COMPLETE THE AMAZING STORY OF THE FREE CHURCH IN PERU
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Buy one copy of The Free Church in the Andes and we will include – completely free! – one copy of John MacPherson’s epic story of the Free Church school in Lima – Colegio San Andrés!
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2021 marks the centenary of the missionary effort in the Peruvian Andes by the Free Church of Scotland. This remarkable book draws on a wide range of sources – and personal memories – to tell , for the first time ever, the story of that effort. It documents the extraordinary difficulties that confronted the early missionaries, who travelled into the mountains by mule-back on paths and tracks cut into solid rock in the times of the Incas. It documents too the problems that the men and women of the Free Church faced in the forms of the ever-present danger of earthquakes, and the ever-present reality of poverty and disease in the northern mountains of Peru. And yet these doctors, nurses, ministers and teachers – over a century of selfless effort – made a significant contribution to the material and spirtual welfare of the people among whom they worked, in the form of churches, schools and hospitals. The Free Church in the Andes is extremely well-researched and well-written. It will be of interest to all students of missionary history, and of Scottish history more generally.
“My wife and I spent 22 years in Peru in the coastal capital, Lima. Out of term times I travelled widely in the sierra and to a lesser degree in the jungle regions. I know nearly all the places mentioned in “The Free Church in the Andes” and I also knew or know all the contributors. At the request of the International Missions Board of the Free Church, I also wrote a book about Colegio San Andres in Lima, founded over 100 years ago by a Free Church missionary. However, with all these advantages, I could never have written such a competent, comprehensive and eminently readable book as Iain Fraser Grigor has put together in this volume. Particularly striking are the chapters by the pioneer missionaries who braved many hardships and overcame many obstacles in fulfilment of their Christian calling to love God and love their neighbour, especially their under-privileged neighbours. In spite of the lack of most of the original correspondence, the author has also drawn up a remarkable bibliography, which will of great usefulness to future researchers. This book deserves to be read not only by all Free Church of Scotland members, but also by all interested in the Scottish contribution to Latin American history and to the remarkable growth of Latin American churches throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”
– Rev. John MacPherson, former acting principal of the Lima Evangelical Seminary, and former headmaster of Colegio San Andrés, Lima.
“Surprises come in many shapes and forms. This one came in a brown paper envelope on Friday, and I thought it was probably a volume that I had ordered from Amazon months ago. As it happens, it does mention the Amazon a few times!
I was astonished to see the title and the name of the author. I knew Iain Fraser Grigor decades ago, when we were both trying to learn something about crofting history in the nineteenth century. I was unaware that Fraser had an interest in the Free Church or its history.
So this was all the more of a surprise. In fact, the book is the result of a surprise for Fraser too, for when he tried to find out more about the work of his aunt Netta Fraser as part of the Free Church mission to Peru, he discovered that there were only articles in the FC Record. He realised that the story had to be told; so he set to work in 2019, gathered all he could find in the Mitchell Library, tyed it up … and here in 2020, regardless of pandemic, is the result! Good going, Fraser!
Although I myself have no formal connection with the Free Church, I met, or knew of, several ministers who had been part of its mission in Peru, among them the Revs. Fergus MacDonald, Charlie Douglas, and John MacPherson (brother of Roy, formerly Headmaster of Tiree High School), who had been head of Colegio San Andrés in Lima for some years. I also knew Dr. Neil A. R. Mackay. I had friends too who worked in Peru, among them Dr. Bill Mitchell, an expert on Quechua language, and other missionaries with the Evangelical Union of South America – all very impressive people. Astonishing and exemplary people indeed, and I am delighted that their story has been written. The book gives very just credit to Gaels like the Revs. Murdo Nicolson (Raasay) and James MacIntosh (Glenurquhart) who were outstanding preachers in English, Gaelic – and Spanish! Inspirational!
I thought I would take a quick skim through the book on Friday, just to skim its contents. Now I am hooked on a great story. Fraser provides a sparkling introductory overview, and currently I am reading the first account in the volume by the Rev. John Alexander Mackay, who tells of his exploratory visit in 1915 which led to the establishment of the Peru mission. The book takes us through to the present day, with reports and interviews, the last being the Rev. Charlie Douglas (who sold me many a volume in that fine bookshop on the Mound in the late 1980s).
