Friday, April 6, 2018

Christian Challenge Peru/Campus Update 2018!

The Peru update is finally here!  (There is also a campus ministry update if you check out the prayer section below.)  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: Mission Peru 2017!

So now that you're back from watching the video, I'll give you the stories behind the video.  I knew it was going to be a good trip when a young lady walked up to us in the airport and told us her and her family would be praying for our trip.  She had been visiting our church the day before and heard us share about the trip.  It was a nice encouragement to start the trip off with.

Rachel and I picked up our student, Lexi, in Miami.  Things went fairly smoothly for our American members of the team getting to Peru.  Our Canadians, Aaron and his son, Ronan, weren't as fortunate.  Their flight was delayed and then eventually cancelled.  They had to hop a later flight that had them flying thru the night.  They caught up with us just as we were loading up to head from Lima up into the highlands.

From there, things were back to smooth sailing, other than a detour or two due to a teachers' strike going on.  The teachers were blocking off the highways.  That just meant we got to take a more scenic route.

Once we arrived in Huaraz above 10,000 feet in elevation, it was time to acclimatize for the tough trek ahead of us.

Much of our team was coming from near sea-level.

The trek would be physically exhausting with long days on the trail backpacking up to almost 16,000 feet in elevation as we crossed many passes.

We would average probably around nine or ten miles a day.

But God sustained us...even as team members dealt with illness and altitude sickness along the way.

Despite the exhaustion and tough physical aspects of the trip, God moved and did huge things.  As we've found Him to do on these Peru trips, He used illness to steer our journey and line up divine appointments along the trail.  He put people in our path as we were hiking and brought them into our camp.

We would have never run into many of the people if it weren't for the illnesses our team members dealt with.  But God was working and even using that for His glory!

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.

We saw God working right away.  After being on trail for around ten hours the first day, we invited a local family to have dinner with us.  It was a single mom, her very young child, and her mother.  The two adults were believers.

We also were able to invite our donkey drivers, Hilario and Gastulo, to dinner with us.  (While on trail, we use donkeys to haul much of our gear and food.)  Both donkey drivers weren't Christians.  Throughout the night, we were able to share the Gospel with them.  Even the two local women were witnessing to our donkey drivers.  By the end of the night, they had come to salvation and we were able to give them New Testaments!

Later on in the trip, our team's health started to break down, and people started getting sick.  With that, we decided it was best that the team drop in elevation and head to a village down the valley.  Those who were healthy would do ministry in the village while our other team members would recuperate.

On a day where we would see four people come to the Lord and twenty-one New Testaments given out, God was lining up divine appointments.  One of those appointments really stood out to me.

As we journeyed closer to the village, there was a young girl, named Elizabeth, who kept going out before us.  When we'd stop to talk to people, she would stop.  When we started moving, she'd start walking again.  She'd always keep her distance unless some animals started getting too close in which case she would chase them off.  Guess she was making sure they didn't disturb us as we shared the Gospel.

Eventually, we sat down and started sharing with a group of kids around her age.  Still she stood at a distance.  Now, part of our team thought we had already given her a New Testament.  Kids in that area dress very similar to each other and they are easy to mix up.  This girl did look like someone we had already talked with.  Despite that, I didn't want her to feel left out so I motioned her over.  Finally, she joined us...kind of.  She at least came within five feet.

The whole time despite being told we had already talked to her and given her a New Testament, I had a feeling that this wasn't the girl we had talked to.  My mind started drifting, I pondered, "How do I ask her if she has a New Testament?"  Tener is the verb.  How do I conjugate that?  Yo tengo la Biblia?  No, I think that's "Do I have a Bible?"  Clearly, those Spanish classes I took in high school and college weren't paying off very well.  Then out of nowhere, I just blurted out, "Tu Tienes la Biblia New Testamento?"  I was sort of taken back like "Where did that come from?"

My grammar probably wasn't perfect but it felt like a huge God thing...especially when she shook her head, "No."  And even more so when we gave her a New Testament.  She ran back to her safe distance, and immediately sat down and started reading it.  She had been following us that whole time because she wanted the Word of God.  She was thirsty to know more about God.  With how God worked to get her that New Testament, I feel like God's really going to use this girl one day.

Despite the fruit that we saw that day, the trip seemed a little slower in the numbers we were seeing compared to past trips.  At times, it was a little discouraging.

But God was showing me that it's not just about the number of people you reach.  Obviously, we want to reach everyone with the Gospel but that won't always produce fruit.  It's just as important in reaching the right ones, the ones He puts in front of you, the ones He opens the door for you to reach.

