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Following in the Footsteps of Adventist Pioneers

“Missionaries, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries”

Charles Teel, Professor of Religion and Society and Stahl Center Director at La Sierra University, has led thirty-one tours to Peru. Students and community members from Andrews, La Sierra, and Loma Linda Universities and Pacific Union College have retraced Andes and Amazon paths forged by missioners Fernando and Ana Stahl. The Stahls’ understanding of the gospel called for social trans-formation of societal structures no less than for personal transformation of individual hearts.

Holding diplomas from the Battle Creek Sanitarium Training School for Missionary Nurses, the Stahls packed up their two young children, paid their own passage, and in 1909 left Main Street, Midwest, USA, ending up on the Andean shores of Peru’s Lake Titicaca. Ana nursed the 8% white ruling class for money to keep food on the table and the indigenous peoples for free while Fernando rode about on his mule named Samson seeking to sell magazines to the 92% fenced-out peoples who could not read.

Upon discovering that the indigenous classes were at once illiterate and barred from attending schools, the Stahls set forth to change hearts and to change structures that kept these peoples from access to education and to the voting booth. In a closed and near feudal social order these missioners are credited with offering life chances for the Aymara and Quechua population by fostering open markets, health education, clinics, and—most notable and against all odds—founding the first indigenous and first co-educational school system in the Peruvian highlands.

The Peru-based Catholic Priest who re-introduced Teel to the Stahl story referred to this couple as his “spiritual forbears.” Noting that “The gospel they incarnated found transfer not only in chapels but in schools, clinics, city halls, and the national constitution,” this priest affectionately tagged the Stahls as “missionaries, visionaries, and revolutionaries!"