January 31, 2013

Peru: Encouraging signs at El Camino

A small congregation is making a big difference in Arequipa by building up leaders, investing in the lives of believers, and reaching out to the community.

  • Time for Worship

    El Camino church members, young and old from all social classes, come together for praise and worship on Sunday mornings.

  • Leadership

    Yanet Velásquez, Kike Valenzuela, Claudia Velásquez, and Gabriel Pezo are national church leaders who are investing in the lives of others.

  • Ministering to Children

    Jorge Meléndez is the lead teacher for the fifth and sixth grade Sunday School class. He enjoys helping children in their spiritual growth.

The influence of Roman Catholicism is seen everywhere in Arequipa, a traditional and old city in southern Peru. Social class standing and strong family ties are important to the proud and independent people of Arequipa. El Camino Church has been reaching out to the rich, poor, and everyone in between for more than eleven years.

The thriving church, with its small yet passionate congregation, has grown to the point of being ready for a Peruvian pastor. God recently provided Arcadio Vílchez from a sister church in Lima. Arcadio and his wife, Hada, a high school teacher, will soon move to Arequipa with their two children, Lorena and Sebastian.

Many of the ministries at El Camino focus on the development of Peruvian leaders and discipleship programs. TEAM missionary Kathi Small is mentoring several women, helping them with a women’s ministry that encourages the spiritual growth of believers and also reaches out to women new to the church. Church members welcome new believers to their Friday evening fellowship and Bible study, and they hold several outreach events for non-believers including a marriage class. “One couple new to the church came to know Christ through the marriage ministry and is now attending the New Life in Christ class,” said Small.

Small finds much joy in investing in Peruvian believers and developing leaders for the church. “It’s a joy because God uses me in the lives of Peruvians, especially among single people in the church,” she said. Small empathizes with women who are single with and without kids, divorced women, and widows. “Being single myself, I can identify with and understand some of the unique challenges faced by single women or women who are otherwise alone,” she said. “I pray they see in me a model for a fulfilled life regardless of marital status.”

Small recently joined a municipal choir because of her love for singing, and it has led to opportunities to share her faith, especially with her fellow alto singers. One woman lives near Small, so they often chat about their lives when they carpool to choir practice. “She’s not happy with her life, but she knows I am,” Small said. “I think she’s trying to figure out what makes me happy, what makes me content. So I’ve had several chances to share with her.”

As Small develops meaningful relationships, her hope is that she can help Peruvian leaders at El Camino Church do the same, drawing more people of Arequipa to the Lord.

-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
-Photos provided by Kathi Small