LIMA, Peru (BP)–Developing local church leaders can be one of the biggest challenges for missionaries because it takes a lot of time, training and patience.
But when Quentin and Gina Roberts arrived to work in inner-city Lima, Peru, they discovered that a national leader had already stepped up.
Pepe Luis Flores Varas became the pastor of Iglesia Evangelica Bautista Morada de Dios (Evangelical Baptist Dwelling Church of God) in August 1997. He’s not only a pastor but a church planter who has helped start five Baptist churches in Lima and surrounding areas.
The original congregation started with one family meeting in the living room of Jose Rojas, the first pastor and founder of the church. He and his family began inviting their neighbors to worship with them. That grew to three families and more.
Space became an issue and ultimately led to starting other churches so growth could continue. But using homes as meeting places is still part of the strategy. “Moradas de Oracion,” which means Prayer Dwellings, is what Varas calls those homes that open their doors to host church services.
“Just across the avenue is military housing,” Varas said, gesturing across the street. “About 40 percent of our members are military.
“Our vision comes from Leviticus 26:11, ‘I will put my dwelling place among you,’” he said. “It is our vision to have a city filled with prayer houses.
“I want to guide and direct the church to become a missionary church,” Varas said. “Once a year, our brothers and sisters go out and do missions all over the country.”
The church, partnered with the Peruvian Baptist Convention, has just begun a pilot project called “Amor Exigente” (Demanding Love).
“This project is for families who have members struggling with addictions like alcohol or drugs,” said Varas, who also is director of social help for the Peruvian Baptist Convention.
He and the church have also started programs for the pastors’ wives and their children. Cirilz Ecoillo de Flores, the pastor’s wife, is a key part of that ministry.
Many of the pastors’ wives do not have anyone to talk to about their problems.
“They are embarrassed to talk to other wives,” Flores said. “They struggle every day with health issues and the economic pressure of the church on their families.”
To help meet that need, the pastors’ wives gather monthly. For many it’s a time to release problems and struggles they are dealing with. For some it’s just a time of fellowship with other women who have similar family situations.
There’s also a camp for pastors’ children.
“The economy is bad here,” Varas said. “[The camp] has helped them realize they don’t have to suffer — economically or physically — and that they are special. Many of the children are now working with their parents [in their ministry].”
Varas and his wife understand the importance of children to the church — they are the future. They pray the church continues to grow and more strong leaders will step up.
Someday the church hopes to move into a larger facility.
“It was Rojas’ dream to have the church on Main Avenue [in Lima],” Varas said. The church is praying about purchasing property there.
“Pastor Pepe has done an excellent job in communicating his vision and getting the leadership and laymen of his congregation involved in church planting,” Quentin said.
“Our hearts are blessed by the passion and conviction of Pastor Pepe’s commitment to reach the lost and bring new believers in fellowship with other believers through strategic church planting,” Gina said.
To learn more about Peru and how to get involved in the work there, visit southamerica.imb.org.