Tripe soup for breakfast? Welcome to the Peruvian Baptist Assembly; a gathering of people from the 160 churches that make up the Convencíon Evangélica Bautista del Perú.
For those readers used to English Baptist life the format is a mix of the UK Baptist Assembly and BUGB Council. We arrived Tuesday afternoon and left Friday lunchtime and during this time there were evening celebration events with speakers (including BMS regional leader Mark Greenwood), morning devotions and some afternoon sessions devoted to the theme of ‘making disciples’. There were also four business sessions done in a style reminiscent of BUGB Council 10 years ago. These business sessions included reports from each department and discussion of particular points of interest. Because department heads and the President are all elected for 3 year terms, this assembly included elections for these positions. While the scale of the Peruvian Assembly is smaller than its English version, they are living proof that you can combine business, corporate discernment, worship and a seminar theme into one event if you want to.
Santa Eulalia, the small town where we were is about 2-3 hours from the centre of Lima in the foothills of the mountains, in the river valley, with the town growing up the steep slopes. Because numbers are smaller (150?) we were at a venue that has accommodation, with everyone sleeping in dormitories and eating in a dining area. At times the diet was a bit of a challenge (Lori and I are just too English) but there were enough things we liked to ensure we didn’t starve. The Spanish was a challenge as well, lots of people from all over the country means a complete mix of accents…….
It was a great experience though. Living in Nauta you don’t really have a sense of being part of a larger group of churches, so it was fascinating to be part of something larger and have a feel for what the wider convention is like.
We also learned that while BMS provides significant support to the Convention there are also folk from the German Baptists (EBM – MASA), Brazilian Baptists (JMM) and the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention all of whom are working with the Peruvian Convention in some way. We were able to spend a bit of time with the IMB team, who were all lovely people, learning about the work they are doing in Lima. JMM are heavily involved with a project called ‘Radical Peru’ which is an extension of the BMS ‘Action Team’ idea but involves people volunteering for a year (for projects in Peru) or three years (for projects outside Peru).
The Assembly is a rare occasion for the whole BMS team in Peru to get together. We didn’t quite manage that this year (Michele Mahon and the children stayed in Arequipa) but it did mean that we got to spend a bit of time with Daniel and Regiane Clark. We even managed a team picture:
Our week nearly finished on an exciting note….. it took us a long time to get back into Lima and then to the airport and we almost missed our flight back to Iquitos. By the time we had done check in and security they had almost finished boarding the plane. But we, our luggage and six ceiling fans all made it safely back ‘home’.