[To access all of the posts in this series, visit the "Church in Arequipa" tag.]
After months of studying the offering, at our last general meeting the Peruvian disciples made some decisions about our collective practice of giving as a network of house churches. Each group will have an envelope available at every Sunday meeting, placed somewhere out of the way, in which those who wish can discretely place their offering. Two people will count the offering together after the meeting, seal the envelope, record the amount, and both sign the envelop. The church elected Etelvina, Paty, and Alfredo to administrate the money received. They also voted on uses of the money, which will be divided into three equal parts: charity, evangelism, and savings. Quite a few voted that our charitable cause be the support of orphans, and the evangelism category included ideas such as bus fair and printed materials. The savings will be allocated according to a future vote.
A number voted that we save funds for a building. Although some of those votes were from visitors who have not participated in our house church model, others were from members who still view house churches as a temporary measure. It turned into a good opportunity for discussion. One one hand, those members who have become convinced of the value of intimate Sunday communion were able to express themselves to the whole church for the first time. On the other hand, the missionaries seized the moment to explain publicly for the first time why we did not simply acquire facilities with American funding as so many missionaries do. I viewed the whole experience as a victory. The church moved from Bible study to practice and made its own decisions about how to give and what for. The missionaries coached the leaders who facilitated the discussion but were able to step back and let the process happen. There was open discussion, in which we demonstrated that the church’s leadership is not authoritarian as is so often the case in Peru, and the church voted in an way that brought out the voices of those who would not normally have stated an opinion.
I was especially proud for Etelvina, a wonderful friend and sister who was taken aback by the church’s vote of confidence. She already had mine, so it was a joy to count the landslide of votes that affirmed her integrity and trustworthiness—and to see the shock on her face. Because the misappropriation of funds so plagues churches in Peru, it was a solemn moment when we laid our hands on our Paty, Alfredo, and Etelvina and commissioned them to administer the church’s offering faithfully.