On September 1st, the team from Westside Baptist Church in Florida arrived in Arequipa and Lucho and I met them at the airport. They spent the night in Arequipa and in the morning we started on the two-day trip to Pausa. We spent the first night in Caraveli, and in the morning continued on to Cahuacho. The team wanted to have a Bible study with the mayor, whom they had met previously, but he was busy so they scheduled it for the return trip. We used to take a shortcut to Pausa that goes through Casiri, but that road had been impassable due to landslides for about two years.
We asked the mayor and he said it was now open, and we could get through without any problem. We had heard conflicting reports so we asked if he was sure and he said yes, and it would only take us two hours instead of four on the other road. He said they were working on the sewer system just on the edge of the village, but we could pass by that, and from there we would be fine. Well we skirted the ditch for awhile and then we reached a four-foot diameter hole in the road with a ditch leading up to that and no way to get by. It would have also been very difficult to back up the way we came so, we pleaded with the workers to fill in the ditch a bit so we could pass. We told them the mayor had assured us that we could pass and they finally agreed. We had to swerve around between the hole and the ditch with one front tire hanging over the ditch and the other back tire hanging over the hole! It was tight but we finally made it.
Rejoicing, we headed on, expecting clear sailing from there. However the road was very rough and rocky, with the gravel washed out from the rains, so it was slow going. It also kept getting worse and worse, especially where it crossed the many gullies, where the road was very narrow and the cross ditches were deep. After over three hours, we finally came around a corner and there in the middle of the road was a large truck stuck in soft sand, with its batteries out on the ground. The man sitting by the truck said he had been stuck there for about four days. There was no way around it on the left and only a narrow ridge of soft sand on the right. I had a shovel so we lowered and widened the ridge to make a path around on the right, as well as placed a few boards there to make a better track.
I put my van in four-wheel drive and slowly started by the truck. When I was right along side of it I could feel the sand giving way and I started to tilt into the truck. I stopped and we tried to fix the path better and I started ahead again. My roof rack was scraping along the back corner of the truck box, but I made it by. More “road work” and then Joe came around with the pickup, thankfully with less drama, and we were on our way again. After about four hours we arrived in Pausa. So much for saving two hours!
I hadn’t been in Pausa for almost two years so it was good to get back and re-connect with the believers there. The first few days we met with as many of them as possible, and we made follow-up appointments to encourage them to continue to meet together, and to get the new churches organized and established. We especially spent time with the leaders, answering questions they had and trying to instill basic church doctrine in them. We divided up into three or four teams to cover as much ground as possible, and also worked with Cindy, brother Tomas, and Pastor Antonio, who live there and have been involved with the missionary and preaching ministry there for the past few years.
I was happy to spend some good times with Tania and Wilman, who live in San Sebastian. They were some of the first new believers and are now very active in leading the work in their village. Wilman is the director of the school and Tania teaches in a women’s program there, so they have roles of respect in the community and have great opportunity to minister. On a previous trip, they had asked to have a Christian wedding ceremony, as they had only had a civil ceremony before, which is the required legal marriage ceremony here in Peru. A young couple they have been teaching, asked for a Christian wedding as well while we were there. They also asked to be baptized, along with three others, that Sunday afternoon. With help and coaching from Pastor Antonio, Wilman performed both his first wedding and first baptism.
I was able to preach a couple of times, as well as be involved in various teaching times, which was a blessing, after not being very involved in mission work this year. I hope to return again in October, with a few others from Cotahuasi and Arequipa, but so far we are having trouble getting a schedule that works for everyone. A couple of the groups are struggling with various problems; a few others are doing well and a couple kind of drifting. They all need encouragement and prayer that God will continue to build His church there and draw the lost and hurting people to Himself.
When it was time to return to Arequipa, we decided it was wiser to take the longer way back, rather than risk the shortcut again, but none of us had been on it for a couple of years. We came to a fork in the road, and after consulting with the map and each other; we took the fork on the right. Over an hour later, we finally came to a lone house, where we saw our first people and were able to ask directions. We had taken the wrong road; we should have gone left. Thankfully they told us about a shortcut to the correct road, and we only had to backtrack about 25 minutes. The shortcut turned out to be another adventure, but it came out right at the village of Cahuacho. After a Bible study with the mayor, we headed on to Atico, which is on the ocean, to spend the night.
The following day we had an easy, but slow return to Arequipa, as we got stuck behind very slow-moving trucks climbing back uphill, and couldn’t pass because of the fog. The team spent about 24 hours relaxing, sightseeing and shopping, before heading to Lima and back to the U.S., the next day.