In the small village of Cabracancha nestled in the Andes Mountains of Peru, a woman reclines on a hillside as she listens to her son read a children’s book. Friends and family gather around, relaxing in the shade of their church building after an afternoon meal.
The boy sounds out words in his language, Wanca Quechua, diligently working his way through the story of Noah and the ark. Some of the people, especially those in the older generation, have never been able to read Quechua. It’s a treat to hear a young person read it to them.
The boy’s mother, Viani Estrada, nods along word by word. “I’m the pastor of this church,” she said. “It used to be that parents would not allow their children to speak Quechua, and they’d force them to speak Spanish even though none of them really spoke Spanish very well. Since the arrival of the Wanca New Testament, they’ve valued Wanca much more and have begun reading it as a family.”
Before Viani had the New Testament in Wanca Quechua, she tried to preach from the Spanish Bible. It was hard for everyone to understand — even Viani. But with new resources in Wanca, like the New Testament and children’s Bible storybooks, she and her congregation are excited about God’s Word like never before.
“At first when people saw the New Testament, they said, ‘There’s no way we can use that; it’s too difficult! We don’t know how to read!’ But little by little, I read and taught them from the Wanca New Testament,” she said. “They became more and more comfortable with the idea of reading in their own language, and then they realized, ‘Oh, it really is easy! It’s written just the way we talk! There’s no problem with it.’”
Those who can’t read listen carefully to those who can. Then they recite those passages over and over until they memorize them. “Once they have it memorized, they have it in their hearts, and they know it,” she said. “They’re able to apply it to their own lives.”
APPLYING THE SCRIPTURE
Hours away in the town of Huancayo, another Wanca Quechua church service is coming to an end. The modest sanctuary fills with excited chatter as members flow outside, settling into the green and golden brown grass to fellowship together. Robert Flores, a church member who works the fields nearby and tends sheep, flashes a big smile and adjusts his brimmed hat, gripping his Wanca New Testament in his hand.
“This Word of God,” he said, “affected me in very practical ways — in the way I treated my family, in the way I treated other people in this community, in the way I parented my children. I started learning from the Word of God how to treat people better, so overall our relationships became better.”
For Robert and his neighbors, a New Testament costs about a day’s wages working in the fields — a lot of hard work in the fields, he clarified. “But for us, that work is worth it in order to acquire a copy of the New Testament. When I first received the New Testament in my language, I finally understood clearly what the Scriptures had to say.”
“It’s taken me out of a lifestyle of drinking, of doing things that I shouldn’t,” Robert said. “For me, the Bible helps take people from where they were to the kind of life God wants them to live, and gives them a new life in Jesus Christ.”
A TOOL FOR SALVATION
Renato Alonso, a Huallaga Quechua pastor, remembers the first time he bought a Bible in his language. “The very next day I brought the Bible to church. First I read it in Spanish, and then I read it in Quechua,” he said. “When I read it to the congregation in Quechua, the people in the church just became so happy! They said, ‘Pastor, thank you so much, because now we truly understand!’
“I realized that God provided the tool that I needed to be able to preach in our language,” Renato said.
Today he’s part of the translation team working in the city of Huánuco, translating the Old Testament for Quechua languages. When he’s not preaching or translating, he’s using Scripture to help kids learn about God and improve their reading.
“Many people have understood what it means to be saved because of the Scriptures in their language,” he said. “And their lives have changed dramatically.”
Idol worship has been a major roadblock for both Huallaga Quechua and Wanca Quechua congregations. When people first converted, many still kept idols in their houses — statues made of plaster, sticks or carved wood. “But since the arrival of the New Testament, they’ve discovered that a real God exists — a God who created everything, who created them!” Viani said.
“They understood that God’s not pleased with that kind of behavior, so they began to leave those idols and began to serve God,” Renato said.
Now when they’re sick, they pray to God to heal them. Little by little, as they’ve come to understand God’s message, they’ve taken their idols out of their houses and burned them.
TRANSFORMATION TAKES A TEAM
Viani, Robert and Renato know that transformation rarely happens in isolation. For God’s Word to reach the Quechua, it has taken a large team.
“Thank you so much for the support that you have given, because so many lives have been touched as a result,” Renato said. “Please continue to support, collaborate and be part of this ministry. In doing this, we’re fulfilling the Great Commission to bring the Word of God to all people.”
“I’m really grateful for the prayers of those in the church in the United States,” Robert said. “As you are praying for us, we will also be praying for you from here, for the believers in the United States.”