Members of team say they were struck by mountain people's 'zeal' for the Lord

For six members of First Baptist Church - Joy Congdon, Juan Escutia, Brian and Sherry Gerards, Andre Iseli and Tauna Phelan - a recent mission trip to Peru was a life-changing experience.

The group spent two weeks there in July, dividing their time between Lima and Cuzco.

The 'zeal and fervor' the mountain people of Peru had for the Lord particularly made an impression, Iseli said.

'They know that God loves them,' Brian Gerards said, noting that despite the extreme poverty that is prevalent in the country, many of the native people believed God had blessed them.

Money for the trip came from a memorial fund dedicated for outreach, but church fundraisers helped raise funds for the group's airfare.

'It was an opportunity to use what we could for the Lord in another place, another country,' Sherry Gerards said.

The trip was made possible in part by Joy's familiarity with Peru and the customs of its people. She lived in Peru for 12 years, working with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Much of the time she was in the country she served as a nurse practitioner working with the indigenous people in the jungle.

Although Andre knew some Spanish and was able to pick it up quickly, Juan was the only member of the group who was able to speak the language fluently.

Before they left for Peru, members of the group left lists of prayer requests with others from the church, Brian said, adding that every one of their concerns was addressed and the trip went smoothly.

'We felt like it was an entire church project, because we were supported by our church,' Gerards said, adding that nearly 30 people showed up at First Baptist to send them off.

The first week of the trip was spent in Lima, Peru, where the group worked with Tito and Joy Paredes, missionaries supported by the church who work at the Evangelical Missionary Center of the Andes and Amazon.

While they were there, they worked 12-hour days repainting the inside of the seminary. The group also worked to repaint the Philadelphia Church, a small church in a very poor area of Lima.

They attended services at the church on several occasions throughout the week and gave testimonies of how God was working in their lives.

'Being able to connect with the youth was the most important thing for me there,' said Phelan, the group's youngest member, who was 18 at the time.

The group spent the next five days in Cuzco, Peru, with Larry and Carol Sagert of Wycliffe Bible translators, as they worked with ATEK, a Quechua evangelical organization dedicated to helping native people read the gospel in their own language.

Although Wycliffe and other groups had previously translated the Bible into Quechua, most of the residents were illiterate.

ATEK's main focus is literacy, but the organization was so successful in its undertakings that it started offering marriage seminars, children's ministries seminars and stewardship classes.

From Cuzco, the group traveled for six hours on a rocky dirt road to reach the Quechua village of Cajapacura.

For many members of the group, the elevation was the most difficult part of the trip, as Cajapacura sits at almost 12,000 feet.

One of the highlights in the remote mountain village was a three-hour worship service during which members of the group sang for the villagers and in turn listened to traditional music of the Peruvian people.

The group also watched as ATEK representatives worked with Sunday school teachers, some of whom had walked two or three days from their own villages, teaching them how to run a children's camp.

A day trip to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu was also an enjoyable experience, Gerards said.

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