It only takes one person to change the eternal path of a village.  It only takes one to change a region.  It only takes one to reach a culture, to change a country.  If we reach the right person with the Gospel, it can change the world.  We just have to be obedient to wherever God guides us.  After our encounter with Elizabeth, I wondered if she was that one that God was going to eventually use to reach her people in the years to come.

After a good night's rest, our team was feeling better, and we were back on our original path.

At one point, we were on trail for two days without seeing another soul.

We've always been a ministry that goes to the ends of the earth.  We've never been about reaching the masses.  If you want that, you do go do mission work in cities.  We try and reach the remotest of the remote which takes us to very remote mountainous regions.  Sometimes, we end up too remote.  And that seemed to be the case.

Years before, our guides had passed thru the area, and people were living there.  In the years since, those folks moved out of the area.  We saw evidence that people had once lived in the valley but it seemed not a soul was living there anymore.  Needless to say, it was pretty discouraging.  I remember having a conversation with God saying, "What are we doing here?"  The creation we were trekking thru was beautiful but we weren't there to just hike.  Truthfully, I couldn't have cared less at that point about the beauty.  We were there to share Jesus with people.  And there were no people.

But then God spoke and gave me an answer to my question.  It wasn't a direct answer but it was an answer to remind me that He was in control.

Throughout the mission, we'd have devo times as a team.  Team member Jordan would prepare a devotional before the trip, planning out one for every day of our mission.  This day just happened to be on not believing the lies or discouragements that may enter your mind during the trip.  Things like, "Why am I here?"  That's literally a direct quote from the devo.

I had to chuckle a bit at how good God was and is to meet me right where I was at.  He gave me just what I needed when I needed it.  It was perfect timing.  I thought, "Okay God, I trust that you're working here even if I can't see it right now."

With no people seemingly living in the area, it gave us a chance to pour into our donkey drivers who had just gotten saved.  We invited them to dinner.  Being new believers, they had a lot of questions that we were able to answer for them.  It was a really encouraging time of fellowship and prayer for all involved.

The next morning, God started working before I even got up and out of the tent.  A woman showed up out of nowhere in our camp, and the few members of our team that were already up were able to give her a New Testament.

After breakfast, we pushed on.  A hundred or so yards down trail just around the first bend, we ran into another woman.  Her name was Ruth.  She was sitting alone just off the trail.  Apparently, the single mother was heading up valley where we had just been.  We had passed only one homestead dropping down.  It was quite a ways up there.  It seemed that she would be there by herself as her baby and the rest of her family was down in Lima.

We spent a lot of time with her trying to encourage her.  It can't be easy being alone and trying to survive up there.  We prayed over her and gave her a New Testament.  Upon receiving it, a big smile arose on her face.  She seemed very encouraged and so were we.  God had put her at the right place and time for us to cross paths with her.

After another hour of hiking down the trail, we came across another small homestead.  A woman and her son, Sonya and Fernando, were tending to their animals on a small plot of land.  We talked to them for quite a bit hearing their story.  Sadly, Sonya was another single mom left to raise her child and take care of their small farm by herself.

This tragically seems to be the story of a lot of women in the mountains of Peru.  The men, unwilling to be real fathers, often bolt after getting the women pregnant, disappearing and leaving a broken family in their wake.  The women are left to pick up the pieces.  It's heartbreaking.

We prayed for this resilient woman and her son as tears streamed down her face.  We reminded her that God had not forgotten her and did what we could to encourage her.  We gave Sonya and her son New Testaments and urged her to read it to him everyday.

After spending a good amount of time with this small family, we continued on.  Soon we'd be out of the high mountains, get a short rest, and be headed to the small village of Chalhua, a place C4C has been working in for years.

Upon our arrival, we saw children we had befriended during previous trips.  One of the girls, carrying a purse, ran up to Rachel and began digging thru the purse.  She quickly pulled out a picture.  It was a picture of Rachel hugging her and another girl taken when we visited the village two years ago.  This girl had been carrying it around in her purse ever since.

Soon, we were also able to connect with Alison.  We've been connected with Alison's family since the beginning.  We've basically watched Alison grow up.  She's now 16 or 17.  Seeing Rachel, Alison gave her a big hug and didn't leave her side for hours.

That night, our team put on a small church service in the church C4C had funded to be built for the community.

The next night, we also had a church service after walking around town all day inviting people and praying over them when they needed prayer.

This service was much better attended.

We had around forty to fifty people attend, including a ninety-seven year-old man who had been praying for years for a church building to be built for his village.

