Brittany and I had the amazing opportunity to travel with a missions team from our home church to the country of Peru. This had been our first time overseas since returning home from Macedonia almost seven years ago. I had forgotten about the high impact that going to another country can have on people’s lives. Setting foot in the city of Cusco, so many familiar emotions were stirred within us. There is something about leaving your own country, comforts and surroundings to go into a culture completely foreign to yours to share the love of Jesus that leaves a mark on you.
After a rigorous journey from Columbus to Atlanta to Lima and finally Cusco, we met with missionaries Chris and Debbie Bowser, who we had come to partner with in their work in the country. We traveled a couple of hours into the mountains to a small village called Chulchicaya. The people there are descendants of the Incans, and still speak the native dialect (Quechua) and carry on many of the customs of their ancestors. It was like traveling back in a time warp. The terrain was absolutely gorgeous. The temperatures were unexpectedly cold, being that we were 13,000 feet above sea level. We found breathing more difficult, and had to make sure we were taking it easy as we acclimated to the higher altitude.
The first night we were there, we went to a small church where believers gathered for a service with us. They expressed to us their need for a pastor. Several churches in the area had been planted by a couple of amazing women, and believers gathered on a regular basis, but many of the churches did not have pastors. Many of the people were unable to read or write, so study of the Bible was a difficult thing. Our Pastor had the incredible privilege of presenting a solar-powered, audio New Testament in Quechua to one of the church planters, who was illiterate. It was provided by a ministry called Light for the Lost. She was so grateful that now the church people would be able to listen to the New Testament in their own tongue. I am certain that instrument will get used frequently by the people there.
I had the great honor of preaching that first night. I spoke about the woman at the well in John 4 who met Jesus and then went and told her entire village. I exhorted the people that if they have encountered Jesus, they too had a story to tell. At the end of the message, I gave a salvation altar call. I tried to make it clear it was only for those who had not already been born again, but when I mentioned repenting of sin, most of the people in the church came forward and got onto their hands and knees at the altar. They were weeping and crying out to Jesus with such an intense passion. I asked Chris about it afterwards, and he explained that even though most of them already had a relationship with Christ, they were very sensitive and wanted any chance they could to seek after Him. It was so refreshing to see people hungry for God and sincere in their pursuit of Him. A couple of people on our team also shared personal testimonies with the people.
The next morning we learned some songs and dramas for children’s ministry that we would present later that day. We spent some time walking through the small village and inviting all of the children we could find to come to the children’s meeting. The village was very rural, with no heat and no appliances. In order to preserve their most plentiful crop (potatoes), they would set them outside during the night in order to freeze them. Houses were small and the people lived very simple lives. They lived off of the land as shepherds and farmers. It was not uncommon that a herd of sheep or a cow would come walking down the road.
That afternoon, we had the church building filled with excited kids of all ages dancing and singing with us. We performed a drama about the Parable of the Lost Sheep to show the love of the Good Shepherd in a way that each of them would understand. We were also able to bless them with some snacks and small toys. They were thrilled to receive them. That evening, we had another service in the town and our Pastor, Bruce Craig, preached the message. Brittany also shared a testimony about how God was with her throughout difficult times in her life. I was once again moved by their excitement to worship. They asked us to sing a couple of songs, and they in turn sung to us. I suppose we would have been there all night worshiping with them if we did not have to get back to camp. It was such an encouragement to them to be able to be with Christians from outside of their small world. Just our presence there was ministry to them.
The next day we held a similar children’s service in another village. The people did not have a church building, so they were meeting in a small house. Children packed the place, excited that people actually cared enough to travel to their village and share the love of Christ with them. We prayed for a couple of the children who were sick and are believing God to have touched them. After the service, many of the children were asking our interpreters, “When are they coming back?” It was evident that they appreciated the love they had received from us. Chris and Debbie explained to us, that because the men of these villages have to go out to the fields to work during the day, many of the churches are filled with children. They allow the children to do many things in the service and they are active in raising up the next generation of believers in their communities.
We then set out to a nearby community where they were baptizing four believers at a river. Christians from the churches all around came to be a part of this exciting event. Each of the four people who came to be baptized gave an emotional testimony of how Jesus had saved them and gave them new lives. I was amazed at how the Gospel works in every culture. The testimonies were very touching. After the baptism, a call was given for anyone who wanted to start a relationship with Jesus, and several teenagers and adults prayed with Chris and Pastor Bruce to receive Christ. Afterwards, we all joined together at a local community center for a big celebration for the anniversary of the church in that town. There was a lot of music, singing, food and rejoicing. We performed our drama there as well. I had the honor of presenting the communion. In their culture, you have to be baptized to take communion, so it was a big day for the four people who were baptized, receiving communion for the first time in their lives!
The following day, we joined with the people of Chulchicaya, and they prepared for us a huge feast of fried fish, potatoes, rice and guinea pig. We were able to watch how they prepared it over fire under rocks on the ground as they had done for countless years. It was quite an operation, and we felt honored that they took so much time to prepare their native cuisine for us. That evening, we gathered together to watch the Jesus Film in Quechua. Many came into the church, as it was a rare occasion to watch a film, especially in their native tongue!
Our last day in Cusco, we had the opportunity to see some of the Incan ruins. Much of it was very beautiful, but parts were also very dark, such as the altar they took us to where virgins had been sacrificed in ancient times in order to bring good luck on the land. Animal sacrifice as well as the sacrifice of human fetuses is still practiced on the high places in the area. The country was invaded by Spain in the 1500s, which is why the dominant language is Spanish. Along with Spain came Catholicism, which was then mixed with the Incan worship of the sun and other gods. So, there is an interesting mixture of religions in the country, which can be seen in the statues of both pagan gods as well as statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The need is great in the country. Chris was telling us that they could use 100 missionaries just in the Cusco region to try to meet the need there.
On our way home, during our layover in Lima, we were able to spend time with missionaries Bill and Lena Shrader and their family as well as our good friend Anthony Baird, who is serving with them for a year. They are doing amazing work with children and university students. It was a great time of fellowship and learning more about the culture and the work needed there.
Please pray for the nation of Peru! Pray for the believers to share what Jesus has done for them to their communities. Pray that leaders would arise in the churches and that the Bible Schools that the Bowsers are helping to establish would be filled with people who need training. Pray for the Shraders as they endeavor to impact the city of Lima for Jesus. Pray that revival would sweep across the nation and many would come to know Jesus!
Thank you to all who helped in prayer and financial support. We know that we left an impact on those we came encounter with and look forward to hearing about all that God is going to do with the seed with planted.
To connect with the Bowsers and see more about their ministry, click here.
To connect with the Shraders and see more about their ministry, click here.