Bringing Hope, Joy to the "End of the Earth"
Story and photos by Gregory J. Rummo
An adorable little 3-year old Quechua girl stares at me, her large brown eyes peering inquisitively into mine. “Which country do you come from?” She asks me in Spanish. It’s obvious to her I am a Gringo, even though I may very well be the first one she’s ever laid eyes on, here, literally at the end of the Earth, deep in the southern Cordillera Negra in Peru’s Andes mountains.
“Los Estados Unidos,” I reply. Her eyes grow wide and she smiles, revealing the decay in her upper teeth. “I have a daughter back home,” I continue in my broken Spanish. “She is beautiful like you. Her name is Rebecca. What is your name?”
“Isabella,” she tells me while clutching a green Beanie Baby that was just given to her by one of the other 30 Gringos from our group. Her eyes are definitely Asian; evidencing the ancestry anthropologists believe is inherent among the Quechua when centuries earlier, the Inca migrated into South America across the land bridge that connected North America to Asia.
She reminds me of my own Chinese daughter back home. And right now, back home is a very, very long way away. It was only three days ago on a summer afternoon when my son and I boarded a flight to Lima at Newark’s Liberty International Airport. After a 7-hour flight, followed by an overnight 8-hour bus ride, we arrived in Huaraz in the Callejon de Huaylas, the valley that cuts the Andes mountains into two ranges; the Cordillera Negra and the Cordillera Blanca.
After a day to acclimatize, we boarded a van for another long ride, this time on a dry, sinuous dirt road that took us over several 14,000 foot mountain passes. Eight hours later at twilight, we arrived in the tiny village of Huanchay where we pitched our tents on a dirt soccer field.
The next morning, after eating a hasty breakfast and packing our gear in a duffel bag that would be tied to a burro, we set out on foot for what we were told by the locals was “about a four-hour walk.”
We walked all day, crossing two mountain ranges and covering 12 miles until finally arriving in Quishuar. The trek had taken us twice as long as we had been told.
Catching our breath, we stood above the clouds at over 11,000 feet, watching as the sun slowly set in the western sky, wondering where our gear was.
It was almost an hour later when the first burros staggered up the last leg of the steep mountain. By now, the clouds that only thirty minutes ago had been so beautifully tinged with rose were white and ghost-like as they crept into the village. The dampness sent chills through us as we stood around, contemplating setting up our tents in the encroaching darkness.
But the village officials had a surprise: They let us use the colegio—the school building—where we would be able to sleep inside on the dry floor, thus avoiding the cold, damp air.
Imagine a group of 30 foreigners showing up in the center of your town at sunset. Do you think it would be possible to convene a meeting with the mayor and enough council people on such short notice to discuss granting permission to the group to spend the night in the local public school?
We have so much in America we are choking on our blessings, yet often unwilling to share them and suspicious of everyone that is different from us. The people of Quishuar willingly gave to us out of their poverty and in so doing, reminded us of the words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
The day-long walk at high altitude had robbed many of us of our appetites. I was only able to eat two Fig Newtons and a few handfuls of dried fruit and nuts while my son stared at half a can of Chef-Boyardee ravioli that he couldn’t finish.
We had traveled far to bring a little hope and happiness to this Pueblo which was short on both. But getting here was only part of the goal. Our job for the evening was in fact just beginning.
It was around 7:30 p.m. when the villagers started to filter into the school yard. Family by family, they came in anticipation of seeing something most of them had never seen before in this place where electricity had not yet been invented.
They sat in silence for two hours on the cold, damp ground, transfixed by the images and the sounds of The Jesus Film, a popular evangelistic tool that portrays the life and death of Jesus Christ from Luke’s Gospel.
When the movie was over, they sat for another hour, listening to Pushpi, an itinerant Quechua evangelist who always travels with us, as he explained the meaning of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ to them.
The next morning the entire village came back to the colegio to bid us farewell. Before leaving, we passed through the crowds handing out toys to the children along with New Testaments in both Spanish and Quechua to family members.
We had been obedient to The Great Commission; the command of Jesus to his disciples to go to “…the end of the earth,” to share His story and to bring a little hope to the hopeless; and to put a smile on the face of a little 3-year old girl named Isabella.