Buddy and Loren Fitzgerald, BJU grads, missionaries in Peru
“That is rough but unimaginable” were some of my first thoughts when I heard from missionary friends in Asia about their restrictions due to the coronavirus. Little did we know that, on March 15, the Peruvian president would announce one of the strictest and longest-running reactionary lockdowns in the world.
My name is Buddy Fitzgerald. I grew up in Greenville, SC, and attended Bob Jones from kindergarten through grad school. I was a missions major in undergrad and was required to do a missions internship. I say “required,” but it was really more like “thrilled.” I prayed about the opportunity very seriously, knowing that God could end up directing me to that location long term. I arrived in Peru for a two-month stint in May 2003 to work with a family in the mountains and jungles of central Peru. The Lord did some real work in my heart during that time and eventually led my wife and me back to Peru. We were approved by Baptist World Mission to go to Peru in the spring, and I finished my M.A. program with the seminary in May 2006. After just one very busy year of deputation, the Lord had brought in all our support, and we moved to Peru in August 2007.
We spent a short time in the mountains working with some veteran missionaries to hone our language skills and cultural understanding and to form friendships. However, our hearts were in the jungle. We came to Peru to share the gospel with those who have never had a chance to hear. (Please read Romans 15:20-21 if you don’t have it memorized… Go ahead. I´ll wait!)
Over the years, we have made dozens of river trips, ranging from medical, dental, or wellness, to preaching, discipleship, or exploration trips. We even flipped our boat one time and were stranded on a rainforest river beach (with two babies) for a little while. We still have not been able to move into a tribal village long-term, but we continue to work towards that goal while we plant a church, support national church-plants, and establish a base-station for Amazon jungle ministry.
As soon as the lockdown was announced, we knew that it would greatly affect a lot of our church folks and obviously many others in town. We began by praying that the Lord would open doors for us, allow us to serve others, and direct our steps in order to avoid long or short-term problems. During the first two weeks, we were giving out packages of foodstuffs to church families and their contacts. However, at the beginning of April, all of that changed. A neighbor lady came for food, and we mentioned to her that if any other family or friends needed food, she could send them our way as well. Within a few minutes small groups started arriving, and, as each group came, I preached the gospel, and we gave each person a package of food. We had some ministry funds but knew they couldn’t last long. The second day we had over one hundred people show up, and the third day there were more than two hundred people. I preached the gospel dozens of times, knowing that many of the people who came had not heard a clear presentation of the gospel before.
I asked the people to come at 8 am, Monday through Saturday, but, very shortly, we had people forming lines outside as early 1 or 2 am. Peru has a social medicine system, so Peruvians are used to going to the hospital very early to get a spot before returning at normal hours to see a doctor. As a family, we were spending hours every morning making and sharing these “care packages,” then going to buy more supplies in bulk, before spending several more hours packing more bags. Thankfully, the Lord later gave us wisdom to change our system, saving us a lot of time and energy.
One of the most amazing things that happened was seeing God work. We decided as a family that we would not ask for funds at all. We would simply pray and show what God was doing here. As we did so, dozens of people began asking how they could give. And give they did! Through many sacrificial offerings of individuals and churches, we have been able to distribute tens of thousands of food packages. The Lord brought in over $70k for this emergency relief effort!
The country of Peru officially lifted the quarantine for most of the country just recently, but our region is one that is still under lockdown. We are nearing 4 months at this point and have unfortunately seen too much death here. We have numerous friends and acquaintances who have died from COVID-19, including our mechanic, medical contacts, and even pastor friends. My auto-mechanic, Alfredo, worked on my cars for many years. He was close to my age, and I’m very thankful that I presented the gospel to him on several occasions. Recently we had some deep talks, and I pray that he put his faith in Jesus before ending his time on earth.
Obviously, our greatest joy at this time is the spiritual work that the Lord has done. After a few weeks of preaching, I started thinking about the end of the quarantine and began to give out my cell number to the folks. I told them that if they would send me a message, I would add them to an electronic Bible study group. I have had over 170 people write to me and join our online Bible study! We have seen over 40 people make professions of faith during these months, and many of them are preparing for a public testimony by baptism! Finally, numerous church folks and even unsaved friends have come to help in this daily labor. It is a great joy to continue making disciples of Jesus!
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.