A funny thing happened to us on the way to retirement in Vermont. The road runs through Lima, Peru! More than a decade after accepting God’s call to service at St. Thomas Church, Polly and I were again contemplating our future. More practical than anything was where to live after leaving. Most of you know, as much as we love the Fox Valley, our hearts were being drawn to our vacation and soon retirement home in Vermont.
All that remained was for us to finish the race, keep the faith. In addition to the discharge of my duties for the balance for the year, I was scheduled to take sabbatical time in Belize and then Peru. Belize was wonderful and I even knew the language! A month later we found ourselves in Peru, aiding Bishop William Godfrey in Arequipa and in Lima.
As most of you who know my heart would suspect, what excited me most was the ministry of the church in the shantytowns; makeshift communities up the valleys and the hillsides above Lima. Populated by displaced people coming in from rural areas, driven by a variety of social circumstances and unrest, you and I would call these places slums. Most lack water or drainage and electricity lines run from place to place like spider’s webs. Truly, for Peru, these are the poorest of the poor. Yet in these communities the Anglican Church’s ministry is welcomed and bears great fruit.
Still as adept as the Anglican Church is at starting these new missions, I soon learned that many of clergy called there are still “fresh off the boat” or have come from other denominations. All this to say I saw a great need for their further training. Certainly this would be a burden we would carry on our hearts as we left Peru.
And then I heard God’s Voice. He spoke and changed everything. All our plans. The direction of our lives. Everything.
As we were participating in a service led by the local pastor, Fr. Benjamin Salas, a woman stared me right in the eye and said, “Are you coming here to help us?” Her words pierced my heart. I sincerely believe that it was not just a woman speaking to me…
Not much later in my trip, we were gathered with Bishop Godfrey and he spoke directly from his place of need and perhaps even frustration. To all assembled he said, “I need people to help me here.” Although in a crowd, I felt words again pierce my heart. Afterward I asked him if he was speaking to me. He turned and said, “Was I? If the cap fits!”
Excited beyond all measure, I told Polly about my experiences. Polly: “So much of what captured me was not necessarily spiritual: the ocean, good food, the pace, the style, the warmth of the people…..Ian being happy. The Bishop talking with me like I was a person and not just Ian’s wife. I had prayed last summer that God would woo me; He did.”
The wonderful news here is that God does not believe in retirement, certainly not from a lifetime of teaching, equipping and ministry. Through hearing his voice, prayer and an excitement we can hardly contain, we accept His call to Peru, for such a time as this.
Our ministry will be one that is both evangelistic as well as socially transforming. Bishop Godfrey’s invitation is for me to mentor, teach, encourage and come alongside his clergy in Peru. I will be able to use my great love for the Anglican clergy to oversee the teaching and molding of energetic, enthusiastic and freshly minted clergy and lay leaders.
Polly again: “I see the opportunity to plan spiritual retreats for clergy and lay people along with facilitating the comfort and itinerary of visiting mission teams. And Lima, on a good day, does kind of remind me of Vermont. Hills / Andes!” Psalm 32:8
If you receive this news with as much enthusiasm as we have, please know that you are a partner with us in this challenge, as well as part of our family. We have been accepted by the South American Missionary Society (SAMS- USA) and are beginning to assemble a stateside partnership team, develop a strategy for raising support and a timetable. You will be hearing more in the coming months.
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you should go and bear fruit…” John 15:16