By Bishop Michael Rinehart
Each of the 65 synods of the ELCA have one or more global companions. We are privileged to have two: The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic (ELC-CAR) and the Lutheran Church of Peru. The LaCrosse Area Synod of Wisconsin also has Peru as a global companion. Two synods in North Dakota share a relationship with the ELC-CAR.
Our colleagues in Peru asked, before we bring down our next group, if the bishop from Wisconsin and I would meet with them in retreat. I had a two year old ticket waiting for me because I was supposed to have attended their 2020 assembly, and that obviously got put on hold. I was disappointed to not bring a group with me, but this turned out to be a good choice. We had some deeply personal conversations that might not have been possible with a bigger group. We heard quite a bit of their pain and struggle with pandemic, followed the subsequent death of their President/Bishop Adita Torres. Likewise, Bishop Malpica shared the reality of the pandemic in our contexts.
In this article I will lay out somethings about our companion synod relationship and offer some information about the Lutheran Church of Peru in particular. If you wish to see more photos, check out my blog.
In the crucible of pandemic crisis, some new structures emerged for organizing their church, including a team of lay leaders to manage their ten projects, and a lay leader and team driving each project. They have hired an accountant, and put a strong system for accountability in place. Things are looking up. Pedro Bullón is President/Bishop, but an election is coming up in March.
In our many deep and soulful conversations, some hopes and dreams began to emerge. Proposals were made and consensus reached on a number of things. I will outline them here, but it seems to me that we will need to create a sort of manual for companion congregations to help serve as a guide.
Our synod has congregation to congregation relations in Peru. If your congregation is interested read on, and contact me. Here is a current list of Peru congregations as I understand them, with their current pastor and their most recent companion congregation in the Gulf Coast Synod. Some notes will follow.
|Belén||Lima (Breña)||Irene Poncé||Spirit of Joy, The Woodlands|
|Congregación Chocofán||Trujillo||Jorge Aguilar Pereda (lay leader)||Christ the King, Houston|
|Congregación Cristo Vive||Trujillo||Jorge Aguilar Pereda (lay leader)||Christ the King, Houston|
|Congregación Magdalena de Cao||Trujillo||Jorge Aguilar Pereda (lay leader)||Christ the King, Houston|
|Congregación San Andrés||Trujillo||Jorge Aguilar Pereda (lay leader)||Christ the King, Houston|
|Cristo el Rey||Piura||Candidate Cesar Castillo|
|Cristo Salvador||Lima (San Juan de Miraflores)||Jorge Mateo||Celebration, Cypress|
|El Buen Pastor||Lima (San Martín de Porres)||Pedro Bullón||Living Word,Katy|
|Emanuél||Lima (Collique)||Pedro Bullón||St. Paul, LaGrange|
|Emaús||Lima (Carabayo)||Andrés Palencia||Kinsmen, Houston|
|Fiel es Dios||Iquitos||Yoli Zavaleta||Holy Comforter, Kingwood|
|Filadelfia||Lima (Lurín)||Ofelia Davila||Lord of Life, The Woodlands|
|San Juan Camino de Esperanza||Lima (San Juan de Lurigancho)||Ana María Jara||Grace, Conroe|
|Talitha Kum||Cuzco||3-month rotation of pastors||Kinsmen,Houston|
|Vida Nueva||Lima (San Juan de Miraflores)||Jorge Mateo||Faith, Bellaire|
Several Lutheran congregations are discerning becoming a part of the Lutheran Church of Peru: Cristo Rey, Lima (Surcó, Pastor Armando Capcha), Luz Divina, Lima (Marqués, Pastor Benjamin Navarro), Galileia, Huacho (Eliseo Mandamiento).
What does it mean to be a companion synod? First and foremost, it is about being in relationship. Here is an outline.
