Peruvian Baptists responding to missions call

Baptist Press
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Posted: Apr 09, 2012 4:52 PM
Peruvian Baptists responding to missions call
LIMA, Peru (BP) -- "When we talk about going out into the world to fulfill the Great Commission, Latin America is a sleeping giant," Tommy Larner said.

"We're very much a part of it, but it is clearly Peruvian," said Larner, an International Mission Board missionary who works with Peru a las Naciones (Peru to the Nations), a Peruvian Baptist organization begun to prepare believers to enter the mission field.

"That's exciting, that it's coming up out of the Peruvian believers," Larner said. He and his wife Beth "have the joy of being a part of it."

So far, the organization has started three seminary-style schools across the country to train believers in cross-cultural missions.

Larner also speaks to local churches about the need for more missionaries.

"I preach hard," he said. "I preach that the call to follow Jesus is a call to take up your cross and die. ... he same call that comes on my life is the same call that comes on their lives. And the call to follow Jesus isn't a soft call."

Larner said one of the greatest challenges is teaching Latin Americans to see themselves as missionary senders rather than receivers. While this idea isn't yet the norm, many Peruvians are responding.

"Some people may just be exploring the call," he said. "Then some folks have a very strong sense of call, and some already know to where ."

Last September, Peru a las Naciones graduated the first class to complete its year-long training program.

Diego and Adalia Garcia*, husband and wife graduates who have made several mission trips into Peru's jungles and mountains, feel led to serve in the Middle East.

Adalia said despite the difficulty of leaving their children and grandchildren, they know they have to go.

"We always knew there was more than just accepting the Lord," she said. "Before, it was the North Americans going. But now, there's such a resistance to North Americans . We feel like we can go. It's time for the Latin Americans."

The Peruvian Baptist Convention does not fund international missionaries, so they must rely on individual churches for support, which is often difficult to get and even harder to maintain.

"We've always waited on God's time," Diego said. "Whenever we would fly to other places, I was always looking for a person to talk to about the Lord. Then one day another believer came to us and said, 'The table is ready; everything is prepared. Don't fear. Go.' She said that the Lord was going to be with us at all times."

Noemi Miranda, a single woman who attended the training, said, "I have to dedicate my life to the things that God really wants me to do. I need to take the Word of God so that others may know Christ, not just here in Peru, but also outside of Peru."

After a short-term mission trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, Miranda felt led to serve there as a missionary. Since she lives with her elderly parents, her decision to move was difficult.

"I know it's the place that God has put in my heart and my path," she said. "It's not easy. It's hard, but I know that the Lord has told me I have to leave my mother and my father, and I also have to leave my job.

"I have the peace that He who has called me is going to provide. He's going to take care of me."

Financial concerns make it difficult for her to enter the mission field, Miranda acknowledges. "I don't know what's going to happen," she said. "I just know that I'm going to go, and food, clothing and a place to stay are not going to lack. Nothing is holding me back."

Since Peru a las Naciones' first graduation, four missionaries have left to serve in two countries; several more are preparing to go. Although the organization is still in its beginning stages, Larner is encouraged that Latin Americans will respond and step out in the years ahead.

"We have some right at the door," he said. "Then in the next year there could be several more. And then I think you're going to see that multiply exponentially.

"Pray that Peruvian believers will see themselves in Christ as ones that God can effectively use to reach the nations.... his is a global family working together."

*Names changed.

Emily Pearson is an International Mission Board writer serving in South America.

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