About three months ago, I was getting my dirty car out of the garage in order to get it washed after a trip to the mountains, when a man asked that I counsel him as he had marriage problems. I put the car back into the garage and invited him into my office. His story was that he was a paid assassin and had been in jail for several years, when unexpectedly he was released from jail. He said that he was a hard worker, and when in jail he had worked to send some money to his wife and two children. When he got out of jail, he immediately went to his home. To his surprise, his wife was living with another man. What was he to do?

I tried to point him to the Lord Jesus, the One who forgives sins and transforms lives. Though I spoke to him about the thief on the cross and how Jesus had forgiven him, he said that he had sinned too much and that God wouldn't forgive him. But he said that he wanted to get out of the life of crime. The police were already looking for him because he had participated in an assault.

He said that he was afraid that some time he woud get into a gun battle with the police, and rather than him killing them, they might kill him. What he wanted to do was go to Brazil where some of his former friends were working and had offered him a job with them. He wanted me to finance his trip to Brazil and to give him enough money to bribe the police to let him through.

I told him that I coudn't help him in that, and that the best thing for him to do was to get right with God and turn himself in to the police, that God would be with him in jail. That was when he pulled a pistol out of the bag that he had slung over his chest, and asked: "Are you going to give me the money, or not?" I told him that I was not going to give him the money, and that what he needed to do was to repent of his sins and change his life now. A better situation in Brazil was not going to change his heart which was corrupt. Only Jesus could change his life. He put his gun away and listened for a few moments while I shared the Scriptures with him.

Again he pulled out his pistol and demanded that I give him money. I got up from my chair and opened the office door saying: "Put your gun away. I have given you what you asked for at the door. You asked for counsel, and I have given it to you. You may leave now. He got up, put his gun away, and I was able to lead him to the outside door. I thank the Lord for His protection.

CHAPTER I: THE EVENTS OF JANUARY 31, 1993

Some time ago, I shared with some friends the story of the conversion of the man who killed our son Mark and the other two missionaries that were kidnapped from their homes in Panama. I was asked to put the story into writing, so here is an attempt to do that.

On January 31, 1993 a large group of guerrillas, belonging to the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia) of Colombia, entered the Kuna Indian village of Pucuro, in Panama, and took Dave Mankins, Rick Tenenoff and our son Mark Rich captive. Mark at the time was 23 years old and married to Tania. They had two precious daughters, Tamra and Jessica. A couple of days after the kidnapping, New Tribes Mission received a request for five million dollars ransom for the release of the missionaries. The story has been told in Hostage, by Nancy Mankins, Nashville: W. Publishing Group, 2001.

During the next eight and a half years there was very little information as to what had happened to our men. In the spring of 1996, however, a man that had defected from the FARC claimed that he had been our men’s guard for five months. He said that the men were being kept in the jungle and that, during the five months that he was in charge of them, they had moved camp 20 times. Mark was reported to have had malaria and had been given medicine for his treatment. The guard said that the men often sang, they still had their Bibles, and that Mark had even prayed with one of the guards.

Finally, in the fall of 2001, putting together all of the evidence that they were able to gather, the leadership of NTM concluded that the missionaries had been killed, so in October of 2001 they had a memorial service for them, and the wives and other family members have re-established their lives and continue serving our Lord.


CHAPTER 2: REVELATION OF NEW DETAILS

In October of 2004, Tania, Mark’s widow, sent us the following information from a missionary in Colombia named Jeaninne. This (with some editing and translating) is what she wrote:

Dear Nancy, Tania, Patti, and family members of Dave, Mark and Rick,

I have carried your all on my heart and in my prayers over the years even though I did not know you. I serve the LORD Jesus in Medellin, Colombia. Besides [other] responsibilities…these past 14 years, I have worked, and still do, in the prisons of Colombia. In the latter difficult context, I knew that someday God would allow me to know something first hand about Dave, Mark, and Rick.

I knew God had given you closure during the memorial service October 6, 2001. Our brothers here in prison asked that Lacides Hernandez go to represent them and to ask for your forgiveness on behalf of them and Colombia. We did not have any more information than you did at the time. (Bob’s note: We met Lacides in Florida, received his request for our forgiveness from his country and especially from the prisoners who had come to know Christ there, prayed with him and rejoiced with him in the many who have received Christ’s forgiveness in the prisons. He was a blessing to us and to the widows.)

On the evening of August 11, 2004, a medium built man, I assumed in his mid-fifties, appeared at my door with a pastor. Alberto was an ex-commander of the FARC. When he was only eleven, his mother and sisters were raped and all of his family was killed. He was the only one that survived. The guerrillas were the only ones that extended their hand to him, an orphan, but to be with them he had to kill. At eleven years of age he entered this brutal world of killing. For the next 23 years all he knew was the “monte” (jungle) and a Colombian prison. At the beginning of this year Alberto was released from prison; he had not yet turned thirty-four.

