In 1998, BMM Peru missionary Stephen Stilwell (assisted by his coworker Stanley Templeton) purchased 7.5 acres of deserted farm ground in the foothills of the Andes mountains. In the 25 years since then, the Lord has used that property to bring more than 1,000 people to Christ and to lead many others to profound spiritual decisions.
Room to grow
The property purchased on June 8, 1998, became Fortress Baptist Camp in northwest Peru. Until 1998, BMM’s missionaries and Peruvian churches struggled to hold camps for their kids and youth. Rented campsites were never reliable places they could use consistently. When they tried holding camps at BMM’s Bible college in Trujillo, the urban facilities never had a camp feel.
With the purchase of their current property in rural Tomabal, BMM’s network of Peruvian churches gained a first-class camping facility. Stephen Stilwell (camp president for many years) not only funded the camp construction, but he also laid out a master plan that could accommodate 300 campers. The site houses two dormitories, a dining hall, swimming pools, a basketball court and a soccer field, and a small chapel seating 150. In 2023, Stephen and the camp’s board (five Peruvian pastors and BMM missionary David Stilwell) oversaw construction of a larger chapel seating 400, giving spaces for concurrent ministry to adults and children.
A spiritual oasis
Getting away from Peru’s urban settings has given Peruvian youth and adults the mental free space to consider God’s truths in deeper ways. The camp offers full summer programs for children through young adults, along with women’s events. Every year on August 30 (a Peruvian holiday), the camp hosts around 1,000 people for an area-wide church fellowship. Yearly, the camp averages 50 salvation decisions plus dedications to full-time service, and many other decisions. Some have met their spouses at camp.
Multiplying the gospel through camp
One man greatly influenced through Fortress Baptist Camp was José Ascate. A young industrial engineer, José came to camp with a singular purpose: to disprove the Bible. What he didn’t count on was God’s gentle work in his life—and He knew just the way to do it. The speaker that week was a Christian scientist from Australia. As the speaker shared biblical truths, including Creationism, José’s purpose changed radically: he now set out to prove the Bible was true.
José received the Lord and eventually married a girl he met at camp, a graduate of BMM’s Bible college in Trujillo. Together this couple started a Creation museum, and they’ve seen amazing responses as they minister in schools and universities. José’s wife regularly speaks to young women about purity. Hundreds have made a pact with themselves to stay pure until marriage and to never have an abortion. José’s ministry is so expansive he has open doors to share Christ with people in Peru’s government.
Twenty-five years and growing stronger
In 2023, Fortress Baptist Camp set a new attendance record. It wasn’t surprising. Attendance has steadily grown year by year, evidence of God’s blessing on Peruvian churches that are increasing in their own attendance—and more churches are constantly being planted. Through the vision of BMM missionaries and Peruvian leaders, Fortress Baptist Camp has played a key role in strengthening God’s church in Peru so that it can grow long into the future.