Greetings in the Lord Jesus Christ! I hope you all enjoyed a blessed Christmas and are looking forward in faith to this new year!
All of us with Peru Mission are well. We enjoyed a quiet Christmas, but are gearing up for a very busy beginning of 2006. First, a quick update on the past month and then a few things upcoming for us in January:
Trip to Moyobamba
In mid-December Bill Bradford and I took his son, William, and my two sons, Cullen and Noah, to the Upper Amazon Jungle in the district of San Martin. All of us had a great time, combining a certain amount of ministry business with a few days fun in the jungle.
We enjoyed getting to worship on Sunday with the First Presbyterian Church of Moyobamba. The Rev. David McPherson (Free Church of Scotland Missionary) is Senior Minister in this congregation of nearly 1000 communicants. As you might have guessed, this is the largest presbyterian church in Peru. It was established in the 1930s by Free Church missionaries and continues to be a thriving, evangelistic, and mission-oriented fellowship.
Bill addressed the young people's group on Saturday evening on the doctrine of adoption. I had the priviledge of preaching on Sunday morning on the subject of prayer as empowering us for evangelism. Though I had been there three years earlier to teach in their Bible Institute, it was a joy to renew acquaintances and friendships with many dear brothers in Christ. This is a congregation with a vibrant faith, an evident love for Christ, and a zeal to make Him known.
On Monday we took a boat trip on the Rio Mayo down to the Tingana Ecological Reserve (an 8,700 acre national park). We had a great time and a close up look at the heart of the Amazon. The thrill for the boys was seeing hundreds of wild monkeys in the trees as we passed by in the dugout canoe.
On Tuesday we visited a few of the church's extension works and countryside churches, also the Annie Soper Christian School. This school is owned by the church and has been greatly used by God to advance His Gospel in Moyobamba. I'm sure that we will have much to learn from the brethren at the Annie Soper Christian School as we encounter challenges in developing our own parish schools. By the way, Annie Soper was a Scottish midwife sent out by the Free Church in the 1930s, who, along with another midwife whose name I have forgotten, travelled across the Andes by mule and donkey up to Cajamarca and then over to Moyobamba. The Lord used them, and another famous Scottish midwife in Cajamarca named Sarah McDuggal, to win much favor from the Roman Catholic authories, and thus to open many doors to the Gospel (to this day there is a street in Cajamarca named after Sarah McDuggal, a statue in her honor, and a museum dedicated to her work in the Belen [Roman Catholic] Church in Cajamarca).
Rev. McPherson also took us to see a tract of land that they have recently purchased, where they hope to open a university sometime in the next few years. It was encourageing to see the vision of Rev. McPherson and the Moyobamba Church. It seems that Thomas Chalmers's view of church, mission, and Kingdom are alive and well in the Upper Amazon.
Two other reasons for our visit to Moyobamba were:
(1) to check on the progress of our carpenters. Carpenters in the Moyobamba church made all of the doors, windows, roof trusses, and tongue-and-grove ceiling panels for our Arevalo and Larco building projects. Spanish Cedar and Mahogany is much cheaper in Moyobamba than it is in Trujillo on the coast, so we had Lenin Celiz (a trained carpenter from Moyobamba who is finishing up his degree in architecture at one of the universities in Trujillo) design and oversee the production of these things in Moyobamaba, having them shipped down to us on the coast for installation. We probably saved about one third of the cost and helped out a faithful Christian family in Moyobamaba at the same time.
(2) We also went to check on a small plot of about 50 Mahogany trees we have recently planted there. The Peruvian government is offering thousands of hectares of land in the jungle for reforestation projects. We have planted these 50 trees, and hope to buy a couple of hectares for planting more, as something of a test case. Mahogany is now listed in the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) appendix III as an endangered species, which means that it's value is currently skyrocketing on the world market. It takes a long time to mature (30+ years) but since the land would be free and it is relatively inexpensive to plant, we have thought that it might be a good investment for the support of church planting and missions in the future. We'll soon find out how easy it is to grow mahogany and whether it may be worthwhile to request larger tracts of land for bigger projects. As you can see in the picture, so far the little trees are alive and appear to be taking root well. Their first couple of years will be most crucial.
Prospects for the New Year
Things are well in Trujillo. We are hard at work preaching, catechizing, making pastoral visits, and planning out our church calendars for the next year. We have a break from seminary classes until March. The churches are gearing up to host our General Assembly in Trujillo this month. Dr. Mike Ross, Senior Minister at Trinity Presbyterian in Jackson, Mississippi and the Rev. David McPherson from Moyobamba, Peru will be our main speakers at the pre-assembly missions conference this year. We will also have the following notables with us in January: Rev. Roland Barnes, the CMS Executive Director, along with his wife Peaches. Dr. Dan Doolittle will be here for two weeks attending patients in the Wichazao Clinic. His wife Pamela and a cousin will join him for the first of those two weeks. Dale Ellison, who is currently raising support to join us in Peru will come with Mike Ross for a brief visit. Allen and Sandy Smith will also make their long awaited arrival to Peru. They will be in Trujillo for the General Assembly, and then head down to Cusco for three months of language study. Also, David and Corrine Bradford, parents of our very own Bill Bradford, will be with us for most of the month.
Thank you for your faithful prayers and support. There is much more to report, but that will have to wait for the next update. The following are some motives for thanksgiving and items for continued prayer:
1. Please join us in praising God for a recent gift of $15,000 from some dear friends in Texas, designated for our Larco Construction Fund! This will get us over a very big hump, and will put us very, very close to finishing the sanctuary and fellowship hall there.
2. Please pray for support for the Arevalo Construction Fund. We have made huge strides with the fellowship hall (where the church currently meets), thanks to some very generous gifts this past year, from friends in Mississippi and Louisiana. We expect to begin the first floor of the clinic in March, and with the Lord's help, hope to have it operational before the end of 2006.
3. Please be praying that all goes well with the General Assembly the last week of this month.
4. Pray for the Smith family as they make their adjustment to life in Peru.
5. Please pray for the other two families still raising support: Dale and Susan Ellison (they are at approximately 45% of their needed support), and John and Heather Ferguson (approximately 10%).
May the Lord richly bless you!
Yours in Christ,
Wes and Jami Baker and family