THE BEGINNING YEARS
The Gospel first entered Pacaipampa about forty years ago. Pastor Angel Colmenares, who has now gone to be with the Lord, was the first Christian to reach the region with the Gospel. Despite the fact that the people were very harsh toward him, he continued to preach door to door. If they shut one door on him, he would go to the next one. When the Gospel arrived there, the people became afraid, and they began to respond with anger against the believers. They said terrible things about the brothers and sisters and especially about Pastor Angel. Almost everyone in the towns believed him to be a demon. It was difficult, and the brothers and sisters who first preached the Gospel there suffered greatly. In many cases, the people threw boiling water at them, and they often threw urine on them. Sometimes they would throw dye on them to ruin their clothes. They would even let their dogs loose on the Christians who tried to come to their door. The opposition was strong.
The culture of Pacaipampa at the time was very idolatrous, and towns were constantly having festivals to celebrate their idols. During those festivals, the people always killed one another; two or three people were usually killed each day. The more people who were killed, the better the celebration was considered. There were many deaths, but these were the customs in which the people had been raised. The Roman Catholic priest would also come to the town for these festivals to celebrate mass, and afterwards, even he would get drunk with the people.
I remember such events, though I was a young boy at the time. I remember one time when Pastor Angel and the other Christians came to my parents’ house, and my mother said, “Child, hide yourself! Hide yourself! The devils have arrived!” I was little, and I did not understand. I thought, “How can these men be devils?” So I hid under the bed peeking out from underneath, wondering what a devil would look like. When I saw that they were just people, I thought, “How strange! These are only men; how can they be devils?” But that was the idea the people had in those days. So the Christians at our door spoke with my mother and father, and the rest of us were hidden in the house. I remember that they passed out some tracts to my parents, and my mom came back into the house and threw the tracts into the fire.
Everyone in that region was Roman Catholic (and many still are) because that is how they were raised. They followed their customs, clinging tightly to their idols. Little by little, those ideas and traditions began to be rejected by some of the people in Pacaipampa, because the Lord was opening doors through these men that went into the region with the Gospel. They persevered with diligence. As people repented and believed in Jesus, they too started helping in the work that the brothers and sisters who had gone before began. The believers that the Lord was raising up in Pacaipampa began to serve with tremendous effort, and the Gospel was expanding and expanding, despite all of the difficulties that the Christians were facing. More and more doors were opened, and the Lord had mercy on many people. Within about twenty-five years, over forty churches were planted throughout the different towns of Pacaipampa. They were just little groups back then, with only a few Christians in each one, but today those churches are much larger and are growing in strength.
Thus it was during those years that the Gospel was first introduced in our region, in the midst of difficult circumstances; and yet, it advanced! The Christians suffered, but their lives did not matter to them, and they were willing to suffer for the Gospel. Today, the people are generally less aggressive, and they usually listen to us when we speak to them about Christ, but that is not how it was before. In those days, they wanted nothing to do with the Gospel and had no interest in listening to what the Christians had to say.
FILLING THE SHOES OF THE FIRST MISSIONARIES
By the time we (the second generation of Christians) began to preach the Gospel, things had changed in the more central parts of the region, but we still faced similar challenges in the more remote parts. In one of the villages in which I was preaching, I was going house to house with a group of young believers to share the Gospel. As we approached the door of one of the houses, the family inside had prepared boiling water to throw on us. Such are the types of challenges we have faced. These types of situations have caused us to trust only in the Lord. On some occasions, the brothers would say, “Come on, Pastor, let’s get out of here.” But I could not just leave those villages. Those people were blind. They were without hope and without God in this world, and we had 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. One must 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 more roads have been added to some towns; but where there are no roads, we have to travel on horseback or walk on foot, crossing rivers, mountains, and hills. Sometimes it takes eight to twelve hours 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 Saavedra 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 to 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's current was not very 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 were not aware how difficult it would be, we began to cross. It almost cost us our lives. When we started crossing the river, we realized that we had made a mistake. The current was very strong, and there were many loose rocks in the riverbed. The moment we tried to plant a foot on the bottom of the river, it would slip right out from under us. Just down the river from us, there was a strong set of rapids and a whirlpool. If we had lost our footing and were taken by the river, that would have been 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. Little by little, we advanced toward the other shore. I do not know how we made it. I truly thought that 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 even more challenges in the journeys when the people in the towns we travel 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 will do what He desires.” Right then, another man came up on horseback, I do not know from where he came, but he was also drunk. He began 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 a church in a town called Los Lucumos. They had called me on the phone and told me they wanted to see me, so I went there with another brother. On the way to Los Lucumos, there were a couple men who intended to attack us with machetes as we passed them on the road. (It is common for people in the mountains where we live to carry long machetes with them.) I have a little motorcycle that I use when the town to which I am going has a road. On this particular trip, I was driving the motorcycle, and the other brother was riding on the back. As we approached the drunken men, they started yelling, “Hey! Give me a ride! Get rid of that guy on the back, and give me a ride!” As I drove past, the men swung the knife at the brother on the back of the motorcycle. The machete came down on his shoulder and cut his poncho, but his flesh was not injured. Understandably, this incident left that brother rather shaken.
