A home off the grid. The electricity comes from solar panels. There’s a deep freezer, but no refrigerator. There’s a propane stove, but no other appliances. Rain water is caught and stored in tanks for all cooking, cleaning and showering – when the dry season comes, less is done to conserve water. Laundry is hand washed. All cooking is from scratch. There’s a small town 30 minutes away to get basic food items, but other supplies are five hours away. Plus, the main mode of transportation is on foot or by motorcycle – not ideal for a family of four.
Despite these circumstances, “It’s paradise,” says Emma (Payne) ’14 Redding. “I’m looking at this amazing view right now from our house…the weather is perfect. We have a great team. We get to live here – we don’t have to live here – God has brought us here.”
“Here” is a small village in Peru where Emma, a graduate of Hesston’s three-year nursing program, and her husband Jared are serving as missionaries with their sons Micah and Jack, ages 3 and 1.
A heart for the Mission field
It was her sophomore year at Hesston College when God started pulling on Emma’s heart strings for the unreached, and she soon began pursuing missions.
After connecting with a woman from her hometown in Iowa, Emma was able to go on her first mission trip to Nigeria in the summer of 2013. “During my time there, God just confirmed to me in a big way that yes, this is what I’m asking you to do with your life,” Emma recalls. “And I loved it. I had such a peace and a joy about it.”
While her heart was still on the mission field, Emma pushed through and completed her last year at Hesston College, and went on to receive her bachelor’s through an online program.
“I just wanted to just go and start [in missions], but I knew that finishing nursing would be beneficial,” she explains. “I could use that skill and that degree later on, on the mission field.”
Just a few weeks after returning from Nigeria, Emma met Jared. And while she was determined to not let anyone keep her from the mission field, their relationship blossomed. They married and decided to pursue what was originally just Emma’s calling, together.
As newlyweds, the Reddings connected with Pioneers, an organization that partners with local churches to equip and send missionaries to unreached peoples. After much prayer and careful consideration of where to go, the couple landed with the launch team in Peru in 2019. This offered a gentle immersion into the Spanish language and culture before starting ministry.
Serving the Ashéninka people
The Reddings and their mission team of seven have since been working to plant seeds in hopes of building a self-sustaining church, one where Ashéninka believers will be the ones going to surrounding areas to share the gospel of Christ.
“We don’t want this to be a missionary led church. We want this to be an Ashéninka church led by Ashéninka believers,” Emma emphasizes. “We want to disciple and empower and equip the believers here to go out and do that because it will be much better received from an Ashéninka than from our mouth.”
Emma admits they may not see the fruit of their work, but did recall how one missionary explained it to her, “he said, ‘we weren’t even planting seeds. We were just moving rocks.’ And some days, it feels like all we do is move rocks…. But it’s not our work, it’s God’s work.”
The Reddings are now spending most of their time learning the Ashéninka language. Most villagers speak Spanish also, so they can communicate, but Ashéninka is their heart language.
“If you and I want to learn something really important, or want to understand something the best, we want to learn it in English. And so we want to do that for them in Ashéninka,” Emma explains. “We don’t want there to be any muddied waters in the gospel presentation because of language barriers.”
The mission Emma and Jared are on may seem like a tough one, but good times are still plenty.
“One of the biggest sources of joy for me here is our time during the women’s Bible studies every week,” says Emma. “We have this audio Bible in their language that we can play scripture from, especially for people like this woman who doesn’t speak any Spanish. And so, watching her face as she hears some of this scripture for the very first time and hearing her questions, too – it is priceless. I mean, it’s why we’re here.”
“My hope and my prayer is that there will be Ashéninka in heaven because of the work here,” Emma shares. And while she admits they have given up a lot in a tangible way, it can’t compare to the salvation of the Ashéninka people. “Them knowing Christ as their Savior and one day them being in heaven worshiping God with you – not that it makes the rest of it easy, because it’s not – but it is worth it.”
Emma and Jared believe they still have a very clear calling to remain in this place to serve the Ashéninka people. “It’s really hard some days. We miss our family,” Emma says. “But in this season, this is what he’s asking of us. And so we just try and be obedient to that.”
Photos courtesy Emma Redding.