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.


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.

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