A Strategic Alliance

Saturday afternoon started a new chapter for the country Bible Institutes. We signed an agreement with the Christian organization Paz y Esperanza (Peace and Hope) for cooperation in what will be called Comprehensive Rural Bible Institutes. In these Institutes, we will be teaching Bible, Doctrine, and Ministry classes, while Paz y Esperanza will provide the pastors, who are usually the leaders of their communities, with occupational training, classes in civil rights and responsibilities, and training in how to request Peruvian government funding for a project.

One of our goals has always been to help the whole person in the Quechua society. Last November we were putting together our goals for this year as a mission team. Miguel Gomez, Cayo Cardenas, Mike, and I were brainstorming goals related to our primary goals. One of these goals is to help improve the quality of life in the poor communities. Cayo related how the young women in one of the communities he had visited did not know how to grow a vegetable garden or make preserves, so that the diet of the people there was mainly potatoes--and only as a result of ignorance.

I had also experienced this. At one medical campaign a woman came who had had an apparent broken ankle for six months. Peru has free public health insurance that would have taken care of this. But the woman was ignorant of the program or how to applcommunityy. Although I had a Quechua speaking nurse explain it to her, I wondered how many others in the pueblos were in a similar condition.

The truth is that Peru has programs and projects to help the very poor communities, but the people remain ignorant of what is available or how to get help.

We thought of many ways that we could help the communities, but when we came to actually considering who could do it, we were stuck. We were all already too busy to look for people to give seminars to help them garden, know their legal rights, etc.

Paz y Esperanza, on the other hand, saw the crying spiritual need. Ana Jauregui, who works in education here in Apurimac, related to us what she saw.

"When you are faced with the enormous need in the communities--the domestic violence, the sexual abuse of children, the drunken and chaotic lives that the people lead--you see that there are animals leading healthier lives. We could see that we needed to work with the church, that we needed a way to train the pastors to work with this enormous spiritual need, but we didn't have a way to do it."

The pastors here, often only selected by the congregation because they can read, or are more committed than the average person, feel the burden of caring for the people. But most of them don't have the slightest idea where to begin. They have no biblical training and often only a grade school education, yet they are faced with difficult congregational problems --incest, idol worship, witchcraft, domestic violence, drug trafficking, you name it. The community looks to them as well to help with legal and medical problems, because they are generally literate. The pastors typically feel frustrated in their efforts to help, because they just don't know how. The new rural institutes will provide training for their unique role that God has given them.

The agreement is not only limited to the institutes. Other programs will include training for Christian elected officials as well as conferences for the entire community, addressing both the spiritual and physical needs of the people. It additionally provides more opportunities for short term teams. A team of Christians is currently helping to build a house for a pastor whose home was destroyed by a mudslide, and in the relocation of other families who live in a high risk zone.

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