The next morning Alberto called me and asked to talk with me. The Holy Spirit revealed to my heart what Alberto would shortly tell me: About Dave, Mark and Rick. So many emotions came over me. It’s not an easy situation to be in. Alberto had great difficulty confessing to me. He asked me if I would forgive him for taking the lives of Mark, David and Rick. I was on sacred ground and felt the weight of his question. I breathed deeply before I responded, “Yes… I do.” Then I showed him the NTM magazine with the men on the front. He put it down and wept. Tears welled up inside of me. Alberto asked me what he could do. I told him to tell me what he remembered. “It is very painful for me; give me time; it is all buried inside, but I promise to God I will,” he responded heavy heartedly.

Providentially, months before God had provided me an opportunity to leave Colombia right after meeting Alberto. After attending a retreat in Colorado, I stopped on my return to meet with Nancy and Tania. God alone knows what this meant to me. Thank you. One thing that I felt certain was that as God restores the shattered life of Alberto he would give witness to who Mark, Dave and Rick were, and what God did during the dark days of captivity. What follows is a mosaic. It is awesome when you realize that all the Scripture verses mentioned and the Bible stories told are what the men taught Alberto without a Bible. Alberto wrote or told this to me all from memory.

In the love of Jesus,

Jeaninne


CHAPTER 3: ALBERTO'S CONFESSION

Subject: “The treasure from the Bible today.”
Date: Sept. 17, 2004
From: Alberto
To: Jeaninne

May God bless you and keep you forever. When the American missionaries were in captivity, it seemed so very strange to me because they took it as a privilege God had prepared for each of them! They sang a lot a song from the book of Jeremiah 20:7-13. “The Lord is with me as a powerful giant, those that persecute me will not prosper. Oh, glory, oh glory, Hallelujah! Oh glory, oh glory Hallelujah, amen. On a high mountain many people rejoiced because there the Spirit of God had come. In an upper room, many people rejoiced because the Spirit of God had come. The Spirit of God is already here. If you want to sing joyfully, come and sing as I do, and you will see how you will sense the Spirit of God.” This song is called “Powerful Giant”.

The men talked to me a great deal, telling me that the LORD forgives all my sins. They quoted to me Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be white as wool.” They also told me: “There is a way which seems right unto man, but the end is death.”

In John, chapter 14 verse 6, Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, but by me.” They told me that 2 Cor. 5:17 says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” They also said that the LORD places all our sins in the depth of the sea and He does not remember them anymore. They sang a beautiful hymn. “Heal me, free me, Oh Lord. I am tired of my sadness and brokenness: I want to live in the abundance of your peace. Oh Lord, in my mind and in my soul, heal me. Heal me, free me, that the chains that today bind me may be broken by you. I want to live in the abundance of your peace. Oh Lord in my mind and in my soul, heal me.”

Sister Jeaninne, there is a great deal that I need to share, but let’s go bit by bit. May the Lord bless you and keep you. Blessings. Please call me when you receive this. –Alberto.

September 21, 2004 – From Alberto to Jeaninne

At the beginning I was very hard on the American missionaries, David, Mark and Rick. But the only way they knew to respond to me was with love. For example, Mark talked about his two little girls and this made me remember that I too was a father. But regardless of how I treated them, their love always won me over. A day finally arrived when I could at last extend my hand to Mark. He is the one that talked to me the most about the Word of God.

I remember one beautiful morning when I felt something stirring inside of me; it was very hard for me to comprehend what was happening and why my heart felt moved. I would never understand it because I had not as yet opened my heart to the Lord Jesus. But today since Jesus lives in me, I can comprehend what kind of fire burned inside my heart.

Rick and David were the two missionaries that always gave “flavor to life”. What I mean is that you never saw them sad and they were always encouraging, and talked about spiritual things. They talked to me about Paul and each said, “for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Rick always talked about his three young children; he said he had two daughters and a son. On occasions, Rick shared that he had asked God to give him a son, and his desire was to see his son grow up, as well as his two daughters. But Rick knew that his children were in the hands of the Lord Jesus, and he stated that God had already begun His work in them. That is to say, that God had them in His heart before they were born and He would complete His work in them.”

“David also told me that he had two children: one of them, his son, was studying in the university; his daughter’s name was Sarah, his princess. David was the one who most often sang the song from Jer. 20. The men talked a lot about their people: they deeply loved their wives. They meant the world to them. It seemed very strange to me, but they knew that their wives were okay (at peace) because they trust in God and know He is in control. They were certain that they were praising God in the midst of deep trial, and that they were even praying for me that I would believe in God!

I hope that I, Alberto, will have the opportunity to confess with my own lips to them what their husbands suffered in captivity. Most of all, I desire to ask them to forgive me for all the pain I caused them in taking the lives of their loved ones.

