The first attempts to begin Methodist work in Peru were made by Rev. William Taylor (1877-1878), who tried to establish an autonomous mission church and schools, in the south of Peru where many immigrant workers from England and North America were contracted by the railway company.
The first attempt failed and was closed because of the Pacific war (Peru, Chile and Bolivia) and because many of the missionaries caught yellow fever and tuberculosis and some of them died.
After the war, mission work resumed, especially in the capital city of Lima and the most important seaport city of Callao. Rev. Francisco Penzotti, a colporteur of the American Bible Society, a Methodist minister of Argentinian-Italian background began to preach and to distribute Spanish-language Bibles to his neighbors in Callao. Because of this he was persecuted, imprisoned, and was in jail in Real Felipe from July 1890 to March 1891.
It was in this way the first Methodist Church of Callao was founded on July 10, 1889. It was the first evangelical Spanish-speaking church in Peru. The first Peruvian families who were a part of the “fellowship” were migrants from the rural areas of the country who were plumbers, backers, single mothers, widows—people who had left their roots and were alone. Marginalized by society, they found a warm welcome in the Methodist Church.
Rev. Thomas B. Wood arrived in 1891, and helped to consolidate the work of the church, founded two schools and helped in the struggle for civil rights (liberty of religion, right to civil marriage and against all forms of restriction of personal rights).
The first Peruvian ministers to be ordained were the Rev. Adolfo Vasquez, Jose Illescas and Ruperto Algorta.
The Methodist Church of Peru became autonomous on January 19, 1970. The church is composed of six districts with a over 5,500 members.
Large Methodist schools include: Colegio America del Callao, Colegio Maria Alvarado, Colegio Andino, Colegio America de la Victoria, Colegio Daniel Alcides Carrion, and an ecumenical center, Comunidad Biblico Teologica “Wenceslao Bahamonde,” trains church leaders and future ministers. In addition there are small local schools and kindergartens spread across the country.
Social work includes communal kitchens and feeding programs. Methodists in Peru try to find meaningful solutions to the needs and challenges that the circumstances of the country offer, acknowledging the Wesleyan theme that the “world is our parish.”
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