*** If you do not read any other email, please read this one. It will touch your heart.***
Sapsi, Luyanta, San Rafael, Naupas, and Paqcha
We are high in the Andes Mountains and these are the names of some of the villages that we have been visiting. We have been doing puppet shows for children who have never seen puppets or balloons. To reach these places, we drove round and round the side of a mountain on a single lane dirt road. We crossed creeks, waited for horses, llamas, sheep, goats, donkeys, and cows to move, and prayed for our driver’s skill with enthusiasm. Waiting for llamas is the best because they have big brass bells that jingle as they walk and tassels are always hanging from their ears. At one point, the men got out of the van to repair the road so that we could continue.
The people are desperately poor, living in little one room houses about the size of a large tool shed. The kitchen and bathroom are outside. Inside, there is a dirt floor. Strangely, it is not their poverty that you notice first, but their eyes. The children look at you with eyes that are much older than their actual years. They watched every single thing that we did. Even setting up the stage was entertainment. They had seen so little of the things that we brought, but so much more than a child should see. It is a very hard life in these mountains. Several of us wondered how aware they were of the world away from their mountains. It does not seem that the outside world is very aware of them and their needs.
All of the things that you take for granted, cannot be found here. In most of these smaller places, there is no store of any kind. Today, we met a sweet pastor who asked us to pray for his baby who had the flu. There was no medicine and no doctor. Please pray for this precious little one. They have nothing by our standards, but they are so giving and so thoughtful.
Often, we are invited to the pastor’s home for a meal. It looks no different from the other homes. The meal is usually boiled potatoes and a piece of cheese. There are no plates, no silverware, no salt or butter. Their kindness represents great sacrifice. They give when it is inconvenient to give. We usually give from our abundance.
More, until 1998, this area was the center for the Sendero Luminosa, the Shining Path, a Communist guerilla group that killed thousands of Quechua Indians. Many were your brothers and sisters in Christ. Most families here have lost someone as a result of their butchery. In a Quechua church that we visited last Sunday, there were many older women, all widows, mostly because of the Shining Path, in Spanish, Sendero Luminoso.
All of these places that we traveling to are full of people who have the same stories. Never have I seen a place where the forgiveness that is found through faith in Jesus is received with such hunger. There is so much to forgive.
When Nemesio was 8 years old, something terrible happened in his village. The Shining Path came and gathered all of the men, women, and children into the village square. There he watched as they murdered 144 men, women, and children in a single attack. They used stones and machetes on most. Some who died knew Jesus Christ, but not all.
As he told me the story, his eyes filled with tears. I cried, held his hand, and tried to offer comfort as he told his story. I felt so inadequate. I cannot imagine such a horrific event, but again his story is not unusual. My own grief over Mike’s death has been such a deep hurt for me, but I did not have to see Mike die. I was not a small child and I only faced a single death of someone I loved, not the death of almost everyone I knew. That day Nemesio watched as they killed his Pastor, his older brother.
He showed us the caves where he often slept as a boy. The terrorists tended to attack at 3AM so no one wanted to sleep at home. As we were traveling to the some distant villages today, I saw the park where everyone died. Flowers grow there now and there are benches. I watched my friend’s face as he looked out the window and wondered what he saw.
Not far from his village another terrible crime was committed about the same time. Most of the people in another village were killed by the government forces who suspected that they were terrorists. They were not, but suspicion was enough. Every adult man woman and child 14 years old or older was executed. Only Jesus can heal such hurt!
My friend is part of the group that is traveling with us, learning to share Christ with children by using puppets. He is also my Quechua translator when we have to triple translate from English into Spanish into Quechua. He is a wonderful man of God who has real joy. The next time you refuse to forgive someone or something, please think about my friend and remember how much Nemesio has forgiven.
We are now a team of 14 made up of Americans, Peruvians, and Brazilians. Most of us have food poisoning and are taking antibiotics. Several are throwing up and our friend Gerson from Brazil had the flu. Some of us went 3 days without a shower because there was no water. Our faces look like the children’s faces. We are sunburned and have cracked lips. Meals are erratic, but are much appreciated when we can finally stop and eat. Often, 2 meals a day are in the car.
There is so much dust on us that when you pat your head, a dust cloud flies up. Our equipment is covered and the van is full of dirt as is the air. We are always dirty. Still, every morning they all get up at 4 or 5 AM and pack into the van. No one complains even though we have to pack equipment all around us.
There is the sweetest spirit among this group. We drove through the mountains singing praise songs today. We began the same song in English, then Spanish, then Quechua, and finished in Portuguese. We sang, "Holy, holy, holy, Open the eyes of our hearts Lord, I want to see you."
Please pray for us. We need strength! We also need some help with unexpected expenses. Because of problems at the first place we stayed in Ayacucho, we had to move and it costs more. However, I felt we had to choice. At the other place our sound system would not charge and since most of the places where we are doing shows have no electricity, we need this system. This place also had no water. More, a lot of us got food poisoning there. All of this surprised us, but not the Father, so we wait to see His provision.