On one occasion when the men were tied up they sang “Heal me, free me”. They did not weep but they sang, and this only confused me all the more. But now that the King of Kings and the Lord of lords lives in my heart, I can understand the amazing grace manifested in the men’s lives. Today I rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, my living Savior, because David, Mark and Rick sowed the seed in my heart. It is so true that the Word of God does not return void, but it accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent. The Bible says, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it.”


CHAPTER 4: THE MARTYRS' PROMISE

Friday, Sept. 23, 2004 – From Alberto to Jeaninne

I learned so very much from Dave, Mark and Rick. Last night the Holy Spirit brought back to my memory the things the men taught me while in captivity. I wept a great deal last night and a great sadness overwhelmed me. How I would give my life so that these great men could live. I should have been the one to have died. I am not worthy of such great love, the love of the God who lived in them.

Everything that I know, I learned from them. They always spoke to me in love. I saw and received nothing but love from them in spite of how they were treated. They said, “We know God has us here, and we receive all He brings with love, even if it means we are to die.”

1 Timothy 3:16 says: “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great.” This is a great mystery. What father would send his only son to be killed? This is what God did with His only Son Jesus. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

“What to man seems impossible, with God is possible. It does not matter the sin a man has committed. What is important is that you receive Jesus in your heart,” they told me. God’s mercy is so great that he forgave David after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, and arranged Uriah’s death. God sent the prophet Nathan to David (2 Samuel 12). When David listened to Nathan, he said, “That man should die.” To which Nathan responded, “You are that man.” God is merciful and He forgave David.

In the four Gospels we have the account of Peter. Peter betrayed His Lord and Savior and he cursed Jesus, but even this sin Jesus forgave. Jesus appeared to Peter after He arose from the dead. Peter was naked, and covered himself. He had fished all night and caught nothing. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you have anything to eat? Throw the net on the other side.” When they obeyed Jesus, they got a great quantity of fish. With God nothing is impossible.

The depth of wisdom and knowledge Dave, Mark and Rick had, really made a deep impression upon me. One day they told me, “Some day you are going to be great in the Lord. You are going to belong to the LORD.” This made me laugh. That would be very difficult. I was so hard, and hated anything of a spiritual nature. The degree of hatred I had toward God was so great that I took their Bibles and burned them.

Alberto said to me with remorse: “Everything that they taught me from the Bible was the word of God that they had hid in their hearts. “God’s Word does not return void.” They said, “God is great, He is here, He is everywhere. We cannot get away from the presence of God. Some day each one of us will have to stand before the judgment seat of God and each one will have to answer for what we have done in the flesh and what we have done with Jesus.”

I came to Christ the hard way. God brought me to Himself in spite of my hatred; Jesus drew near in the dungeon of a prison. When I opened my heart to Jesus, like the men told me to do, I felt transformed. I wept and wept. Then I began to remember how Mark quoted Psalm 139. The other chapters they gave me were Psalms 1, 2, 3, 10, 23, 34, 37, 38, 40, 51, 55, 56, 86, 87, 90-92. “You alone are God.” Also Psalms 121, 115, 139, 104, 142.

In prison, I read these day and night. Then I remembered also how Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. The fellows told me when I would begin to read the Bible, to begin with the Gospel of John. So I did just as they taught me. I remember the songs, “As Eagles”, “In the beginning the Spirit of God…” and “Christ breaks the chains.”


CHAPTER 5: THE EXECUTION

The men sang constantly. Mark would jump up and down as he sang. They were always filled with joy, and this perplexed me. I did not understand it until I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior. They sang, “I journeyed down a road, in anguish and without hope, but I found a friend, and that friend is Jesus.” Another one they sang was “He arose, He arose”. Every day, as I now recall, was really beautiful because they lived daily in the presence of Jesus.

I was with them the last fourteen months of their lives. They sowed the seed in my heart. They spoke to me with great love. Because of them I know who Jesus is. Today He lives in me. Hebrews 13:8. “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The other five members of the FARC who were guards with me were later killed, but each had accepted Jesus as their Savior with one of the men. At the time I did not understand what was happening.

In time I grew to respect and feel affection for Dave, Mark and Rick. I wanted to let them go, but the circumstances did not permit it. My superiors gave the order to kill them. They were ready to give their lives as a sacrifice. On their last days they knew they were going to die, but told me they knew they were going to a far better place. I believe the date was around July 23, 1996 at 4pm.

One of the last things the men said to me was: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.” Ecclesiastes 11:1. As is the custom, the men had to dig their own graves, but Dave, Rick and Mark sang as they worked, digging. How could they? They shared Psalm 56 with me and told me that when in danger I should remember it. “In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise –In God I trust: I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? I am under vows to you. O God: I will present my thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” They lifted their voices in songs and sang:

“Great is Thy faithfulness, oh God our Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fails not;
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth.
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine with ten thousand besides!”

Our missionary friend, Jeaninne, finishes this report by quoting 2 Cor. 4:8-12.


