The apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”
Fragrances tend to get people’s attention. Even if the fragrances are unappealing, they get noticed. The purpose of Paul’s letter to the believers in Corinth was to communicate that advancing the Kingdom will come with its share of attacks and suffering, but Christ will prevail in the end. This past summer, members from several countries joined efforts in Piura, Peru, as God called them to be this same fragrance of life and share the Gospel.
The team, who had been mostly strangers before the event, met every morning at 5:30 a.m. for devotions and prayer. In God’s providence, the New Testament readings were from the book of Acts (chapters two to five) and told of how God blessed the early Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Every day, the team prayed for the power of the Holy Spirit to use them as a Gospel witness in Peru.
surrounded by religion
The city of Piura lies in the northwestern desert area of Peru. A poor city with a population of nearly 500,000, Piura was the first city in Peru established by the Spanish conquerors who sought to convert the indigenous populations to Christianity. These days, there is visible evidence of Roman Catholicism in most of the city’s congregations, schools, and universities. According to the 2017 Census, 76% of the population in Peru identify as Roman Catholics, and 14% identify as Protestants.
Every day during the event, Juan Ramirez, a Gideon from Lima, did exceptional work recruiting other members from Lima and Trujillo to assist the team in Piura. Brother Ramirez, a former police commander, organized a centralized command post tent in the courtyard of the hotel. The team met daily for assignments and reports as a large whiteboard was used to communicate the assignments. God used Brother Ramirez’s business relationships with local law enforcement officials to open a Scripture distribution at a large prison with 4,200 prisoners each receiving a New Testament. The prison inmates were happy to receive the Word of God, and prison officials encouraged Gideons to return each year.
During Gospel conversations, the team found the local citizens were receptive to hearing about Jesus Christ. Andreas, a Gideon from Germany recalled, “I found many opportunities to use a Testament and introduce people to the plan of salvation.”
Andreas vividly remembers one encounter. He and a team went to a local supermarket to buy water. On their way, they noticed a group of four young men. At the encouragement of Andreas, Mark Olson, a Gideon from Illinois, offered each of the young men a Testament. They accepted. When the team arrived back at the hotel, Mark had a strong desire to go back and talk to the young men. When they returned, the boys were reading the Testaments. Andreas and Mark felt led to walk the boys through the plan of salvation. The young men accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and signed the back page of their Testaments as evidence of the decision they had just made.
Mark also had the opportunity to strike up a conversation with Raul, a waiter in the restaurant at a hotel. Raul was open to meet Mark in the hotel courtyard one evening after work. They talked about God’s design and purpose for our lives. After sharing the Gospel with Raul, Mark felt led to ask him if he believed Jesus was the Savior. Raul affirmed that he believed Jesus came to save him from his sins, and he confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Thrilled with Raul’s confession, Mark encouraged him to find a Bible-believing church and grow in his faith in Christ.
Children excited about the gospel
Ministry and Gospel conversations were also prevalent in schools and universities. One day, a team of Gideons headed to a particular school to share New Testaments with students. Each Monday, before this school begins, students assemble in the multipurpose area. The principal leads the children in group prayer, the pledge to the Peruvian flag, and the national anthem. Like most people of Piura, these children come from primitive homes with rusty, tin roofs. Their homes were small, concrete block sheds, which looked like storefront buildings sitting side-by-side. The concrete walls help them stay cool in the desert climate. However, the children were spotless, wearing their well-kept school uniforms bearing the school logo.
The classrooms had essential supplies but many times lacked good lighting and fresh paint. Each classroom looked different, but the reaction was the same—children thrilled to receive a Scripture. “In each classroom, we were given time to explain why we came to visit, the importance of God’s Word, and the plan of salvation. It was a joy to see the children respond,” said one of the Gideons.
The next day, Bill Bugg, a Gideon from Colorado, and three Peruvian Gideons went to a Catholic school to share Scriptures. At this school, God opened doors for Bill to share the Gospel with a high school senior class through a local interpreter. The whole time Bill was speaking, the school director was standing beside him. In the end, the interpreter had students recite a prayer of salvation if they wanted to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. Before long, the school director was reciting along with the students and accepted Jesus as his Savior.
“It was pure joy.”
On the last day of the event, two Gideons named Jose and Rodney visited a small hotel in a poor area of the city and met the hotel manager, Liliana. She was open to them placing Bibles in the hotel rooms. After they finished, one of the Gideons began a conversation with Liliana about her faith as he offered her a Testament. After heartfelt conversation back and forth, there was a real peace and conviction of the Holy Spirit as Jose and Liliana discussed the things of God. Next, Jose and Rodney witnessed a new spiritual birth as Liliana became a new creature in Christ after Jose led her in prayer. Rodney recalled, “It was pure joy! Jose later shared Liliana had read the Bible but was confused about the different religions and confusing doctrines on how to please God. Jose shared with her the one thing is needed to please God—place your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“I can see God in the middle of everything.”
Throughout the event, God provided opportunities for Gideons and Auxiliary to win people for Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit moved through every team member. Even one of the local interpreters was so excited about the mission, she began to share a word of witness in their “off-time.”
“As I look back at the events of the week, I can see God in the middle of everything. With His help, I pray that many will come to the loving knowledge of our Lord through the seeds that we planted while in Piura,” said Rodney Clay, a Gideon from Kansas.
The pure fragrance of life can only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The team members know nothing can be sweeter than a new believer embracing the Savior.