We also had an elderly woman attend, who when we originally met her years ago, she had to be carried to the church service because she couldn't walk.  She was prayed over and able to walk home.  This night, she was able to walk thru those church doors.

All in all, our time in Chalhua was really successful.

We reconnected with a lot of people we had met on past trips.

We were also able to insure that the church would keep it's doors open consistently.  Due to the health issues of Jaime, our local missionary, and his need to get treatment in Lima, the church was having trouble keeping its doors open on a consistent basis.  So this trip, we were able to line up a local pastor from a nearby village to help Jaime keep the doors of the church open.  It was exciting to see.

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.  And this trip, that meant going to places even more remote than past trips.

That led to the trip looking a little different than ones in the past but it was still 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 seventy New Testaments and saw many come to salvation.

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

For Peru:

- 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 our next trip to Peru this August.  After much prayer, we felt the Lord leading us back to Peru.  This time, we will be trekking into new areas of the Huayhuash up to almost 16,500 feet in elevation to reach the unreached mountain people there with the Gospel.  My first trip to Peru was in the Huayhuash and I've been itching to revisit the people we met ever since.  As it stands now, we'll be taking three students with us.  Keep them in your prayers that they would be prepared physically and spiritually for the trip.

Back Home:

- On the home front, Challenge has been good this semester though a little smaller with the student body numbers down greatly this year on campus.  Though numbers are down, we had just under thirty-five people for our latest retreat so praise God for that!

- We also just had our annual Easter Eve night snowshoeing service which brought new students in and students we haven't seen for awhile.  We praise God for the event's success!

- Though the semester has been going well, we have seen some apathy in our students.  Pray that God would stir them out of the slumber of apathy, getting them fired up about growing in their faith and helping others grow as well.

- We've done two Bible studies this semester.  Anna led a beginners' Bible study.  I'm going thru the Truth Project with students covering biblical worldview.  Both studies have been really fruitful so praise God for that!

- If you remember from the last newsletter, I've been meeting with a Japanese student named Y.  We've been going thru John.  After each meeting, I ask him if it believes what the Bible and Jesus claim.  He always says yes but has cultural hangups to becoming a Christian.  Pray that God would break Y free from those hangups.

- In taking with one of our Japanese students who accepted Christ last year, she filled us in on another student from last year.  That student didn't want much to do with Christianity during her time in Durango despite us planting seeds when God opened the door.  But that student is now going to a Bible study back in Japan and very close to accepting Christ!  Pray that the student would be able to take those final steps and find salvation in Jesus.

- We seem to have a lot of students that are very close right now to following Jesus.  Pray specifically for R, M, L, G, K, and V that they would come to Christ before the semester is over.

- Be praying for a couple of our other students for spiritual protection.  They became believers last semester and the enemy is definitely coming against them as he does with many new believers.  Pray that God would strengthen their faith.  One of them finally broke to the persecution coming from her family and has stated that she is no longer a Christian.  Obviously, we are pretty heartbroken about this.  Pray that God would bring her back to Him with the strength to withstand any and all persecution or pressure that will come.

- Over spring break, we had a team go down to Juarez, Mexico to help out at a school we've been connected with for years.  There, they helped build a wall to make the school a more secure for the students.  We praise God at how they grew and that He kept them safe on the trip!

- We've got another mission trip going out at the end of April.  Aleksandr and Anna will be taking students to Greece to work with refugees.  Pray that God would keep them safe and open doors for them to share the Gospel.

- We praise God for the solutions to almost all of the issues we've had with the cabin.  Our cat has solved the mouse issues.  Our water issues have been solved thru throwing a water tank in the back of my wife's truck.  And even the strong sewage smell we have had since buying the place has been fixed.  It came down to a condensation filter that should have been installed with our heater but wasn't and a faulty p-trap that was allowing the smell to enter the house.  It was a pricy fix but well worth it to have a house that doesn't smell like sewage.

- All that said, after a lot of prayer, we have decided to sell our cabin.  An opportunity has come up for us to move closer to campus into a house that is more ministry-friendly even when the snow flies.  Pray that our house would sell quickly for the amount we are asking for it...or more.

- Pray for family health.  My mom took a fall when her sandal got caught up on some sort of grate.  She broke her humorous and her patella.  I've also been battling hip issues.  The thought is that I have torn cartilage in my hip causing my muscles in the hip to lock up in order to stabilize the area.  Pray for quick healing for the both of us.

We live trusting God to provide financially for us and the ministry.  We would appreciate you praying that God would provide.  If you would like to give toward the ministry, go to: 
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