03 May 2011

The missionary vanishes

As I've noted before, waking up early gives you the opportunity to listen to American evangelical preaching, and this morning at 5 am Pastor David Jeremiah told the story of Jenny Adams, a Baptist missionary in Trujillo, Peru. Even at that time of day the story sounded strange, so I decided to investigate it further.

Here's what Jeremiah said.

Jenny Adams had been a missionary for 34 years. One day, she gave a lift to a young woman, without knowing that the woman's brother was a cocaine refiner, and she was carrying 3.9 kilogrammes of the drug. The police found this in Adams's vehicle, and so she was charged with possession (and presumably with intent to deal). The Peruvian legal system presumes guilt until innocence is proved (apparently), and so the local newspapers started printing stories about the "cocaine missionary". Adams was in prison for 20 days (so we must assume she was cleared of any charges).

Jeremiah's point is that this was an example of anti-Christian harassment. As a symbol of north American Christianity, Adams and her mission were vilified on this pretext, and no account was paid to her 34 years of unblemished service.

My first thought was that all over the world people are stringently punished for suspected drug offences, whether they are Christian or not. If there was any vindictiveness aimed at Adams or her mission it was more likely to be anti-imperialist that anti-Christian. And she was apparently acquitted. Good, but all over the world there are people in prison for long terms who might have done nothing worse.

So I decided to find out more about Jenny Adams. Jeremiah had mentioned what sounded like direct quotations from Peruvian newspapers, so it shouldn't be too hard to find. He must have read the story somewhere, and as he presumably doesn't read the Peruvian press, it must have turned up in some American media. And if the story is so heinous, at least some American Baptist websites would cover it.

Google searches for "Jenny Adams peru" and "Jenny Adams baptist" hardly help at all. I find one page which identifies Jenny Adams as a missionary in the Iglesia Bautista de Samne, 50 kilometres from Trujillo, so that must be her: the name must be right. But nothing about drugs. Even that snappy headline "cocaine missionary" doesn't give anything.

I'm honestly surprised that there is no trace of the story, and caught between disappointment and delight. I feel like it's possible I've caught Jeremiah out in an act of fiction, to put it nicely, but I'd be happier if I could be sure that the Jenny Adams story is not as he told it. What started out as a fairly weak attempt to show that Christians are persecuted merely for being Christian turns out to be a story that - so far - only exists in the world of David Jeremiah. But if anyone knows better, please let me know.

EDIT: I'm grateful to Anonymous(1) for the link and happy to see that the Jennie Adams story is true. I don't agree with a lot of what missionaries do, but I admire her evident fortitude. I had got the impression that this had happened quite recently, but that's clearly not the case, which would explain why it was hard to find any trace on tinternet. I'm also happy to withdraw any suggestion that Dr Jeremiah had made it up: it's natural that he would have known personally of Jennie Adams's history.


Anonymous said...

Jennie Adams: An unassuming servant who did much for her Lord.

Once she was saved at age 32, Jennie’s sole focus was to pour out her life for the Lord. For her first seven terms in Peru, Jennie put aside her own preferences and served wherever her fellow missionaries needed her. Jennie’s trademark ministry was to evangelize and teach people in remote mountainous areas of Peru. Scores of pastors trace their ministries back to her influence. During these years, Jennie was wrongfully imprisoned when she offered a ride to a man whom she did not know was carrying drugs. In and out of jails for five years, Jennie creatively used the opportunity to teach fellow prisoners how to read by using gospel tracts.

As a veteran missionary, Jennie taught in the BMM seminary in Lima. At age 69, she broke her hip and was confined to a wheelchair the rest of her life. Even with that limitation, she served another six years in Peru. In her last years in a nursing home, Jennie could still be found wheeling herself around to visit others and lead Bible studies.

Anonymous said...

Go easy on Jeremiah...

It is worth noting that "the Internet" does not make the claim that it is the exclusive source of truth. It is only a place where a variety of information is posted. It is very possible, and likely, that Jeremiah actually knew Jenny Adams. I know a Peruvian missionary who retired after 45 years of service. As far as I know you will not find accounting's of "his story" on the internet. That does not "prove" that he is fictional and never existed.

Do you understand what Jeremiah was actually talking about in his message? Jenny Adams was only an example. You may want to listen to it again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link in the first comment. It didn't work as written for me, NorthAmerica has the 'a' dropped off.

And given the age of this occurrence (apparently happened maybe in the 70s, since she started 37 years ago), it's not surprising that there's not a lot of info on the internet abut it.

Dave said...

She was in and out of jail for 5 years. She has been dead now for 6 years. Jeremiah wsn't making it up

Dave Roberts

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah's series is on
"How to be happy according to Jesus.

Consistent with the specific broadcast title "Happy are the Harassed Part 1", Jeremiah's purpose was to illuminate Matthew 5:10. "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven".

I encourage you to listen to his message again.

Archives of the Program can be found at:

Dan Morrison said...

Brian said...

Thanks, Dan. I'll read that when I get a chance.