Jesus was nearing the end of a long series of parables while speaking to His disciples just prior to the Passover and His crucifixion, and He said this, “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’” Matthew 25:34-40.
Not long after going to Chiclayo, Peru in 1985, my family became members of Iglesia Bautista La Hermosa, and soon thereafter I became their interim Pastor. This was just the beginning of a long and happy relationship with that church which continues today.
Local Ministry With Eternal Destiny
The women’s ministry was and continues to be a very vital part of Peruvian Baptist churches that is the source of this story. These dear women had a very active ministry at a local hospital where they visited patients often and many of these people were not known by them. Lorenzo was from Santa Cruz de Succha, a tiny village way up in the mountains of northern Peru that is a 2-day vehicle trip and an 11 hour walk beyond the roadway. Lorenzo was to be in the hospital for 6 months for the treatment of an infection in his foot. During this time these women brought him food on a daily basis, provided bed sheets, pillow, a blanket and a Bible. Meanwhile, Lorenzo had an experience with Jesus Christ, too. Upon release from the hospital he came by La Hermosa to thank the ladies for what they had done and went on his way.
A few weeks later this new Believer showed up at the church one Sunday morning and explained why he was there, “I went back home to my village and began sharing what happened to me at the hospital through these ladies. I told everyone about Jesus and I need your help. There are now many new Christians there. We need Bibles.”
La Hermosa saw an opportunity for a mission trip and voted to help out. The Peru Baptist Mission provided the Bibles and three of us from the church were appointed to take the trip. Asuncion Fuentes, Santos Carbajal and myself left aboard a small bus one morning into the mountains to the northeast. A journey that had eternal possibilities.
The actual time by vehicle was about 16 hours and there were 11 hours by foot to arrive at Santa Cruz de Succha. The trip by bus was an all night, 13 hour bumpy and unusual ride. However, 3 days passed before we arrived in Santa Cruz because we had to wait 2 days for a vehicle in a small town called Cutervo where Lorenzo met us to take us to the end of the 2-hour road trip at Socata where the footpath began. Fortunately, we found a family willing to rent us a room until we found a pickup to take us to the end of the road. The word got around that a Gringo Missionary was in town which attracted some attention from a local radio station. An announcement was made on the radio that the missionary would arrive in Santa Cruz in a couple of days.
Lorenzo had his cousin Manuel meet us at Socata and the beginning of the footpath which was to take us 11 hours to trod. At the trail Manuel met us with 3 donkeys to carry our belongings and Bibles. I discovered that the message sent over the radio was actually meant for Manuel for this is how he knew to meet us. At Socata we ate lunch at a house of Lorenzo and about 3 hours later Manuel arrived and we were ready to journey.
Garden of Eden Beauty
Darkness swallowed the trail several hours later as weariness began to take toll over me and I told them that we needed to bed down somewhere. Manuel spotted a small house down the hill and inquired of the family if we could sleep in their house for the night. The husband was not home, but the wife and mother of 3 children allowed us in, fed us a soup and warm drink of some sort. We awoke the next morning to the chatter of a family gathering around breakfast which was kindly offered to us. As we were leaving to wave good-bye notice a mummified skunk hanging above the door frame. Making a comment to Lorenzo, he tells us that the husband is a ‘witch doctor,’ a ‘shaman’ in his language, a practicing witch. To this day I have wondered about that for when we prayed over the meal everyone said their ‘amens,’ but I suppose that religious language is known even in dark places.
Several hours more and passing through some of the most beautiful scenery that I have ever witnessed we finally came to that hill we were looking for; the one from which Lorenzo and Manuel spoke of which provided a spectacular view of their village and beyond. This was a place that one reads about in magazines, but seldom actually visits because of the location. Sometimes outsiders have the opportunity to enter these kinds of places. This was a ‘Garden of Eden’ kind of location.
Hero’s Welcome for a New Beginning
Suddenly, Lorenzo unloaded one of the donkeys and literally ordered me to ride this animal of burden into town. I hesitated, but took their commands with serious intent, LOL!! Upon entering the center of the village I sort of had the idea of how Jesus must have felt for everyone was awaiting us as if we had come home victorious from wartime or something. The school children along with their teacher were cheering as were the adults. What a ‘welcome’ this was. How humbling an experience for we had done nothing, but our work was to come.
We met on the village Plaza de Armas every evening after work ended. Our light came from a string of lights powered by car batteries which families loaned for the project. No electricity nor running water was available to anyone, but there were community water faucets located in the community. The water came from an elevated cistern located nearby and that water came from the mountain stream. Once a week someone in the village loaded donkeys to take the batteries to Socata for recharging. This was their only source of electricity for lights and radios in town.
Every night I had the opportunity to preach and lead a Bible study for the community, and about 30 people attended each night as the temperature dropped and the wind blew. Everyone wrapped in blankets to be comfortable. What a time of praise, worship and study that God provided this small group of new Believers.
At week’s end there was a baptism in the creek wherein 9 were baptized and a New Testament church was birthed. What joy for such a time as this…
Jesus is Lord!!