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Women missionaries (2)

March 2016 | by Elinor Magowan

Elinor Magowan, women’s pastoral worker at UFM Worldwide, asks Esme Zarate to explain what life is like for a woman missionary and her family in Peru.

Elinor: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Esme: My name is Esme Zarate. I am married to Edward, who is Peruvian, and we have two children, Luis (5) and Liliana (3). We live and work in the Southern Andes in Peru. Our sending church is Duke Street Church, Richmond, UK, and our mission agency is UFM Worldwide.

Elinor: How long have you lived there? And what are you and your family seeking to do?

Esme: I have been in Peru for nearly 11 years now. I first went out as a single missionary and then married Edward three years later. We have been in Peru for only four years as a family.

Two years ago, we moved to an extremely remote village, Chachas, that is 12 hours away from the nearest city. We live and work alongside Quechua people, sharing the good news of Jesus with them.

Elinor: If you took a friend from the UK to Chachas, what would they find challenging?

Esme: We have actually had many friends from the UK visit us in the village. They have survived and enjoyed their few days with us!

The first challenge is the journey. The tarmac road runs out after three hours and then it is nine hours of dirt track, which winds its way up some of the world’s most dangerous roads.

The altitude is another issue. So a visit to the village isn’t for the faint hearted, as we have to travel up to 5000 metres above sea level. The village itself is situated at 3200 metres above sea level.

The remoteness is striking. Having arrived in the village, that is, if the lake has not flooded and cut off the only road in and out, there are no local amenities or attractions, just a simple farming community of about 750 people who live hand-to-mouth.

Another challenge is lack of access to the Internet and very poor mobile phone coverage.

Elinor: How do you think God prepared you to live and serve him there?

Esme: I know that God has prepared me in many ways to serve him in such a remote place. Firstly, I depend fully on the Lord. I have a great husband and family and they are a great source of enjoyment and strength.

I also have a wealth of friends around the world, who I know are behind our calling to be in the Andes. God called me into mission when I was just 16 years old, and from that time has prepared me, in every way, for his plan to use me, a mere simple girl.

I can testify that God’s grace is sufficient in all circumstances, whether that be in a busy city or the remotest of villages.

God has also equipped me with creativity for living in basic conditions. My professional training as an occupational therapist gave me ability to face various challenges and be practical in the process. Looking back, I love to see the way God has woven many experiences and equipped me to live out my life for him, wherever I am.

Elinor: What do you enjoy about life in Peru?

Esme: The guaranteed sunshine for nine months of the year is a real bonus! Besides that, I love the fact that life is centred around people. People matter.

I am actually refreshed by going ‘back to basics’ and being removed from the fast pace of the technological 21st century. I love the creativity of life, in needing to be resourceful and not dependent on instant technology or consumerism.

Elinor: What particular answers to prayer have you seen in the last year?

Esme: We’ve experienced: protection in our travels between mountain village and city; good health; the conversions of five precious Quechuan girls; and God’s provision in every area of our ministry and family life.

Elinor: As a wife and mother, what are the concerns you have for those closest to you?

Esme: There is always the danger, when seeing so much need around us and having an urgency to share the gospel, that we get our priorities mixed up. It is essential for us to keep God central in all our relationships, and also ensure our commitment to each other as a family.

We want to stay the course, and pray that our obedience to God in following him in this ministry has a positive effect on our children.

As a mother, it is only natural to make comparisons with other families and their children with regards to educational, social, recreational and developmental opportunities, and healthcare provision, to name but a few.

However, despite this, I can’t stop marvelling at how God has an interest in the smallest details of our lives. Our children have not been called to mission in the same way as we have, yet God is working in their little lives to bring about his bigger purposes. He is moulding them into the people he wants them to be. And what amazing opportunities they have to live and be part of multiple cultures.

Elinor: What is the support from those back home that you value most?

Esme: Communication is limited due to our location. But we know there are many people who pray for us. This makes a huge difference to our everyday lives, spiritually, physically and emotionally.

We are in a privileged position of being fully supported financially for our daily needs, by individual friends and supporting churches. This enables us to concentrate on doing what we have been called to do without additional concerns.Receiving post is always a highlight for us all. Over the years, we have loved adding to our collection of postcards. These remind us that somebody has gone out of their way to let us know they are thinking of us. This is a great encouragement.


Just knowing we are partnered by so many others in this work, makes all the difference. We are just the ones on the front line, but are blessed to have a whole team of individuals behind us.

Elinor: How can we pray for you? 

Esme: I am no superwoman and, at times, find managing change and the demands of a missionary lifestyle a challenge. As a wife and mother, I am trying to keep one step ahead, anticipating how our next move will impact us as individuals and a family. Pray for daily strength and wisdom.

Please pray for us, as we return to Peru following our UK leave in January 2016. This will be our first re-entry to Peru as a family and we will need a time of reconnecting with family, friends, altitude and language, before we immerse ourselves back into ministry.

Home educating our children will be my main role in this next season. Pray for lots of patience and understanding all round, and that we will have lots of fun learning together.

As we have to take all our food supplies to the village, we work on being in the village for ten weeks at a time, and then return to the city to restock, reconnect and recharge. Please pray for our wellbeing and safety.

Elinor Magowan is a women’s pastoral worker at UFM Worldwide

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