Climbing For Christ

TAKING THE GOSPEL TO MOUNTAINOUS AREAS OF THE WORLD WHERE OTHER MISSIONARIES CANNOT OR WILL NOT GO

Articles by Gary Fallesen

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DISPATCHES: Peru
Gary Fallesen

DISPATCHES: Peru

Mission: Peru 2023

By Gary Fallesen, Climbing For Christ

Wednesday, Nov. 22-Thursday, Nov 23

Trekking in the Cordillera Blanca. (Photo by Andy Moritz)

Andy returned Thursday to Germany. Brandy, Matthew, and Zach reached their destinations on Wednesday. Edwin will continue the work that has been ongoing in the Cordillera Blanca since 2011.

This was Climbing For Christ’s first expedition to Peru in five years and Edwin was overjoyed to be reunited with team members from other countries, including Andy, who will be returning in January.

“I felt like Edwin was very encouraged by our mission and stirred a passion in him again to go to the mountains,” said Brandy, who led the team after I returned to the States to be with our new-born grandson in Denver, CO. “Andy and Edwin became best friends and that friendship has brought a lot of encouragement as well.”

Edwin declared, “Despite the rain, the hike was an amazing experience. We enjoyed impressive landscapes and lived unforgettable moments, especially when meeting people willing to open their hearts to Jesus. It is inspiring to see how God has worked on this mission trip.”

Edwin, a professional guide whose business was greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and then dealt with serious family illnesses (including the death of his mother), added that he has always appreciated Climbing For Christ’s “constant support and prayers.” We are thankful for Edwin’s dedication of his life and work to the glory of God.

Edwin Milla, third from left, with our Mission: Peru 2023 team doing outreach among Quechua farmers in the Cordillera Blanca. (Photo by Zachary Wiegert)

Brandy said Mission: Peru 2023 was incredible. “Before our team arrived in Peru, Edwin asked for prayer as all our team preparations were changing, such as cooks and muleteers changing, hotels changing, drivers changing. Edwin thought this was bad news, but it was God hand-picking each team member.

“God began changing the hearts of our team members from Day 1. It started with sicknesses that God healed to Namio (an assistant cook) being encouraged by our team going and visiting and sharing the Gospel with Quechua famers in the areas that we were passing through. Then on the final night of the trek, Matthew (Brandy’s husband) and Andy shared the Gospel with our two cooks and three muleteers, and they all prayed to rededicate their lives to faith in God.”

All glory to God.

Tuesday, Nov 21

Our team made the long 9 ½-hour drive from Huaraz back to the Lima for flights out of Peru. Brandy, Matthew, and Zach are flying together overnight to Houston, while Andy has a flight tomorrow morning to Bogota before flying to Europe tomorrow. They left Andy off at a Peruvian friend’s house in Lima.

Brandy said they had “a sweet moment” saying goodbye to Victor, the team’s driver the past 2 ½ weeks. “He said, ‘Dios Bendiga – God bless. I will pray for you, and you please pray for me.’ Another sweet moment of showing how beautiful the family of God is.

“The whole mission was awesome and why not make another awesome moment right at the end.”

Monday, Nov. 20

Edwin’s daughters, ages 5 and 8. (Photo by Brandy Fisher)

Brandy reported:

Today was a scheduled rest day in Huaraz, but Edwin and his family invited us to their house for a meal. We had a lovely time meeting his three children, and Edwin’s wife, Elizabeth. Nameoi and his wife, Julianna, came as well.

After eating a delicious  meal, we prayed for Edwin and his family and specifically for healing for Elizabeth. We also prayed for Nameoi, Julianna, and their sons. Afterwards, they all prayed for our team and God’s protection as we leave tomorrow and return to our homes.

The body of Christ is a beautiful thing, because even as we all leave, we will be praying for our Brother and Sisters, and they will be praying for us. If you desire to continue praying for those served in the C4C world, email info@ClimbingForChrist.org and ask to be added to Climbing For Christ’s global Prayer Team and receive weekly updates about how you can be praying for our brothers and sisters around the world.

Sunday, Nov. 19

The team with their cooks and muleteers.

Brandy reported:

This morning we packed up our campsite in Hualcayan and had our farewell and tipping ceremony with our Peruvian teammates. Matthew was able to answer any medical questions and give medication for their ailments and their family members. Our donkey drivers and donkeys had a three-hour trek back to their home village of Cashapampa; our drive (in a van) to Huaraz took three hours as well. 

