Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Christian Challenge Post-Trip Peru Update 2015

      The Peru update is finally here!  It's been a long time coming due to computer issues and just the craziness that comes at the beginning of the school year.

     It certainly was an amazing trip!  We were able to venture into the Cordillera Blanca with Climbing for Christ and minister to the people who live and work in the remotest regions of the high Andes Mountains.  God did so many amazing things!  I could talk or write about what He did for hours, and if you want to hear more after this update, I'd love to share more about those amazing things.  Let me know.  Until then, check out the video I put together on the trip.  Click the highlighted link: Mission Peru 2015!

     So now that you're back from watching the video, I'll give you the stories behind the video.  The ministry side of the trip in Peru was so easy.  They are just ready for the Gospel there.  They are so thirsty.  God has prepared them to receive the Good News and we just need people to step up and go.  The harvest is ready.  The harvest is plenty.

     On the other side of the coin, the physical side of the trip was probably the hardest I've ever experienced.  It was brutal.  There were long days on the trail backpacking up to almost 16,000 feet in elevation as we crossed many passes.  Many times, it was two passes a day.  It was so exhausting.  But God sustained us...even when I became really sick at one point on the trip.  Here's a link for more info on what happened with that: That time I almost died in Peru...

     Despite the exhaustion and tough physical aspects of the trip, God moved and did huge things.  He put people in our path as we were hiking and brought them into our camp.  We didn't really have to go to them.  God brought them right to us.  That's really nice when you're as tired as we were when we'd finally get to camp.

     Goodness, there are so many stories I want to tell but I'll leave you with the highlights...and even that won't be short because there are so many highlights.

     The first village we came to was one of our most fruitful.  As we pulled in, I thought I heard our interpreter say that "gringos" weren't really allowed in the village.  Something may have been lost in translation though because there we were.

     As we set up our tents, the kids came out to see who the new folks were in town.  Almost immediately, we were able to start handing out New Testaments to them.

     They were stoked to get them.  If I remember right, we gave out around 20 of them right there.  After handing them out and sharing about Jesus, we spent two hours with them playing soccer.  We all had a blast.  We ended up hanging out with them until the sun went down.

     The next morning, the kids packed out our dining tent as we ate breakfast.  They just wanted to hang out some more.  Before packing up and moving onto our next location, we were asked to pray over some of the locals who were struggling with different personal issues.  When done praying, we started our ascent for the day.

     After a long day's hike, we reached our next camp.  That night, our Peruvian cook, Peter, accepted Christ into his life.  He was not a believer heading into the trip but we were able to share the Gospel with him and the Holy Spirit moved on him to accept the Good News.  I was able to pray over him afterward.  I was also asked to share any advice I had.  I just encouraged him to pray for opportunities to share the Gospel with others and explained why that was important.  It was a great afternoon.

     The night was not so great though.  That was the start of me getting sick.  Thankfully, I eventually recovered and saw God do more great things.  God was continually working.  It wouldn't take long for us to see those things again with our own very eyes.

     Soon, we'd meet a family living in an extremely remote valley.  These people seemed almost untouched since Incan times. Their dialect was even different from the other valleys nearby.  They saw us setting up camp so they came down to see what was going on.  There, we were able to invite them to dinner.  They had actually never been invited to dinner before.

     That night, we found out more about them.  Magmo was the head of the family.  They were a very poor family with almost no food.  They really couldn't grow anything, they were so high up in elevation.  They had a ton of animals but the animals were not their own.  They were payed extremely little to live on someone else's land and take care of the livestock.

     As the food came out, we asked if they would mind if we prayed over it.  Though they said it was okay, their daughters began giggling as our team took off our hats and bowed our heads.  It seemed they had no comprehension of prayer.  We would find out why as we talked to them some more.

     We first asked if they believed in Jesus?  They all said no.  We then asked if they knew who Jesus was?  Had they ever heard of Him?  Again, their answers were no and no.  It's at that point that my jaw just kind of dropped, figuratively.  How does this happen in a country that has had some form of Jesus' story for hundreds of years?

     That's just how remote they were.  No missionaries had ever made it that far back to share the Good News with them.  No Christians had ever taken Jesus to Magmo's family.  When we asked if they believed in some sort of God, they replied that they believed in a Creator but didn't know anything about Him.  They said that they didn't have any one to tell them about Him.  They had no books to learn about Him.

