Two years ago, Juan Pablo moved with his family to begin church planting efforts in a town called Taricá, thirty minutes from the city of Huaraz. Taricá is located about ten thousand feet above see level, and is surrounded by many smaller towns higher up in the mountains. Together with several members of his church, Juan Pablo travels to many of these towns to visit with the believers that live there and to preach the gospel where it hasn’t yet been received. We were able to spend the weekend with Juan Pablo, his wife Carolina, and their four daughters, and had the opportunity to travel with him to the in which he ministers. After a Friday night discipleship class with the group of evangelists from the church, we set out the next morning to begin our travel through the mountains.
About an thirty minutes up the mountain from Taricá, there is a small town called Mataquita. Like most of the towns in the hills, the road to get there is windy, narrow, bumpy, dusty, and with steep drops down the mountain on one side. Juan Pablo’s car struggled to make it up the hills, and at times we had to get out and walk to relieve some of the burden so that it could wrestle its way up a steep incline. But, a little in the car and a little by foot, we were able to make it up to the town of Mataquita. When we arrived, we walked up a path to the home of an elderly Quechua couple. The husband, Eleuterio, became a Christian last year. When he first heard the gospel he asked for a Bible, and through the teaching of Juan Pablo and others from the church he came to see his need for Christ and he believed the gospel. Every Sunday he is faithful to make the trip down the mountain to join in worship with the church in Taricá. His wife, who is now in poor health, has not yet come to know Christ. During our visit, Juan Pablo spent time ministering the gospel and praying for her. Pray that she would come to know Christ as her Savior.
On our way down from Mataquita, we stopped by the home of man named Walter in the town of Yungar. It was heartbreaking to hear Walter’s story. A couple years ago one of his children was crossing the street outside their home and was hit by a car and died. For the next couple years, Walter searched everywhere he could for some sort of consolation. He became more involved in the Catholic Church and gave money sacrificially to the local religious festivals hoping that his piety would afford him some peace. But it wasn’t until he heard the preaching of the gospel that he realized that the only source of real peace is Christ. As Juan Pablo shared with him the riches of Christ and the hope of the gospel, Walter came to know the peace that comes from being reconciled to God. After Walter was converted, several of his family members also came to know Christ. As is common in those parts of the mountains, the rest of their family was severely opposed to their Christian faith, since it goes against their Catholic traditions. In particular, the grandfather of the family has made it very difficult on the believing family members. The grandfather has often come out to yell and threaten the Christians when they gather for a weekly Bible study in Walter’s home, which is right next door to the grandfather’s. When his granddaughters were baptized, he was furious and beat them both. Still, Walter and those in his family that have begun to follow Christ continue faithful, and despite the pain of so much loss, they are experiencing the joy of belonging to the King.
Further up the mountain, there is a town called Tumpa. There, we were able to be in the home of Máximo and Emilia. They live in very humble conditions, with guinea pigs and harvested fruit covering the dirt floor in their living area. And yet, from the moment we entered their home and saw their faces, there was nothing but joy and gratitude to the Lord. A little over a year ago, they both began trusting in Christ through the evangelism of Juan Pablo and a sister named Cecilia. Shortly after Máximo’s conversion, he suffered a stroke and lost most of his mobility. Emilia has cared for him tirelessly from that time. Juan Pablo sat down with them, with the smoke from the fire in the kitchen filling the house, and began to encourage them in the hope of the resurrection. As Máximo listened, his eyes filled with tears and with his slowed speech, talked about how grateful he is to the Lord for the ways He has shown His kindness through this trial. One day soon, Máximo is going to be with His Lord with a perfected body. The tears will be gone, but the same joy will shine with even greater brilliance as he looks into the face of His Savior.
The last town we visited was Copa Chico, even further up the mountain. I thought the road up to Mataquita was bad, but the road up to Copa Chico was far worse. Slowly, Juan Pablo’s car did its best to haul us up the mountain and around tight curves, with the tires constantly only feet—or inches—from the steep drop off the side. For us, this was a unique experience; for Juan Pablo, this is everyday life. In fact, just two weeks ago he narrowly escaped what would have certainly been a fatal accident. As Juan Pablo was going up the mountain, another car came from the other direction headed down the mountain. The driver was either drunk or falling asleep, and rather than turning with the direction of the road as he came around the curve, he continued on a straight line toward Juan Pablo’s car. Juan Pablo got as close as he could to the edge of the road, with his tires basically hanging over the drop hundreds of feet down. At the last second the approaching car jerked back in the other direction, missing Juan Pablo’s car by inches. If they had collided, Juan Pablo and the others in the car with him would have been sent rolling down the mountain. Pray that the Lord would protect Juan Pablo and the members of the church as they make these types of journeys on a regular basis.
When we finally arrived at Copa Chico, Juan Pablo gathered the children of the town together and after playing some games with them, a sister named Gladys shared a message with them. Juan Pablo then went to different homes in the town inviting people to a Bible study that was about to be held in the home of a lady named Victoria. Victoria was converted when she heard the gospel from a member of Juan Pablo’s church named Laura, who used to walk through the town talking to the women about Christ. After she was converted, she wanted to begin having Bible studies in her home, and there are now five to ten people who gather each Saturday evening to hear from God’s word.
Pray for Laborers
On Sunday morning we gathered together for worship in Taricá. I could see the faces of those we’d seen the day before, now with a better understanding of the many ways that God has been at work in their lives through the ministry of the brothers and sisters of the church. Juan Pablo spoke on the importance of the local church and on the call the Lord has given us to take His gospel to the ends of the earth.
These are only a few of the many towns that cover the mountains around the city of Huaraz. Most of them have no church; many of them have no believers at all. The Lord has raised up faithful laborers like Juan Pablo, the members of his church, and the other pastors and missionaries that are spread throughout the region—but they seem so few in light of the seemingly endless need. It’s estimated that around 99% percent of the people in these towns are Roman Catholic, enslaved to dead religion and idolatry. Pray for laborers. Pray that the preaching of the gospel would be joined with power and that souls would be saved. Pray for Juan Pablo and the others who are going out day after day to herald the message of salvation in Christ alone.