“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
There is an old saying in Peru that Jesus was the last honest carpenter, and nearly everyone has a story to prove it. Carpenters offer shockingly poor quality, deliver furniture months after promised, and even steal from unwary clients. Nevertheless, several customers in Trujillo are beginning to notice that there is at least one shop in town where they can expect excellent work delivered on time.
The shop’s proprietors are former Parish carpenters Javier Saavedra and Norvil Campos. They joined Parish in 2008 and 2009 respectively, and the change wasn’t easy for them at first. “Before, when I was working in the jungle, I made furniture really fast” says Campos. “I handed it over and they paid me, and we weren’t always paying attention to the quality, to doing a good job. When I came here I learned that it was wrong to make poor furniture and I learned new styles [and] better furniture.” Now, the two men are members at Christ the King Presbyterian Church, and are successfully applying Biblical principles to their work. “The first time I came, I didn’t think that a Christian family was waiting for me,” says Saavedra. “Now I am very happy to be surrounded by a new family that has received me here.”
“I didn’t think that a Christian family was waiting for me. Now I am very happy to be surrounded by a new family that has received me here.”
Opening a shop of their own apart from Parish was always a goal for them and for the ministry, although it happened earlier than anyone expected. Within two years of opening its training center, Parish watched as its export market shrank away due to the struggling U.S. economy. To adapt, the ministry quickly moved forward in supporting local carpenters like Saavedra and Campos in their own shops through Bible studies, business consultation, and the sale of small items through its website.
Saavedra and Campos named their shop Las Ponas, after the signature black palm they often work with. While they still produce beautiful items for export (such as frames, bowls, and candle holders), most of what they do is for the local market, which is important for achieving long-term sustainability.
Before opening the shop, the men invited Parish to operate in their facility. Parish has allowed them the use of its tools until they can purchase their own. But the relationship between Parish and Las Ponas goes far deeper than this. Peru Mission missionary Stuart Mills, who manages Parish, says that Scripture study played a crucial role in the carpenters’ decision to stay in Trujillo. “They came to me and said, ‘We realize that we want to be here. We want to learn more about the Bible,’” remembers Mills. “They thought that if they left they wouldn’t continue growing in their faith. They wanted to be around what we were doing and learn more about God.” Indeed, it is difficult to overemphasize the role that the Word of God has played in the ministry of Parish since its beginning. Following a practice started in the early days of Parish, every morning before the workday begins Mills and the men of Las Ponas meet to read God’s word and pray together. Additionally, several other carpenters and members of Christ the King have formed a missional cell group centered on the carpentry community.
“They came to me and said, ‘We realize that we want to be here. We want to learn more about the Bible.’”
The men believe that doing good work is not just good for business; it is a result of having committed their lives to the Lord, knowledge they are eager to pass on to others. They have given several men the opportunity to work alongside them in their shop, and some of these have now joined the cell group and Christ the King. “Javier and Norvil have bought in with the vision of Parish,” explains Mills with amazement. “In a more organic, realistic way Las Ponas is still doing the training center.”
At this point, Mills says it is difficult to say whether Parish will eventually return to the idea of a formal training center, or continue to support apprenticeship-style training for new carpenters similar to what is already happening at Las Ponas. Also, while large-scale exporting plans are currently on hold, Parish continues prayerfully to consider the possibility of exporting furniture to the U.S. in the future.
In any case, it is clear that the work of this valuable ministry is far from over. By delivering excellent furniture on time, Saavedra and Campos are not only gaining a dedicated local clientele, they are also bearing a powerful testimony to what the only perfect carpenter who ever lived, their Lord Jesus Christ, has done for them. As Campos puts it, “Our jobs are for glorifying God.”
Tue, June 26, 2012
by Caleb Sutton filed under