Kentucky church adopts Andean farming community
    February 10 2015 by Elaine Gaston, IMB Connecting

    When *Nathan Smith was growing up in Kentucky, he couldn’t have dreamed God was preparing him to live two years in the Peruvian Andes.
     
    Now that he’s there, Smith, a tall and lanky 22-year-old, says that Cordova, a rural farming village of about 300, shares similarities with Cynthiana, Ky., a rural farming town of about 6,000.
     
    “Both towns are very agriculturally based,” he said. “A lot of people work hard out in the fields all day and come in to town in the evening: [the] same sort of stuff – plowing and sowing fields, herding livestock, raising your own food for your family.” He said only the technology used in farming and level of poverty in Cordova contrast with his Kentucky home. “In Cynthiana, they have tractors and chain saws,” he said. “In Cordova, it’s oxen and axes.”
     
    Cordova, like most small Andean villages, is off the beaten track. Travelling to the village from Lima, the entry point into Peru, requires a day’s drive through the nearest big town, Ica, along mostly rugged mountain roads. There’s no Internet service in the town of mostly mud-brick houses. It is just one of hundreds of similar small villages sprinkled throughout the mountains of south-central Peru.
     
    Cordova is made up of the indigenous peoples of this area of Peru, the Ayacucho Quechua. “Ayacucho” refers to the dialect spoken by the Quechua people here. There are about 1 million Ayacucho Quechua speakers in Peru. Most Cordovans are subsistence farmers who raise sheep and various crops such as lima beans and potatoes. It is a village that would, for all practical purposes, be under the radar of the “big picture” of reaching Peru for Christ.

     
    2-10-15Peru.jpg

    IMB Photo
    Cordova, a rural farming village of about 300 inhabitants situated at nearly 11,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes, has been adopted by Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.

    But Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., has chosen to invest itself in this village, sending missions teams several times a year and having at least one person like Smith on location there.
     
    Jeremy Haskins, missions pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist, explained how the church came to choose Cordova and this area of Peru. In the past, he said, the church had taken something of a “shotgun” approach to volunteer mission projects without a lot of focus. But a few years ago, Ashland decided that, along with funding missionaries through the Cooperative Program, it wanted its additional missions efforts to be more focused.
     
    “We support the International Mission Board and the Cooperative Program, but we didn’t want to just sit back,” Haskins said.
     
    So the church chose a place so small that full-time missionaries would not strategically be able to live there and began building relationships. Teams from Kentucky make trips to Cordova several times a year to bring medical and educational supplies or simply be a part of village life, even working beside Cordovans in the fields.
     
    From a spiritual point of view, Haskins described the village as “pretty dark” with ancient pagan beliefs and Roman Catholicism mixed together in a potent brew, the result being that, in daily life, “there is not a lot of hope.”
     
    Of course, it resembles most Andean villages. “When Catholicism did come to Peru, it was basically a church [building] that was put in the center of the village that people had to bring tithes and offerings to just to be involved in it. They had to give so that their sins would be forgiven,” Haskins explained. “And eventually what happened there was that the ancient paganism that they knew was melded together with that sort of Catholicism. … At the end of the day, it’s not the true gospel.”
     
    With the strategy of focusing on this one village, the church hopes to start something that will reach into the hearts of many villages. Ashland Avenue Baptist doesn’t want the story to end simply with a church in Cordova. At the core of the church’s missions vision is that the work based in Cordova will grow into a church-planting movement that will spread through surrounding villages in the mountains.
     
    Smith isn’t the first from Ashland Avenue Baptist to live in Cordova, but his two-year commitment is the longest thus far. He arrived in May 2012. Within his first month, he was regularly discipling four young men.
     
    “Equipping the believers of Cordova to share the gospel is a primary goal for my time here,” Smith said. He performed his first baptisms with two new believers as well, an experience that he found humbling and exciting at the same time. He pointed out that the fruits he experienced just after his arrival are the results of the work of others who have come to this remote village and shared the truth. “They have laid a foundation that I get the amazing opportunity to build upon.”
     
    Smith has a positive outlook but is acutely aware of the spiritual battles of the work he’s engaged in.
     
    “[Novelist] C. S. Lewis accurately describes the situation when he says, ‘There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan,’” Smith said.
     
    Ioana Cosoreanu understands. Also from Ashland Avenue Baptist, she spent several months in Cordova before Smith's tenure and returned with a volunteer missions team in August 2012.
     
    “Cordova is definitely a battlefield, spiritually speaking … You can feel the spiritual darkness just pressing down,” Cosoreanu said. She recalled seeing the emptiness of their faith as the statue of the Virgin of Carmen was being paraded around during the annual festival and people were weeping before her, worshipping her and praying to her for wealth, a successful business or good health.
     
    With these spiritual forces at work, it is critical that Smith's sending church strongly supports his work in the village. Along with receiving financial support, he has a spiritual health “checkup” as he speaks with “Pastor Jeremy” every couple of weeks to talk about the work. He said he is encouraged by the congregation’s prayers, messages and gifts sent with visiting teams.
     
    “Spiritually I know they are praying for me. Not only do they tell me every chance they get but I feel their prayers. There’s just too much happening that I have nothing to do with, that can’t be explained by anything other than God’s response to the prayers of my church family.”
     
    When he manages to get to a place with Internet access, Smith records some of his experiences in a blog, TheMissionToCordova.wordpress.com.
     
    There, he wrote, “I wish I could share all of the wonderful stories of God’s grace and what life is like here. I’ve herded sheep and cows, wielded a machete for chopping wood until my hands were raw with blisters, ridden a donkey, played and watched more soccer than [at] any point in my life, eaten strange things and made so many new friends. … Thanks be to God that He is so powerful He can use my broken Spanish, feeble understanding of the culture and weakness to advance His kingdom. I have learned … that truly any fruit here can only be explained by God’s power.”

    *Name changed
     
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Elaine Gaston writes for WMU and IMB. Ashland Avenue Baptist Church’s missions in Peru was featured in the 2013 International Mission Study on Peru, published by Woman’s Mission Union. To learn more about the study, go to wmu.com/peru.)
     

    Related photo gallery:

    Volunteers bring Bible stories to the Quechua people

    2/10/2015 1:06:42 PM by Elaine Gaston, IMB Connecting | with 0 comments
    Filed under: church missions, Peru, Quechua people




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