Amazing things happen when a plan comes together. When I was planning a two-week trip to Peru, I received an email from a church leader at a small community high in the Andes Mountains where everyone speaks Quechua Huaylas. He had been working in the municipality there for 19 years and preaching in 24 communities.
He asked if, by chance, we had an audio recording of the Quechua Huaylas New Testament. It was really a God-thing that, at the time, the Huaylas New Testament was in our studio and would be completed about the time I would be heading to Peru.
I made arrangements to fly to Lima, then to the nearest major city closest to the Huaylas area; then traveled to his remote location high in the Andes Mountains to help train the village leaders on how to implement listening groups.
After about 9 hours of flying, 6 hours in airports, and 4 or 5 hours of road travel – with the last 3 hours on steep, winding gravel roads – I was just about as tired as I had ever been. I noticed that my internal whiner was kicking into overdrive and my irritability factor was gradually escalating . . .
. . . but at the same time I was pumped because there seemed to be an enthusiasm and excitement in the air.
We had stopped along the way at one of the larger cities to do radio, television, and newspaper interviews, and people were excited because the Proclaimer was coming to the Quechua Huaylas speakers in their heart language.
When we arrived at our destination and entered the small municipal building (the town hall), 45 people were waiting for us. People of all faith traditions were there with one thing on their minds: to receive the Word of God in their language – Quechua Huaylas.
I was totally amazed to see this group of people gather together just waiting for God’s Word.
When the training started, the coordinator began to share the importance of the Word of God, the power of listening to it together in groups, and the discipleship that takes place as the hearers talk about what they’ve heard and learned from the Word and one another.
The Quechua leaders asked questions, made comments, and everyone was having a really great time together . . .
. . . but I noticed that my internal whiner was still grumbling – I was tired.
At break time, I began talking to one of the attendees about different things – where he lived, what he did – just small talk. Then I asked him, “What time did you leave home to travel to the meeting?”
He said, “I left home at 3:30 a.m. and traveled for 7 hours.”
Wow, 7 hours on gravel roads, up and down the ridges of the Andes; that was amazing. I asked, “Did you travel on a motorcycle, in a car, or on a bus?”
“No,” he answered.
“So, if you didn’t travel by motorcycle, car, or bus, how did you get here?”
I started doing the math, and the volume and intensity of my internal whiner began to diminish. I’m tired, nearly exhausted after flying, sitting in airports, and then traveling for hours on bad roads in a somewhat small double-cab pickup, and this Quechua man had just told me he walked for 7 hours to come to a meeting.
I’m saying it over and over in my head: He walked for 7 hours to come to a meeting.
This man standing here beside me actually walked for 7 hours just to get a Proclaimer!
I asked him, “So, why would you walk for 7 hours to come a meeting? That is a lot of walking . . . a lot of work . . . a lot of uphill, downhill . . . cold and damp weather.”
I’m thinking to myself, What’s the deal anyway?
The man turns, looks me in the eyes, and says, “Because I have to take the Word of God to my people on the Proclaimer in their language. My people need to understand the Word of God in Quechua Huaylas and they are not able to read it.”
I can’t remember exactly what my response was, but on the inside I was reaching for the off switch to my internal whiner.
Okay Lord, I think I’m starting to get the picture. I’m sorry for whining. This man, this Quechua man, is so hungry for the Word that he just walked 7 hours and I’m standing here whining to myself about sitting on airplanes, in airports, and traveling on a bumpy road in a small truck, but mostly just sitting for hours.
Something transformed in me when I realized that there are many people like this Quechua man who will walk 7 hours through the mountains or do whatever it takes because they need – they want – they must take God’s Word to their people in a format they can understand.
All the churches and preaching points throughout that part of the Peruvian Andes received the Audio Scriptures in the Quechua Huaylas language and began listening to the Proclaimer in all 24 villages. I will never forget that in one village there is a man who walked 7 hours to get to the meeting and, I suppose, another 7 hours to get back home because he had to take the Proclaimer to his people in their language.
About a day and a half later, we headed back down the mountain in the same pickup truck, but my internal whiner no longer functioned. I thought of what David, the shepherd boy, said to his brothers just before he faced Goliath: “Is there not a cause?”
Yes, there is a cause – Quechua Huaylas speakers in 24 villages were hungry for the Word of God and we did what we could with what we had in order to bring them the Word on Proclaimers so that everyone could hear God speak in their own language.
Image 1: Phil (left) high up in the Andes with Rogerio, a former field coordinator who has since gone home to glory and been greatly missed.
Image 2: Quechua Huaylas believers gathered to receive Audio Bible Proclaimers in their heart language.
Image 3: One of the high-mountain dirt roads on the way to the meeting.