By Holly McElwee
Two trips to Peru in two years; experiencing this wonderful country twice in a short amount of time leaves me humbled. And now as I stand in the early weeks of 2014, I find myself planning another trip to this South American wonderland. I don’t speak Spanish, I’m not fond of eating guinea pig (the Peruvian national dish), hiking in the Andes is strenuous, the rain forest is wretchedly humid…so why would I jump at the chance to go back to such a place? The bigger question is, why wouldn’t I?
My first journey to Peru was a trip for teachers to the Amazon rain forest. I spent a week sleeping under mosquito nets, dodging bats (not my favorite animal), and sweating profusely without end. However, the ability to witness this marvel of nature was worth all the difficult times. Never could I have believed that such a place existed. The monkeys howled in the trees, the beautiful birds soared through the sky, the frogs and insects chirped at all hours of the night; the Amazon presented itself as an alien planet, not an earthbound locale.
My second journey took me in an entirely different direction. I hiked in the Andes Mountains with 13 members of my church. Our goal was to deliver translated Bibles to the native Quechua people. These folks had never owned a Bible in their own language until our band of “Gringos” appeared in their villages to give them one. The trekking was rough, but the thrill of handing God’s word to people for the first time in their lives made every step worth it.
My third trip south of the Equator will again require a trek into the Andes to deliver Bibles to native Quechua people. As a co-leader alongside my husband, we’ve assembled a 16-person team who will walk into little-seen corners of the mountains, Bibles in hand. As heads of the team, it’s our job to get everyone safely there and back and to accomplish our mission in the process. It’s amazing experience to lead a group of friends and to have the responsibility of bringing God’s word to those who’ve ever had it. I expect that we will bless people through our actions, and the experiences of our last trip make me hopeful for our success.
For example, on the 2012 trip we visited four different villages. After the third village, we embarked upon the trail towards our last and final village. When I say, “trail,” imagine a small winding path that may be trod upon by people, donkeys, horses, or sheep at varying points throughout the day. At times we didn’t even walk on trails but just cut across country, as needed.
Our group was walking along one of these paths when a farmer came running to us. He’d heard about our nightly presentation where we passed out the Bibles. He’d been unable to attend the previous night, but he still wanted to talk to us. Through a translator we learned that he’d been struggling with alcoholism, and he knew he needed help. He wanted to accept Christ into his life. So, we all prayed with him right on that mountainside and watched as the joy of Christ became evident in his life.
He was thrilled that he hadn’t missed his chance, and we were thrilled to see the hand of God at work in the mountains of Peru. As we trekked on, it was unclear who was more excited, the Peruvian man we’d just prayed with or our band of travelers who’d just witnessed a miracle.
When I think ahead to the upcoming trip, I can’t help but pray for more experiences like that one. It makes all the work, the planning, the trekking, and the journey into the unknown worth it…to go back to a place I love. To go back to Peru.
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