When driving out of Hualcayan, there was a wooden cross on the hill exposed for everyone to see. Seeing the cross encouraged my heart, as over the 111 kilometers trekked, our mission was to point people to Jesus Christ. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  The cross is an essential focal point, radiating James 4:8 and calling people to “draw near to God.” Our team spent time praying for those we met over the past 10 days and asking God to continue the work He has started in each one of them. As God promises in Philippians 1:6: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Saturday, Nov. 18 – Part 2

The battery died on the satellite phone during Brandy’s call Saturday night. Andy sent a WhatsApp message when they got a cell signal early Sunday morning. He sent a photo from Brandy’s journal. Here’s the rest of the story:

“We arrived into camp for supper and afterward, we had a great conversation with our two cooks and three donkey drivers (muleteers). We shared the Gospel and asked them if they have any faith. All five of them told us they want to follow God again in their lives.

“Andy prayed and each one of them echoed a prayer to rededicate their lives to faith in God!

“We then prayed for each of them and thanked God for how they served our team over these past 10 days. Tonight concluded a wonderful 10-day trek – 111 kilometers (69 miles) hiked in total – as God did many wonderful things. Thank You, Lord for being with us every kilometer.”

Saturday, Nov. 18

It was an early day for our team today. “This morning we woke up at 5:30 am to get an early start on the trail,” Brandy reported. “In total we hiked for nine hours, going 21 kilometers (13 miles).”

That included going over two mountain passes.

“Our first pass was straight over the mountains,” Brandy said, referring to the ascent to Osoruri Pass at 15,583 feet/4,750 meters. “Then we descended a bit before we went straight back up to Cullicocha Pass 15,912 feet (4,860 meters).

“After descending we had lunch at the fabulous deep blue lake Laguna Cullicoha. Then we followed a long zig-zag trail to Hualcayan village at 9,514 feet (2,900 meters).”

That’s the lowest elevation the team has been at since leaving Lima at sea level on Day 2 to drive to Huaraz (10,000 feet/3,050 meters). Asked how the “thick air” felt, Brandy laughed. “It’s good,” she said.

Friday, Nov. 17

We left camp in the rain and walked a short distance to Alpamayo village and greeted a shepherd named Orlando who was tending to his flock. Orlando told us he knew about Jesus but needed some medicine for his stomach. We prayed for him and gave him some medicine and continued on.

We then met Demas and he was very happy to see us. He is a Christian and showed us his Quechua Bible. Demas told us there were no other people in the village because everyone left to go to Hualcayan (at 9,514 feet/2,900 meters) because of the rain and the cold.

Matthew reminded us of the Quechua farmer we saw working in his garden on the other side of the river. We continued on in the rain to find that farmer. We met Benjamin and he remembered Edwin because the last time he was here Edwin prayed for his wife and she was healed and became a Christian. Benjamin told us he would like to become a Christian. Edwin gave him a Bible and we prayed for him.

During the prayer the rain stopped, and the sun came out.

But upon leaving our visit with Benjamin, the rain started again. But our team was joyful, and we feel that hiking over 90 kilometers (56 miles) at elevations higher than 12,000 feet (3,650 meters) has been worth it seeing many people prayed for, healed, the Gospel heard, and Benjamin accept Christ.

Thursday, Nov. 16

Today was a two-for-one Thursday. The team put in some extra hours on the trek to cover what had been scheduled as Days 7 and 8. This will allow them a day to stay put and focus on outreach, drying out, and resting up a little for the final two days of the 10-day trek.

Brandy reports:

“Today we hiked a total of eight hours from Huillca with a gradual climb to a lower pass called Mesapata at 14,763 feet/4,460 meters. We continued to climb up to 15,912 feet/4,830 meters to Caracara Pass. As we traversed Caracara Pass it began to rain. But until then we were dry.”

That was nearly 4 ½ hours of dry hiking – one of the longest stretches on this trip.

“It continued to rain the rest of the day as we pushed on to Ruina Pampa, which is on the outskirts of Alpamayo village (at 13,123 feet/4,000 meters),” Brandy continued. “Tomorrow, we will be able to stay at Ruina Pampa and go into the village and talk with people.”

There were a couple of God moments today:

First, Edwin’s knees were hurting as the team descended through scree (loose rocks) from Caracara Pass. Andy prayed and Edwin told the team that his knees did not hurt the rest of the day.

Then, one of the team’s cooks, Namio, started asking Zach questions about Jesus. This led to Zach sharing the Gospel with him.

“Stay tuned for more stories about how God has perfectly picked our muleteers and cooks for this trek,” Brandy said. “God is at work in their lives.”

Praise Him!

