Filling the Shoes of the First Missionaries

Later, when we began to preach the Gospel after the first missionaries to Pacaipampa, though things were different in the more central parts of the region, we still faced similar challenges in the remote parts of the region. In one of the villages they threw boiling water on my face. I was preaching with a group of young believers, going house to house to share the Gospel. When we got to one of the houses, as we approached the door the family had the boiling water ready to throw on us. Well, those are the types of things we have faced, and we have had to trust the Lord. On some occasions the brothers would say, “Come on, Pastor, let’s get out of here.” But I cannot just leave those villages. Those people are blind. They are without hope and without God in this world, and we have to take the message of salvation to them, no matter what it might cost us.

As anyone who has traveled to Pacaipampa knows, the terrain is rough. You have to go up and down large mountains and across great rivers in order to carry the Gospel to those regions. Thankfully, in the past six or seven years they have added more roads to some towns, but where there are no roads, we have to travel on horseback, or often walking on foot, crossing rivers, mountains, hills, sometimes eight or ten hours each day in order to reach the far stretches of the region.

The long distances become even more difficult in the rainy season when we have to cross rivers that are overflowing, which create dangerous situations. In March, Nicomedes and I were walking to a town about ten hours away by foot, where there is a church of about twenty-five believers. We were traveling there in order to have an evening service with them, and also spend time studying the Scriptures with a small group of leaders from the church. Along the way, we had to cross a river. At first, it looked like the river was not too strong. In order to avoid walking two hours more to the next bridge, Nicomedes said, “Let’s cross here so we can get there sooner.” So, since we did not know how difficult the riverbed was, we began to cross. It almost cost us our lives. When we began crossing the river, we realized we had made a mistake. The current was very strong and underneath there were many loose rocks. The moment we tried to plant our foot on the bottom of the river, our foot would slip right out from under us. Just down the river from us there was a strong set of rapids and a whirlpool, and if we lost our footing and were taken by the river, that would be the end for us. In that moment I simply entrusted my life to the Lord, and said, “Lord, if it’s my time to go, receive me.” At that point I was in the middle of the river, and I said to Nicomedes, “Keep going, brother,” because there was no longer any way to go back. We had already come halfway. To go back would have been just as dangerous as continuing to the other side. So I was telling Nicomedes to keep going toward the other side. Little by little, we advanced toward the other shore. I do not know how we made it; I really thought that was the end for me. I am thankful to God, and I realize that such a trial was nothing compared to all that our Savior Jesus Christ endured on our behalf.

There are more challenges in the journeys when the people in the towns we have to pass through have been drinking. Many times we have had to avoid them, going around the villages, because they already know we are evangelists. Sometimes they meet us in our path and try to force us to drink with them. On one occasion I was passing through a village with another brother, and we found ourselves confronted by four men, all of whom had been drinking. The men said, “These are evangelists! Get them! If they don’t drink with us, we’ll kill them!” As you can imagine, it was a little difficult for us in that moment. But I trusted in the power of God. In my mind I was telling myself, “Let them do to me what the Lord desires.” The brother that was traveling with me was a new believer, and he said, “We have to drink. There’s no other solution.” I told the younger believer, “Brother, we cannot do that, because we serve a God who knows all things; He’ll do what he desires.” Right then, another man came on horseback, I do not know from where, and he was also drunk. And he started arguing with the men that were threatening us. He said, “Hey, these men don’t drink, why are you bothering them? I drink; come over here, and if you want to fight, fight with me! They don’t drink or fight. Leave them alone and let them go on their way.” The four men went over to him, and it was then that we understood that through that man, the Lord had saved us from harm. We left that village safely.

On another occasion, I was on my way to visit the church in a town called Los Lucumos. They had called me on the phone and told me they needed my presence there, so I went with another brother. And on that trip, there were a couple men who intended to cut us with machetes as we passed them on the road. It is common for people in the mountains where we are from to carry big machetes with them. I have a little motorcycle that I use when the town where I’m going has a road. On this particular trip I was driving the motorcycle and the other brother was riding on the back. As we got closer to the drunken men they started yelling with their knife in their hands, “Hey! Give me a ride! Get rid of that guy on the back and give me a ride!” As I drove past the men they swung the knife at the man on the back of the motorcycle. The machete came down on the brother’s shoulder and cut his poncho, but his flesh was not cut. That brother is scared now to travel on that road. I tell him, “Let’s go visit the church,” but he says, “No, not anymore, brother.”

Despite the dangers that we face, I know that these people need the Lord. They are dwelling in darkness, and if we do not carry the message to them, they are going to go to hell. It might be true that I never lived in as much open rebellion as many of the people here, but there was still a day when I was living without hope, dwelling in darkness, and if it had not been for those brothers and sisters who risked their lives to reach my town, who would have come to us with the Gospel? That is the reason that we are doing what we are doing; that the name of Christ might be known, and that He might be glorified in these people. We are motivated everyday by a desire for the people of Pacaipampa to have hope in the Good News. If we do not go, the Word of God will not get to those people. Thanks to God, He is sending me and other missionaries forward in our region to carry forth the Gospel.