Mission: Peru 2017
By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ
Team selfie photo: (right to left) Michael and Rachel Wall, Gary Fallesen, Jaime Servat, Jordan Rowley, Edwin Milla, Lexi Hooper, Ronen and Aaron Hemphill, and Vetter Milla. (Photo by Michael Wall)
Monday, August 7
We ate our final meal together as a team at breakfast. Jordan and I then met with Jaime and Edwin to discuss plans for the coming months, which will eventually lead to Mission: Peru 2018 next summer. Edwin's brother, Marco, also a guide and Climbing For Christ member, pointed out as he was giving thanks Sunday night that C4C goes where others won't in the Peruvian Andes to find lost souls. There are many in need of rescue. We will continue to GO there until God directs otherwise.
Our team, which was a joy to serve with, goes separate ways now. Overnight flights will return American members to the States with Lexi heading back to Austin, TX; Mike and Rachel to Durango, CO; and Jordan and me to Rochester, NY. Aaron and Ronen are staying on in Peru for some more father-and-son adventures this week before returning to Canada. For Jaime and Edwin, Mission: Peru will be ongoing - and in need of our prayer support and financial gifts. May God continue to bless our work in this place.
Sunday, August 6
Edwin, right, and Marco Milla.
We said “chao” to Chalhua, where our pastor friends made a commitment to make this village in the central Cordillera Blanca (elevation 11,700 feet) “Chalhua for Christ.” Our team, on its last full day together, made its way back over the mountain pass by bus and returned to Huaraz.
Brother Edwin and his family hosted us for a traditional dinner and then announced the start of a new business endeavor. During our trek Edwin asked if Aaron and I would sponsor his guiding company. Tonight, with family present, Andes Travel Expeditions was unveiled.
We are honored to stand with Edwin, his brother Marco, and the rest of the Milla family. We have been blessed to serve with them in ministering to hard-to-reach people in the Peruvian Andes and this relationship is simply an extension of our work together in the Lord.
Saturday, August 5
The church at Chalhua.
A day of planning meetings, prayer, and invitations culminated in an evening worship attended by more than 40 people. Counted among our brothers and sisters were five pastors from three other villages, including old Climbing For Christ friend Ezekiel from Huaripampa. Ezekiel will be overseeing the church at Chalhua moving forward.
Ezekiel and the other pastors were from the Assembly of God churches, and they have been praying for the “closed” church at Chalhua for some time. Because of personal issues and health problems, Jaime was rarely able to come here and open the church for most of the past two years. There also was no local leader able to step up.
Although it is a two-hour hike from Huaripampa to Chalhua, Ezekiel and the other pastors joyfully committed to leading worship and allowing God to breathe new life into this particular house of the Lord. We leave here confident that God's will has been done.
Friday, August 4
The road to Chalhua.
We returned to the mountains, making the long (sometimes white-knuckled) drive up and over another 15,000-foot pass to return to Chalhua. In advance of this visit we asked our Prayer Team to lift the church and village here.
When we arrived it was eerily quiet. There was little welcome. We are here to shine, love, and learn what has been happening in Chalhua – both physically and spiritually.
We gathered a few local believers (six adults and three children) for a time of worship. Among those in attendance was Alejandrina, an elderly woman who was healed by God when Climbing For Christ visited in 2013. It was good for many team members who have been here before to see familiar faces.
Thursday, August 3
Rest day in Huaraz. The team continued to enjoy excellent fellowship. We talked about preparing our hearts for the work ahead in Chalhua.
Divinely timed, I saw a Tweet from Laura Daigle, which led to a YouTube recording of her song “First.” We listened to it during our team devotional and then prayed. The words that jumped out to me: “Before I bring my need, I will bring my heart.” And: “Before I speak a word, let me hear Your voice.”
It’s all about God, all from God, and all for God. He IS first.
Wednesday, August 2
Jaime and Edwin speak to Sonia before we prayed for this single mother, her son Fernando, and their livestock on their farmland in the Rimarima valley.
We broke our last camp and descended a couple thousand more vertical feet to our pick-up spot near the pre-Inca archeological site in Chavin. Along the way we made a few stops to share with and pray for people. We then said our farewells to the new brothers in Christ who drove our donkeys and helped us daily on the trek.
