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Travel Adventure in Peru – Those Are Labor Pains?
I’ve been busy with the tourism business lately (mostly advertising work), including taking care of my car registration among other things, and haven’t been able to go with the brothers here on any mission trips. Alberto and I wanted to go back to Cushpa, a small village up a canyon above Cotahuasi, which is at 14,500 feet. Since most of the people live within a few hours of the village, the only time they are all together is for the monthly village meeting. We agreed to go to Kushpa on the 15th of this month, the day of their meeting, to serve there. However, I got last minute deals last week, a very welcome four day trip with a family of tourists from France, driving them to Arequipa via Colca Canyon. Along the way we found out there was going to be a transportation strike in Arequipa, so we had to cut out an extra fifth day we had planned to climb an 18,619-foot active volcano to get them back to Arequipa. before the strike started. Then the planned two-day strike became indefinite and I wasn’t sure I would be able to leave Arequipa to return to Cotahuasi in time for the mission trip.
God worked everything out, and we were able to leave for Cotahuasi on Friday as planned. Maribel, a friend from Arequipa, came back with me to teach the children in Cushpa. We had quite a bit of trouble getting out of Arequipa, as many of the roads were blocked due to the strike, but finally succeeded. We thought everything was clear until we arrived at La Joya, about an hour outside the city. There the Pan American Highway was blocked and we had strikers threatening to break out the car windows. We tried to persuade them to let us through but it became too tense so we beat a hasty retreat. There was a gravel street just a block from the highway, and we were able to use that to get around them and continue on our way.
We arrived in Cotahuasi without further problems, expecting to leave on Saturday for Cushpa. However, because the church had a leadership training seminar on Friday and Saturday, we could not leave for Kushpa until Sunday morning. My old car only held five people, where my new one has room for seven, so we left for Kushpa on Sunday morning with a full load of gear and seven people; Isedoro and Alberto, my usual ministry partners, together with Alberto’s wife, and Fredy and his wife. We arrived at Suni, where Isedoro lives, and he asked if we could stop for a few minutes so he could get his things and say hello to his wife. As usual there are no quick stops here, his wife invited us for breakfast as well. Then Isedoro asked if his wife could join us, so they squeezed four people into the back seat.
We stopped in Machuancca, the next village, because the teachers there asked us to hold a meeting there as well. We wanted to make plans to be there Monday evening, but the teachers weren’t there because of the strike. We continued on the rough road, arriving at the Kushpa River around 12:15, where we learned that the bridge was not yet finished, and the river was too deep to cross. We had all kinds of food, gear and equipment, including a gas generator (no electricity in Cushpa) to show a Bible movie. While we were trying to figure out how to cross the river, the bulldozer offered to take us across on his Cat. Then we had to make several trips from there up the hill to bring all the things to Kushpa, which was about a mile away. We finally sent Isedor forward and he made two men and two children come to help us.
We had a good time of ministry there, with the local people as well as with the two teachers who did not participate in the strike. After the showing of the film, we went down to the small community room, where they let us spend the night. I made chicken noodle vegetable soup for dinner, but Fredy and his wife Bertha weren’t there. Someone said they were visiting one of the teachers, who was an old acquaintance of Fredy’s, and thought they were also invited to dinner. We had just finished eating when they returned. They were visiting but did not eat dinner. There was about half a bowl of soup left, so I was ready to make more when someone showed up with a big pot of alpaca stew!
Monday morning, we had oatmeal and bread, along with leftover alpaca stew, for breakfast. We hadn’t stopped thinking about water the night before, and when I went out to get water, the faucet froze. We had some water left, so I heated that up and poured it on the faucet, but the pipes were still frozen. Luckily the teachers had enough water to share with us, so we didn’t have to wait two hours for the sun to come over the mountain and melt the pipes. After breakfast, while I went with Isedoro, Alberto and their wives to visit a family of quite new believers, about two hours walk; Maribel taught a Bible story to about 30 children at the school. We arrived home from the families, and of course were invited for mate de manzana (apple flavored tea). One of them wanted to be baptized but was not feeling well, so we couldn’t do it – in the ice. -cold river Cushpa.
