November 9, 2009

This past October I had the opportunity to go to the Village of Manzano, in the Panoa Region of Peru, deep in the Andes Mountains. Our mission was to conduct reading workshops with the Quechua Indians. These people have a spoken language but no written language. Terry and Karla Smith, a missionary team living in the region for over 25 years, developed a written language for the Quechua. With the help of Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Smiths have translated the New Testament into Quechuan and are currently working on the Old Testament, so that these people have the opportunity to know the Lord through the written word.

Our team of 8 men from Asbury United Methodist Church (including our head Pastor, Alan Weatherly) arrived in Lima, Peru around midnight on Wednesday, October 21, 2009. After very few hours of shut eye, we were up again and on our 9 ½ hour bus ride through the Andes Mountains and the High Plains of Peru to Huanuco, Peru. Terry met us that afternoon upon our arrival in Huanuco which is where the Smiths reside. We ate and then were shown to our sleeping quarters for some much needed rest. We were up and off again early the next morning – this time for a 3 ½ hour ride in a pickup truck across the Andes and into the Village of Manzano. It took two vehicles to transport all of us, and the journey was quite the experience, in and of itself. There were no guard rails on these mountain roads, and the drop was a sheer 5000 feet straight down!

We arrived at the schoolyard in Manzano and were met by Abram (a Quechua believer who works with Terry) and many children of the village. After settling in, we engaged in a vigorous game of soccer with the boys in the schoolyard. The boys were playing in flip flops on very uneven terrain, quite a feat (no pun intended), but they were laughing and having fun which made us all feel welcome.

That night we sang to them as a group and then we broke off into smaller groups, interacting with the children. John Knox and I found ourselves in the company of 4 young girls who wanted us to continue singing to them. So, we sang a few hymns, and then all 4 of them began to sing to us in their native language! It was quite touching. The women prepared dinner for us that consisted of soup, potatoes with a hot sauce, and hot tea. This is pretty much what we ate for every meal.

Later we all bunked in a classroom on a tarp with sleeping bags. They had a outhouse, which was very primitive with only a hole in the concrete and 3 stalls. That was actually more than what I had expected. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep that well with 7 other men in the same room, many of whom snore, as I do!

We got up early the next morning, and they had breakfast for us. Soup, potatoes, oatmeal porridge, and coffee that was really, really, good. As people started arriving at the school we joined them in a classroom. The children were ages 5-14. We had coloring books for them with biblical captions in Quechua, Spanish, and English. We were hoping to convey God’s love for them. Then the children taught us how to say a verse of scripture in their language. We then got up in front of all of them and tried to recite it by ourselves, which, of course, they found quite amusing!

During lunch we spent time with the adults and older children. We read Ephesians. I did not realize until later that this was the first time they had read the Bible in their native tongue; it was a blessing. Again the message was about Jesus who came to this world for everyone, including them, and He loves them. Later, we showed them a DVD of Jesus the Story, as told by Luke. After the 1st half of the movie, we sang hymns and played guitar. They were all clapping and praising the Lord with us!

Many times I was humbled by the Quechua Indians’ kindness. Once, I awoke early to go to the outhouse and found one of the women scrubbing and cleaning it. She was trying to make it more bearable for us. Another personally touching moment was with Walter, a young man of about 22. I was sitting outside reading my Bible, and he came up to me and wanted me to read to him, though, he understood no English. I read to him and felt him put his arm around me. This really touched my heart. I had become friends with him without any communication, other than us showing our love for him and his people and God’s love for all of us.

We said our goodbyes that day around 2:00 pm. We hiked about 3 ½ miles though the mountains to another village to meet the trucks for our ride back to Huanuco. We arrived after 3 police check points back at Terry and Karla’s compound. This is where the native translators worked and also received the Word.

The next day we drove 4 hours to Tingo Maria, the High Jungles, and went to a cave that housed parrots, bats, and owls. Another rough ride, but very, very, beautiful. This part of the Andes, unlike the aridness of the village, was lush and green. They grow hydrangeas in this area along with other legal and illegal plants thus there is a large police and army presence.

We drove back that afternoon and had a big dinner with Terry and Karla and 3 other couples who have lived here for over 30 years. We had baked potatoes with all the fixings. We left the next morning for Lima and the 9 ½ hour bus ride! We arrived safely, had dinner, got a shower, and some much needed sleep.

We spent the last day, Wednesday, October 28th, in Lima. We walked around, visited the markets, did some shopping, etc. Our flight was not until 12:05 am that night/morning, and we were not arriving in Huntsville until 5pm Thursday the 29th! A very long, tedious trip with no sleep for almost 40 hours!

The Quechua love and care for one another, and they value what they have which is community. I am happy to be back home, and I know that the Quechua blessed us more than we ever could have helped them. I hope I can return again to find many new Christians.

Click here to read a note from Terry and Karla Smith.