Julia has been one of our longest friendships here in Peru. She is one of those people who would be chosen first if you were captain and ready to play against another team. She grew up in the heart of the jungle, the greater Amazon River Valley. She left that area with her two children in the late 80s due to The Shining Path, a terrorist group. The move to the outskirts of Lima provided her first introduction to Jesus Christ. She received Jesus as her Savior in Lima and became a strong Christian. She prayed for and introduced most of her family members to a relationship with her Lord and Savior. Then, she started on the community via Sunday school classes and youth meetings. She began studies at the seminary four years ago with the purpose of being a better church leader. She now has a vision for returning to her hometown, Tingo Maria, in the jungle and planting a Free Methodist church.
Graduation for Julia was very emotional. She said to us, with tears in her eyes, “This will be my first graduation, ever!” Even though she was very nervous, she made it down the aisle (about 20 feet) without mishap to the front of the church to receive her graduation certificate. She relaxed considerably when it came time to eat cake!
The Free Methodist “Luz y Vida” (Light and Life) Seminary of Peru was started in 2008. From the outset, one of the goals of the seminary committee was to “take the seminary to the students” instead of requiring the students to come to the seminary. The committee noted that in the traditional paradigm most seminary students have to relocate to the seminary residential site, leaving their families, their jobs, their local church ministries and, many times, their culture to spend four years in theological studies.
The Luz y Vida Seminary has gone to five different sites throughout Peru, enabling students to receive a theological degree in their local setting. Currently, about 30 students are enrolled. The ages of the students range from 16 to 55 years old. Pastors, housewives, factory workers, and teachers are among the students.
The goal of the seminary is to develop future pastors and lay leaders in the Free Methodist Church of Peru.