Two Hills, Two Churches: Church Planting in Puente Piedra

Padre Benjamin with Father Clay Lein and Stuart Nibbelin of St. Philip's, Frisco, and some of the children from a recent summer program

Padre Benjamin with Father Clay Lein and Stuart Nibbelin of St. Philip’s, Frisco, Texas and some of the children from a recent summer program.

Padre Benjamin Salas planted–and continues to serve–our two churches in the Puente Piedra district of Lima. He was ministering in another district of Lima when he was approached by a group of families from the “Cajamarca Hill” in Puente Piedra, so called because its residents had come to Lima from the northern Peruvian city of Cajamarca. The families wanted the Anglican Church, and Padre Benjamin in particular, to care for them and to baptize their children. The baptisms took place in October 2007 at the beautiful Good Shepherd Cathedral in Miraflores, and the church plant of San Andrés Anglican Church began to take root.

Like many church plants, San Andrés spent its formative months in an interim building, one owned by a generous parishioner.

The interim church building.

The interim church building.

There, eighteen families were prepared for baptism in just six months. Meanwhile, Padre Benjamin was praying for some land to build a church. And God provided the land: a small plot on the hilltop. In Padre Benjamin’s words:

We flattened what was necessary in order to build a house of mats six by four square meters. We decorated it like a cathedral. We joined our offerings and bought wooden panels for the walls, and we improved our chapel. My son Miguel painted our apostle San Andrés in watercolors. The church was pretty, and we built it with much love.

Watercolor of Saint Andrew.

Behind the altar, with the watercolor of Saint Andrew.

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Early visitors to San Andrés included Todd Atwood from Texas, Rev. Allen Hill from Lima, Rev. Marvin Bowers from California, and Padre Ricardo Vergara Peñaranda, now serving as a priest in Arequipa, Peru.

At the inauguration of the new church, Bishop Godfrey presided over the holy eucharist, and ten boys and girls made their first communion.

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San Andrés was blessed to receive invaluable start-up necessities like Bibles, work books, and supplies of paper and crayons from a Presbyterian mission organization that even committed to provide lunch for thirty children for three years.

Padre Benjamin does not ascribe these blessings to luck. Rather, he says,

they resulted from the strength and perseverance of a believing community that waits, that trusts, and that praises and gives thanks to God. 

San Andrés moved forward as a church, driven by the desire to know God and to know about the life and love of Christ. Padre Benjamin sought to help his parishioners know the sacred scriptures, to help them understand and participate in the liturgies of the Eucharist and Holy Baptism, and to live together “like brothers of the same Father, brothers in Christ our Savior.”

But the property around San Andrés was unstable, as evidenced by a deep and wide crevice that developed outside its entrance.

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It became too dangerous to worship in the church. And for a while, the people had no place to gather. Again, though, God provided for the people’s needs. Padre Benjamin recalls with gratitude:

At a critical moment when we were without a chapel to celebrate and teach in, Todd Atwood came from Frisco, Texas with the great news that there was a congregation, St. Philip’s, that wanted to help us, to be our family, our brothers. And that’s how, in February 2013, Draggy, Monica, Debi, Gorgi, Janice, Stuart, Ron, and Robert came with all of their love, their care, their patience, and an eagerness to work. 

There would be a new church, Santísima Cruz, on the “Primavera Hill,” next to but more populated than the Cajamarca Hill.

It is the hope that the San Andrés property can one day be made secure. And there is still much to do on the Santísima Cruz property before a chapel can be built, including building retaining walls on both the up- and down-hill sides.

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The need for retaining walls is clear from this picture that shows the steep hill the land is carved from.

St. Philip’s, Frisco, Texas is committed to supporting Santísima Cruz, and in the meantime, Padre Benjamin does not hesitate to use the bare space for Sunday services and to fill it to the brim for children’s programs.

SC in action

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Again, Padre Benjamin is quick to praise God for all he has done:

So, now that God has blessed us with the love of his brothers of St. Philip’s, and therefore, soon with a pretty church and rectory, I think we have to thank him for having put in our path good people to help us in the realization of this great vision. 

And while St. Philip’s is the most recent supporter of the church in Puente Piedra, Padre Benjamin remembers with special fondness a long-term SAMS missionary who came alongside him from the start, Father Ian Montgomery.

We were blessed by God from the beginning because we always had the support, enthusiasm, and love of Padre Ian Montgomery. Padre Ian was always concerned for our improvement, for our necessities, and for our problems, looking for people to help us or helping us directly. He helped us especially in the liturgy and with the youth program. And we felt his great love and appreciation for our people, always talking and telling our story through the gifts God gave him: photography and music.

Then-SAMS missionary and fellow banjo enthusiast Fr. Ian Montgomery enjoyed accompanying Padre Benjamin.

Fr. Ian Montgomery joining Padre Benjamin in musical worship.

Bishop Godfrey, too, has uplifted the work in Puente Piedra, “visiting us, encouraging us, and always valuing our work, progress, and activities.”  And Bishop Mike Chapman blessed the cornerstone of San Andrés and is remembered for his healing service.

Padre Benjamin feels a lasting connection to the people who have come alongside his ministry in Puente Piedra:

God has sent–and continues to send–many people to help us. We always pray for them, that their lives may be blessed.

 

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