As we return to Lima after a weekend with Arturo Marin and his wife Gladys in San Rafael, I am struck by the evidence of the Lord’s faithfulness to them over the years and by their continued commitment to the work of the ministry. They have been serving in the jungles of Peru for nearly twenty years, and over the course of their time there, they have encountered innumerable trials. They have gone through times of poverty, uncertain about where their next meal would come from. They now have many physical ailments that are the result of the nature of life in the jungle. They have faced various kinds of opposition by a community that is given over to false religious worship. Still, despite the trials, they are full of joy and zealous for the Lord to be exalted in the lives of those around them. It’s not that the trials don’t affect them—they certainly do. In fact, Arturo admits that there have often been moments when trials come that he and Gladys have considered returning to Lima where life would be easier. But each time, the Lord has strengthened them and given them grace to endure through the trials, setting their eyes not on the things that are seen, but on the things that are not seen (2 Cor 4:18).

During our visit, we were able to be among those that have been impacted by Arturo’s ministry and to hear their testimonies of how the Lord has used both Arturo and Gladys in the spreading of the gospel. We spent time with a man named Deninson, who was brought to salvation in Christ through Arturo’s persistent witness to the gospel. For many years Deninson lived a life of drunkenness and mistreated his wife. He was known in the community as a leader in the local pagan festivals and had no interest in Christ or the gospel. But one day, as Arturo shared the gospel with him once again, the Lord opened Deninson’s eyes to see his sin for what it was and to call on Christ for salvation. In his own words, “The Lord changed [his] life completely.” Deninson has been walking with the Lord for nearly a decade. During that time, his wife has suffered a number of illnesses, and Deninson has patiently and sacrificially served her during her most difficult moments. The grace of God has taken a violent, selfish man and made him a meek and loving husband.

We were also able to be present for the baptism of three new believers, including a married couple. Following the Sunday morning service, with the whole church we made our way to the Huallaga river about a mile from the church building. The believers gathered on the side of the river to sing hymns together and Pastor Arturo shared on the meaning and importance of baptism. We had the opportunity to speak with one of the sisters being baptized, and with tears she explained the way the Lord has demonstrated His grace through the love and care that Arturo and Gladys have shown her. Her husband is not a believer and has been very opposed to her involvement in the church. Her family has been going through a severe financial crisis, and her son recently broke his leg in two places, which required two expensive surgeries. She has had to go to work in the fields in order to pay for some of the hospital costs. When her son first had the accident, Arturo and Gladys were the first people she went to for help, and she was amazed by the way they left everything they were doing to come and care for her and her family. Arturo has faithfully ministered the gospel to her through this difficult season, and the love and concern that Gladys and Arturo have shown is one of the things that the Lord used most in drawing her to Christ.

Life in the jungle comes with peculiar social pressures that add to the challenge of being a Christian. One example of those pressures has to do with the local religious celebrations. As a part of their grade in school, all of the students are required to participate in the festivals. One of the young ladies in the church, named Lucero, is finishing high school and though she was previously ranked first in her class, had her grade marked down because of her refusal to participate in the idolatrous rituals. There are also pressures from the community to give money toward these pagan celebrations, and when Christians refuse to give money, they are often treated poorly by other members of the community. Arturo has faced many of these challenges personally, and has also had to walk the members of his church through the different temptations and trials that come with life in that context. Like Lucero, despite the external pressures to compromise their devotion to Christ, the brothers and sisters have counted service to Christ of greater value than the approval of their piers.

Pray for Arturo and Gladys, and for the church in San Rafael. Pray that their lives would adorn the gospel, and for endurance in the midst of many trials and challenges.