NOTE: There are no pictures included as I want to make sure that the people in the story are not made to feel uncomfortable. They are new believers and I do not want to ask them for their pictures in order for me to "show" them to people back home. I apologize if it takes from the story, but I felt it was quite important.
It was late evening as I cautiously walked down the wet and extremely slick cobblestone street where I ran into Alex and Edgar. It was there that the story really unfolded. You see, Alex and Edgar were walking together with their leather bound portfolios full of paintings. They are vendors that sell their works to the tourism market. Alex nearly brought me to tears with one simple request…He asked me to bring him bibles.
I had met Alex and Edgar when we first arrived to Cusco. In fact, I had met their whole group of vendor friends. One of them had invited me to play soccer with them during their weekly routine soccer time. I, being a good missionary who loves to play soccer, decided to join them. It was there that I realized that I was surrounded by a group of ruffian young Peruvian vendors whose lives were not what one would generally call wholesome.
They spend a lot of time in Plaza San Blas where we have our restaurant, The Meeting Place Café. Over the course of my time in Cusco, I have gotten to know these guys quite well. They have also gotten to know me and my purpose for being here in their country.
It was a few days before my recent trip to the US that I was informed that Miguel, one of my vendor friends, had made a decision to follow Christ. I was so amazed and surprised. I quickly inquired about what had happened, and found out the story.
It went something like this;
Edgar, one of the ring leaders of this group of vendors, has a brother who is a Christian. For a long time, Edgar had been the recipient of a faithful brother who loves him and wants to see Edgar’s life reformed by the love of Christ. It took a few years of work, but Edgar finally conceded that a life with Christ was really the place he ought to be. It was then that Edgar gave his life to Christ.
Shortly thereafter, the group of vendor friends started to see Edgar in a different light. He really changed. He stopped doing the things he used to do. No more cussing, drinking, fighting. His life cleaned up. He formed a joy in his life. He really changed. The other guys could see it.
It was not long after that Edgar started to connect with his buddies over the subject of Jesus. They started to dig into the possibilities of giving their lives to Christ as well. Within a short period of time, a number of these guys had given their lives to Christ. One by one, this group of ruffians was changing, and it was not just a little change. These guys were being transformed in a huge way.
When I left for my trip to the US, the count was somewhere around 5; Edgar, Alex, Jose, Forrest, and Michael. In fact, Michael came clean with a bunch of past issues and we found out his name is actually Mario. He is a free man now that he finally came out and let go of his tainted but forgivable past. God is good to clean the slate. What a comfort he must feel! He now uses his real name. The significance of changing his name back to his given name is huge. He is done with his fake life and now is moving forward in his new life with Christ. He celebrated his decision by being baptized last month. What a celebration it was for Mario.
As for my vendor friend, Alex, the one that I ran into the night before I returned to the US, he knew I was going to be heading to the US soon. He had begun working on me to bring him some original Nike shoes from the US. Each time I would see Alex during the month before my departure, he would remind me about the order that he had placed with me; Original Nike size 42 any color, any style. I never made any promises, but he was as persistent as a typical Peruvian vendor trying to sell a painting to a tourist. Each time I saw him before my departure, he would remind me about the shoes. The night before I left, I ran into Alex and Edgar.
There they were, Edgar and Alex, looking for tourists to which they could peddle their paintings. As we struck up a conversation, once again, Alex brought up the subject of the shoes. This time it was a bit different. He was not so worried about the shoes. He had changed his tune. There were other things more important. You see, he had given his life to Christ and quickly determined that those around him needed the same relationship with Jesus that had recently transformed his life. He needed the tools to reach these people. Alex told me not to worry about the shoes, but rather, he asked me to bring him bibles.
As excited as I could be, I told him that I would figure out a way to get him some bibles. When I returned from my trip, I was able to bring Alex about 20 bibles. They needed them for the cell group that meets in the home of Edgar’s brother, Walter. With these bibles, they can use them for the new people that come and may not have a bible. They can also use them during the group time and if someone needs one to take home, they are able to give it to them to study and use in their own homes.
They invited me to a bible study in the home of Walter as they wanted me to present the bibles. It was little awkward as they really made a big deal about the bibles. But it was wonderful to see people who are desperate for God’s word. I brought with me a guest as well. We had a wonderful time connecting with some local Peruvians that love Jesus. They sing like tomorrow will be the last day of their life on Earth. What a refreshing thing to see; People pouring their lives out to their savior in song. Praise God, he asked me to bring him bibles!