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Is there a difference between personal heroes and mentors? I think of a hero as someone I admire, but I could never be like. I find Bruce Lee fascinating…but I will never have his qualities. Mentors, on the other hand, model something I can use and emulate. They model something reachable. I think having mentors is important.
Recently preaching I made mention of some of the mentors in my life. There have been a handful, each with a unique impact. The combination has been decisive in forming me over the years. Rudy was one mentor who made an early impression on me.
Rudy went to Peru as a missionary in about 1950. He and his wife had nothing but a place to stay and a small motorcycle to begin making contacts in the community. Rudy passed away last year. He is responsible for the establishment of around 300 churches, a number of youth camps, and a good-sized Seminary.
I met Rudy when I was 15 on a mission trip to Peru. Our youth group stayed on the campus of the Seminary Rudy had built (I am in the photo here with new Peruvian friends). Rudy took us to various churches where I witnessed my first worship experiences in Spanish. At his encouraging, I gave my testimony in Spanish—the first time I ever spoke publicly in Spanish. After decades of work and the establishment of hundreds of churches in Peru, Rudy and his wife returned to the US, starting in international church in Miami, which is still a dynamic work today. In 2000, now in his 70s, Rudy returned to Peru. This time he and his wife Lorraine went to the mountain city of Cusco. He began a church there and turned to the village of Pisac, where he started a youth camp that also still operates today (Tambo De Gozo). His work in Peru was so notable that in 2010 the Peruvian Congress summoned Rudy to present him with the Peruvian Medal of honor for his work on behalf of the Peruvian people. Rudy went to be with the Lord on July 20, 2020.
As a 14 year old boy visiting in Peru I had no idea that Rudy’s impact would be so profound. I did not know of the many churches he had started. I had no idea about the youth camps and the many pastors he had personally trained. What I saw was a simple man who just set out to the work of meeting and loving people. Rudy was very friendly, unassuming, folksy, witty, and winsome. He was very focused on what God wanted him to do and would shed a tear at the mere mention of the spiritual condition of his beloved Peru. As I pastored churches I was able to have Rudy come speak to my congregations from time to time. It was always a joy to share with my church family someone whose example was so powerful in my life.
Some of my mentors are academics. But Rudy was a pastor…a missionary. His specialty was the church in Peru, and his calling was pastoral training. His background skill was pastoral. To Rudy it was all simple, God called him to love people with the gospel. Maybe that is what I appreciate. What academics show to be complex and sometimes difficult, Rudy showed to be straightforward and uncomplicated. And he changed lives with the simplicity of the Gospel.
He was a good mentor and friend. Peru was forever changed, and I will always carry a little Rudy with me and try to remember to keep it simple.