According to our plan, Fredy had to find help to carry the things back to the car, and after Maribel finished teaching the kids, they would carry all the things and we would meet them there at the car. I walked faster than the rest and got back to the river about 30 minutes before them. As I descended the hill to the river, I hoped to see them with a few burros or mules, unloading the whole load. Instead, I arrived just in time to see Maribel and Fredy bring the last of the items to the river. Two young boys took turns carrying the generator on their backs, but Fredy and Maribel had to make many trips to get all of the rest of the stuff. Having seen Berta, who was pregnant, carrying a large load the day before, I nicely but firmly told her not to carry anything more.
The Cat was nowhere to be seen, so I ended up making half a dozen or more trips across the ice-cold river to haul all the gear, except for the generator, which had already been taken over, so I was the only one who. had to wet my shoes. I almost fell a few times carrying a large box of electronic gear on my back, with no foot pegs to balance me. The river was only knee deep but rocky and had a fairly strong current. Finally the other two pairs appeared, Alberto was wearing rubber sandals, so I borrowed them and took them over to Fredy for him to use. I then carried Maribel on my back while Fredy walked to calm me down. Then we went back to get his wife, who I thought was about seven months pregnant, and he carried her while I helped him.
We loaded everything into the car and took off, during the four and a half hour drive back to Cotahuasi, when a few minutes later Fredy’s wife went into labor! It turned out she was in the last week of her pregnancy! We arrived at Churca, about an hour away, and stopped to see the obstetrician there. She checked on Berta and said there was nothing to worry about; it was just the rough ride. She said Berta wouldn’t deliver the baby for at least 8-10 hours, and we could easily make the trip back to Cotahuasi. We asked her to go with us, but she said there was no reason, so we took off. After fifteen minutes Berta started screaming, and soon the pains came every four to five minutes. We decided to try to get to Puica, about an hour and a half away, as that was the closest village with a medical clinic (other than going back to Churca).
I tried to drive carefully to avoid bouncing too much on the very rough mountain road, and also because of all the roads. We arrived at Suni, about 20 minutes from Puica, and the pains were about two minutes apart, and Bertha screamed. We all “prayed without ceasing”, and Fredy said to forget the bumps and get to Puica as quickly as possible. Fortunately that highway was quite flat, just a lot of bends and animals on the road, cows, sheep, burros and llamas. At the time the labor pains were almost continuous, and then Berta said her water broke. I drove as fast as I dared, a horn sounded to clear the way, and we came flying into Puica and stopped in front of the clinic. People had come out to see what the noise was about, so I shouted that we needed a doctor right away.
They helped Fredy carry Bertha into the clinic (no wheelchairs there) and less than 15 minutes later, baby Abigail was born! Praise God that we made it safely and in time, and mother and baby are both healthy and doing well. We left them, along with Fredy, at the clinic that night and went back to Suni to spend the night with Isedoro and his family who live there – we didn’t even take time to drop them off on the way. Tuesday morning we returned to Puica and waited about an hour until they released Bertha and Abigail. We had a much calmer end to our drive and returned safely to Cotahuasi just before noon. It was one of the most adventurous mission trips I have taken!
The adventure did not end when we returned to Arequipa on Thursday evening. I needed to take my car to the parking lot where I keep it while here, and Maribel had to go to her class at a university nearby, so I offered to drive her and stop for a roast chicken dinner on the way. We had only been in the restaurant a few minutes when a woman came in and said that someone was stealing things from my car. I ran out but they had already left, and took my backpack and Maribel’s purse out of her book bag, which we stupidly left in the car. My backpack had my passport and cell phone in it because I was going to leave for Chile right after that.
Maribel’s father called my cell phone and the thief answered. He agreed to meet Lucho and return the passport and other documents for a “reward”. He was supposed to call tonight to arrange a meeting and a place but he still hasn’t done it, and didn’t answer the cell phone today. Hopefully he will return the documents tomorrow, so that I don’t have to replace my passport, and Maribel her DNI (National identity card that every Peruvian must carry). If I don’t get it by Sunday, I’ll have to go to Lima to get a replacement passport.
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