Wednesday, Nov. 15

When Edwin and I planned this expedition, we feared the El Nino weather pattern would be a problem. It has posed a challenge to our intrepid team as it poured rain all day again today.

Brandy reports:

“We hiked from Jancapampa to Pacajirca Pass at 15,091 feet/4,610 meters to Huillca camp at 13,779 feet/4,100 meters. We hiked the entire time in the rain. We ascended a long gradual valley and then climbed steeply to reach the rocky pass. Then straight down to camp.

“The tiring day was rewarded with sharing the Gospel with Jesus and giving him medication to treat his cold. We then walked across the valley and shared with Pedro, Nive, and Eva. We prayed for their illnesses and shared the Gospel. Nive, a mother, said she felt much better. Jesus, Eva, and her daughter joined us for dinner.

“Please pray for no rain tomorrow and energy as we climb over two mountain passes. Everybody is getting tired. We’ve been fighting so much rain.”

Tuesday, Nov. 14

Brandy reports that on Day 5 of this 10-day trek, the team hiked from Huecrucocha to Tupatupa Pass at 14,435 feet/4,399 meters and then down to Jancapampa (11,811 feet/3,600 meters). “As we entered the (Jancapampa) village, Edwin greeted Theodora and we prayed for healing of cancer, and neck, knee, and back pain. She responded that she felt healed.”

This was the first of several local Quechua people the team met at the head of the Jancapampa Valley.

“We continued on through the village to (a man named) Gonzales, who wanted us to come to his house so we could pray for his daughter,” Brandy said. “Hermina (the daughter) shared about her difficult life, thoughts of suicide and pain all over her body. We prayed for her and Gonzales and tried to point them to faith in God to help in their depressing life challenges. We encouraged them, if they draw near to God, God will draw near to them. Hermina and Gonzales both felt joy in their hearts and that they were healed.

“After we arrived and set up camp, two mothers and one daughter came and sat in our camp to watch the activities. Edwin and Andy were in the river (bathing). Through broken Spanish and Google Translate we were able to pray for them and encourage them to find God.”

It was the best hiking day so far – with no rain and “a chance to dry everything that got wet” on Monday, Brandy said. But it was raining again in the evening when the team was in camp. Zach’s health improved as the day went on. He rode a horse to the top of the pass, but then hiked down to Jancapampa.

Though this is the halfway point, there are more passes to climb over in the days ahead. Pray for strength for the team as they press on looking for the lost.

Monday, Nov. 13

Brandy and Andy with a Quechua couple who received the Gospel and prayer.

Brandy reports: This morning we never left camp until 9:45 a.m. because Zach was recovering from diarrhea. It poured rain our entire trek. I’ve never been as wet in my entire life. We hiked from Tuctubamba to Pukaraju Pass at 14,583 feet/4,640 meters and then down to Huecrupocha camp at 12,624 feet/3,850 meters. After we warmed up, we went to visit our nearest neighbors. Matthew gave medicine to Princite and Trinidad to treat their illnesses. They are Catholic and Edwin shared that he previously was Catholic and had a hard heart. Trinidad agreed that she also has a hard heart. We prayed for the couple and Trinidad immediately said, “I feel joy in my heart and my shoulder pain is gone.” Thank You, Jesus! The Gospel was shared, and we believe these seeds will turn into a harvest.

Please pray for Zach’s recovery, and that his energy will be restored for tomorrow.

Sunday, Nov. 12

Brandy reports that the team hiked from Taullipampa to the Punta Union Pass at 15,584 feet/4,750 meters and then back down to Tuctubamba camp at 13,780 feet/4,200 meters. “We haven’t met any Quechua farmers yet, but Edwin anticipates we will enter their area tomorrow after we cross another pass (Pukaraju at 14,583 feet/4,444 meters).”

The team had a mini-church service in the afternoon with each team member offering a song, Scripture reading, and sharing something. “Edwin shared about his wife’s (long) sickness and how God showed her a vision and through their son Elias’s prayers God healed her,” Brandy said. “She is still suffering dizziness so please continue to pray for Edwin’s wife and family.”

Pray also for our team as they continue to trek onward – today in weather that cleared and offered spectacular mountain views – and search for those in need of rescue by Jesus.

Saturday, Nov. 11

The team hiked from Llamaborrol to Taullipampa at 13,452 feet/4,100 meters. Heavy rain and clouds obscured the mountains and precluded the team from going to the planned viewpoint. However, it allowed a bit more time in camp to dry and rest before several days of hiking over high mountain passes.

