Finding a lost sheep in the Huayhuash
By Gary Fallesen
Founding president, Climbing For Christ
Esther receiving the Good News from Jaime. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
“Our great goal is to meet people like Esther,” Climbing For Christ’s missionary to Peru, Jaime Servat, said near the end of our short-term expedition in May. “Esther was a special farmer because she never heard about Jesus.”
Half of our trekking team was reversing direction in the Cordillera Huayhuash when this God-orchestrated moment occurred. It was a divine appointment made possible only after several missed signs and what may have been a God-ordained illness.
God redefined the term “divide and conquer.” He split our team in two – with my daughter Hayley, Rachel Horton, Jordan Rowley, Jaime Servat and me – retracing steps to return to one village and then evangelize other villages, while enabling our teammates – Andrey Khabursky, Marco Milla, Jessica Vose and Michael Wall – to cross the high passes and reach isolated farmers in the Huayhuash (pronounced “way-wash”) mountains.
To appreciate fully what occurred we must first go back in time: The notion of trekking the Huayhuash may have begun as far back as our inaugural Mission: Peru in 2011. C4C guide Edwin Milla (Marco’s brother) had suggested that we take a team there after we’d begun ministering in the Cordillera Blanca. In 2013, when it appeared we might have a large team for Mission: Peru, we planned to divide into three groups with Edwin and me leading a Huayhuash trek, while the rest continued the work in the Cordillera Blanca. But that large team did not come to fruition and only C4C spiritual coordinator Jordan Rowley and his brother Justin returned to Peru – and to the Cordillera Blanca. Huayhuash would have to wait.
As the 2014 expedition came into existence we felt called to Huayhuash. But then, in the weeks leading up to the mission, I began to question where we were going and why. The thought occurred to me that we were only going to an area that was good for trekking and climbing, not for evangelizing. I was reminded of our mantra: “Mission, not mountain; people, not peak; service, not summit.” I asked for input from Jordan, Jaime and Edwin. Our Peruvian brothers convinced me that there were unreached farmers in the Huayhuash, particularly in the villages of Llamac and Pocpa. But through some miscommunication between Peru and the States, we thought the only
way to those villages was on foot through three or four 15,000-foot mountain passes. We fully committed to making the trek.
When we arrived in Huaraz, where Jaime and Edwin live, and previewed the expedition, Jordan and I realized there were roads around the Huayhuash that could get us from our trekking jump-off in Queropalca to Llamac and Pocpa. Yet we forged ahead, ignoring signs from God to do otherwise. This is when we believe He interceded and used an intestinal illness suffered only by Hayley to alter what we thought were our plans.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
“It was challenging,” Hayley would say after recovering from more than four days of sickness spent between 12,000 and 14,000 feet. “I was stretched and grown a lot on this trip. Though it has been extremely rewarding, it was difficult and challenging to go through.”
Jaime referred to the “blessing through some trials of my mission partners” as “His miracle.”
Huayhuash beauties (left to right) Siulá, Yerupajá and Jirishanca. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
The entire team trekked one day from Queropalca to Carhuacocha, a lagoon at 13,615 feet with a stunning vista of Huayhuash’s majestically beautiful Yerupajá (second-highest peak in Peru at 21,768 feet/6,635 meters), Siulá (the unforgiving mountain made famous by the mountaineering classic, Touching the Void
) and Jirishanca (another 6,000-meter peak). But it became painfully clear that this was as far on this route as Hayley would physically be able to go. I addressed the team, talking about the direction Jordan and I had felt God leading us for several days and the real
mission of C4C – reaching unreached people. I asked each person to pray and this was when God reestablished our team as two units. Andrey, Jessica and Michael would press on with Marco guiding. I would take the others back to Queropalca and arrange transportation to get us to Llamac, where we would evangelize until the trekkers reached us four days later.
The primary reason for this decision may have been about a one-hour walk away. As we hiked back toward Queropalca, we approached a small, rundown farmhouse. A woman sat outside, preparing wool for weaving. As we approached I called back to Jaime and told him to be ready to share. Esther had never heard what we had to share. Jaime was stunned.
“Many times I repeated the same question,” he said about sharing with Esther. “ ‘True?’ ‘Really?’ ‘You never heard about Jesus?!’ She was a special case.
“A lot of people in the highlands know about Jesus (even if they do not follow Him),” Jaime said. “Many people don’t focus on Jesus Christ; they focus on religion.”
It is often what we call a syncretized Folk Catholicism, full of traditional practices and beliefs involving spiritualism, sacred places and the worship of nature.
But for the first time, after years of evangelizing through the Peruvian Andes, Jaime met someone who had not heard of Jesus. This is common for us in many countries where God has us working, but it is uncommon in Peru – a country of 31 million that is considered 87-percent Roman Catholic.
It was a revelation for Jaime, who now recognizes the main reason for Climbing For Christ’s existence: to deliver the Good News to those who have not heard in places where others cannot or will not go.
“I believe God was showing us there are people like Esther (in Peru),” Jaime said.
That probably is the case. But in this moment I believe God was interested only in one person. We were sent there for Esther.
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?” – Luke 15:4
When Esther heard from Jaime and Jordan about creation, the fall, sin, and the sending of Jesus by God the Father to restore our brokenness, she immediately confessed that she believed. And all of heaven rejoiced.
“We have to pray for God to show us more cases like Esther,” Jaime said.
The church at Chalhua. The final stage of construction is set for June with worship tentatively scheduled to begin in July. (Photo by Jordan Rowley)
Our team would continue on – teaching, preaching and encouraging in Queropalca, Llamac, Pocpa and Pacllón. We would be reunited with our teammates, who delivered New Testaments to people who had never been visited by a brother or sister in Christ at their mountain farmhouses. In all, dozens of New Testaments were distributed in both the Cordillera Blanca (where we visited Chalhua and C4C’s new-but-not-yet-complete church) and Huayhuash.
Every team member walked away knowing they had been a part of God’s amazing outreach into the mountains of Peru.
“God was able and did work through each person in both small and large ways to further His kingdom,” said Jessica Vose, a first-time C4C missionary from Durango, CO, USA.
“It was a blessing to be able to return to Peru with a larger team,” said Jordan Rowley, a four-time Mission: Peru veteran. “It was a joy to see God move in and through each team member. Yet another fruitful mission to Peru. More to come.”
There are more lost sheep and more sheep who have been misled by the lies of folk religion and false teachings. There is much to do. And there will be more special moments with Jesus, who said, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.”