The number of people encountered on this remote route in the southern Cordillera Blanca was far fewer than most Mission: Peru treks, but we trust in what we did not see that is being done by God through the expedition. The team has trekked more than 45 miles (72 kilometers) and ascended and descended nearly 10,000 vertical feet in the past week. I gave them a rest day on Thursday in Huaraz, where we returned tonight. Everyone from the U.S. and Canada is doing well; just a little tired physically.
Our next task is to address the spiritual challenges in Chalhua, the village where we built a church that now goes mostly unattended. We will tackle that on Friday with a day of recovery under our belts. Pray on!
Tuesday, August 1
Aaron told our two donkey drivers, the muleteers who accepted Jesus on our first night of this trek, that their working for us was divinely appointed. Our two new brothers in Christ were invited to eat dinner with our U.S.-Canada-Peru team on this, our fifth and final night of the trek. They asked questions about the Bible and were prayed for by our team.
Jaime rides a horse up to the highest pass on our trek as the rest of our team (human) hoofs it to 15,847 feet (4,830 meters).
We reached the final camp after steeply ascending to the highest pass (at 15,847 feet/4,830 meters) of the six-day trek. We then dropped down nearly 3,000 feet on the six-mile hike, going from sub-freezing temperatures to roasting in the sun during the course of the day.
Our prayer was to find farmers living in this valley, but when we arrived in our camp the area was desolate. It was then that we decided to pour into our new brothers in Christ, whose mules and horses have lugged tents and team and personal gear while we have carried daypacks for the trek.
Monday, July 31
Our detour put us on the beaten path, which is where there are churches. Jordan and I discussed with Edwin and Jaime about the primary purpose of Climbing For Christ: to go where others cannot or will not. A decision was made to return to the original trekking route.
We hiked for five hours, going seven miles and ascending 1,800 vertical feet to our highest camp at 14,300 feet (4,350 meters). We had to make two river crossings and cross a waterfall as we climbed back to where we feel God wants us to be.
Sunday, July 30
“...Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’”- Matthew 19:14 (ESV)
We stopped on the trail numerous times so Edwin and Jaime could share with children and give them the precious gift of a New Testament. The adults were busy working the fields and caring for livestock.
Edwin, kneeling, and Jaime in red C4C T-shirt, share about Jesus with children along the trekking trail.
Plans changed as we had to divert our somewhat-challenging trekking route to go into town. The team is well but the route was too much for at least Jaime. We stopped in Jato (pronounced Hato) where we worshiped with 20 people from a local house church outdoors in the cold of night.
Saturday, July 29
View from pass at 15,500 feet (4,700 meters).
We broke camp and hiked more than nine miles, ascending up and over a pass at 15,500 feet (4,700 meters). With each step that they took, the youngest team members – Ronen and Lexi – set personal highs. We dropped down from the pass to camp at 12,600 feet (3,850 meters). We invited some nearby farmers to visit in the evening, but they did not show up. Perhaps a good thing as Jaime had fallen ill. We continue to pray for the health and strength of our team on this strenuous trek.
In addition, we celebrated Rachel’s birthday today and Jose our cook surprised her with a birthday cake he baked...in camp!
Friday, July 28
We made an early start getting out of Huaraz before a teachers’ protest closed the roads. One hour later we hit the trail for a nine-mile hike into a strong wind that Edwin said was “not normal. Maybe (spiritual) attack.” We ascended about 2,200 feet to the first camp at 13,200 feet where we met some local believers after dinner and led our two muleteers, Gastulo and Hilario, to Christ. A time of praise and worship broke out in our mess tent.
Thursday, July 27
Hiking above Huaraz with the Cordillera Blanca looming beyond the Central Peru city. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
We did our acclimatization hike, ascending above Huaraz to about 11,300 feet (3,440 meters). We walked about six miles with a vertical gain of 1,300 feet (400 meters). The air was very thin for those of us from nearer to sea level. We are trying to prepare our bodies for the days ahead at higher altitudes.
Our prayer: that this cross standing on a hill above Huaraz would find a place in the hearts of all the people.
When we reached higher ground we prayed for the people of Huaraz. We could hear them celebrating Peru’s Independence Day and we prayed for true freedom to be found by the people in Jesus. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, ESV).