Everyone on the team is feeling good and expectant with what God will do as they begin to meet Quechua farmers. The team has not encountered anyone as yet but should begin seeing people who live remotely on Sunday.

We are praying for divine appointments.

The weather cleared at camp two. (Photo by Andreas “Andy” Moritz)

I (Gary) returned to Denver today. While the rest of the team was trekking two days, I spent the time driving and flying (the usual difficulties, including delays, missed flights, etc.) so I could be back in Denver with our newborn grandson. My heart was not in the trek, but with now 11-day-old Jones. I prayed for several days, talked with team members, and turned over the lead to Brandy, our C4C Canada coordinator, who is being assisted by Andy (he is fluent in Spanish and has mission experience in Peru).

The team is solid, strong (physically and spiritually), and in the good hands of guide and Kingdom worker Edwin. It was odd seeing them off in Huaraz and watching them leave without me – a first-time experience. But having your first grandchild is a first-time experience, too. Praise God for that!

Friday, Nov. 10

First campsite with Edwin’s new tents. (Photo by Andreas “Andy” Moritz)

Members of the team rode the trekking company van early this morning for three hours to the village of Cashapampa at 9,500 feet/2,900 meters to begin the scheduled 10-day trek. There are “escape” options all along the trek in case weather or health turn bad. It was raining this evening and three rainbows were seen above the first camp.

Team members used the driving time to pray Ephesians 6:10-18 and began the long walk wearing the armor of God. The muleteers saddled and loaded six donkeys (carrying team gear) and three horses accompanying the team.

There was a steep ascent the first two hours and then about three hours of hiking on level-ish ground. Camp 1 at Llamaborrol was reached at 12,300 feet/3,750 meters, where Edwin’s crew had tents set up.

The tents were “a blessing from God,” according to Edwin, who competed against 2,000 other organizations and individuals to receive a grant for the work Climbing For Christ did to help people during the COVID pandemic.

Thursday, Nov. 9

The Urus Cocha Lagoon at 14,400 feet (4,400 meters) beneath the Urus mountain. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

We hiked up about 2,000 vertical feet in three miles to reach the picturesque Urus Cocha Lagoon on the second day of acclimatizing for the 10-day trek. It was a warm, partly sunny day with about 3 1/2 hours of hiking.

Later we held a team meeting to discuss the trek and outreach possibilities among the Quechua people. Andy had proposed a time of worship but by the time we returned from dinner with Edwin and one of our original C4C Peru members, Franklin Chavez, there wasn’t enough time. Instead he urged his teammates to spend some time in Ephesians 6 and act out the putting on of God’s spiritual armor.

Brandy heading down a trail from the lagoon back to where we started at 12,500 feet/3,810 meters.

NOTE: There likely won’t be any photos during the trek, which starts tomorrow, as there is no cell service that we know of in the Cordillera Blanca. Reports will be sent in via satellite phone.

The route of our 10-day trek, starting in Cashapampa. Numbers (1-7) mark the campsites for the first seven nights. The eighth and ninth nights are between No. 7 and our exit at Hualcayan.

Wednesday, Nov. 8

Our team in front of the Pastoruri glacier at 16,400 feet (left to right) Gary, Edwin, Matthew (in back), Andy, Zach, and Brandy. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

For our first acclimatization hike we left sunny and warm Huaraz at 10,000 feet (3,050 meters) and drove three hours to the cold, wind-whipped Pastoruri glacier. We started at 15,680 feet and sucked air through a straw (that’s what it felt like) up to 16,400 feet (5,000 meters). We walked less than 2 1/2 miles but climbed high and tonight we’ll again sleep low - at 10,000 feet!

Our reward was a closeup view of the glacier.

A rock cairn in front of the glacier, which is melting. There’s a pond where visitors used to be able to enter a cave under the glacier.

On the two-hour drive down a dirt road we stopped for lunch in a field looking at a beautiful snow-capped peak and then made an unscheduled stop and hike when Edwin spotted a flowering puya plant.

A rare green, flowering puya.

The puya is a type of cactus found only on this side of the Cordillera Blanca. It can grow to 50 feet in height. It flowers only once in its life and then dies, Edwin told us. He said he’d never seen one flowering – only the black ones we’d been passing on the road. In death, the puya looks like something from a Dr. Seuss book.

Tuesday, Nov. 7

First view of the Cordillera Blanca mountains. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

Brandy and Matthew met Andreas (Andy) at breakfast. I had a Zoom meeting with him several weeks ago and Zach met him when he went to their room early this morning after we arrived in Lima. Andy’s been in Peru since Friday visiting friends from previous trips here.

