Memory and Mission in Peru

by Savannah Weiler

As I was going through the financial records for the Regions Beyond Missionary union, which includes records for the RBMU run Evangelical Hospital at Lamas, Peru, an internet search of the Evangelical Hospital of Lamas led me to a Facebook group called Bienvenido a Lamas. Posted on here are some wonderful photographs from the 1950s and 60s submitted by one of Lamas’s residents of the mission post of the Peruvian Inland Mission (PIM), later the Regions Beyond Missionary Union (RBMU).

These images mostly show snapshots of everyday life at Lamas – sports matches, dinners, and weddings, amongst others. There are also some photographs of the old Evangelical Hospital and its staff, which is what originally led me to finding this page. Many people have commented under these photos, identifying the people, pets and horses shown in the photos. I recognise many of these names, as they have come up in the files I have catalogued so far. Take for example, this photograph, posted to Bienvenido a Lamas:

Figure 1 Bienvenido a Lamas. Facebook, June 11, 2020.

Link to original post:

The many comments under this photograph say that this is a photograph of Vicente Coral, who, according to a commenter under the photo, went to study theology at the Costa Rica Bible Institute. My first blogpost on some index cards amongst the contents of one of the earlier files relating to the PIM includes a photograph of A.G Soper with some students who went to the Costa Rica Bible Institute with her. The caption to this photograph identifies one of the young men on this photograph as Señor V. Coral! Coral also has his own index card and is mentioned many times amongst the meeting minutes of the PIM or was himself present at these meetings.

Figure 2 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.

Hildebrando Tello is also amongst the group photographed at the Costa Rica Bible Institute. A photo posted to the Lamas Facebook group shows him, identified as ‘pastor Hildebrando Tello’ with his students at the Lamas Bible College.

Figure 3 Bienvenido a Lamas. “alumnos del estudio biblico.” Facebook, June 11, 2020.

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Many other names of missionaries identified by the commenters under the photos are mentioned amongst the records of the PIM in the index cards. One of the index cards I came across while writing the first blogpost notes the details of a Megan Jones. A photo on the Lamas Facebook page shows a ‘Dra Miss Megan’ smiling next to ‘Miss Pat’. The names Megan Jones and Patricia Greening frequently feature in the financial records receiving donations for their work at the hospital in Lamas. Commenters under the photos on Facebook share memories of their childhoods at the missionary schools or hospital in Lamas, some even sharing that they were born at the missionary hospital.

Figure 4 Figure 3 Bienvenido a Lamas. “1959, en la mision en Lamas, Miss Pat y Miss Megan, la enfermera doctora.” Facebook, June 14, 2020.

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Seeing these photos and the comments on social media brings these stories closer to the present, and helps create perspective on the establishment and development of the mission. The memories shared in the comments under these photos on Facebook adds so much more meaning and depth to the images, as well as to the materials housed in Edinburgh, such as the photo of Vicente Coral, Hildebrando Teller and Miss Soper at the Costa Rica Bible Institute. When I showed these photos to Kirsty Stewart, the archivist helping me as an intern, she commented how seeing these photos reminded her of the importance of the work we are doing. Making the collections housed at the University’s archives accessible to researchers around the world is so important, because this history pertains to many more people than those with physical access to the collections. Cataloguing and digitising these resources makes them accessible to the people in Lamas who have shared their own memories and photographs of the mission online with us. We hold a part of history in our archives that was experienced by many people around the globe. As such, our resources and records deserve to be shared, including with the relatives of the those featuring in the photos posted on Bienvenido a Lamas and in the archives of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union at the Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh.

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