Every Tribe, Every Tongue
Pablo Cenepo-Torres has been serving the Lord in Peru since 2002, together with his wife Sarah and their children: Abigail, Hannah, Gabriela and Selah. They are currently in the process of adopting a child from China and hope to see that happen by the end of the year, if the Lord wills. Actively committed to discipleship, leadership training, and church-planting efforts through the local church in Trujillo, they are also closely involved in the Elliot Christian School and the Hogar de Esperanza orphanage in Peru. Here, they talk about the periodic trips they take to the interior mountains and jungles of Peru with mission teams from the US and Canada and more.
How did you come to know the Lord?
My parents got divorced when I was six and, for a while, I struggled growing up without a parent at my side. When I was nine, despite the hardships of life, the Lord was faithful to bring me to the knowledge and further acceptance of His salvation in His Son. My grandmother was a faithful Christian who noticed my withdrawal from church after my parents’ divorce. One summer, however, she pushed me to go to VBS and I went hesitantly.
During one of the sessions, the teacher taught us about what the death of Christ meant for each individual. As young as I was, I knew hell was not a cool place to go in every sense of the word. I stayed behind after class was dismissed and was led to receive Jesus into my heart. I did not feel a colossal weight lifted off my shoulders — but I did find out progressively about the truth of passing from death to life. And the more I learned, the more I realised that I am no one outside of Christ.
The more I learned, the more I realised that I am no one outside of Christ
What are the challenges of ministering in the jungle?
Since we are based in the coastal region, a major challenge of ministering in the jungle is getting there. Typically, the more remote places are the most challenging due to the distance and resources it takes to get there. Though more roads have been built over the last decade, getting to people in the jungle and mountains can be an ordeal. Most villages we go to can only be accessed by boat, and that too, after having flown from a city, taken a long route by bus, followed by a minivan and only then arriving to the edge of a river to ride a boat that will take you to your final destination. If the rivers are high, then you gladly make it to the village and receive a warm welcome from the believers. Otherwise, the boat will only take you to a certain spot and then you walk the rest of the way. There is never a dull moment going to these villages scattered all over the jungle.
But, if getting there is one of the major challenges of ministering in the jungle, once there, the biggest challenge is to communicate the message well and leave the locals with adequate resources, so that they can continue teaching others. Most places we visit, our dear brothers have very little formal training. They require guidance to help them use the tools to improve their teaching/preaching. We partner with brothers from local churches who are doing more consistent follow-ups.
How do you raise your girls to love the people you serve? How do you keep them from being discouraged about not leading a more comfortable life back in the USA?
We intentionally bring people into our home from all over the country so that the girls get to interact directly with different realities in this country. Often times, we find brethren not being able to find proper medical care because it isn’t available near their village, so we bring them into our home in the city and our girls get to have full exposure to what it means to come from a place where there isn’t much available. We have been committed as parents to live and enjoy the best of life, not only here in Peru but also in the US. We are constantly saying that we are, of all people, the most privileged because God has allowed us to have the best of two worlds. The girls don’t feel discouraged, but understand that there are good things here as well as there.
We are constantly saying that we are, of all people, the most privileged because God has allowed us to have the best of two worlds
How did the Lord lead you both to adopt a child?
My wife had felt led to adopt as long as I can remember. I wasn’t particularly inclined to do so. I was happy with my four girls and since we decided to have no more after our fourth child, I felt my ‘share’ in adoption would be to continue supporting the orphanage we’d been serving since we came to Trujillo, Peru.
But God began to work slowly in my heart. I wasn’t satisfied with doing orphanage work. I increasingly felt like I needed to do something else. So, I sheepishly let my wife know that I would be open to pursue adoption. She was reasonably surprised, since I was very clear that adoption for us would be to continue serving our local orphanage. The moment we told our girls we were committed to pursue a child in adoption, they all celebrated. Now, I regret that I waited a while to see the Lord teach me a great lesson of love and redemption by taking the call to adopt.
We eagerly look forward to adding our adopted child to the family. That feeling kind of reminds me of what the Lord might feel every time a person receives Him in his/her heart. Whoa… Thank You, Lord, for adopting us into Your amazing family!
What opportunities are there for short-term missions in Peru?
From the time we arrived in Peru, we made mission opportunities one of our major commitments in ministry. Hundreds of folks have come to serve with us, mostly during the summer. We typically spend a week in a mountain or jungle setting where we engage in children’s ministry, medical clinics, door-to-door evangelism, open-air meetings, leadership training and a special work project.
Most villages we visit don’t have a dignified place to come together and worship the Lord, if any. In the last 16 years in Peru, the Lord enabled us to assist in the building of safer and more durable facilities for believers to celebrate the greatness of our God. Our guests are mostly college students and, recently, even high school students. After a week in a remote area of the jungle or mountain, we spend a week in the city serving with the orphanage and the various ministries of the local assembly.
How can we pray for you?
For our family, please pray for safety, health and wisdom to deal with the many responsibilities in the local church and the evangelistic efforts outside; also, for our children as they enter teen years. Pray for the Lord’s provision to continue assisting in the needs of the saints in the remote areas of the mountains and jungle. For the faithful testimony of Jesus to our students in the Elliot Christian School, that the Lord will save many more this new school year. For families to adopt the children at the orphanage and for the material needs to keep this ministry open.
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