     Well, now they did.  God had brought us to them to share.  After explaining the Gospel to them, the whole family came to Christ.  We were also able to give them New Testaments so that they now had a book to learn from.  It was amazing!  I still get chills and goosebumps thinking about it.  They were ready for the Gospel.  God had prepared them.  They were just waiting for someone, anyone to show up with the Good News.  Sadly, many in the Peruvian Andes still wait.  I'm thankful, though, that God opened the door for us to reach as many as we could in our time down there.

     Another memory I have is of a night where we were going to put on a church service for one of the valleys we were in.  We were told the locals would drop by our camp by 6 p.m. so that's what we planned on.  We'll, 6 came and went.  We thought maybe they were just running late.  It's expected in areas like what we were in.  Then 7 came and went.  By 7:15, we decided we should have some dinner.  In my mind, I kind of figured people would start showing up just as the food was put in front of us.  We'd have to leave dinner and do the church service without any food.  Being pretty hungry, I can't say I was looking forward to that situation.

     Well, dinner came and went also.  At this point, we felt they just weren't coming.  We were bummed but thought we'd get a good night's sleep and hopefully, God would open a door for us to minister in the valley the next morning.  Not more than three minutes after my head hit the pillow, I heard Jaime, one of our Peruvian team members hollering that the locals had arrived, that we needed to get out of our tents immediately.

     Being that it was now 9 or 10 p.m., I was not stoked at all.  I just wanted to get warm and sleep at that point.  Despite my lack of enthusiasm, God somehow got me out of the tent.  With the people coming to us, we weren't going to let that opportunity pass us by.  We packed everyone into our dining tent and had what I called a small tent revival.

     For hours, Pastor Ezekiel, another Peruvian on our team, talked with the group that came to us.  During that time, we had no clue what he was saying.  There was no translation for us.  We just smiled and prayed for the situation.  It was a little comical as to how clueless we were for hours.  We thought we were there to lead some worship and share the Gospel but there we were, just sitting there.  We just gave it to God and let the Holy Spirit lead.

     Eventually, it was announced that a bunch of them wanted to receive Christ.  It came across as an "Oh, by the way, they want to receive Christ now."  We thought, "Well...awesome!"  Still, it struck me as pretty funny that we didn't really do a whole lot and people were still getting saved.  We just had to show up and God would take care of the rest.  That's how ready the area we were in was for the Gospel.  So amazing.

     After they prayed, we thought we'd just head back to bed...but no, we were asked to finally lead a worship song.  "Sweet, we'll do one song and head to bed."  Well, after the first song, they wanted another...and then another.  I wasn't sure the night would ever end.  What a fun night it was.  It certainly didn't go the way I thought it was going to.  I think we eventually got to bed around 1 a.m. or so.  We were so tired but it was worth it.  God was ready to move and we certainly didn't want to miss that opportunity.

     At the end of our trek, we finished up in the town of Chalhua.  This is a town the Climbing for Christ ministry had been working in for years.  The ministry has also been working towards building a church for the village.  It's something the villagers had been praying for, for a long time.  One of those was a 95 year-old man.  He'd been praying for a church for over 35 years.  Now, he finally had one.  I remember seeing how excited he was being in the church building for the first time during it's grand opening as we led worship.  It was so great to see his prayers answered.

     Now, despite us worshiping in the church building, there were still some things to be done to finish it.  Culturally, because it was not fully done, there was some apprehension about using it for church.  Still, it was usable.  It was functioning.  I shared that night that though God had not finished working on us, He could still use us.  And just like God working in and thru us, though the church building was not fully finished, it could still be used.  It could still be used to bring glory to God.  God could still use it to reach the community around it.  Don't neglect using it because God could still do a lot of great work thru it and thru the people who worship Him in it.

     On our last day in Peru, we visited Allison's family.  Allison is a teenager C4C has been connected with for years.  We originally met her family in Chalhua years before.  The locals at the time refused to share the Gospel with her grandpa because he was always drunk.  They didn't think it would take, I guess.  Knowing that the Holy Spirit is stronger than alcohol's grip, one of our past teams decided to share the Gospel anyway.  Long story short, the man got saved and has never been drunk since.  Thru that, the rest of the family got saved.  We praise God for that!

