Early rises, long distances, beautiful scenery, challenging situations and inspiring people were my daily experience during my recent visit to Peru. I was there to see first-hand some of the work the Peruvian Bible Society are doing and which we in Scotland are supporting. Our partnership with other Bible Societies is enriched significantly when it can be expressed through personal relationships in addition to prayer and financial support.
Over the years I have been with SBS, I have got to know Pablo Gutierrez, Director of Projects at the Peruvian Bible Society, really well. He is a man who loves Jesus deeply and has an energetic passion for getting the Bible into the hands of fellow countrymen. He also loves children and has a gift for getting alongside them, making them laugh and encouraging them to follow Jesus. Pablo was organising my programme, so I knew it would be interesting and informative. He didn’t disappoint me!On my first morning, instead of the planned visit to Bible House in Lima and time with the staff team, Pablo bundled me into a taxi and we headed to the edge of the city. We visited a favela (shanty town) where just a few days before a tragedy has occurred when a fire spread rapidly, destroying the homes of 450 families. Pablo had organised and coordinated local church volunteers and provided the infrastructure for a feeding station to be set up outside the school. Inside the school, the children were receiving Bible story books.
Pablo greeted many of the people we encountered by name – some were the volunteers he had recruited, others were the local people deeply affected by the tragedy. We were even able to visit a family and see how they had rescued a few belongings and hung some tarpaulins on burnt, charred posts – all that was left of their home. The baby was asleep in a buggy. Two young teenagers were washing clothes by hand in a basin on the floor. I was made welcome because I was with Pablo. They knew he cared about them and so were willing to let me see their vulnerability. During the next few days, we travelled to the Highland region, the beautiful, spectacular Andes. We were joined by two of Pablo’s team. We visited schools where they taught about bullying and sexual abuse, using the Bible as the basis for understanding the value of every person. They ran a training session in a church on parenting from a biblical perspective. We saw different expressions of the ‘Bread of Life’ programme where children living in poverty are fed physically and spiritually.
Everywhere we went Pablo was greeted warmly and with respect. His thoughtfulness in planning my visit, making sure I was seeing and learning significant things about their work, was thorough. He cared for my wellbeing in a variety of ways: ensuring we had time to adjust to the altitude; making sure the taxi tyres had enough tread on them to cope with the mountain roads; taking time to eat in our busy schedule; ensuring I was understanding what was going on by constantly providing translation.
Pablo is one of my Bible Society heroes. His love for Jesus, for his fellow Peruvians, for children, for the Bible is an inspiration to me. I thank God for him and I am honoured to call him my friend.