Last week men and women from Ingleside Baptist Church, Macon, GA, came to Huaraz, Peru for the annual leadership conference. This conference has been a growing annual event for the past four or five years.
Huaraz, Peru is a mountain town of about 100 thousand. It is situated at more than 10 thousand feet (3,100 meters) above sea level. On the west and the east stand tall, rugged mountains. In the hills and valleys of those mountains live thousands of people. Some live hours from the closest thing that could be called a "road."
The conference began on a Tuesday, but Pam and I could not even get there before Wednesday night. My first session was Thursday morning. I stood on the podium, looking out over more than 300 men and women. They had a look of hunger in their eyes--spiritual hunger. I did not want to serve them an empty plate.
Some of these men and women had traveled for hours to get there. We had traveled 7 hours ourselves; but we did it in a Toyota RAV. Some of them had walked more than that just to get where they could ride in the back of a truck for 7 hours. It's not an easy stroll along a meandering path, either. That walk would have been up one hill and down another, looking for places to cross streams. The night temps, for they would have left before daylight, would have been in the low 40's. And it is rainy season there, so the paths would have been muddy and slippery. But onward they came, gathering from many towns and villages.
Yes, these men and women had made great sacrifices to get where they were. Many were sleeping in less than desirable conditions while there. I did not want to leave them wishing they were elsewhere.
I took a breath, said a silent prayer for grace to preach and teach, and proceeded to try to feed this group of leaders from many Christian groups. For three hours on Thursday and three more on Friday we studied God's word together. We laughed together. We groaned together. We grew together.
It was a great moment of inpsiration for at least one of us. I can only pray the 348 men and women who had gathered felt as much. I can only wish more of us were so hungry for the word of God that we would be willing to walk a day to get to a place we could ride in a truck bed for another 7 hours to be able to be fed.