Phil's Page: 2004 Report
Acts 18:9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” 11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
Tuesday, July 6th 2004 – Somewhere in the Andes, about 30 miles as the crow flies inland from the Pacific coast. 11,750 ft.
At about 3:30 PM I couldn’t quite focus my eyes as we descended into another valley in the Cordillera Negra on the costal side of the Andes Mountains in Peru. I couldn’t make out what I was seeing. Was that a town or just a couple of houses?
I had been doing this for several years and thought myself quite acclimated to the rigors of the Andes Trek. But somehow this year had been different. The hills seemed to be a little steeper, the uphill pulls a little longer, and the dust had been horribly thick. I never remembered getting as dusty on past treks as I had on this one. The fog was something new as well. Last night for the third night in a row, just as soon as we got the camp set up, a cold thick fog crept up like a rising ocean tide into our camp. It rose and fell with the wind direction and when upon us it was difficult to see more than a few feet. It was very cold. I kept finding myself repeatedly heading to the camp fire to get warmed up again. By morning it was as if a big heavenly broom had swept away the clouds and the glaring sun appeared again.
The Andes Blanket exists to carry God’s Word where the road doesn’t go in the Andes Regions of South America. We trek to pre-determined locations plotted by Adelid Yanac and Prķspero Coloņia with the express purpose of carrying the Gospel to the hard-to-reach areas. It is pretty simple, really. We walk, we camp, we bring Bibles and educational materials in Quechua and Spanish to villages, towns, small schools, and even to lonely shacks and lean-to homes, wherever the guides take us. It is, to say the least, difficult because of the altitude, the long days of walking, and the difficulty of setting up and taking down camp each day. It is kind of funny though; the difficulty seems to be what draws me back year after year.
In observing our group each year, some are new trekkers, but at least half are repeaters from past years. Carrying God’s Word to those who would otherwise never hear it gets in your blood. The faces of the people who hear His Word for the first time are what get to your heart. Many times when we enter a village we are the first foreigners the Quechua villagers have ever seen (We are obviously not visiting tourist spots). They show some apprehension at first, but when we explain our purpose they warm up and actually show unbelievable hospitality that can put Americans to shame. But back to the scene with which I started….
We were a group of about 35 trekkers, helpers, and guides. We marched down into a valley where a small town was situated. The early fog lifted and there were five or six men in a large field removing rocks. As we came close, they turned to see us and grabbed shovels and picks. They must have thought we were invading their valley. We must have looked weird to them, with ball caps, sunglasses, and big boots, walking poles, back packs, waist packs and all sorts of gadgets hanging from carabineers attached to every part of us. We stopped at the edge of what we found out later was the soccer field and waited while the only Quechua speakers in our group explained who we were. One man seemed to be the person in charge and after he was consulted and found out we had things for the children and Bibles for the adults, he heartily invited us to his town. The man’s name was Daniel. He proved to be exactly the person with whom we needed to make contact.
We were invited to pitch our tents in the middle of town on the old soccer field (about a third the size of a real field) and to stay the night. As we began to put up our tents, the people of the valley seemed to appear from the rocks and we soon had quite a group of curious spectators assembled to watch us get ready for the activities. The name of the town was Almizcle, although I do not know what the name means. What I do know is that we were divinely guided to that town for that night. The town rolled out the red carpet for us, so to speak, and prepared a Pachamanca.
A Pachamanca is an earth oven in which the Peruvians prepare a harvest feast. A hole in the ground is prepared and special rocks are sought to line the hole. After super heating the rocks, the food is thrown in and literally buried with spices, weeds, dirt, grasses, and burlap. After about two hours the hole is uncovered and potatoes, corn, huge lima beans, goat, chicken, corn meal tamales and their specialty, guinea pig, is brought forth. It is delicious, and they did it for us.
For them we brought the aforementioned materials plus some toys and trinkets. But the biggest thing we brought was the Gospel. Each night, at each camp, we showed the Jesus film translated into Quechua. The night we met Daniel was to be special. He was no doubt the final word in the valley. God had in His sovereignty prepared Daniel to be the voice of influence in that town. Why was he so influential?
In 1970, Peru went through a period of social upheaval. The landowners and hacienda owners were forced to deed their land to those that had worked the land historically. Daniel had been the hacienda boss for the valley surrounding Almizcle. It was a very fruitful valley then as it is today. But the workers were not prepared to run their own farms. Since they were now the owners, to whom would they give the hard work of foot plowing and planting and irrigating the slanted mountain side fields? They didn’t really know what to do or how to do it. The owner had left and had given a portion to Daniel. His fields prospered but his neighbors didn’t because they were just not used to being in charge. After several years of near starvation the men came to Daniel and asked him to help them and they would do what he said. He agreed; they did what he said and gave him a portion of their harvest. Daniel was very respected and loved in Almizcle.
On that visit, on that night, with nearly 200 valley residents present, Daniel watched the Jesus film. Half way through he came looking for me. He spoke good Spanish so I could communicate with him. He had tears in his eyes and said he had always heard of Jesus but didn’t know what it was about. He wanted to know why Jesus was being mistreated and why everyone hated him. I began with his question and for the better part of an hour explained to the 75 year old man what it meant to become God’s child. He received Jesus that night. What happened next is what can only be explained as a God incident. Daniel finished watching the movie, and when the appeal was given at the end, he asked for the microphone. With tears in his eyes he told the people that what they had just witnessed was the truth. That Jesus was God’s son and that He died because he and they had offended Him with their sins and wicked lives. If they ever had trusted him they needed to trust him then. “You must believe in Jesus to become His child and to have forgiveness of sins,” he said. To my utter amazement the man that had only known Jesus for less than an hour had been so prepared by God to influence these people that many, if not all, that understood received Jesus that night. I believe that more than 100 people were swept into the kingdom of God. Praise God for His unending effort to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)
The next morning we packed up, hugged necks, and charged the people to begin to meet on Sunday to read the new Bibles we had given them. (The last time a visit was made to the village they were doing just that). We took a deep breath of high mountain air and made our way to another village, passing out literature, toys, pencils, notepads, and God’s love as we trudged along. Thus are the Andean Treks from year to year.
When Paul was told that God had many people in the city of Corinth, they were just pre-Christians; His promise was true. We found that God had been at work in the Almizcle Valley long before we ever showed up. I praise the Lord for this wonderful opportunity each year. I imagine about February I’ll be hitting the treadmill and stair climber again to get ready for another run at the Andes Blanket.