CHAPTER 6: OUR RESPONSE

At the time we received this report I (Bob) was preaching a series of seven messages on the Lord’s Prayer on Sunday mornings, expounding on a phrase from the prayer each week. That Sunday I was to preach on “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” That afternoon Noel wrote to Jeaninne in Colombia, and I will quote her email:

Dear Jeaninne,

This is just a short note to you from us, the parents of Mark Rich, who was killed by the guerrillas in 1996. We were very moved to receive the confession from the man you worked with as a result of your jail ministry in Medellin. Bob, my husband, preached this morning on forgiveness. He is doing a series on the Lords’ Prayer. He had the part today about “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”. He decided to tell the story of how Mark was killed, based on Alberto’s confession. It was a very moving message and Bob taped it. He wants to send you a copy of the tape, for Alberto. Of course you may listen to it first.

“On the side, as Mark’s mom, I just want to tell you that of course I freely forgive Alberto and the others who kidnapped and held Mark. I am sincerely rejoicing that several of them have come to know the Lord, and will again be with Mark –in glory forever. Some day I hope to meet Alberto and the others who were with Mark during those very difficult years. We have so very much to thank God for. I am truly thankful for the confirmation that my son was faithful to our dear Lord to the very end. I am also truly thankful that he was used by his dear Savior to testify to others. Thanks so very much. Please convey this message to Alberto:

(I am translating here what Noel wrote to Alberto in Spanish:)

My brother in Christ: I am Mark’s mother. I want you to know that I have absolutely nothing against you, nor do I hold any resentment at all in my heart. I am very thankful to my Lord Jesus Christ that you are now our brother and that we will see you in the presence of our Lord Jesus forever. Thank you for your confession.

We thank God for your conversion. We thank Jeaninne for informing us, by means of Tania, Mark’s widow. We thank God that my precious Mark was faithful till death to his Savior Jesus Christ. When Mark was a child I taught him that this was the most important thing in life. My constant prayer from the moment of his capture the 31st of January of 1993 was that he would be faithful to Christ to the end. God has answered that prayer, and this gives me unspeakable joy. We have also prayed for his captors. Thus we are very thankful that so many of them have come to know the love and the forgiveness of God. You are one of them. To God be the glory! My husband, Mark’s father, also freely forgives you. He preached this morning about forgiveness, from Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6. So, in order to be forgiven, we must forgive. Jesus said that we should forgive and pray for those who do us evil. We have done that. Brother, may God richly bless you and we will continue to pray for you in your Christian life. Sincerely, your sister in Christ, Noel Rich.

The 18th of December 2004 Jeaninne wrote to us:

“I received your powerful message, Bob, and gave it to Alberto. When he called me, he wept, saying that he should be the one who was killed, not Mark, David and Rick. That night he listened to your message three times, and since has played it for others to hear. It has ministered deeply not only to him but to others who have listened to your anointed message. Alberto sends his gratitude.”

In that message I emphasized that I was as guilty as Alberto was. Alberto deserved to die because he killed my son, but because of my sins, God’s only Son had to die. WHAT IS MY SON COMPARED TO GOD’S SON? If I have been forgiven, how can I refuse to forgive Alberto? Praise God, we are a forgiven (and forgiving) people.

Bob Rich

It was 1989. The Shining Path terrorist conflict had already killed some 18,000 people. The Espinar area of the Department of Cuzco up to that point had not been affected by the terrorism that was devastating much of the rest of the country.

It was a Monday morning and market day in Virgeniyoq. Sunday I had visited the small church in Totorani, a small community at about 13,000 ft above sea level. From there it was about a two hour’s walk to Alcahueta where I had an appointment to visit one of the believers.

Below: The Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path terrorist movement.

Shining Path

About half way to Alcahueta, our national co-worker, Ubaldo Yucra and I stopped to rest beside a little stream. I was recovering from typhoid fever and was tired. At some distance we could see some people coming down the mountainside. We commented between us that this was strange since there was no trail there.

Shortly after that we passed a corral, which was about 100 yards to our right. A man came over the stone wall and ordered us to stop and wait for him.

He was rather short, with a hood over his head so that we could only see his eyes through a square cut in the hood. He was cradling a rifle with another one strapped to his back. On one side of his belt he had a knife, and on the other side he had a homemade bomb (grenade) consisting of a condensed milk can with nails wired around it.

As he came down toward us, another man with a gun in his arms also came over the wall and circled behind us. I commented to Ubaldo: “It looks like we have some terrorists here.” “So it is.” was his reply. I was also thinking: “Lord, it looks like I will be seeing You before I thought I would.”

The first man pointed the gun straight at my stomach and said: “We have come in representation of the ‘party’ and president Gonzalo (Abimael Guzman, leader of the Shining Path), and we are doing away with all of the bad people. Identify yourselves.”

I gave my name and Ubaldo gave his. The terrorist took a small notebook from his pocket declaring, “I think you are on the list.” Upon that declaration, I smiled, thinking: “How could I be on his list?”

