Filled with New Purpose in Pandemic: Calvary Trujillo, Peru
Story by Carmel Flippen
Photos courtesy of Calvary Trujillo, Peru
Peru has suffered greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet God has used this time to draw many to the unshakable hope found in Jesus Christ. This is the second in a series on how the faithfulness of a small church plant in Peru called Calvary Trujillo has hugely blessed their community during the pandemic. Read the original May 2020 article here. Read Part 1 of this story here.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
Before Rita Rosales knew Christ personally, her life was “a disaster, a roller-coaster,” confessed the Peruvian civil engineer. “I was always looking for a purpose and a direction, and it would always change. It made me very depressed, and I did things that I never imagined I would do … and the consequences were really difficult.” A friend had brought her to Calvary Trujillo’s youth group once in 2019, but Rita forgot about the church until the friend invited her to help distribute Bags of Love last summer. As she witnessed God changing lives through the church’s generosity, she hungered for her own life to change. She began listening to Pastor Cory Kilgus’ sermons online. “There was a teaching on the perfect timing of God, and that He has a plan for my life,” she recalled. “I decided to accept Christ into my life and give Him my burdens; then I began to experience His peace and He began to direct my life.”
Cory preaches a message of grace from Acts 15 for Calvary Trujillo’s first service in their new building. Through this facility, a renovated theater in disrepair, God has provided them ample room for continued growth while still safely social distancing.
Rita is now active at Calvary Trujillo and attending Calvary Bible Institute (CBI) Peru. This January, she was baptized alongside many others who found eternal hope through Calvary Trujillo’s ministries amidst 2020’s heartaches. She continued, “Now, the way I think is so different. I am seeking God and thinking about His will, and this is completely changing my life. I have learned that I can trust Him and lean upon Him; that God is going to use all of my past and my problems for good. [Most of all,] I’ve learned that God loves me even though I am a sinner. He loves me for who I am.”
Part of Calvary Trujillo’s “Operation Clean-Up” team stretch mesh covers over the 6- to 12-year-old kids’ area to protect the rooftop room from the scorching sun. The team worked creatively with limited time and budget to prepare for their first Sunday in the new building.
In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him … Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:9, 11
While the Hernandez* family were previously aware of Calvary Trujillo, “they were watching us from a distance, to see if we were safe,” Cory related. “Their former church had been very hurtful to them. During the pandemic, they committed to one of our online Bible studies and began really growing in their faith.” Months later, the Kilguses invited them over for a meal. “They were blown away,” Cory continued. “In 25 years, they’d never had a pastor serve them instead of asking to be served.” For years, the Hernandezes believed they were bad Christians because their former church told them the husband’s chronic health condition was caused by their lack of faith. “At our church they learned that they weren’t going to lose their salvation and that the husband’s health issues were not their fault,” Cory explained. “God is sovereign, but we live in a broken world. Now they are very secure in their faith, and their daughter is in a missions program with Saving Grace World Missions.”
Calvary Trujillo volunteers hurry to repaint the building in preparation for their first Sunday. “Operation Clean-Up” teams had only four days to transform the neglected building into a place of worship.
On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old. Amos 9:11
Looking back, Cory sees how God put everything in place to provide for the harvest only He knew was coming. The pandemic had paused Calvary Trujillo’s search for a larger building; after surrendering their current rental, they temporarily held services on CBI’s rooftop. By November, they had outgrown that location as well. Meanwhile, youth leader Joaquin Ibanez had been prayer-walking past his chosen venue—a historic building a ten-minute walk from the city center. Though the rental cost of the local landmark, home of the area’s most prestigious school, seemed impossibly out of his little fellowship’s reach, Cory contacted the owners. They were eager to rent it out—with schools closed, the building had fallen into disrepair. “They gave us a great deal because it had been abandoned so long,” Cory reported. “It happened very fast, and it wouldn’t have happened at all if it hadn’t happened between lockdowns. We never imagined a building this big—its theatre alone is larger than our former location.”
Rita was one of 13 people baptized at Calvary Trujillo this January. During the pandemic, she struggled greatly with depression. Through Calvary Trujillo’s online teachings, she discovered God’s purpose and direction for her life.
Inside, the two-story building was caked with grime and evidence of the animals who had inhabited it for months. Students and church members pitched in for “Operation Clean-Up”—four days of intensive cleaning, repainting, and preparation for their first Sunday. The transformation “blew me away,” said Cory. “It’s amazing what these guys can do with so little time and such a small budget.” The service’s most important preparation, however, was the neighborhood evangelism night.
On the outreach night, Johann Aular walked the neighborhood giving out tracts and sharing the Gospel with everyone he met, including a man in a wheelchair. After asking the man where he was headed, Johann pushed him three blocks to his destination. Many of the next morning’s newcomers came because of meeting Johann. Though Johann was saved before immigrating from Venezuela five years ago, his faith never really grew until joining Calvary Trujillo. During the pandemic, he became a CBI Peru student. “He really wanted to serve the Lord, and had a huge heart for people,” Cory explained. “Now he’s helping lead our evangelism.”
Johann Aular helps a handicapped man he met during neighborhood evangelism the night before the inaugural service of Calvary Trujillo’s new building. Johann asked the man where he was headed, then pushed him three blocks to his destination.
On January 10th, nearly 100 people attended the Sunday service. “It was our biggest service ever, and a miracle in a pandemic!” Cory exclaimed. They ran out of Bibles, new-believer packets, and seats for the discipleship class afterwards. Despite the crowd, the new facility had enough space for everyone to safely distance.
Cory believes it is no accident that his verse-by-verse teaching landed on Acts 15 that morning. Many later said it was exactly the message they needed to hear. Cory summarized, “It’s all about the Gospel of grace: how God loves us just how we are. God offers salvation not because of what we can do for Him but what He did on the cross. We had a huge response; people came forward crying, overwhelmed by how much God loved them.”
Two Venezuelan students lead one of Calvary Trujillo’s small groups. The fellowship’s small groups have multiplied during the difficult COVID-19 quarantine period. There are currently six scattered throughout Trujillo.
Quarantine measures are tightening in Peru again, temporarily halting in-person services—but the message of God’s love keeps moving forward through Calvary Trujillo’s online teachings, and now on regional television. Local missionary Scott Ross, who has a Christian finance show, invited Cory to do his own Bible-teaching segment each Friday night on a secular station reaching an estimated 120,000 people. Also broadcast on Facebook, the show reaches a much wider audience than Calvary Trujillo’s other online teachings. Cory looks forward to being able to open the doors of their church and the new CBI retreat center that they were also able to begin renting during quarantine. But in the meantime, he exhorted, “Let us not lose heart, but continue forward with eyes fixed upon Jesus. There is still a great harvest waiting to be brought in!”
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9, NIV
An overflowing small group meets in a nearby beach town. Cory says small groups have been “the life-blood of the church” during times when they were unable to hold church services during quarantine.
Cory teaches God’s word on Trujillo’s local cable station. Due to the pandemic, the secular station needed more content; a fellow missionary who already had a Christian finance show there connected Cory with the station.
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.