Wednesday, July 26
Aaron and Ronen landed in Lima around 6:30 a.m. about seven hours late. Edwin and Jaime greeted them and then returned to the hotel to pick up the rest of the team for a 10-hour drive to Huaraz. The team is together and adjusting to thinner air at 10,000 feet (3,050 meters). Everything is uphill from here.
Tuesday, July 25
Jordan and I flew out of Rochester, NY with two other sets of missionaries. One, the family of Climbing For Christ member Matt Smeltzer, was making the move to Guatemala. The other, with connections to nearby Houghton College, were headed for a short-term trip to Colombia. We all prayed together, which was a great way to start the trip.
It was also the opposite of our flight from Atlanta to Lima with about 40 Mormon missionaries coming to Peru for two-year assignments.
Prayer is always the order of the day, especially when going on mission and facing the flaming darts of the evil one – as we have for the past two weeks.
Aaron and Ronen, who had to travel to Calgary one day early to secure a new passport for Ronen, were flying from Houston to Lima and had to turn back because of some sort of mechanical problem. They didn’t leave again from Houston until after their scheduled arrival time in Lima. They were scheduled to arrive about eight hours late on Wednesday morning.
The rest of the team – five North Americans and two Peruvians – connected in Lima for an abbreviated night of sleep. There is much to pray about in the coming days.
In our “Quick Guide To: Folk Catholicism,” written by spiritual coordinator Jordan Rowley for Mission: Peru 2014, we read: “Folk Catholicism, or the blending of Catholicism and traditional Folk Religions, can be found all over the world. Although most prevalent in the Americas, it’s found in parts of Africa and Asia as well. It is especially common in the world’s developing nations.”
In Peru, Jordan pointed out, “this blending of ‘Christian’ beliefs with Folk beliefs” stems from the time when Spanish Conquistadors and Roman Catholic missionaries “began to subdue the native population” with “both impure motives and incorrect methods. … Another flaw to the methods of the Roman Catholic Church was that they seemed to emphasize ‘addition’ more than the needed ‘substitution.” This resulted in syncretism. The result: We have encountered people in a country that is 94.6 percent “Christian,” but only 11.1 percent evangelical, who have never heard the name of Jesus.
“A dreamlike journey into a remote southern Cordillera Blanca.” – Edwin Milla.
Climbing For Christ is preparing to GO again to Peru. Our Mission: Peru 2017 team – consisting of C4C Canada Board member Aaron Hemphill and his son Ronen, Peru veterans Michael and Rachel Wall of Colorado, Texan Lexi Hooper, and Jordan and I – will again join indigenous members and workers Edwin Milla and Jaime Servat to serve in the Peruvian Andes from Tuesday, July 25-Tuesday, Aug. 8.
Please pray for our team as we GO “to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Edwin, left, and Jaime praying for a new believer during Mission: Peru 2015 trek.
His story in Peru: Jaime Servat, a Climbing For Christ member since November 2006, needed US$204.82 for a bus ticket to Quito, Ecuador, where he felt called to evangelize. God directed us to provide for Jaime’s need in late August 2010. Servat and the Holy Spirit did the rest. They teamed up to bring six people to Christ, helped restore the faith of three others, and served the physical needs of another three people through medical assistance. The following year, we carried out our survey Evangelic Expedition to the Cordillera Blanca on Mission: Peru 2011. During that mission Jaime became C4C’s missionary to Peru and Edwin Milla, a professional guide, became our sponsored climber in Peru. We have continued to work together with these two brothers in Christ and a few other C4C Peru members. Mission: Peru 2017 will be our sixth expedition into the Peruvian Andes. The team will be trekking what Edwin describes as “a dreamlike journey into a remote southern Cordillera Blanca” area that follows a pre-Inca route. It will be six days of “moderate” trekking at elevations of about 12,000 to nearly 16,000 feet (3,850-4,830 meters) to do outreach. After that, we will visit the village of Chalhua, where Climbing For Christ funded the construction of a church in 2013.
Pray that our team will answer divine appointments and deliver the truth about Jesus being the only way to God (“we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one,’” 1 Corinthians 8:4). Pray for growth in the church at Chalhua. Pray for the work to be done by Edwin and Jaime before, during and after our short-term visit.
CLICK HERE for the Mission: Peru 2017 Prayer Bulletin.