I sensed total peace of heart. Seeing my smile, the terrorist became totally unnerved and started to tremble. He ordered me to sit on the ground and started to interrogate us. He questioned: “Where are you from? What are you doing here? Where are you going?” I told him that we were there telling all of the bad people that they should repent, leave their bad ways, and do good.

He asked us: “Aren’t you cattle rustlers?” Again, I affirmed that we had come to tell people to leave their sinful ways and walk in the fear of God. I said that in order to confirm this, I would give him a booklet that would show what we teach the people.

Below: Scenes from the Espinar area. Ubaldo Yucra and his wife Eleanor on the right.

Ubaldo

I stuck my hand in my bag, pulled out a tract, then got to my feet and gave it to him. He seemed confused. Finally he said: “Well, I guess you can go, comrades, but don’t tell anyone that you met us here. We don’t like tattlers.”

We shook his hand and were off. When we were out of earshot, I asked Ubaldo: “Were you afraid?” Ubaldo said “no” and asked me: “Were you afraid?” I also replied: “no.” The Lord had given us a perfect peace.

When we arrived at Alcahueta, the man we were scheduled to visit was not there, having gone down to Virgeniyoq to register his newborn baby. When he arrived after about three hours, we asked him how it had gone in town. “Very interesting” was his reply.

He had been in the medical post, talking to the nurse, when someone came in, kicked him in the back of his leg, grabbed the nurse, and hurried everyone to the town square.

The terrorists shut off all of the exits to the square and took over the P.A. system of the municipality. They got the town leaders together (mayor, justice of the peace, and sheriff) and asked the townspeople if they were good men, or if they should be killed.

Most of the people said that they were good, and pleaded with the terrorists not to kill them. Then the terrorists pulled down the pants of these authorities and whipped them, warning them that if any injustices were committed, the next time they would be killed.

A schoolteacher told the terrorists that some preachers of religion were in the area and that the terrorists should deal with them. The terrorist leader answered: “If they live according to what they preach, we have no problem with them, but if they don’t practice what they preach, we will deal with them.”

Then the terrorists demanded a contribution from all of the merchants who were selling in the square, and left town, taking a young man with them to train as a terrorist.

Another interesting incident for me was when we were on “vacation” here by the ocean. We had lived in Mollendo during our early years here (1967 through 1969) and we (especially the kids and I) really enjoy coming back to the seafront.

Two British mission boards own summerhouses in Mejia, a fishing village near Mollendo. Different missionaries rent these homes for a few days or weeks during our summer (December through February.) Anyway, we usually get a few days down there.

One of those times, also when Joe was small, we were enjoying the ocean. I love to jump in the waves, but when I come out, as you can imagine, I am not exactly fixed up to meet important people. On this occasion, as I emerged from the sea I was sure I saw a former president of Peru!

Below: Peruvian presidents, Fernando Belaunde on the left, Alan Garcia on the right.

Peruvian Presidents

I said to myself, “either I have sand in my eyes, or this is really Fernando Belaunde!” There was no way I would not face him as I came out of the water, he was right there by the ocean watching me emerge!

Well, it was indeed he, and even though I was dripping wet and all sandy and salty, he was very diplomatic and greeted me in perfect English! He later met Bob and saw little Joe playing in the sand, congratulated us and returned to his family who were accompanying him on the beach.

I commented how we wished he were still president, as he had done a lot for the roads in the south of Peru, and Bob travels extensively to outlying places with no roads. Mr. Belaunde very graciously thanked us. He was a very kind gentleman.

Interestingly enough, we also saw Alan Garcia, who was elected right after Mr. Belaunde in 1985, in the airport in Arequipa just before his election. He didn’t actually see all of us, but he winked at our daughter, Terri!

We were sending her off to school in Bolivia for her final year at the New Tribes Mission School. Anyway, Alan Garcia is now president again, and we will say that this time he has done more for the roads here.

We are thankful that many of the towns Bob visits now are accessible by road, even though some of these are not exactly highways! We do not exactly expect to meet up with presidents, but it has been kind of interesting. Most of all we desire to be ready to meet the Lord when our time comes to do that!

I was visting in the Orcopampa mining camp with Nicolás Gonzales. We had gone to the house of one of the believers, looking for him, but his wife said that he had gone to the market.

We drove to the market, parked, and were scanning the booths outside the market when a man came up to the car. Thinking that he wanted to say something to me, I opened the window. He leaned down, spit in my face, and walked away.

He took me completely by surprise. The man must have had a bad cold because my face, nose, even my glasses were covered with yellowish sticky spittle. I tried to clean up my face and glasses with my handkerchief, but after the initial surprise, I could feel my blood pressure rising, my face growing red with anger.

Who was that man? What right did he have to spit in my face? I had never done him any harm; I didn’t even know him. I felt totally humiliated. I said to Nicolás who was beside me: “What should I do? Should I go to the police? Should I go after the man and give him a good beating?”

