We’ve enjoyed the girls’ experience of our first baptism. On the way to the water, Shaye was very curious about Jose Luis getting “babertized.” Most often since that day, when Ana prays she thanks God for “Jose Luis and bapteezy in the water.” The ritual made quite an impression on the kids—and on us as well.
You can read more about the baptism at the team site. Here I just want to reflect on the step that we’ve taken in the work. Along with Jose Luis, a young man named Emilio (the same one you may have heard about before) has joined our little congregation. Emilio has been a believer since his childhood, though he has gone undiscipled and churchless for many years. We are really excited about his eagerness to renew his relationship with God and grow in faith.
Jose Luis came to us through a mutual friend, cautiously interested in the Bible study we were doing each week. He quickly became a regular. As he shared some of his story, it was evident that he was actively searching and was coming to believe that our intersection was God’s provision. We discussed his experiences and his faith openly, which led us to encourage him to consider entering covenant with God and becoming a member of his people. With a little study, he recognized the need as well as the seriousness of the decision. A few weeks later, he was ready.
As we sat together after communion last week and discussed with Jose Luis and Emilio what God is doing in Arequipa and what he is preparing them for, it was evident that we’ve entered a new phase in the work. In the years before we moved to Arequipa, we commonly prayed for God to prepare the first disciples ahead of time, to be strong pillars for the young community soon to form. I am keenly aware of the odds of starting with a mature male in Peru. They are low. Religion in Latin America is really the province of women, and there are lots of factors that discourage men from even taking Jesus seriously, much less conforming to his lifestyle. That our first two disciples are men is, therefore, tremendously exciting. It is encouraging suddenly to find old, nearly forgotten prayers burst into effectiveness. We are looking forward to the first female pillars too, and hopefully the context makes our feelings less sexist than they seem.
So where do we go from here? We pray every time we are together for wisdom to know who in their lives is ready for a conversation about God. Soon we will do a very simple thing: make a list. Then, together, we will begin approaching those friends and family members with the same news that brought Jose Luis and Emilio to faith. Pray for these two. Their testimony is the start of something great in Arequipa.