Now our team is all together: Canadian, German, Peruvian, and American.

Street performers entertaining in the intersection at a red light in Lima.

After breakfast we made the long eight-hour drive to Huaraz, starting out along the ocean coast and then climbing up zig-zagging roads with hairpin curves (very slowly behind trucks and buses) before emerging in the stunning mountain landscape that is the Cordillera Blanca. We are staying two nights in Huaraz, a city of 120,000 that sits at 3,050 meter (10,000 feet). There will be two days of acclimatization hikes to prepare for the trek.

Team members are starting to get to know one another better. All have plenty of experience at what we do and where we are doing it - in the mountains.

Monday, Nov. 6
Zach and I, flying from Denver, met Canadians Brandy and Matthew Fisher in Houston. The four of us then flew to Lima, where Edwin was waiting for us at the airport after we cleared customs and picked up our luggage. All the bags made it and flights were uneventful.

It was good to give Edwin a hug after six years and after all he has been through in recent years. He was happy to see our team arrive – the first C4C expedition to Peru since 2018. I haven’t been here since Mission: Peru 2017.

Andreas was asleep at the hotel by the time we arrived at 1:30 a.m.

As I studied God’s Word on the flight to Peru, several verses spoke to me on a personal level, especially as I left my daughter and new-born grandson to make this trip. But one verse stood out for our group: “‘If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:13b-14a). May this team seek the Lord with heart and soul as we seek the one lost sheep – and then another and another – in the Peruvian Andes.

Introduction

A Quechua woman near Queske Creek this week. (Photo by Edwin Milla)

The nightmare involved packing, which packing is to me. You would think after 100 trips overseas, I would be able to pack in my sleep. No, I only dream about it. And they’re bad dreams.

The other night, I was being picked up – late – to go to the airport and I realized I hadn’t packed. Adding to the confusion, we were in a different house in a different place. At the last minute, after throwing everything into a duffel to GO, I realized I hadn’t packed my socks.

Welcome to my world.

On the eve of Mission: Peru 2023, we are having dreams, visions, and nightmares. Brother Edwin Milla, our Kingdom worker in Peru, who has dealt with his share of wide-awake nightmares in recent years, awaits the arrival of his first Climbing For Christ team since 2018. The COVID pandemic and health crisis in Edwin’s family, involving his mother, wife, and daughter, prevented the eighth Evangelic Expedition to Peru until now.

“I have been praying a lot about this upcoming trip,” Edwin said last week. “God has been revealing to me the importance of being humble and willing to serve others. He has also reminded me that we must be open to the surprises and opportunities that may arise during the journey.

“It also appears that the enemy is trying to hinder the completion of the mission. Initially, the mule driver I had hired canceled the contract, forcing me to look for a replacement. Similarly, the hotel in Huaraz contacted me to cancel the reservations, which led me to look for other accommodations. Furthermore, this same night I had to spend in the hospital with my brother, who was suffering from stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. Furthermore, weather conditions are extremely variable, each day is totally different.

“Honestly, I still don’t understand if these difficulties are tests sent by God or if they are obstacles from the enemy.”

Either way, God has allowed them. Just as He will – or will not – allow our team to arrive from three other countries: Andreas “Andy” Moritz from Germany, Brandy and Matthew Fisher from Canada, and Zachary Wiegert and me from the United States. We have another international team, represented by members from four nations, GO-ing where others cannot or will not.

“The objectives of Mission: Peru 2023 are to provide spiritual support to communities in need and share the message of the Gospel,” Edwin explained. “We are working to help people in need and spread God’s love through our actions.”

To do so, our team will trek for many days through the Cordillera Blanca mountains. The trip is scheduled from Nov. 6 to Nov. 22. We will continue outreach among remote Quechua farmers that began in 2011. Edwin, a professional mountain guide, and the late missionary Jaime Servat co-coordinated C4C Peru in those days. Jaime graduated to heaven in 2019; Edwin then accepted the role of Kingdom worker.

Last week, in advance of our trip, Edwin visited the Queske Creek area to check on weather conditions in the mountains during this El Nino year. “I had the opportunity to talk to some people from the local community,” he reported. “It was an enriching experience, and I was able to learn a lot about their lives, their challenges, and their hopes.

“It was a blessing to be able to share the Gospel of our Lord and to hear their stories.”

God is working in the lives of people long before we arrive. He prepares hearts – theirs and ours – and then sends workers into the harvest field. As my wife Elaine often says, “All we need to do is show up.” The packing is sometimes the hardest part.

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