     One of the man's daughters, Allison's mom, has severe epilepsy and depression which has almost led to suicide.  She now lives in Lima to be close to a hospital.  Over the years, we've tried to help out with her medical expenses.  There have been many epileptic-induced injuries over the years, the latest being falling into a boiling pot of water that was on the stove.  By the time we arrived, her fingers were completely blackened from the burn.  Living in the conditions the family does, this woman could have easily gotten infected even more so and lost her arm or even lost her life.

     With us insisting that she go to a hospital, we drove her to the nearest one.  Being that it was almost a holiday and she was poor, the hospital blew her off.  We were going to pay for it so money shouldn't have been an issue but they didn't care.  As we walked back to our van to figure out what other hospital we could take her to, we passed a dentist office.

     On a whim, we checked to see if he could look at it.  And thank the Lord, the dentist was happy to treat it.  He fixed her up and got her on antibiotics.  That dentist may have saved her life.  Still, we continue to pray for her and her family.  They are a family that etches themselves onto your heart.  They love the Lord and you see the love they have for others...and you can't help but love that family.

     By the time we arrived back in the airport in Lima, it was clear how much God had blessed our team during our time in Peru.  It was a successful mission trip.  We had accomplished our purpose and our goals.

     Our goals were simple:  To go where others haven't, to go where others can't, and to take the Gospel wherever the Lord leads us.  It's not that we're special or super qualified.  We just go when God calls.  When you go, when you step out in faith, that means God can use you in a multitude of different ways.

     This might sound strange but for us, we give protection to the local missionaries.  Don't worry, we aren't roughing up anyone who gets near.  We aren't bodyguards.  In the area we were, it's just safer to travel in a big group than alone.

     We were told that local missionaries can't go to these places by themselves.  If they go alone or with only one other person, they risk getting robbed, beaten, or killed out on the trail.

     When they get to the areas where people live, the locals won't talk to them.  They won't be allowed to sleep nearby.  In the area we were, people think that a person traveling alone is going to rob you or cause bad things to happen to you.  A traveler traveling alone just isn't trusted unless they already know the people.  When the local missionary travels with us, that missionary doesn't have to worry about those things.

     Being in a big group also provides credibility for the missionary.  They must be important if they have a big group to travel with.  Once you have that credibility, you let the curiosity of people seeing a big group take over.  It breaks down walls and opens the door for the Gospel to be shared.

     I'm still amazed at how many open doors we had.  It was such a fruitful trip filled with divine appointments, salvations, and people receiving the Word of God for the first time in their lives.  In all, we distributed nearly 100 New Testaments and saw nearly 20 people come to trust our Lord and Savior.  But it doesn't end there.

     Seeds were planted, and we are already seeing fruit from them.  Jaime has been able to follow up with the people we met on our trip going back to the places we went.  Since they met him with our big group, he was able to gain their trust.  Even more people are now getting saved through the seeds that were planted when we were there!  Praise God!

     With all God did, this trip wouldn't have been possible without you guys.  We want to thank you for all the support and encouragement you have given and continue to give! We are super thankful for that!  Check out our prayer requests below and keep us and Peru in your prayers!

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel

If the Lord is leading you to give, follow this link to our giving options:

Prayer Requests:

- Pray for protection over those that accepted Christ on our trip, and that God would grow them in their faith.

- This was an extremely tough trip physically. We couldn't have done it without God providing us with the strength to complete it. Praise God for the strength He gave us to fulfill what He was calling us to do in Peru.

- God changed many lives while we were down there. Praise God for lives changed. Also pray that He would continue to open doors for the Gospel to be received and understood as Jaime revisits the people we met and follows up with them. Pray that the Holy Spirit would be working on the hearts and minds of the people we met.

- Praise God for getting our team home safely.

- Pray for wisdom and discernment concerning our plans for next summer. We would love to go back, with as ready as the place is for the Gospel, but it would take a miracle with where our finances are right now. I know it seems early to even be thinking about next summer but this is the time where we need to start figuring things out and planning.

- Lastly, due to circumstances out of our control, the mission was much more expensive than expected or planned on for Rachel and me. Unfortunately, we are still paying the trip off and will be until probably after Christmas. We trust God to provide but would appreciate you praying as well that we could get this trip paid off as quick as possible. If you would like to give toward that, go to: Give Now.

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