With the first “exploratory” visit in the summer of 2002, there was no doubt that God had ordained the partnership between Fellowship and the CMA church in Comas. It began very simply. Sandy Butters, who had recently joined Fellowship, invited Maridus Kinder (who at that time was Fellowship's global outreach pastor) to consider the viability of the Comas church as a global partner fit. She was intimately familiar with the church as her father had founded the school there that was part of its outreach ministry.
Choosing the Comas church in Peru as a global strategic partner required that several key elements align for both. There had to be a like-mindedness in core biblical beliefs and missional values.
It also had to fit our philosophy of "give where we go and go where we give." We needed a strong relational chemistry of wanting to do things together and to be mutually beneficial to each other. The Lord was so kind to bring our paths together over 15 years ago, and the partnership continues to be a win-win.
Mario Perez, the pastor of the church during that period (and now the president of the 300+ CMA churches in Peru), shares his thoughts as he looks back to that visit:
Personally, I will never stop thanking God for this answer to our prayers. Since 2002 (when Mario came to Comas), all the church leaders and members prayed and wept for God to help us and intervene in the difficult situation we were experiencing. Amid all of this, you arrived. It was like the balm of God that refreshes and encourages, like medicine that comes just in time and stops all advances of evil. God answered our prayers and you were the instrument that He used for that new stage of resurgence of the church in Comas.
Barry McCall, co-leader of the first mission trip and others thereafter says:
Looking back, the first short-term trip to Comas established the foundation for what the relationship has grown into today. The focus, humility and integrity of their leadership, the sacrificial love of their body and their commitment to daily living out the life of Jesus in their community has been a significant encouragement to all who have had the opportunity to spend time with them.
History of the CMA Church in Comas
When Fellowship first came to Comas in 2002, it was a church of 869 members in Comas and its two plants, Año Nuevo and La Balanza. Since then, it has grown to 11 locations, adding Chillon (later in 2002), KM 22 (in 2005 and their plant in 2011), Independencia (2009), Tahuantinsuyo (2012), El Retablo (2012 and their plant in 2015), and Collique (2013).
Membership has grown by almost 600 percent to 5,200 at the end of 2017. Of this increase, 3,600 people are new believers, new brothers and sisters in Christ! The church body is committed to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ using all means, with the goal that the people become believers and faith disciples of Christ.
The CMA church in Comas was planted by missionaries in 1959 at La Balanza. That church was closed in 1984 when the congregation moved to the current location. The Comas church planted Año Nuevo in 1998 and reopened La Balanza as a plant in 1999. Along with this growth in membership, tithes and offerings have increased, although not at the same pace as membership. Tithes and offerings totaled $124,000 in 2002, which is less than Fellowship’s current weekly budget. Their total 2017 tithes and offerings approached Fellowship’s current monthly budget.
Giving our Lives Away
Within the Church in Comas
Greg Joiner, Fellowship Student Ministries Pastor, has led numerous teams to Comas. He shared the following:
What I’ve realized over the years is that during our global trips to Comas our students experience true belonging and unconditional love, most of them for the first time. They don’t have to wear the mask in Peru, they are loved just because they are there. They are free to be who they are. Also, an overwhelming depth of friendship with the young adults that we work with at the Comas church develops and continues long after we are gone. Our students have been able to bring this experience home and really love others better here because of our time there.
As of November 2018, over 600 Fellowship folks have participated in over 60 global trips and internships in Peru. Many members have participated in multiple trips. Each trip has met specialized ministry needs as defined by the church leadership in Comas. Beginning in 2008, high school and college students as well as other young adults have served as interns in Comas during their summer breaks and extended periods.
We have participated in multitudes of ministries, large and small and every one significant in some way. Most of all, we have learned and experienced unity in the body of Christ through this incredible partnership. Each team member has loved the family in Comas in very personal ways and they have loved us back, beyond belief! Fellowship’s diverse teams have led and participated in worship at various churches and hosted a large community-wide concert. They have also taught and participated in men’s, women’s, family, youth, marriage, apologetics, worship, children’s and general congregational services and pastors’ conferences. In 2010, Fellowship hosted various legal conferences with public officials, law students, educators, evangelical pastors and attorneys in Lima as well as students and attorneys from all 68 CMA churches in Lima.
Team members have shared their stories, baptized and been baptized, danced, performed drama in church services in Comas and other locations in the Lima area. They have built houses and visited and prayed with church families in need in their homes. They have hosted princess teas for young girls, led kids’ clubs and participated in “mass” wedding and vow renewal ceremonies.
Due to our relationship with the Peruvian CMA church, Fellowship has been able to expand its ministry to include focused short-term ministry in other areas of Peru such as Iquitos and other Amazonian villages to the north and Chincha, Arequipa, Cuzco and Tacna to the south. Most recently, Fellowship and another CMA church in the Rimac District of Lima have initiated a partnership.
Outside the Church in Comas
Since 2009, the church has focused more intentionally outside its walls in nontraditional ways to reach the unchurched and bring them to a faith-based relationship with Jesus. A few of the areas where they work include personal savings groups (discussed below), radio, public schools, and the city government. To partner with them in this, Fellowship’s teams have taught and performed in elementary schools, high schools and universities, as well as in schools for children with special needs. They have led business training seminars, worked and played with senior citizens, held TV and radio interviews and shared the gospel in the streets.
Fellowship’s team members have also visited and prayed with families in hospitals and at trash dumps. They have participated in neighborhood cleanups, fed the poor, and served orphans as well as blind and disabled children and their families. Several medical teams have hosted clinics as well as gone into neighborhoods for immunizations and checkups. One of Fellowship’s surgeons donated arthroscopic equipment to the public hospital in Comas and trained surgeons there in its use.
