by Michelle Hodges and Nikki Bonham
Westminster friends, I’m thrilled to bring you the latest update from the Bonham and Gutierrez families, Cross Collaboration, our Mission of the Month for March! The Lord is working in mighty way in Arequipa, Peru! Nikki Bonham has sent us a ton of information on all of the exciting things happening there right now. So, here’s the latest from our missionary friends in Peru! Friends, please join me and the missions team as we focus and pray for these two families and their work this month.
So one of the biggest things happening with our team here in Arequipa right now is the start of the seminary (Seminario Biblico Reformado- www.sbrperu.com ). Nate and Nathaniel have been steadily laying plans for it for over a year now, and we are excited to see it finally launch. We’ve rented the 3rd floor of a building in a central area of town, and we have been busy preparing it for classes. It has an office that Nate, Nathaniel and Rodny can share, a classroom, a kitchen/cafe area with some couches & tables where we can host study sessions, ESL classes, etc, and a library. We had a construction team from a church in California come down several weeks ago, and they built 2 studio apartments on the roof. Rodny will live up there, and we have one additional apartment for a future professor or intern.
Speaking of Rodny, that is another new and exciting development. He is Venezuelan and left the country due to the ongoing crisis happening there. He studied at a seminary in Medellin, Colombia, and has been working and teaching at a church plant in Lima, Peru. He met Nate and Nathaniel through a mutual friend, and over time it became clear that he would be an asset to our team here and the work we hope to accomplish with the seminary. Thankfully he accepted our invitation to come join our work here, and he arrived in Arequipa in January. He will be living on site, helping us run the day-to-day business of the seminary, and teaching. He will also be getting married in April, and his new wife will join us here in Arequipa at that point as well.
After so much preparation, we are so excited that our very first seminary classes will start in just a few days. We will have orientation/introductions next week (Monday, March 5), and formal classes will start the following week. We have some who will be “local students” and will be physically coming to classes, as well as several virtual students who don’t live in Arequipa and will be participating through a live-stream. We are excited about this first group of students— we have Presbyterians, Baptists, Pentecostals, and independents who have registered. Nate, Nathaniel, and Rodny are excited to be able to study the Bible and dig into theology with such a diverse group of people.
In addition to everything happening at the seminary, things have been busy at our church here in Arequipa as well. Actually, things have been pretty complicated to tell the truth. One of the things that comes along with serving and ministering in a place that doesn’t have much of a context for biblical Christianity is that there is also no context for how to live in Christian community. Of the people who worship with us on a weekly basis, the majority of them are new believers who have no Christian background whatsoever or non-believers who are curious about it but aren’t quite ready to profess faith. There are hardly any mature Christians who have experience in what it means to walk with Jesus in their day-to-day life. Self-sacrifice, extending grace, practicing humility, or lovingly speaking truth into difficult situations are all new and unfamiliar concepts. As a result, when there are conflicts or criticism or disagreements among church members, things can often get heated and deep wounds can be inflicted as they learn what it means to live in a community of believers and serve one another.
Though I can’t get into specifics, we are currently in a season of having to help some of our members work through several very difficult areas of reconciliation. It’s messy and painful, as growing pains and open emotional wounds always are, but we are praying that God will use this time to begin growing new life in this community of believers and that fruit will come of it. We are praying that this process of teaching them what it means to believe in and extend grace, to forgive, to search one’s heart and confess and repent, will end up being a beautiful testament to God’s goodness and faithfulness. We are actually having a special service this Sunday which will focus on repentance and reconciliation. Please join us in praying that God will work mightily in the hearts of our congregation and that true healing can begin. And pray especially for a spirit of wisdom for Nate and Nathaniel as they have been working extended hours to spend time meeting with and counseling all of the people involved.
So those are the biggest things going on right now as far as ministry is concerned. On the home front, Alicia is continuing with her classes for her masters in counseling, and Nate will begin pursuing his doctorate (a DMin in Counseling) this fall. Both of those are through Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. The Gutierrez kids will start back to school the first week of March (entering 3rd grade, 1st grade, and preschool), while the Bonham boys are continuing in homeschool with me. They'll move up to 3rd, 3rd, and 1st grades in the fall.
Please continue praying for Lacey’s ongoing treatment and for Nathaniel’s family as they grieve the unexpected loss of his big sister earlier this month.
And as always, please pray for our hearts as we strive to be patient and faithful to the ministry that the Lord has called our families to here in Arequipa.