- Pray: Above all we should pray for one another. Companion congregations will pray for each other in the Sunday worship weekly, or at least monthly. This keeps the
4relationship front and center and grounds it in faith and worship. As we interact, specific prayer requests will likely emerge to give our prayers specificity.
- Accompaniment and Collaboration: The leaders told us their greatest need and desire is accompaniment: collaboration. They long for church leaders with whom to interact. Lutheran friends in the Gulf Coast can make a difference. This costs nothing. Pastor-to-Pastor interaction is easy with Google translate and the internet.Groups can hold Zoom Bible studies together with a translator.If nothing else happens, monthly collaboration of some kind is our first priority. A monthly contact would be ideal. We need to move this to the center of our work together. Their preferred method of contact is What’s App. Texting is expensive. They also use Zoom and Facebook Messenger. They would like to talk about faith and life. They would like to talk about church realities.
- Visit: There is nothing like a face-to-face, in person visit to grow a relationship. They place a high value on our visits and would like to see them happen annually.Even if only two people from the congregation can come, it solidifies the relationship. Our African friends have said the same thing. When asked if we should come and visit, or if they would benefit more from the money we would have spent traveling, they always opt for the visit. Without the visit, we have no relationship. Donations without relationships are just transactional. This means the congregation can raise funds and use them for two members to visit. If a surplus of funds are raised, a gift may be made to the congregation. I asked when a visit from a companion synod would be most convenient. They said the last week in July or even better, the first week in August. This is because the kids are out of school. Keep in mind, while June-August is our summer break, it is their winter. We discussed an August 2-6 trip in 2023, with possible extensions to Cuzco or Iquitos (the Amazon jungle). For extensions, we should always build in the costs to take two Peruvians with us. (The vast majority of Peruvians have never seen Machu Picchu.) They are also a huge asset with navigating the language and culture, and purchasing tickets for entry, which is usually much higher for tourists than locals. Churches are free to arrange their own trips, but some congregations don’t have the capacity to do so, therefore a synod trip will continue to be helpful.
- Financial Support: If a visit can be made and there is still bandwidth for financial support this can be discussed in the many interactions. The need is great. Congregational properties need roofs in some cases. Cristo el Rey in Piura (No Gulf Coast companion yet) is in a poor area. They have a soup kitchen that feeds hungry children. The pastor is a former Catholic priest (now married with four children). He is a baker and cook. They can use the support. This should be done in collaboration and with a written proposal. Places like Vida Nueva already have a couple ready to go. The pastors asked that the funds be sent to ILP, for two reasons. First, it provides transparency and mutual accountability. Second, many of these congregations don’t have bank accounts because you have to have your articles of incorporation and the title to your property in order to receive funds. You can wire ILP, or if it’s easier, send to us and we will do so. We do many pass-thru payments (to TLU, the seminaries, Lutherhill, etc), wire frequently and have weekly ACH transfers. It is not a burden. When the money is given, follow it up with a communication and we can see how quickly the money gets to ILP (we distribute on Wednesdays and funds arrive Thursday or Friday) and then how quickly ILP gets it to congregations. They are very organized right now and have a paid professional accountant, so I am optimistic.
ILP has ten projects right now. Five projects are funded by the ELCA, others by the Lutheran World Federation, and others by OMEL (the Lutheran Church in Germany). There are health projects in Cuzco and Piura (where they had all the massive flooding). There is a mission and evangelism project. A communications project. A project to help them with the influx of Venezuelan immigrants. There is an LWF grant to support families. There is a grant for theological education. There is a grant from the German church to support communities in poverty in Iquitos.In addition there are scholarships for young church leaders with potential for ministry. Each project is now led by a team with a lay leader. A pastor supports each team. The coordinating team has some stellar people on it, including Pedro Velíz who spent decades working for Church World Services and Then Lutheran World Relief.
Again, if your congregation wishes to consider becoming a partner with a congregation in Peru, there are openings. Contact me at [email protected]. There are openings. Either way, I would love to talk about it.
Yours in Christ,