Below: The Orcopampa mining camp.

Orcopampa

But the man had disappeared by then. Nicolás tried to calm me down saying, “Take it easy, brother; calm down.” But why did he spit in my face?

Then I began to think of our Lord Jesus Christ. Why did they spit in his face? He is Creator of heaven and earth. He had come to earth to save us from our sins and to reconcile us to God. Why would anyone want to spit in His face?

Then I began to think: Who am I? Just another sinner like that man that spit in my face. Why should I think that I am so great?

My Lord suffered that terrible humiliation for me. My heart was lifted up in worship and thanksgiving to my glorious Lord. I began to thank God that this man had spit in my face, because it caused me to realize more what Jesus had done for me.

That was maybe 20 years ago. I still thank the Lord for that experience. “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

The first time I went to Q´oli it took me fifteen hours of walking over the high mountains from the Arcata mine. But God blessed the trip. Souls were saved, and Policarpio Gonzales, who was converted as a school boy in Cotahuasi, was encouraged to lead the new group of believers there.

It took me a year to get back there, but during that year Policarpio had fixed up an abandoned mining road that got us to within two hours of his ranch.

The second trip took me ten hours in my VW van. Several trips later I started out from Arcata with Policarpio and his wife, who was expecting their first baby.

It was rainy season however, and we would have to dig ourselves out of one mud hole only to get stuck in another one. The first night we slept in the van at a crazy angle with one wheel stuck in the mud up to the axle. The next day we went until about noon when we came upon a large rock that completely covered the roadway.

There was no way to make a road around it and it was too big for us to move. Policarpio and Irene decided to go on by foot (they could probably make it to Q´oli by nightfall), and I was to try to get back to Arcata by myself. The only thing that we had to eat during those two days was a little bit of toasted corn and some bread.

Soon before dark I arrived at an abandoned ranch where a man who was traveling with his llamas had decided to camp for the night. I could see that he was fixing a pot of soup over an open fire.

Before parting, Policarpio and I had decided that it would be better for me not to try to get over the last mountain until the next morning. In the evening the ground would be soft, and at 15,000 feet above sea level the poor VW wouldn’t have enough power to get up the steep hill, but in the morning the ground would be frozen.

So I decided to go down and witness to the man with the fire, hoping that he would offer me a bowl of soup. He did give me a bowl of soup, and I was able to share the gospel with him.

Faustino’s heart was hungry for the word of the Lord. I shared the truth of the gospel with him under the light of the beautiful Andean stars and that little bit of light that his fire afforded. He humbled his heart before God and called upon the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins.

Before leaving him I gave him a New Testament. I also recommended that he look up Policarpio in Q`oli since his next stop on his two- day trip to his home would be in that area.

Faustino did look up Policarpio, and Policarpio later did make the eight-hour trip to help Faustino in his new Christian walk. A number of people were converted in the area of his ranch and a church was established there. I was later able to visit them in that area and rejoice in what God had done.

Sometimes the interruption of our plans causes our personal discomfort, but later results in the greater glory of God. “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

We had just moved to Arequipa after our initial years in Mollendo. I had just driven up to the house one noonday when an urgent knock came to our door.

There was a large, dark skinned man at the door who demanded of me, “Is that your truck? I need to talk to the owner.” I fearfully answered that it was mine, and wondered what I had done wrong. He said, “I saw those Scripture verses on the truck, and I need your help.”

On one side of the truck I had written, “Jesus said, ‘Repent and believe in the gospel’. Mark 1:15”, and on the other side it said, “Prepare to meet your God. Amos 4:12”.

We spoke briefly, setting up an appointment to speak that evening at 7:00 PM. Augusto stayed until midnight. It so happens that the Jehovah’s Witnesses had visited him when he was in another town, and had caused him to doubt about his Roman Catholicism.

He had gone to his priest to ask about the doctrine of the Trinity, but his priest informed him that he had flunked that course in seminary, and that he couldn’t help him very much.

Here was a man seeking for truth. Augusto read the Bible until dawn. The next night we visited him in his house and were able to share the gospel with his wife also. He lived only about four doors down from the house that we had rented.

After several weeks of intensive seeking after God and His truth, both Augusto and his wife came to peace with God, were baptized and became a part of the fellowship of believers there.

I had just arrived in the little town of Iquipí in the upper Ocoña Valley. One of my first visits there was to Modesta and Hernán who had a two month old son, their only son after 15 years of marriage. As you can imagine, this son was the apple of their eye.

This is the story that Modesta told me: “I was attending in the store which is the front room of our house. The baby was on our big bed in the bedroom behind the store.

All at once I heard a crash in the bedroom, and ran to see what had happened. There was a big hole in the roof and also a horse that was thrashing around, trying to get its legs untangled from the matress and the bed. Its legs had gone completely through the matress and the bed.

