By Holly McElwee
When I first went to Peru in 2010, I assumed it would be my one and only trip to this beautiful South American country. Now here I am in 2014, after completing my third trip to this gem of the southern hemisphere. What a privilege it was for my husband, Dan, and I to serve as leaders of a 16-person mission team from Grace Baptist Church in Troy.
Dan and I participated in a 2012 trip to Peru to do this same type of work…distribute translated Bibles to the Quechua-speaking people of the Andes. A 40-year translation project resulted in the New Testament finally being available in the Quechua language, but many of the Quechua-speaking people living in the mountains had yet to receive a copy. Working with a team of Peruvian missionaries, we trekked into the mountains to deliver those Bibles. What a thrill it was to hand the Quechua people a copy of God’s word for the first time in their own heart language.
Two years later we volunteered to lead this same endeavor. And when I say, “lead,” I mean plan, organize, and direct our American team. We quickly learned that taking ourselves to South America is QUITE different from leading other people there. A strong belief in our task strengthened our resolve, as well as the knowledge that serving in the name of the Lord means walking within His protection.
Dan and I also served as the managers of the team once our feet were on the ground in Peru. The job was much easier once we met up with the Peruvian missionaries. We followed their directions for the distribution of the materials and for interacting with the people. Interacting with local people was complicated by the fact that none of us spoke Quechua, a language that’s very different from English, Spanish, or any other language the typical American has exposure to.
But, the foreign-ness of Quechua helped drive home an important fact. If Quechua felt like an alien language to us, then how must Spanish (the other official language of Peru) or English feel to them? It doesn’t make any sense at all, just as we can’t begin to understand a word of Quechua. For example, the simple phrase, “Hello. How are you?” is written like this in Quechua: Llamellacu quecanqui. If I hadn’t just given you the translation, this phrase would’ve made no sense. And so, as our team prepared to go to Peru, to the Quechua people, we felt strengthened by the belief that God’s Word is for everyone, and everyone needs access to it in their heart language.
And so, on the morning of July 10, packed and ready to go, boots ready to walk, sixteen of us trundled off to the airport for an early morning flight to South America. Dan and I were the intrepid leaders, ready to face what lay ahead on this grand adventure, sustained by the grace of God.
Next week…Team building and Machu Picchu
Read more and see more pictures at www.travelingteacheronline.com.