This book is for all who have a missionary interest. At £12.99, it is a bargain. It is beautifully produced, with some fine photographs, a map, and plenty of directions for future exploration. I hope all who read this will buy a copy, and enjoy it as much as I am enjoying it now!”
– Professor Emeritus Donald Meek
“To human understanding it was an inauspicious time for the Free Church of Scotland to commence mission work in the Andes. Union with another church had reduced the Free Church of Scotland to a splinter of its former self. International relations were increasingly troubled in the first years of the twentieth century – troubles which would lead eventually to the war that was supposed to end all wars. This Great War had actually started by the time that the South American venture became a reality – a venture which would lead in time to the formation of Christian congregations throughout the Andes.
Iain Fraser Grigor has elegantly and brilliantly knitted together what are largely the writings of others to provide a connected story of developments never before described in the form of a book. His connection with this work is through an aunt who served first as a nurse in the Moyobamba Hospital and later in the medical work of the Evangelical Union of South America in the southern mountains of Peru. The Free Church in the Andes is a worthy tribute to those who have proclaimed the Word of God amid mountains and jungles, who have served the people pastorally and with medical services, and provided encouragement to the Peruvians who now bring these services to their own people. The author’s initiative and effort have been vital to this record.”
– Rev. Willie Mackay, former headmaster for 12 years of Colegio San Andrés, Lima
“In December 1992, the Assynt Crofters secured ownership of the 21,000 acres where their people had lived for generations. Unbeknown to them, they had just launched the modern community land movement. A public meeting was called that night in Stoer Primary, to mark the successful buy-out. Campaign leaders entered to great applause. One was carrying a book which he said had inspired them. It was MIghtier than a Lord by Iain Fraser Grigor. An important book, it contributed significantly to public understanding of the debate over Highland land. Its author was not a typical academic historian. Fraser Grigor was as much at home on a fishing boat working in the Minch as he was trawling through records in the National Library. Raised on a croft in Morar, he had studied economics and history and Strathclyde and Glasgow universities and trained as a teacher.
He was also a journalist, writing and reporting for many Scottish newspapers and the BBC. He is possessed of an original and indefatigably enquiring mind. He has just published his latest work on a subject which may surprise. He edited and introduces The Free Church in the Andes. It tells the little-known story of missionaries from the Free Church of Scotland who went to Peru last century. One of them was his aunt Rebecca (Netta), his mother’s sister. They were from the old Clan Fraser country in the Braes above Beauly. It was a Free Church home. “…there were but four books – a Gaelic Bible, an English Bible, a volume of Spurgeon’s sermons, and a copy of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress”. She had trained as a nurse and a midwife. In 1946, aged 30, she headed for Peru to the Free Church mission hospital in Moyobamba. She did not fit the popular image of a missionary. At one point she kept a puma as a pet, taking it for walks on a chain. It didn’t like the local dogs. Her son later recalled, “If one came within reach, the puma would kill it instantly with a casual side-swipe of a paw. After a few such incidents, my mother decided that the time had come for her pet to be re-homed”.
She had married another missionary, Dr. David Milnes, and moved to a mission in southern Peru, where his fluency in Quechua (indigenous language-family of the Inca Empire) could be put to good use. These men and women who had gone out to Peru because of their faith, helped address the profound public health and educational challenges in the remote mountain communities. You do not have to be a believer to admire their sheer determination. They faced a physical geography that could require weeks of travel, sometimes by horse or mule, on occasion ascending to 13,000 feet. Some lived with little sanitation. They suffered illness. Netta herself had suspected pneumonia while her husband was away.
There were many other missionaries. Those from the Free Church were most commonly from Gaelic Scotland. After 1900, when it lost most of its people to the new United Free Church, nine of its 11 presbyteries were in the Highland and Islands. Meanwhile, Glasgow actually included Inverary and Arran, where many still spoke Gaelic. Missionary work was not new to Scotland’s Presbyterians. The Church of Scotland was in Africa, India and throughout the British Empire. But there had been other empires which had called, as the book underlines. “In August 1909, there is a prophetic editorial in the (Free Church) Monthly Record referring to Peru and suggesting, inter alia, that the native people of the Peruvian Andes ‘had been better off under the Inca than the Spanish’ “.The Monthly Record was the main source for this compelling book. Its contemporary reports “snatch from the jaws of oblivion” these Highland voices in the Andes. We are the better off for hearing them.”
– David Ross, author of the book Highland Herald, writing in the Press and Journal.