The debrís from the reed and mud roof was all over the place. The roof beams were broken. The baby was untouched, still lying at the head of the bed. How we thank the Lord for sparing our son.”

Again, this is one of the many manifestations of the goodness of the Lord to us. I encouraged Modesta and Hernán to raise their child in the fear of the Lord, which of course they agreed to do.

In times of crisis, and especially after having seen the mercies of the Lord, it is easy to make promises. But especially in this of raising godly children, one needs that constancy, day after day and year after year, of training them in the ways of the Lord.

But are you wondering how that flying horse landed on the roof of that house? The Neyra’s house is up against the side of that steep and narrow valley. A neighbor of theirs was trying to catch his horse, and it was fleeing capture rather than flying. The horse mistook the mud roof of the house in that dry valley for the rest of the mountainside, and thus ended up flying into bed.

Our meeting in the Alto Libertad neighborhood of Arequipa started in the living-room of the Herrera family. Their house is dug into the hillside, so that their roof is at about the same level as the patio of their next door neighbor.

I would visit them on Sunday afternoons where we would minister to 15 to 20 believers. As we were in prayer one Sunday afternoon, we heard a tremendous crash in the next room.

Upon investigation, we found that the neighbor’s milk cow had stepped onto the tin roof of the Herrera’s kitchen, landing on the stove, and kicking through all of the pans trying to recover her footing. Things like this are not particularly conducive to worship, but it is good that the family was in the meeting and not in the kitchen.

When visiting in the Majes Valley some years ago, I went to encourage our brother Tomás Mayhua and his family in Ongoro. I arrived there in the midst of a stong wind storm. I parked the car away from some of the large eucalyptus trees that were there, and started the ten minute walk down to his house.

The wind was quite strong with occasional gusts that blew up great clouds of dust and chaff. Just before arriving at his house there was a place where the trail passed under a large guarango tree (a tree of the mimosa family with long, thick thorns).

Just as I was about to pass under the tree, I sensed an inner voice that said, “Stop!”. I closed my eyes to keep out the dust and braced myself against the wind. When I opened my eyes, I was shocked to see that the guarango had fallen over the trail, exactly where I would have been had the Lord not stopped me. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of his benefits.”


On another occasion I was in a meeting with the believers in Salamanca. At that time they were meeting in the house of one of the believers. They used a room on the first floor. There were beds in the corners of the room.

Some of the believers would sit on the beds, and others on chairs or benches that were placed sort of in a circle. In the center there was a kerosene pressure lamp that hung from a large nail that was pounded into a stout eucalyptus beam that helped hold up the second floor.

As I was preaching, I suddenly stopped and asked brother Juan to add some air to the pressure lamp. He got up, and just as he grabbed the tank of the lamp with both hands to remove it to the table to pump it up, the nail fell from the log that it was in. The heat from the lamp had charred the beam that held it.

In just a matter of seconds the lamp would have fallen, possibly exploding, and causing much injury to those around it. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.”


Another time I was returning to Arequipa after having visited the mountain towns with brother Julián. As we sailed along the blacktop in our Jeep Wagoneer, about two hours from Arequipa, we heard a swishing sound in the engine.

I checked the gauges on the dashboard and found that the oil gauge marked zero. I immediately pulled over to the side of the road and stopped the engine. We got out of the car and opened the hood to check the oil level. The dipstick registered full. I didn’t know what to do. Should I get the car towed to Arequipa before I did more damage to the engine?

We shut the hood, and both of us placed our hands on the hood and prayed to the Lord to heal our car. We got back into the car and started the engine.

I watched as the needle on the oil gauge went up from zero to its normal operating position. The swishing in the engine continued for a few miles, but gradually became less and less. When I got back to Arequipa, I could find no reason to take the car to a mechanic. Until I sold it two years later, I never had to do any engine work on that car. Again, we bless the Lord for His benefits.

Just in case you are wondering, yes, I do believe in mechanics. There are just some times that the Lord chooses to favor us in a special way so that we might praise Him for His benefits.

This prosecutor was sure he had captured a dangerous ring of kidnappers who wanted to chop up Peruvian babies to export their organs.

Part I: The Toddlers in the Ditch

There was a little girl who was found in a ditch – with another little gal, both around 2 years old. The police found the parents of the other little gal, but not at all of the ones we helped. She was so decalcified her teeth were a mess and she could not walk. Maybe she had had polio or something like it, but probably it was just malnutrition.

She went to a small orphanage run by caring German ladies. They called her Elizabeth. I knew her, starved for love as well as nutrition, and with such a winning smile. A lovely missionary couple here adopted her and faithfully fulfilled all her needs.

During those years we had a very difficult lady judge of minors here in Arequipa. In the photo above, Bob and Noel in front of their home in Mollendo. They lived here before moving to the city of Arequipa. The social worker with Lutheran Ministries of Georgia (group I also helped with adoptions) told me this judge was wished down on a banana peel by about all the parents who came our way.

