traditional Peruvian costumes. What a sight! It was clear that they are grateful for what God has done in their community through CI.
We came into the church, greeted lots of people, found seats scattered among the people, and once again the children provided us with a wonderful presentation of biblical skits, music, and dancing. Then they were dismissed to their classes where they’re taught all kinds of things - from basic Bible teaching, to nutrition, to art, to community building skills. The CI staff made it clear that this was not a school, but a place where kids were taught skills and where the love and truth of Jesus was displayed by the CI leaders who were teaching the classes.
After visiting the classes, we played soccer with a bunch of kids, took lots of photos, and then the pastor of the church took us to a newly constructed room at the back of their church building to show us something for which he was extremely excited. It was basically an elaborate water purification system that CI sponsorship funds had helped to finance. The village had no source for purified water except for what was occasionally delivered to them. This new purification system allowed them to not only purify water, but to generate a source of income for the church. They’re now bottling water for the entire village (their water is called Santa Lucas - Agua de la Roca - ‘water from the rock’). The people in their village are so excited that even the mayor has expressed his appreciation over what they’re doing and given them extra land to expand their church property! This was an idea that the pastor and church camps up with and even though CI funds helped provide the water purification system initially, it was the vision God gave to the local church leaders that has allowed this new project to prosper.
After saying our good-byes, we loaded back on the bus and headed to our hotel. We enjoyed another wonderful dinner, spend time reflecting on the day, watched the Raptors vs. Bucks NBA playoff game, then spent time reading, praying, and preparing for our last day of visiting villages tomorrow.
Please pray for Emilio (the child I sponsor for Compassion) and his salvation, along with this family. Pray for our church to understand if there is a place for our partnership here or with CI and if so, how, when, and where.
I treasure your prayer support and am so thankful for each of you.
Bonded with you eternally through the blood of Jesus,
May 13-14th, 2019
I parted ways with Daniel and Daniel at the airport in Asuncion as they headed back to the US and I headed to Peru. I’ll miss these young brothers - their passion for the gospel and their compassion for people is so inspiring. If they represent the future of the church, we are on a trajectory for God’s Kingdom to advance in phenomenal ways.
I’ll be in Lima, Peru for a week with pastors from all over the Western US. We are the guests of Compassion International (CI) in a program to educate and inform church leaders about the current work and vision of CI in Peru. Mark Kirchgestner is the CI church liaison for western churches in the US and he organized and coordinated this visit.
When I arrived at the Lima airport, CI had made arrangements for me to be picked up and driven to our hotel (Los Delfines). I was allowed to check in early because all of the other pastors will be arriving later tonight. So I had the day to read, reflect, write, and meet some local folks before everyone else arrives.
I met the group in the lobby at midnight and was encouraged to see some leaders from the East Bay - Danny Strange (Neighborhood / Three Crosses), Steve Madsen and Steve Ingold (Cornerstone), Dave Shields (Menlo Church - formerly Menlo Park Presbyterian), along with many others. I was especially excited to see my good friend, who’s also my brother’s son-in-law, Ryan Burns (Sarah Meng’s brother) from Living Stones Church Community in Hawaii, also joining us. There are twenty five pastors in total, along with about a half dozen CI staff, so it’s a quite a group of established and influential leaders.
We sorted out everyone’s luggage, each person got the keys to their hotel rooms, and we all headed to bed, in anticipation of a full day of learning and observing tomorrow.
We all met for breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then gathered in a conference room for a presentation by the CI staff. They explained their overall vision for the work of CI as well as their specific work in Peru. Several members of the CI Peru staff spoke, and a few of them were actually CI kids who had sponsors growing up, had gotten saved, and were now serving Christ through CI in Peru. Their stories were all very moving and so inspiring. They talked about how much it meant for them to receive letters from their sponsors and most of them had even met their sponsors personally through CI visits. They spoke of how clearly their sponsors shared the gospel in their letters and how God used their words, as well as the reinforcement they received from CI community centers and local churches to solidify their decisions to trust Jesus.
After this presentation, we ate lunch, then packed, checked out of our rooms, and loaded a bus to head to the airport. We flew to a small town in the north, on the border between Peru and Ecuador, called Piura. It was a colonial style pueblo, filled with lots of Peruvian charm, brimming with people walking along the streets and meandering in local parks. Our hotel (Los Portales) had a beautiful exterior facade that had been meticulously preserved, but inside, the hotel has been highly modernized and was extremely comfortable, clean, and filled with lots of Peruvian character. The hotel was situated right across the street from the main plaza in town and so there was lots of activity and energy.
Ryan and I were paired together in the same room and so after we got settled in, we walked around town before dinner, visited a local Catholic worship service, and finally got back to the hotel in time for a delicious Peruvian dinner, outside by the private pool. We felt a little awkward eating such a sumptuous dinner poolside, but the CI staff insisted on all of us being comfortable and secure and we didn’t really have a say in their decision. After dinner, we found a cafe in the hotel with a big screen TV to watch the Warrior’s playoff game! It was really fun for the group to gather together and cheer on our Bay Area team (they won, for those of you who aren’t keeping up with the playoffs)! Then after the game, we went to our room, spent time reading and praying, then hit the hay. Tomorrow, we will be visiting CI partner churches and Compassion kids in some remote villages near the border.
Pray for us to understand the mission and effectiveness of CI here in Peru. Pray to see how we might partner with Compassion and local churches in developing future leaders and planting more churches.
Thanks again for all the prayerful support and encouragement so many of you provide. It’s such a blessing to serve alongside so many faithful brothers and sisters.
Your brother and co-laborer in God’s Kingdom,