"The road is closed" said the flagman, "You will have to park and climb" As I looked up the muddy and steep mountainside to the village of Manchaybamba alta, I regretted not having boots and a walking stick. We were only about an hour outside of Andahuaylas, but I had never been here before.
Brother Martin Leon drove us there in a new minivan that he bought to take missionaries into the country. As we neared Manchaybamba Alta, we passed through the largest town in the area, Pacucha. It is named after the lovely lake it nestles beside.
I was invited to speak to a denominational pastor's conference and was dressed in nice khakis, dress shoes, and a nice sweater. The view up the slope showed a muddy, slippery mess.
I had second and third thoughts. Maybe the pastors couldn't get here because of the road, maybe they could all come down here and I could speak in the field. Maybe I could say that my heart couldn't do this, after all we were close to 13,000' up and a steep climb at that altitude could be dangerous. Maybe I could just slip and fall and hurt myself (just a little!)and I could just go home. But despite my misgivings, I climbed all the way up. Maybe I should say I slithered, was pulled, crawled and gasped and puffed up to the top.
The view was magnificent, glaciers off to one side, the big, beautiful lake Pacucha on the other and the jagged peaks of the Andes all around. The church was totally full, there were not just pastors but most of the congregations of the several churches in this area. We were late. That climb took some time! And we took seats and listened to one of the pastors preaching the book of James. I don't mean FROM the book of James, I mean the entire book. It only took about 4 1/2 hours! Then the musical guests played for an hour. Both the preaching and the singing were all in Quechua - I caught about 1/3 of what was said or sung.
Then they turned the pulpit over to me.
I was going to preach a sermon to encourage the pastors, but I felt strongly led to preach Missions. So, I preached from Matthew 9:35-38, and the Great Commission and Acts 1:8. I had a translator, but the people said that my Spanish was simple enough (I think that was a compliment!) that they didn't need to have me translated. As I spoke, several folk began taking notes, and some began to cry.
When I was through preaching and about to close in prayer, one of the men stood up and asked me if he could speak before we prayed. Sure, why not? He basically reiterated what I had preached. Then he asked the folks, "why can't we send a missionary?" at least one to an area close. Another pastor stood up and said that the village of Pacucha desperately needed a church.
Then they asked me to pray and after the prayer, one of the pastors asked everyone to remain seated.
They held a meeting right then and there. The churches decided that they could support a missionary/church planter to go to Pacucha and plant a church. There was a young couple in the front row who had been crying just about since I began to preach. The man Cerillo stood up and said that he needed training, but that he and his wife felt called to leave their home and go to Pacucha to plant a church, but they didn't know how they could live. Another pastor said that the churches needed to support their missionary and they voted then to pay the young couple enough to live on.
Another pastor asked, but where can we plant a church there. We have no land or building in Pacucha. The young couple need somewhere to live and hold meetings. There was silence and stillness filled the church. Until an older man stood up and said that he had a building - house and store front - in Pacucha that he had been trying to sell. He said he understood now why he hadn't been able to sell it. He gave the use of the building for 2 years to the churches.
Now I am invited back later this month to preach the inaugural sermon of a new church plant.
In one afternoon these poor, country churches, heard the call, joined together to send out a worker, gave sacrificially, got a missionary couple and a location! My legs hurt from the climb, and I had a small fall on the way down, but I wouldn't have missed this experience for anything. Oh, and Cerillo and his wife will be attending the seminary to get the training that they need.