It took a 40-year endeavor by the Wycliffe Bible Translators to translate the New Testament into Quechua, the heart language of many people in the Peruvian Andes Mountains. The next step was to deliver this precious text into the hands of those people. The delivery people would be Peruvian missionaries and a whole host of “gringos” from all over the United States. In 2014, that delivery group included us, a team from Grace Baptist Church in Troy, led by my husband, Dan, and me.
To complete this task, we partnered with missionaries supported by our church, Ade and Rachel Yanac, and their local group, AWI. The plan was to trek into the mountains, venture into villages, and deliver God’s word to people who’d never owned a bible in Quechua, their first language. It took months of planning and miles of traveling, but finally our group arrived in the first village, ready to start our work.
Most of these mountain villages have a centerpiece and that’s the school. The schools in Peru are government-run, and exist even in remote locations throughout the mountains. Our first village had a one-room school with one teacher and about twenty students ranging in age from 4-12.
When we arrived, the excitement was palpable. The kids were thrilled to see us, but at the same time, they were shy. Their teacher had obviously instructed them in proper manners because they stood to greet us and each student introduced himself or herself in proper Spanish. Peruvian schools are conducted in Spanish, even though the majority of the people in the region are Quechua speakers.
The adults of the village were also excited to receive us. Food was prepared and many introductions made, although everything had to be translated for us since we didn’t speak Quechua and most of us didn’t speak Spanish, either, although we had a few teenagers on the team who put their high school Spanish skills to good use.
When the villagers presented us with food items, we were honored, but we couldn’t eat most of it. The potatoes they offered us, the pachamanca, had been prepared directly in the dirt. Hot stones were prepared and then the potatoes placed on top of them. Dirt was then packed in over the top to create an insulated “stove.” It’s an ingenious way to cook the potatoes, but to our North American stomachs, it was a bit treacherous to eat food that had been cooked directly in the dirt. Those of us who did eat the potatoes, had to peel every bit of skin off to ensure that no bacteria would enter our systems.
We couldn’t work our way around the next dish they offered us. It was a type of squash pudding, but there was no way we could consume this dish. The water they used in the pudding was not filtered, and we just couldn’t risk the chance of getting sick. Ade, our main missionary, advised us not eat it, and his staff quietly took care of it so we wouldn’t offend anyone. We were so touched by their kindness, it saddened us to not be able to eat the food they offered.
The kids had all warmed up to us by this point in time and wanted to play. A lively game of soccer ensued, as well as a game we dubbed, “Gringo in the Middle.” A variation of dodge ball, it gave the kids the chance to hurl balls at us, and they just loved it. The girls of the village also had a blast hanging out with our teenaged girls, braiding their hair and getting pictures taken. Every child left the school that day with a Bible, candy, and other small toys we’d brought with us. There were smiles all around.
The evening brought with it the chance to distribute those precious Bibles and minister to the people. Even though we could only communicate through a translator, the smiles on the faces of the people told us how happy they were to receive a Bible and hear the good news of God’s love that we were bringing.
It was a happy group of Americans that trundled off the bed that night. As we crawled into our tents on the side of a mountain, we had the beautiful stars twinkling above us and the joy of knowing that we were being obedient in the work that God had called us to do in Peru.
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