An armed stranger recently rode his motorcycle into a mountain village in northern Peru and parked it in front of a Protestant church building of mud and stone with rough-hewn, wooden beams supporting the roof.
On that foggy morning, the Sunday service seemed as good a place as any to begin looking for the man he had been hired to kill.
He had a .38 revolver tucked into his jacket but didn’t plan to use it then. He just wanted to see if the man he’d followed from another village was taking cover there. The man the gunman had been hired to kill lived only about 80 yards from his own home in the other village.
Inside, as he scanned the backs of woolen cap-covered heads, he heard the preacher reading from the Bible about someone asking Jesus what the greatest commandment was. The gunman took a seat in the back row to make himself less conspicuous.
“Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind is the greatest commandment,” he heard the preacher say, but it was the following, second greatest commandment that caught the gunman’s attention: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The preacher, a pastor native to the region trained by a Peru-based ministry, spoke in the gunman’s native Quechua as he elaborated on what it meant to love God and neighbor.
“This message had a profound impact on the gunman’s being, and he began to reflect and regretted his intention to kill,” the director of the native ministry said. “The next day he called our missionary, because he was tormented and could not sleep thinking about the gospel message.”
He asked the pastor, who had founded the church, if he could meet with him but not tell anyone about it. When the pastor asked him his name, he would only give his nickname. The pastor agreed to meet with him.
“This hitman came to meet with our gospel worker, who shared the plan of salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the director said. “That day he received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He began to attend our local congregation and is growing in the knowledge of his new life in Christ.”
Peru has a lower murder rate than the United States, 3.2 per 100,000 persons compared with 5 per 100,000 in the United States, and a lower rate of murders with firearms, 16.54 per 1 million in Peru compared with the U.S. rate of 32.57 per 1 million, according to country data comparison website NationMaster.
Firearms can be obtained in Peru, however, and the violent impulse first displayed in Cain can be seen in the Andes as in all the world. Setting their sights on areas with the most need – socially, economically and spiritually – local missionaries seek out villages where Christ is not known, sometimes at personal risk.
“We were encouraged, despite the difficulties we face, to be guided by the Holy Spirit and to be where there is greater need to proclaim the holy gospel, putting our lives at the service of our Lord Jesus Christ and His church,” the ministry leader said.
In a rural Quechua village about four hours by car from the nearest city, evangelists brought the gospel to the 21 families there about five years ago. One man, Carlos*, put his faith in Christ.
“Carlos has a very special calling for his village, and from the moment he opened his heart to Jesus, he and our local missionary began to share the gospel in this village,” the ministry leader said. “During this time, four families accepted Christ.”
Local Christians partnered with Christian Aid Mission donors to buy land and construction materials for a modest church building of adobe, wood and corrugated metal roofing, he said.
“Now the local believers have a place to gather for worship and to learn the Word of God,” the leader said. “We are in constant prayer for the other families who have not received the message of Christ, that they can be broken by the Holy Spirit and give their lives to Christ.”
Local missionaries throughout the country are overcoming economic limitations and social hardships to bring the message of eternal life in Christ. Please consider a donation today so that people in great darkness can see the light of Christ and grow in Him.
*Name changed for security reasons