On September 1, the Westside Baptist Church team in Florida arrived in Arequipa and Lucho and I met them at the airport. They spent the night in Arequipa and in the morning we started the two-day trip to Pausa. We spend the first night in Caraveli, and in the morning we continue towards Cahuacho. The team wanted to have a Bible study with the mayor, whom they had met before, but he was busy, so they scheduled him for the return trip. We used to take a shortcut to Pause that passes through Casiri, but that road had been impassable due to landslides for about two years.
We asked the mayor and he said that it was now open, and that we could go through without any problem. We had heard conflicting reports, so we asked him if he was safe and said yes, and that it would only take us two hours instead of four on the other road. He said they were working on the sewer system on the outskirts of the village, but we could go through that, and from there we would be fine. Well, we skirt the ditch for a while and then we reach a hole four feet in diameter on the road with a ditch that leads to that and there is no way to pass. It would also have been very difficult to support the way we came, so we begged the workers to fill in the trench a bit to get through. We told them that the mayor had assured us that we could approve and finally they accepted. We had to turn between the hole and the ditch with a front tire hanging over the ditch and the other rear tire hanging over the hole! It was tight but we finally made it.
Rejoicing, we move on, waiting for a clear navigation from there. However, the road was very rugged and rocky, with the gravel dragged by the rains, so it was slow. It was also getting worse and worse, especially where it crossed the numerous ravines, where the road was very narrow and the cross trenches were deep. After more than three hours, we finally reached a corner and there, in the middle of the road, was a large truck trapped in soft sand, with the batteries on the ground. The man sitting by the truck said he had been trapped there for about four days. There was no way around it on the left and only a narrow crest of soft sand on the right. It had a shovel, so we went down and widened the crest to make a path to the right, as well as place some boards there to make a better track.
I put my truck on four-wheel drive and slowly began to drive through the truck. When I was right next to it, I could feel the sand giving way and I started to lean into the truck. I stopped and tried to fix the road better and started moving forward again. My luggage rack was scraping the back corner of the truck box, but I succeeded. More "work on the road" and then Joe came with the van, fortunately with less drama, and we were on our way again. After about four hours we arrived in Pause. So much for saving two hours!
I had not been in Pause for almost two years, so it was good to return and reconnect with the believers there. The first few days we met with as many of them as possible and made follow-up appointments to encourage them to continue meeting and organize and establish the new churches. We especially spent time with the leaders, answering questions they had and trying to instill in them the basic doctrine of the church. We split into three or four teams to cover as much land as possible, and we also work with Cindy, Brother Tomás and Pastor Antonio, who live there and have been involved with the missionary and preaching ministry there over the past few years.
I was glad to have a good time with Tania and Wilman, who live in San Sebastián. They were some of the first new believers and are now very active in directing work in their town. Wilman is the principal of the school and Tania teaches in a women's program there, so they have respect roles in the community and have a great opportunity to minister. On a previous trip, they had asked for a Christian wedding ceremony, since they had only had a civil ceremony before, which is the legal marriage ceremony required here in Peru. A young couple they have been teaching asked for a Christian wedding also while we were there. They also asked to be baptized, along with three others, that Sunday afternoon. With the help and training of Pastor Antonio, Wilman held his first wedding and his first baptism.
I was able to preach a couple of times, as well as participate in various teaching times, which was a blessing, after not being very involved in missionary work this year. I hope to return again in October, with some others from Cotahuasi and Arequipa, but so far we are having trouble getting a schedule that works for everyone. A couple of the groups are struggling with several problems; some others are doing well and a couple of drifts. Everyone needs encouragement and prayer for God to continue building his church there and attract lost and injured people to himself.
When it was time to return to Arequipa, we decided that it was more prudent to take the longest return road, rather than risk the shortcut again, but none of us had been in it for a couple of years. We arrive at a fork in the road, and after consulting with the map and between us; We take the fork to the right. More than an hour later, we finally arrived at a lonely house, where we saw our first people and were able to ask for directions. We had taken the wrong path; We should have left. Fortunately, they told us about a direct access to the right road, and we only had to go back about 25 minutes. The shortcut turned out to be another adventure, but it came out right in the town of Cahuacho. After a Bible study with the mayor, we headed to Atico, which is in the ocean, to spend the night.
The next day, we had an easy but slow return to Arequipa, as we were trapped behind very slow trucks that climbed uphill and we could not go through the fog. The team spent about 24 hours relaxing, sightseeing and shopping, before heading to Lima and returning to the US. UU., The next day.