Spreading Good News High in the Andes
THERE we were, 18 of us, on the dirt floor. Shivering in our sleeping bags, we listened to the torrential rain beating on the corrugated iron roof above us. Given the condition of the tiny shed, we wondered whether we were its first human occupants.
Why would 18 people visit this area? The answer centered on our desire to act on Jesus’ command to preach the good news “to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8; Matt. 24:14) We were on a preaching trip to an isolated territory in the Bolivian Andes.
The first challenge was just getting there. We learned that public transport to such remote places did not run on a precise schedule. When our bus appeared, we discovered that it was smaller than it was supposed to be, so some of us did not have seats. But we all finally made it to our destination.
Our objective was to reach villages high in the Bolivian Andes. So after the bus trip, those in our group, laden with provisions, picked their way single file along steep mountain paths.
Although the villages seemed small, the houses were very scattered, so it took many hours to visit each village. No matter how far we walked, there always seemed to be another house in the distance. We often got lost in a maze of twisted pathways through the fields.
“Why Didn’t You Come Before?”
One lady was so impressed with how far we had walked that she allowed us to use her kitchen and firewood to cook our lunch. On learning what the Bible teaches concerning the condition of the dead, one man asked, “Why didn’t you come before?” He was so interested that when we left his village, he accompanied us to ask further questions along the way. Another man had never heard of Jehovah’s Witnesses and showed great interest in our publications. He thanked us profusely for coming and handed us the key to a shed where we could spend the night.
One night, it was so dark that we unwittingly pitched our tents in the middle of a colony of large black ants. They were quick to show their annoyance by biting us. We were too tired to move, and thankfully, before long the ants seemed to ignore our presence.
Initially our backs and ribs ached because we slept on the ground, but during the night we got used to it. And any aches and pains were forgotten in the morning as we viewed the unspoiled valleys with clouds creeping lazily up their sides and the magnificent snowcapped peaks in the distance. The silence was disturbed only by a gurgling stream and the song of birds.
After washing in the stream, we considered a Bible text together, had breakfast, and started slowly uphill to other distant villages. The climb was well worth the effort. We met an elderly woman who wept when she learned that God’s name, Jehovah, is in the Bible. She was overwhelmed. Now she could address God by name in her prayers!
An elderly man declared that God must have remembered him, and he burst into song, singing that the angels had sent us. Another man, too ill to leave his house, told us that no one from his own village took the trouble to visit him. He was amazed that we had come all the way from La Paz. Still another man was deeply impressed that Jehovah’s Witnesses call on people in their homes, while other religions just summon them with church bells.
None of the houses in that area have electricity, so people go to bed when it gets dark and rise with the sun. Therefore, to find people at home, we had to start preaching at six o’clock in the morning. Otherwise most people would have gone to work in the fields. Later, some who were already working were willing to stop to listen to our message from God’s Word, perhaps allowing the ox a welcome break from drawing the plow. Many of the people found at home put down sheepskins for us to sit on and called the family together to listen. Some farmers contributed large bags of maize out of gratitude for the Bible literature we left with them.
“You Did Not Forget Me”
Of course, for people to progress in knowledge of the Bible, they need more than one visit. Many begged us to return to teach them further. Because of this, we have made several trips to this part of Bolivia.
On a later trip, an elderly lady was happy that we returned, saying: “You are like children to me. You did not forget me.” A man thanked us for our work and invited us to stay in his home the next time we came. Perhaps the greatest reward for our efforts was hearing that a lady who was contacted on one of our previous visits had since moved to the city and was now preaching the good news.
By the last day of our first trip, we ran out of kerosene for the camping stove and we had almost exhausted our food supplies. We gathered enough material to make a fire, cooked the last food we had, and started back on foot. We were miles from the town where we could catch a bus. Eventually, we arrived in the dark.
The journey back had its problems because the bus broke down. In time, we were able to get a ride in the back of a truck crammed with people. This gave us the opportunity to preach to fellow passengers who were curious about why we were there. Though reserved by nature, the people are generally warm and friendly.
After a nine-hour ride in the back of that truck, we arrived home—wet and chilled to the bone. Yet, the trip was not in vain. Along the way, we were able to arrange for a Bible study with a lady who lives in the city.
It was indeed a privilege to declare the good news to the people in such isolated areas. We had preached in four villages and countless hamlets. We could not help but think of the words: “How comely upon the mountains are the feet of the one bringing good news, the one publishing peace, the one bringing good news of something better, the one publishing salvation.”—Isa. 52:7; Rom. 10:15.
[Picture on page 17]
Ready to share the good news