Empowering Women through Savings
In 2011 Fellowship, The Locker Room, Hope International and the CMA church in Comas began working together formally by forming Savings and Credit Association groups for the poorest of the poor in Comas to help break the cycle of physical and spiritual poverty. Led by Fellowship member Dick Gygi, the progress of this ministry has been slow but deliberate. In 2018, there were over 1,200 members, over half of which are unchurched or new believers as a result of this ministry.
Giving our Resources in Comas
Fellowship members have generously given to assist in funding the growth of the church there. As Pastor Angel says:
The members of Fellowship are rich in good works, actively reflect a love for the lost and live to bless others. You accompany and sustain our vision. We walk together spreading the Kingdom of God. Truly, your interest, generosity, and disposition in supporting the church of Comas has blessed me and impacted my life. I can never thank you enough.
The following reflects the allocation of the financial resources that Fellowship has contributed to the ministry in Comas.
Angel Barrientos Biography
Pastor Angel Barrientos is the senior pastor of the Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA) Church of Comas.
Angel has been married to Nelida for 35 years. They have two married children, Abraham (33 years) and Heidi (31 years) and one grandchild. Pastor Angel has worked in ministry for 34 years, involved in both the church and school. He was a chaplain for 18 years in a school directed by Germans (the Gutenberg School in Comas) and was able to plant a church through the fruit of the work with the school.
His ministry has focused on serving couples in their marriages as well as their whole family. He was invited to lead the church in Comas in January 2007 as a result of his relationships with the people in Comas who he came to know and love at the Gutenberg School. He accepted the invitation out of obedience to God. Today he and his team of pastors and lay leaders are all working together to reach the whole district of Comas for Christ.
Pastor Angel shares:
When I was 20 years old, I heard a Bible message for the first time in an evangelical church that I was invited to. The message so touched my heart that I dedicated my life to Jesus Christ at that point and have served him ever since.
I was raised in a home without my father, and because of this I just went to elementary school. I had to work. I couldn’t go to high school or beyond. Even so, God had given me a strong calling to serve Him, but I was very limited, my life had no reason for being other than to serve Him. I knew that He saved me to serve Him.
I enrolled in the Bible seminary, without success the first time but my heart still yearned to prepare myself to serve. I was successful the second time I enrolled, and I studied Pastoral Theology for five years. Later, I married Nelida and God blessed us with two children: Abraham and Heidi.
People are one of my greatest passions—I love people, I love my family. This is my blessing. I am pastor of other pastors of a large congregation, including daughter churches.
Comas is a densely populated district in northern Lima with over 500,000 people. It was developed when migrant families from the mountains began settling there in the mid-1950s. It grew significantly during the 1970s because of many organized invasions led by immigrants from the highlands of Peru who were looking for a better life.
In recent years, Comas has been developed into a low-middle class residential district due to Lima’s fast-growing economy and the developing infrastructure. However, it remains one of the poorest districts in Lima, with thousands of people living in unbelievably meager circumstances. You can still see many new poor pueblos jovenes (young towns) growing around Comas.
Comas is a melting pot as reflected by the fact that 60 percent of its population are mestizo (a mix of Quechua, white and other ethnic groups). Catholics comprise 61 percent of its populations, while 10 percent are evangelical, and the balance are either “other” or no religion.
Each year, we work with our global partners to refine how our involvement might support their essential ministry efforts and projects, and learn about their kingdom-advancement and ministry expansion dreams—if God would provide the means to make them happen.
Last year, God provided resources for our partners' efforts with over $700,000 from our Global Christmas giving. Our plenty, providing for their needs. We encourage you to pray and ask for the Lord’s leading in how your generosity can have an impact all around the world, all to the glory of God!
Our partner in Comas serves their community in nine church locations, several of which are not yet self-sustaining. Fellowship contributes to the salaries of the four pastors who head up the ministry in the public schools, savings and credit association, children’s Sunday school and worship.
The first phase of construction of the new sanctuary in Comas’ is nearing completion. These funds will help provide the resources required for the sound system and acoustics.
Fellowship has five mission trips scheduled with our partner in Comas in 2018. During these trips, team members will work alongside their church members in special projects including conferences, home construction, outreach and community service. These resources will help to fund these activities.
Savings and Credit Association Operations
Our partner in Comas’ outreach ministry in serving the poor in their community by teaching them to save and improve their lives in practical ways continues to flourish. Nearing 1,000 members, there are almost 100 savings groups throughout the community. In 2017, 110 previously unchurched savings group members have come to relationship with Christ through this ministry, inviting Him into their lives and beginning their journey of faith. 65 of these members are being actively discipled using their six-month curriculum. They are preparing for baptism on the second Sunday in December.
Community Professional Services
Our partner in Comas provides professional support each week to members of the community with financial, legal and psychological problems. Due to the growth in use of these services and the fruit resulting from this ministry, the church has planned to increase the amount they provide in 2018. Due to the complexity of some of the cases, they need to provide some compensation for professional services.
Public High Schools
Our partner in Comas is very involved in working with parents of students in strategic public high schools in the community. These schools’ demographics include students with the most pronounced poverty and social problems. For 2018, the church has planned three weekend retreats for 100 parents they have been working with for the past several years. These are parents of the students with the most significant issues. The planned retreats will include times of in-depth focused teaching, counseling and prayer, with the aim of understanding, healing and restoration. The amount budgeted represents 25% of the total cost the three retreats serving 300 parents.