Index Cards of the Peruvian Inland Mission

by Savannah Weiler

The Peruvian Inland Mission (PIM) was founded by Miss Annie G. Soper in 1930 and was active in the area around Lamas, northern Peru until 1948. Index cards form part of the large collection of records of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union (ref. CSWC 33/39/3), which took over operation of the Peruvian Inland Mission. Members of the mission had taken the care to note down on small cards the details of missionaries who came to work for the mission, people they met in Peru, new converts, as well as villages in the area where the mission had spread to. These cards give a quick overview of decades worth of missionary activity in this part of Peru and give a fascinating glimpse into the lives of those involved with the PIM.

There are cards for Lamas and other places in the north of Peru, such as Moyobamba and Iquitos, as well as for Lima. Each card details the activities of the mission in these areas, such as new buildings constructed, amount of converts through the mission, and sometimes the religions of those living in these areas. The card for Lamas (see figure 1), where the mission was based, shows that they built a school, hospital, a Bible School, and a Church. The area they operated in is quite expansive and is highlighted by these index cards. Reading through letters, meeting minutes and journal articles that form part of the PIM’s records, it becomes clear what difficulties individuals faced when travelling in this area, with travel between villages sometimes taking days due to poor infrastructure and frequent rainstorms. The cards tell us where each missionary was stationed and provide details about the important journeys they made, showing the determination of these individuals to carry out their work.

Figure 1, Some of the index cards giving information on missionaries in the field. Ca. 1930-1950.

CSWC 33/39/3, Archives of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union, Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh

Individual cards documenting Peruvians the missionaries met further show how far the mission spanned and the network the PIM formed with other missions and institutions. People travelled as far as the Costa Rica Bible Institute and the United Kingdom to further their education once they had completed their initial training at schools built by the mission. Martina is one of the girls who grew up in the mission (see figure 2). Her cards note that she travelled to Edinburgh and England to further her education and then returned to Lima, where she trained as a nurse. Details are given on her family and how far she travelled, and give a glimpse into what she was like, quoting her ‘rebellious spirit’ and ‘nursing gifts’. We also come to hear more unfortunate stories, such as when she lost nearly all her belongings to the disastrous 1940 Lima earthquake. The next card gives details of her brother, and through this we come to know an entire family.

Figure 2, Martina’s index card and the card for Lamas, giving details on the progress of the mission there and key people and dates involved.

CSWC 33/39/3, Archives of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union, Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh.

A photograph (see figure 3), taken at the Costa Rica Bible Institute shows Miss Soper and five of her students, who travelled with her from Lamas to Costa Rica to complete their missionary education there. The photo lists the names of these people, who also have their own index cards that give us details of their personalities, education, and life. This photo helps attach faces to names and gives an even more colourful idea of what life was like for those at the Lamas mission, and the impact the PIM had on various peoples’ lives.

Figure 3, Photograph taken at the Costa Rica Bible Institute showing Miss Soper, Senor V. Coral, Don Alejandro Castillo, Don Hildebrando Tello, Señora Hortensia de Pina and Señorita Rosa Portacarrero.

CSWC 33/39/3, Archives of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union, Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh.

These cards are a wonderful summary of documents that would take hours to read through to get the same detailed information. They show the dedication of many of the missionaries involved with the PIM, travelling long distances between various villages just to spend a few days in each, and facing other obstacles along the way too. The cards show the reach of the mission in Peru, and its wider networks in Latin America and Britain. Lastly, reading these cards gives an intimate view of what life was like for the people involved with the mission. We are granted insight into their personalities as well as a snapshot of the highs and lows they faced in life. The photograph of Miss Soper and her students adds even more colour to the stories of those we have got to know in the index cards.

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