In the case of little Elizabeth, previously mentioned, the judge asked the parents of the first little gal about 4 times if they knew where our little Elizabeth came from. These parents got a bit frustrated with it all; as of course did our dear adopting parents! But the hardest part of the tedious adoption process for me came with the case of a dear little abandoned infant.

He was about 3 mos. old when a lady from the high mountains brought him to Arequipa. Supposedly he was the son of this lady’s husband, and the real mother was her sister. This did not come out at first. But as the lady threatened to leave the baby in the first park she came to, I called the lawyer who was helping us and we ended up Mollendo is a coastal town, where Bob and Noél worked for several years before moving to Arequipa. caring for the baby. To avoid the difficulty of the Arequipa judge, the lawyer suggested we take the baby to Mollendo where the judge offered to process the abandonment papers.

Bob drove us (Rut, who had known of the woman who brought the baby to Arequipa, as she was staying with a friend of hers, and the baby and me. Of course I took our own 4 yr. old Joseph too.)

We arrived, began the process, and returned to Arequipa. Bob went on a trip to a high mountain area where I had no communication with him, and the two of us (Rut and myself) returned to Mollendo the next week as we were summoned to continue the process.


Part II: The Prosecutor and His Conspiracy

Adoptions here are a legal process, not only involving lawyer and judge, but prosecutors as well. The prosecutor in Mollendo was very communist and did not like “gringos.” He had decided that maybe I had kidnapped the baby and accused me of that, stating that Rut and Gabriel, who was helping us in Mollendo, were my accomplices.

We were detained in the police station for 24 hours. My dear little Joseph got to spend the night in the lawyer’s parents house there in Mollendo. Rut was not a believer, and Gabriel was not particularly walking with the Lord at that time. It was a very difficult night!

Drunks were brought in and they thought it was extremely amusing to see this “gringa” prisoner! The police gave us a blanket to throw over the bench; it was May, (almost winter in our southern hemisphere) and cold and damp. Some of Gabriel’s friends found out and brought us a hot dog. One of them was the first believer we had in Mollendo, from 1967. This was 1987, 20 years later. Anyway, this brother said he would pray for us.

The police said I could call my husband. But again, he was way up in the mountains, unable to be communicated with. We were all supposed to be put in jail the next day, as here in Peru one is considered guilty until proved innocent.


Part III: The Trial

Trials are very long in coming and fair trials almost non-existent. The justice system here leaves much to be desired. This prosecutor was sure he had captured a dangerous ring of kidnappers who wanted to chop up Peruvian babies to export their organs.

I was permitted to call a lawyer, but not the lawyer who had recommended us to go to Mollendo! Thankfully there wasn’t a women’s jail in Mollendo, and when the legal assistant I had summoned arrived the next day, we were allowed to return to Arequipa, but had a long court case following all three of us.

We were not allowed to leave the country and had several trips down to Mollendo to deal with this case. Bob had to make a trip to the far areas of Puno to find the real mother, who of course denied the whole thing at first. When she found out that I would have a jail sentence of 10 years if she did not come to Arequipa and clear me of kidnap charges, she did come down.

But she, like many of these dear little Indian people had no legal identity documents. She traveled with her father’s Over the years Noél has helped find homes for needy children through adoption. For years, she also gave Bible classes at the large state boys home. document, but for the court case, we had to pay for her, her sister, and nephew here in the house in Arequipa, to get their identity documents. This was not fast, either.

Anyway, the kidnap charges were finally lifted and we had the lawsuit of why we went to Mollendo instead of doing the abandonment process in Arequipa. The judge there said we didn’t lie well enough. No, we could not lie well enough. I will say that the night we were detained, I felt the Lord’s presence with me.

I had just a little N.T. with Psalms. I read it and cried a good part of the night, but did feel peace that the Lord was with me. Rut was hysteric most of the night. As I read the Psalms, she asked: “Can your God get us out of here?” I felt like Daniel in the lion’s den. But I hadn’t been as diligent in prayer over this as Daniel had! God really spoke to me that night and I do thank Him!

God was faithful, and when we were returned to Arequipa, I really appreciated the gift of liberty!! The best part was what happened to the dear little baby!! Of course I was not permitted to let him be adopted out of the country, but a wonderful Norwegian Lutheran missionary family really wanted him!

They at first were not permitted to have custody, but as the case continued, they were able to accompany the biological mother to Puno and do their adoption there. Later, when all was cleared, I was able to help them with two more adoptions of needy baby boys!

What a blessing to receive a Christmas card from the little guy when he was 8, all in Norwegian! The family later also returned to Peru and we were present at their confirmation ceremony. Our little Peruvian guys are serving the Lord! That is the most important part for me in each of the children we have helped!

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We are Bob and Noél Rich, followers of Jesus Christ. We came to Peru over forty five years ago and have seen God do some amazing things. Bob and Noél Rich Visit our About Us page to see more info about us.

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