Feature

Timeless

The C&MA Church of Peru

By

More than 900 workers currently serve worldwide with the U. S. C&MA. Additionally, 500 missionaries have been sent by other countries in the Alliance World Fellowship. The worldwide Alliance family celebrates “missions accomplished” in countries like Peru, where a strong missionary-sending church has been established . . .

Some missionary enterprises transcend time. Their longterm impact on Christ’s Church extends to future generations, and the work remains ongoing—even though the early pioneers have long since departed. Such is the legacy of Alliance missions in Peru.

In an early edition of this magazine is the transcript of a message delivered by Dr. Harry Guinness at the Gospel Tabernacle (C&MA) in New York City on May 3, 1900. In it he states,

I found in Peru something like five million people and only one band of workers. . . . In Central Peru we found some of our students who were establishing some work. They spoke of the country as a place where there had never been a blessing—a dry and thirsty land where no water is. They said, “People will not come to hear you. This place is a hard place. You may succeed somewhere else but not here.” I find all places, however, are about as difficult or as easy to our Father.

This challenge provoked spirited dialogue between mission boards in the ensuing years. An important debate raged among the missionary societies of Europe and North America, centering on which regions in the world should be considered mission fields. In 1910, a resolution was finally reached at the first World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh, Scotland, where it was agreed that mission fields were “those regions where non- Christian religions were dominant.” Consequently, Latin America was not considered a mission field because it was believed to be Christianized. Some missionary societies, including The Christian and Missionary Alliance, didn’t agree with the Edinburgh ruling.

In the early 1920s the C&MA charged Mr. Raymond Clark with the task of surveying Peru in preparation for the possible establishment of a mission. During his initial journey in 1923, Clark managed to collect the information that ultimately drove the decision to establish the mission. This journey was wrought with challenges as he focused his efforts on Central Peru, a rugged and undeveloped area stretching from the Andes to the Amazon. No roads existed; horses and mules were the only forms of transportation; and journeys between villages took several days. Diseases were plentiful, and no vaccines against them had yet been developed.

Clyde TaylorBut Clark was not thwarted. Acting more as an anthropologist than a surveyor, he created astoundingly meticulous geographic and demographic profiles of the region. So precise were his efforts that he reported the exact population of Peru in May 1925 as 4,686,736 inhabitants. He also helped to develop a field budget that projected appropriate mission expenses and living costs for missionary personnel.

During his trips, Ray Clark fell in love with Peru—its landscapes and its people. In the November 1, 1924, edition of The Alliance Weekly he wrote,

Three thousand miles from the mouth of the mighty Amazon, a thousand miles beyond Iquitos, we were journeying towards Lima, Peru, on the little launch, “Estefita.” . . . As I lay in my hammock on deck, while others slept, and breathed heavily around me, I began to ponder on the wonders of nature and nature’s God. . . . My thoughts roamed still further afield, over the vast interior of Brazil, through the jungles of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, and across the llanos of Columbia [sic] and Venezuela, and I thought of the hundreds of tribes of red men that wander throughout that immense region in the depths of the gloomy forest and along the lonely rivers without a knowledge of God or of His grace in Christ Jesus.

The C&MA officially established its missionary presence in the rural areas of Central Peru in 1925. It chose to partner with Evangelical Union of South America (EUSA) to establish this important work.

Ray Clark, Clyde Taylor and Ben Barton were the first C&MA missionaries to Peru. One year later, Charlie Marstaller joined the team. Clark, Taylor and Barton arrived in Cahuapanas in the central Peruvian Amazonia on July 22, 1925, so that village became the first Alliance missions station in Peru. [Shortly after Marstaller’s arrival in 1926, Barton died of illness.] In A Man for All Nations, author Carolyn Curtis records Clyde Taylor’s vision for Peru:

We came ashore and set up our campsite with three distinct goals. The first, which we share with all Alliance missionaries, was to glorify God with our lives and to live for Him. The second was simply to survive. White men had never gone into this area and returned alive after contact with the . . . Campas (a native group). Our third aim was to win these people to Christ and to start a church among them.

This threefold strategy would define the early work of the C&MA in Peru for many years. This era of pioneer missions will be remembered for its spirit of sacrifice and endurance toward the establishment of the Peruvian church. Many lives were lost to illness and persecution from the established “extreme” religious groups of the day.

Although the C&MA remained committed to the evangelization of isolated ethnic groups in the Amazon region, it eventually began to establish churches in Peru’s larger towns and cities. One of these cities, Huanuco, became an important training ground for future national leaders of the Peruvian C&MA. It was there that the first Bible courses were developed and taught in 1949. Then in 1957, educational efforts expanded with the establishment of The Alliance Theological Institute.

The legacy of the Church in Peru would be incomplete without mention of the work in Lima. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a small group of believers began to gather in the house of a missionary. Soon, this faithful group formed what is known today as the Lince (a district in Lima) Alliance Church. It experienced significant growth toward the end of 1973, when a 15-month evangelistic campaign began. By the end of 1975, attendance had climbed to more than 1,000. Today the Lince Alliance Church has a membership of 5,000, and its members have helped to plant many other churches throughout Lima. There are now nearly 70 Alliance congregations in this ongoing church growth effort.

In 1955 the Alliance in Peru celebrated its first Concilio, with 979 attendees representing 44 fellowships. Today The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Peru is a mature church with nearly 300 fellowships and an inclusive membership of more than 120,000. When U.S. Alliance missionaries brought their ministries in Peru to a close in 2003, the Peruvian national church assumed full responsibility of the Great Commission task within its borders and extended its missionary reach into other countries throughout Latin America, Europe and Asia. May God be praised for His faithfulness in building Christ’s Church in Peru!

View of the Andes

[L]ofty bridges . . . seem to be suspended from the clouds, [and] tunnels . . . have been dug through the great rocky peaks, only to emerge at the other end into scenery so wild and rugged that no pen can describe it.

Like a great snake the train wriggled backward and forward, but always upward, through scenery of unbelievable grandeur, until it reached Ticlio, the topmost point, where the highest railway station in the world nestles among snow-capped peaks on every side, and where the air is so thin that it takes much eff ort to breathe. One feels that he has suddenly intruded into a forbidden land, and indeed it is such, for there is absolutely no life of any kind at this elevation, 16,000 feet. . . . From here the train descends to . . . about 8,000 feet and then climbs again to a height of 14,000 feet . . . .

On the trip up . . . the shades of night suddenly fell, but the sky was cloudless and studded with brilliant stars. The Southern Cross, standing out in bold relief from the rest, at the foot of which is a great black space where there are no stars, reminds one of the abundance of room at the foot of the cross for all who will come.

—From “Over the Andes to Huanuco” by Leonard J. Hoy, The Alliance Weekly, October 23, 1926

Past Alliance Life Issues

Share

Get Involved...

Pray.

We cannot “Live the Call Together” unless prayer is central to all we do.
Pray with us »

Serve.

Is God calling you to service? We’re here to help you connect your passion with God’s purpose.
Serve with The Alliance »

Give.

Help build Christ’s Church by supporting the ministry and workers of The Alliance.
Give today »