ILEP is the abbreviation for Iglesia Luterana Evangélica Peruana, the Peruvian Evangelical Lutheran Church. It is a pioneering church with a strong base in the poorest communities in and around Lima.
Only a decade old, and with only five Peruvian clergy at present, it is working hard at providing leadership for worship/witness. It is also initiating development projects related to nutrition, children, and income-generating activities.
ILEP needs assistance from the ELCIC not only because of the bleak economic situation in Peru but because its congregations are made up of people in the lowest socio-economic strata of Peruvian society. Many members are single mothers, children and youth, few of whom have any stable employment. ELCIC Missionary Katharine Bergbusch elaborates:
They work where and when they can. Earnings are very poor, barely enough to put daily food on the table. People scramble to find what work they can. Sometimes the members can't find bus money to come to worship gatherings or meetings.
For this reason, although ILEP is stressing stewardship and self-support, it will be some time before the congregations can support their own pastors.
Although small (with only some 300 members) and young, ILEP has great energy and opportunity for growth. Our gifts will help congregations grow. They will help poor congregations that need full time pastors but find it impossible to provide more than half time ministry.
ILEP has no more than 200 confirmed members. No accurate record exists of baptized membership. Most who participate were baptized in the Roman Catholic church. Many more participate than are officially members at this time.
Salaries to support congregational programming and leadership in ILEP have been taken from funds donated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This currently is only provided on a temporary basis and could be used in other ways. Presently, pastors are paid only US$250/month and must seek to supplement their salary with outside work. Even this sum is more than almost all of their parishioners earn. Yet in the month of July 2000, ILEP's pastors went unpaid as there was no money.
ILEP would like to establish a trust fund to support the mission and work of its churches. Plans would seek to secure 300 donors (from Canada, a companion synod in Texas, and Germany) who would make a one-time contribution of US$1,000. After two years, calculations are that the interest from the fund would be sufficient to pay the salaries of seven pastors at the present minimum level. Until this fund is established, however, ILEP needs $10,000 this year through ELCIC Directed Gifts for Pastoral/Congregational Support. Our gifts will insure that congregational ministry and mission grow in some of the poorest communities around Lima.
The Peruvian Evangelical Lutheran Church (ILEP) is the result of the work of different missions in Lima, the capital of the country, dating back to 1897. The main work which contributed to the formation of the ILEP, however, flowed from mission activities of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) when in 1965 it began to assist in developing Spanish work in what had until then been largely an ethnic, German church. This became the catalyst for other multi-faceted ministries in the marginal urban areas of Lima.
In 1969 the Filadelfia congregation was established in the barrio of Julio C. Tello in south Lima, the first of several congregations established over the next decade. On February 3, 1990 ILEP was formally founded. Since it had no pastors, pastoral teams were organized with responsibility for all aspects of congregational life. Today ILEP is growing. Lutherans make up a small segment of the Christian population in Peru. ILEP is actively engaged in dialogue with other Lutheran church bodies in Peru in pursuit of enhanced support for mission.
The Canadian Lutheran partnership with Peru was established on June 12, 1977, in Faith Lutheran Church, Burnaby BC. Rev. Troy and Anne Beretta were commissioned for evangelistic ministry in Lima, Peru. An old LCA profile describes their ministry as follows:
The Berettas have been serving as pastor and spiritual advisors for Philadelphia congregation in the shanty-town of Julio C. Tello on the outskirts of Lima. The focus has been on the fostering of lay leadership. As a result, worship and many pastoral services are now in the hands of lay people, some of whom have begun a formal program of theological training. Pastor Beretta's full time ministry is designing and coordinating this program. This will lead to the creation of an indigenous Lutheran church and clergy equipped to do the ministry among the shanty-town residents in Peru.
In February 1989, Canadian Pastor Margaret Kreller began a new phase of her ministry with the poor in South America in Lima, Peru. After three years in Chile and six years in Ecuador, and with support from the ELCIC, Margaret joined the LCA pastoral team working in the poor suburbs of Lima. Continuing the mission work that established Luz Divina (Divine Light) congregation in 1979, the congregation under Margaret's guidance helped to provide simple meals for 150 people in the poor sector of Marquez. She developed embroidery and knitting projects which are now a fully licensed mini-factory that continues to export alpaca sweaters.
After three months of Spanish study in Bolivia, Rev. Katharine Bergbusch moved to Lima in April of 1994 to serve as ELCIC missionary with ILEP. While accompanying the pastoral ministry at Luz Divina, she provided guidance and theological education to pastors and lay workers who were leading worship and guiding the ministry of the ILEP congregation. In June of 1999 she assisted in the ordination of the first five pastors of ILEP. Today she continues to assist in leading the work of pastoral leadership and congregational development. The emphasis of her work this year is in new missions in locations outside Lima, in liturgical projects, support to the local pastors and in inter-church communications.