Kate Lawler and David Wunsch are ELCA missionaries in Bueno Aires, Argentina. They are also the regional representatives for South America. To support them or another of the ELCA’s 225 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.
How can we have eyes that see the hopeful signs of God’s inaugurated — but not yet realized — Kingdom already in our midst? Sometimes these are revealed in the most unexpected places … like a garage that has been converted into the churchwide offices of the Lutheran church in Peru. Recently I was accompanying a visit from Lutherans in the ELCA Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod and we spent some time in the new offices of our companion church in Peru. So why is this newsworthy? Because this news item is all about signs that God’s reconciling mission to the world is on the move and we’re in the thick of it. Let me explain.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Peru suffered a terrible internal conflict that left nearly 70,000 people dead or disappeared. Tens of thousands of mostly poor Peruvians living in the highlands and the jungle were caught in the middle of the violent tactics of The Shining Path terrorist group and the government’s brutal and repressive response. As human rights violations spread, hundreds of thousands of Peruvians fled to the cities to escape the violence, many landing in the slums that were mushrooming to the south, north and east of Lima. Today these are places that cry out for healing and reconciliation and are precisely where the Peruvian Evangelical Lutheran Church (ILEP) has established nearly a dozen faith communities. As such, it should be of no surprise that the converted garage that houses the Peruvian church’s new offices until recently was a reception point for reparation claims under a 2005 law that compensates victims of human rights violations.
So where is the parable in this ho-hum story of a church moving into a new office? Jesus’ parables took common elements of everyday life — like garages— and made them so absolutely new and surprising that his listeners couldn’t help but run off to write home. How else could a mustard seed — the cause of the biblical-era equivalent of a kudzu vine epidemic — become such a powerful symbol for God’s Kingdom? In God’s inaugurated kingdom, healing garages point to a time where the sinful actions that open a gulf between God’s design for humankind and the actual state of affairs will be reconciled. At this time, the broken pieces of our lives and our world will come together and be healed as we are reconciled with God and with one another.
The ILEP is God’s agent of reconciliation and is reaching out from this healing garage into a broken world. Where others see only poverty and hurt, the ILEP sees signs of the promised Kingdom that keeps coming through the power of the gospel. This is why each year the ILEP plants a new faith community, responds to disasters like the recent mudslides in Chosica, advocates on key issues like water and the environment, and has expanded the Wembrando education and health ministry to nearly all it congregations. I ask that you keep the church in Peru close to your hearts as their recently elected leaders seek to respond to the gift of God’s grace in their lives!