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 every day 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. We are grateful to God that He has sent us forward in our region to carry forth the Gospel.
CURRENT MINISTRY AND FUTURE LABORERS
There are places high in the mountains where there is still much witchcraft practiced. One of the towns in the higher zones of Pacaipampa is called the Devil’s Cradle, because it is filled with wicked practices. The people there need the Lord. High in the mountains, in the town of Plenas Huaritas, we have held evangelistic campaigns. It is much more difficult than other towns because of the rains and the cold climate. The people are also very aggressive. On many occasions, they have attempted to harm individuals who enter their town. Because of this danger, we do not go into that place alone. When we visit the town to preach the Gospel we go in groups of ten or fifteen and stay close together. We are not really able to go from house to house there, but rather we stay in one larger group and evangelize in the streets. That way, when someone who would otherwise do us harm sees us together, they no longer are daring enough to approach us. But if we were alone, these people would likely attempt to harm us. Even still, these very people need the Lord, and they need the Good News! This region is filled with witchcraft, and the beautiful creation that the Lord has placed in that area, like the lake and the mountains, the devil has used to turn the idolatrous people against their Creator.
There is one town in particular that we are trying to reach that is about ten or twelve hours away on foot. In that town, there is not a single believer, and almost nobody from outside the village goes there, because it is so far away. Pastor Nicomedes and I are wanting to go at least three or four times this year, since nobody else is going there. We have traveled there once before to preach the Gospel, and though there did not seem to be any conversions, the people were willing to listen, and they even want us to return and teach them more.
We also have a church plant in a town called Palo Blanco, which is only a two-hour walk from Plenas Huaritas. We are now helping a group of about thirty-five believers there, and they are growing little by little. In addition to the witchcraft that is so common there, the people themselves are very wicked. The majority of the people are always carrying firearms, and when they are drunk, they begin firing them. It is dangerous there. This is another region in which we are focusing our efforts in order to proclaim the Word of God, and we need the believers who read this to be praying for us. Pray especially for one of the pastors of a church close to these towns. Since he is a little closer to those places, we are coordinating with him to help him reach the people. We send him New Testaments and many other resources that might be helpful to him as he tries to reach those people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Lord is raising up many more pastors in Pacaipampa, and our prayer is that we can begin providing these younger men with some form of seminary, possibly through our brother Javier Carhuapoma, who has already helped us in many ways. He is always ready to come and teach us when we are in need of instruction. The financial situation for the pastors in Pacaipampa is not ideal, and they are unable to travel to a seminary to study or come to Lima for the HeartCry courses throughout the year. While there are some years when the agriculture is very fruitful and the men have a little more money, most of the time they are not financially able to travel to cities such as Piura in order to devote time to study. However, if we were able to offer a seminary in the mountains for them, it would make studying a possibility by eliminating the need for long-distance travel.
The regions to which we travel are difficult to reach, and we are getting old. Soon, we will not be able to travel to those places, and the younger men will need to take over that work. The only option we have is to make disciples and raise up pastors. There is a large group of young men that we are now training to be pastors. They have the energy and strength required to meet the needs of the region. The reality here is much different from a city like Lima. In Lima, a man only needs to get on a bus and go wherever he wants, but here it is not like that. Here, if you want to travel to a town, you carry your backpack and everything else you need, and you get there by walking high into the mountains. The work here requires a lot of physical strength. For this reason, we are praying that the Lord will raise up more laborers.