The Word Alive team was on the final stretch of their grueling four-day trip high in the Peruvian Andes this past fall, and writer Nathan Frank was feeling lousy. He had suffered a six-hour bout of apparent food poisoning the night before in the community of Jalcco, south of Cusco. The closest baño (Spanish for outhouse or bathroom) was 75 metres away from the house the team was staying in, along a pitch-black roadway.
“I have a hard time imagining a worse place to get sick," says Nathan. “There are few times in my life where I felt more helpless than I did that night. At least I had brought two-ply toilet paper!”
Making a final stop at a small-town church, colleagues Doug Lockhart and Alan Hood told Nathan to rest in the Toyota Land Cruiser while they covered the worship service. After an hour of lying in the warm sun in the reclined driver’s seat, wearing a hat that covered his eyes, Nathan heard a commotion outside the truck through his partially opened window. After trying to ignore a handful of staring boys in his “groggy haze,” Nathan felt convicted.
“I needed to give them some attention, so I began to lift up my hat to play a bit of peek-a-boo. After a bit, I pulled up my seat and greeted them with Hola.”
The boys giggled, but didn't respond. Nathan extended his hand for a high-five, but the giggling boys didn’t reply. The group was tentative but intrigued, so the Word Alive writer slipped into a staring contest.
“It felt like I was a zoo animal in a cage,” says Nathan. “It was really fun.”
Minutes later the Land Cruiser was surrounded by other kids. Most of the younger girls stood at a distance, while a group of teenage girls leaned over the hood. Little boys stood on their toes at Nathan's window, trying to get a look at the strange gringo. This lasted for hours as the church service continued well into the mid-afternoon.
“Kids like to play,” concludes Nathan, recalling the event. “Looking at me for hours on end was a game of sorts for these kids. I was something new and different and that’s why they were so fascinated with me.”
Kids everywhere are more than just interested in being entertained, though. Like adults, they too are looking for something more meaningful in their lives. Which is why it is sad that up until recently, most Peruvian evangelical churches had no ministry programming to introduce children to the meaning found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Kids were not welcome in church services. They stayed at home to do chores while adults went to worship.
Thanks to ATEK (a Bible translation and engagement agency with which Wycliffe Canada is a partner), churches are being taught how to set up children’s ministries run in their Cusco Quechua tongue. It is part of a broadly-based effort to encourage use of translated Scriptures, as you will see in this issue.
Equipped with the Bible translated into their mother tongue, kids are finally getting attention from the God who says, “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14).