High atop the peaks of the Andes Mountains lie the silent ruins of an abandoned citadel. An echo of the once powerful Incan empire, Machu Picchu remains a constant reminder of the hard work and diligence exerted by its builders. Through these timeless stone structures, lessons of resourcefulness, organization, and efficiency can be learned. It was the Incas who utilized the rich diversity of mineral, agricultural, and marine resources available in their area to accumulate a respectable amount of wealth – and neighboring people groups took notice. The country of the Incas is now called “Peru,” a name derived from an old word from the Quechua tribe meaning “land of abundance.” This diligent work ethic of Peru’s ancestors still thrives in the IMS members of Peru.
In August 2018, our Education Team was accompanied by Pastor Luis Mestanza, the past president of the IMS in Peru, on an early morning flight from Lima, Peru’s capital, to Trujillo, the third largest city in the country. There we visited San Mateo I, one of the five IMS schools in Peru.
San Mateo I is the largest IMS school in all of Latin America. Its doors opened in 1962. Since then its student body has swelled to 380 and its teaching and administrative staff to about thirty-six. From her office on the third floor, Sister Ana Rodriguez, the school director, professionally and efficiently manages all school activities.
As the student body has grown, so has its physical structure. It now stands three stories high and provides classrooms, offices, and meeting rooms for its students and staff, as well as sleeping quarters for guests. The school is set back a bit from the street and built around three sides of a central courtyard, which serves as both an assembly area and a playground. The fourth side of the courtyard faces the road. In the area situated between the school courtyard and the street, stands an IMS church with a seating capacity of approximately 400. A gated driveway passes the left of the church to provide a secure entrance to the school grounds.
In 1899, Sr. White wrote, “In every place where there is a church, large or small, there a school should be established.” Selected Messages, Book 3, page 227. We were pleased to see that in the establishment of the school of San Mateo I this divine command has been realized.
Although the building has been expanded to more than twice its original size, there is still not enough classroom space for all students to attend at the same time. The solution to this problem is to stagger the school hours. The current system of operation allows primary students to attend classes during the morning hours, while the secondary students begin their studies at noon.
In nearby Tarapoto, a second IMS school was established not too long ago. Initially called San Mateo II, it began as a branch of the original San Mateo school but is now in the process of establishing itself as an educational facility in its own right. This school is a smaller, but growing, school that serves only primary students. During the extensive flooding of 2017 in South America, San Mateo II suffered costly water damage. We thank the Lord for His provision in allowing the necessary repairs to be made and the school to continue.
During our visit in 2018, Peru’s education leader was Brother Teofilo Leon. He accompanied us to our visits at both of the schools. His enthusiasm for the work of Christian education there as well as his dedication to the students in each of the schools was wonderful to see. The current Education Leader is Brother Ely Rodriguez.
It was a joy and a privilege for us to visit with the dedicated staff and leadership of both the schools. We are grateful to the teachers for welcoming us into their classrooms to meet and talk with the children. The programs prepared by each class in San Mateo II still bring smiles to our faces today. May God continue to bless the life-changing work being done in both these schools for His honor and glory. May Peru continue to be a land of abundance, but let the wealth now be counted not in earthly riches but in souls gathered for the kingdom of God.