On the Monday night (14th) the seminary had its graduation which turned out to be a lovely service. The pastor from the Ilo church, Mario Carhuaricra, was the invited speaker and preached very well and directly to those graduating and seeking to enter the ministry.
A few graduated with certificates, others with diplomas and others graduated from the ladies program.
On Tuesday I travelled up to Arequipa for a few days to meet up with a few people, but sadly most of those I knew were away either on deputation or, as in the case of the Misión Rescate team, away to the jungle. The lengths people will go to to avoid having to see you! It was a pleasant visit none the less and I still managed to see some folk I knew, like those at the language institute, and also visit a few places I hadn’t previously got round to visiting like the ‘Santa Catalina’ monastery; more about that later.
I then returned to Tacna on Friday in time to attend a few Christmas activities this past weekend. The first was a Christmas event in the ‘Luz de Vida’ church, hosted by the ‘Network of Christian Young People of Tacna’ which I have mentioned in previous posts, who had organised to invite in lots of children from the locality, put on a special program, give out presents and also hot chocolate with Paneton (a kind of sweet bread/cake with dried fruit, raisins, currants etc, in it). It is customary in Peru to have hot chocolate and Paneton at Christmas.
Apparently it was only arranged a couple of days previous and involved a lot of last minute running around for the pastor and his wife, but not knowing what to expect, they were delighted that soo many children turned up. Someone mentioned 200 but I don’t know how accurate that figure is, but I do know the church was packed to the door with children and many mothers as well. The program included a lot of children’s songs, some games, a clown, a pink panther, a chicken (don’t ask me what these three have to do with Christmas) and also the pastor was able to present a gospel message over all the noise.This is the pastor Freddie and his wife Epi struggling to silence the children before bringing the epilogue.At the end the young people handed out the chocolate and Paneton, and later the presents.
It was almost impossible to control the number of children that turned up but the pastor and his wife were very encouraged afterwards at the contacts that had been made, and the prospect of being able to follow up on all these parents and children who had attended the church for the first time.
After a quick dash back to my apartment I was back to the same church to speak at the young people’s group. We had a profitable discussion about issues related to their lives and the society we all live in and I thank God for being able to continually develop relationships with them. The youth leader wasn’t able to attend for unexplained reasons, but it was encouraging to see a few of the young people take the initiative and lead the meeting and worship themselves. For a long time they have been very dependent on the youth leader but she has slowly tried to get them to take on responsibility, especially the male members, and now slowly they are showing signs of maturity. Pray for her as she works almost singlehandedly, with only the Pastor and his wife for support, to disciple this group of young people.
The three young men in this picture led the meeting; below is a photo of them leading.
This is the group that attended on Saturday. Many who normally attend were missing. If they all came at the same time there would be a large group of about 20-30 young people.
Thanks to God a few of them were recently baptised and are now taking these steps of independence.
On Sunday (yesterday) I travelled to Ilo to spend some time with the Morrow family and the Misión Rescate team members and then attend the Christmas service at the Ite church were we all enjoyed a lovely service. I returned to Tacna last night to catch up on unfinished business including this, and hope to return to Ilo later in the week to spend Christmas day there. Then on Boxing Day the whole mission family gathers at the Brews home here in Tacna to celebrate together. Pray as always for safety in travel, but pray especially that these times of fellowship would be refreshing to the missionary family here and that we would know God’s presence as we remember Christ’s birth and the bond that unites us in Him.