Cakes and community in Cusco
BMS World Mission worker Anjanette Williamson talks (with the assistance of her daughter Jessica) about how the church she and her husband Scott planted in the Peruvian city of Cusco keeps outgrowing its buildings.
A successful church plant high in the Andean mountains recently celebrated a move to larger premises as God continues to bless the efforts of BMS workers Scott and Anjanette Williamson.
El Puente (which means ‘the bridge’) was planted in Cusco, an ancient Inca city high in the Andean mountains of Peru, in August 2009. Then, its core membership consisted of Scott and Anjanette Williamson and their two children, Jessica and Samuel. Just over two years and two new premises later, the membership stands at 39 (plus four BMS Action Teamers).
In a time when church attendance figures in Britain can make depressing reading, such growth is exciting, even if it involves a lot of hard work. “We’re feeling a mixture of excitement and exhaustion,” she says. “God was very active in the way he helped us to move the church. In the same week, we returned from our church's first-ever weekend away, conducted a medical campaign in a poor community outside the city and started a new schools project. Somehow God gave us the energy to get everything done in time!”
Anjanette’s daughter Jessica (8) believes the reason for the growth is simple. “God is sending more people, people are telling others about Jesus and bringing their friends and family to church,” she says. Jessica is also clearly pleased with what the new building, with its larger meeting area and two additional rooms, offers young people and children: “Now we have a space for the children in the same building; before the children met in a different house. It is much better being all together like a family.”
The origins of the move are no less impressive than the growth that made it necessary. Jessica explains: “One morning Daddy prayed for a new building and, when he looked in the Cusco property newspaper, we found our new church for the perfect price.” Miraculous or not, the new development is exciting for El Puente.
Situated in a residential community, across the road from a pre-school, the new church building will offer many opportunities to reach out to the new community. “We aim to set up a mums' and babies' group for mums who are dropping their children at pre-school,” says Anjanette. “We are also thinking about starting some other new groups in the church building like keep fit, a homework club, English club and maybe a group for retired people.”
The longer-term vision is for El Puente to buy its own property in the future. “We have signed a two-year contract, during which time we hope to raise enough money to buy our own church building,” says Anjanette. She explains that this aim is important because she and Scott have a vision for the church in Cusco one day becoming independently sustainable without support in the form of rent or mission workers. “Eventually, we would like to see Peruvian Christians run the church.”
A few UK churches have tithed their own church building funds towards El Puente. These links between projects and churches are helpfully handled by the BMS Church Relations Team. Having a new church building is a hope for the more distant future. For the moment, though, there are still challenges to be faced. “People in the new community are a bit suspicious of us,” says Anjanette. “Our vision remains the same: to see Jesus Christ transform lives in Cusco and beyond.”
El Puente celebrated their move with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and cake-eating inauguration party, to which the surrounding community was invited. About 40 people attended and, if past form is anything to go by, that number is likely to rise.