The words that Peter spoke to Jesus while together with the other disciples on Mount Tabor during the transfiguration of Jesus are very apt to describe something of the recent experience of our mission to the high Andes of Peru. Peter not really aware of what he was saying speaks up, “Lord how good is it that we are here! If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (ref. Mt. 17:4) I wanted to build 3 tents, one for the brothers, one for the sisters and one for the Koinonia John the Baptist there on the top of the Andes at one of the highest inhabited places on earth. But in truth tents would not have been warm enough since the average daily temperature was 12 degrees celsius with a real feel that was much lower. We did, however, help build tents of another kind, because, the Lord manifested himself in a special way in the hearts of these simple yet strong people of that ancient civilization. He himself pitched His tent in the midst of them establishing a new covenant among them and revealing yet again that all the earth and its people belongs to Him (ref. Ex.9:29) It was indeed good to be there!
We arrived to Cusco, from Lima, which is 3300 meters above sea level (10800 ft.) and we needed 2 days to get acclimatized. Subsequently, we did not have the opportunity to visit that most famous of Inca sites Machu Picchu which is located near to Cusco, but somehow the landscape all around allowed us to appreciate this site without ever seeing it since remnants of Inca civilization can be found in various parts. We did however visit the Old City and the Cathedral which was full of history and remarkable architectural beauty. Everywhere could be seen the authorship of the Creator which has been given to man.
After adapting to our new setting and the physiological conditions that accompany living at such a high altitude, we were taken by our host Fr. Dante further up into the Andes, 4 hours drive from Cusco, to the town of Santa Rosa (named after the patron saint of Peru Rose of Lima). Here at 4038 meters above sea level we spent the next 7 days missioning and ministering to the people of the parish.
Peru is a magnificent country full of notable history and archeological significance, but in the high Andes the environment is harsh with very extreme conditions because of the altitude and the almost barren landscape. That which survives only does so because of natural sturdiness and robustness. And as with any country the people reflect the nature of their environment. The Peruvians exhibit a rich and splendid natural beauty and it is a joy to behold in this people natural strength and hardiness mixed with a vibrant intensity of color, one that truly reflects their resilience in the face of such a tough reality and in the face of such poverty. Peru Mission Koinonia John the Baptist, California April 2015 The Lord has endowed them with a tremendous capacity to overcome hardships and difficulty. Their strength of character was indeed for us a rich blessing from the Lord as they continuously reflected the steadfast love of the Lord for His people and their love for Him. One blessing in the midst of such deprivation was the inherent joy of the people that revealed its own Andean beauty.
Everywhere you go you see the indomitable spirit of the16th century Spanish conquistadores and the subsequent devotion of a faithful people who are staunch in their loyalty to the Church.
Into this world of traditional faith and natural beauty we, the modern conquistadores, stepped bringing with us the simple kerygmatic proclamation of Christ (in Spanish) which was received with tremendous joy most especially during the Philip Course and every occasion we were given to pray for and minister to the people. No one can resist the powerful joy of the gospel message and salvation in Christ Jesus and this was very evident among the Peruvians who took the time to translated the most important points of the kerygma to those who needed to hear it in their own native language Quechua.
The world needs Christ and His gospel and nowhere more so than the Andes of Peru. It was an immense blessing to be offered the possibility of carrying the message of salvation to the very heights of the world. To be given the opportunity to transmit the experience of Jesus and His truth in a stark terrain whose landscape is pervaded with the magnificence of God.
Clearly the Lord loves His people and He wants always to give them more. This has been confirmed by the openness of Bishop Kay Schmalhausen who was the first to extend an invitation to the Koinonia into his new prelature in the Andes. He has invited us to return again not only to continue in the mission of New Evangelization to these remote outskirts of Peru, but also to assist his clergy and seminarians in formation.
Let us hold in prayer this new prelature and the possibility of the Koinonia conquering the Andes for Christ. So, that that which was once an empire of sun-worship, now the archeological capital of the world, can become a harvest for the Kingdom and an empire of the true Son where people will unearth the true treasures of civilization found in Christ the Lord.
Máire S Close
Koinonia John the Baptist, California