Our present work in Peru is an effort to plant churches among the Quechua people of the Andes Mountains, where at this point there are no churches preaching the biblical gospel. The villages we are taking the gospel to have been dominated by ancient paganism mixed with a mystical form of Catholicism for hundreds of years. Our prayer is to start a church planting movement where baptized believers are continually teaching others the commands of King Jesus as revealed in Scripture throughout the Andes. The long-term vision for this work is not to plant one church in Cordova, but to start a church planting movement in Cordova that will spread throughout surrounding villages.
The churches established in the Andes will be simplistic in organization and rigorously biblical in practice. All churches established must practice the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper as defined by the BFM 2000. They must recognize the offices of pastor and deacon with a desire to fill these offices with men who meet the biblical qualifications. They must be committed the Great Commission, which will mean reproducing churches with their own resources throughout the Andes.
Ashland has been given the assignment to reach a segment of Ayacucho Quechua people who live within the district of Cordova.
The Ayacucho Quechua people are scattered throughout the Andes Mountains of south central Peru, living in thousands of small villages. The village of Cordova is located in the province of Huaytara and is the central village of a district that includes more than forty other villages. The district of Cordova as a whole contains over 2404 people who are considered Ayacucho Quechua. The vast majority of these Quechua people have never heard the gospel of God’s grace as revealed in the Bible. Furthermore, there are few if any churches in this area making disciples of the Ayacucho Quechua by proclaiming the gospel.
Ayacucho is a dialect of the Quechua language that is associated with people from the region of Ayacucho in Peru. Quechua who live in surrounding states or departments are also known as Ayacucho Quechua, because the Quechua dialect and culture changes very little when moving out from the province of Ayacucho. Therefore, while Cordova is located in the state of Huancavelica, not Ayacucho, the people who live within the village of Cordova are still known as Ayacucho Quechua.
The Quechua people of the district of Cordova are the descendents of the Incan Empire, who were conquered by the Spaniards in the 16th Century. Before the conquest, the highland Quechua lived dispersed throughout the Andes Mountains using their native tongue to communicate with one another. Once the conquest was complete Spanish became the trade language of Peru and became a symbol of status among the people.
For many years, Quechua was looked down upon as a language spoken by the more agrarian lower class of Peru. It was not until 1975 that Quechua was recognized as an official language in Peru. Throughout the highland areas of the Andes few people still know and speak Quechua. While the phrase Ayacucho Quechua, helps define the culture associated with the district of Cordova, the vast majority of people in this area speak Spanish.
The Ayacucho Quechua of Cordova are extremely poor. The majority of the people are agrarian. They spend their days tending to cattle and growing food in their fields. A small number of Quechua in Cordova own stores and buy supplies from surrounding cities to sell in the village. Children and teenagers attend school in Cordova beginning with Elementary through High School. Few graduates from the school will attend a college or university in Peru. Most will either stay in the village to work the land or move to a nearby city for employment.
The Indians of Peru, from their beginnings, have worshiped just about any and everything. The vastness of the Andes Mountains and their reliance upon the land for livelihood has made ‘Mother Earth’ or ‘Pachamama’ the most popular of the gods worshiped.
Since the Spanish Conquest, Catholicism has been known as the primary religion of Peru. While there is religious freedom in Peru, the more rural areas, like the district of Cordova, have been resistant to convert from their allegiances to the Catholic Church. However, the Catholicism practiced in the villages of the Andes is far from traditional Roman Catholicism. While each village has a Catholic church at its center, the beliefs and practices of the people are thoroughly mixed with ancient Incan beliefs.
The Quechua of Cordova do believe in a god, who created everything, but he is not personal. Most often he is viewed as the highest being in a hierarchical structure of spiritual being who at the end of the day is responsible for their wellbeing, but not available for personal interaction.
Most people in Cordova transfer their devotion to their village’s patron saints, who are considered to be responsible for their daily affairs. In Cordova, the two primary Saints worshiped are John the Baptist and the Virgin Carmen. Festivals are held each year to honor their saints. The festival for the Virgin Carmen is the biggest held within the village each year beginning on the 15th of July. During the annual festivals, statues of these saints are lifted up and carried about the village’s plaza. Music is played as the people sing and dance around the statues.
Mass is held in the village only four times a year during the festivals. A priest from a nearby city travels to the village to the lead the people in a mass each evening of the week. While the people go through the motions of having their sins absolved and honoring their patron saints, the emphasis of the festivals have more to do with praying for dead loved ones and making offerings to the land. Furthermore, a major focal point of each week is on family reunions, which include much dancing and drunkenness.
Beyond the offerings they make to the land during their festivals, the religious syncretism of the Ayacucho Quechua in Cordova is obvious. Within their fields, farmers will erect crosses with skulls and dead animals attached to them to scare away evil forces that may curse their crops and animals. The majority of the homes in the villages also have crosses on their roofs that serve the same purpose. They are strongly gripped by fear and superstitions regarding sickness and its treatments.
For many years, we prayed that God would raise up someone we would send long-term to Cordova. God answered our prayers in the person of Eric Turner. Eric left for a two-year commitment in May 2012. Please be in prayer for Eric and the mission teams that will be joining him in Cordova. You can read updates about his time in Cordova here.