Posted by: trevormeers | May 17, 2010

“Burro Ear”–Peruvian for “receipt”

In about 40 days, I’ll march into the Peruvian Andes on a mission to hand out gifts, distribute thousands of Bibles and help with nightly gospel presentations in remote villages. We’re told to expect anywhere from 200 to 2,000 people to show up each night to see the gringos, watch “The Jesus Film” on a generator-powered projector and meet native pastors ready to share the gospel with the Quechua people, descendants of the legendary Inca empire. The Andean Blanket project (now in its 12th year and named for its aim to blanket the Andes with the gospel) has a mantra that “If roads go there, we don’t.” This being my first international trip (no offense, Ontario) and first brush with third-world life, I have much to ponder, including these facts:

Bob the Retired Mailman Has Serious Wheels – When I first met Bob at a team cookout in east Des Moines, he and his wife were discussing whether he’d wear “the mailman shoes” while trekking through the Andes. Sound funny? I’m thinking of buying a pair, based on Bob’s performance on the next day’s 13-mile training hike. He tugged his cap down low and a little crooked and lit out on the Neal Smith trail like Forrest Gump on a walkabout. Clipping along at 4 miles per hour, he got home to tend his flowers when the rest of the group was still trudging somewhere along the Des Moines River.

Two Duffles Are an Excellent Idea – I learned at the cookout that I had bad intel about being limited to one large duffle. We can bring two. This is outstanding news simply because it means my traveling companion Russ and I can each bring our own tent. Russ is a fine fellow and, as the guy who got me into this South American jaunt, the Butch to my Sundance. However, his snoring has been known to unnerve Yetis in the next valley. I will be glad to carry my own private 7-pound tent to Peru rather than a 2-ounce pair of earplugs.

I Will Use the “Double Burro” Strategy – Everest climbers have Sherpas. Teddy Roosevelt had camaradas in the Amazon. In the Andes, we’ll count on porters and burros to tote our gear through the high lonesome. Maybe it lacks a little romance, but there’s not much romance in humping 50 pounds a day over the spine of South America on your own back, either. A veteran trekker shared a bit of wisdom: Split your gear between two duffles that travel on two separate burros. This anticipates the critters’ occasional tendency to plummet down mountainsides. “Sleeping bag on one burro, tent on another burro,” Bill advised. That way, you have something to sleep in even if one of your burros tries BASE jumping.

You Can Decline the Insurance on Your Rental Burro, But You Must Keep the Ears – If your Sherpa burro does happen to catch a few hundred feet of mad air, you can seek reimbursement. Just make sure you keep the receipt. In the Andes, that means scrambling down the mountainside and retrieving one of the burro’s ears as proof of his demise. Our leader Phil says he was once presented with such an ear by a porter seeking payment and stating, “If he was alive, would I have been able to get this?” One lost burro runs about 100 American dollars, I’m told.

I Will Not Lose the White Paper – Immigration authorities in Lima will give us some kind of piece of white paper when we arrive. We are to put it in our passports and guard it with our lives for the next 12 days. No white paper; no leaving Peru. I will probably grab any piece of white paper that comes within 10 feet of me in the Lima airport and then sew it into my shirt. None of these papers will be traveling in a duffle on any burro who shows signs of depression.  

To Reassure Your Wife, You Really Should Look at the Duffle – Spouses were invited to the pre-trip cookout/briefing. Captain Phil explained the proper size of duffle to bring along. He asked, “Does anyone need to see a duffle?” and seemed to be glancing my way a lot. Since I had missed the first briefing meeting, Teri took this to mean Phil felt I should review the proper duffle. She whispered, “Do you need to see the duffle?” I said, “No, my duffle is fine.” She whispered more loudly, “Are you sure you don’t need to see the duffle?” Phil said, “I think I’ll just go grab the duffle to show you.” It was exactly like the one I have in my basement.

“This Trip Will Deepen Your Faith” – Phil stated this as undisputable fact. At the moment, he was referring to the all-night bus ride over a 16,000-foot pass, not handing out Bibles.

My Tarp Will Remain in Peru – We will each carry a plastic tarp to use as a tent ground cloth. Phil suggests we leave them in the last village we visit, considering a tarp is an almost unbelievable windfall to a Quechua villager, who might use it as a new roof that same night. I’ve had a few days in my life—mainly remodeling homes of elderly people—where I went home feeling that I’d played a direct role in making someone’s standard of living a little better than when the day began. I never imagined that one could get this feeling by bequeathing the gift of a $10 tarp from Wal-Mart. Now I find myself staring at the various pieces of outcast junk in my garage and suddenly feeling like a very rich man.

$1 Can Make Someone’s Life Better – One of the gifts we’ll carry into the Andean villages will be sandals made from old tire tread. I’m told that these sandals represent another incredible upgrade to the lives of their recipients. For these shoes, a luxury almost too good for the villagers to dream of, we’ll pay $1 per pair. I can’t help but remember an NBA player who told of giving away slightly used basketball shoes to inner-city American kids. He was stunned to find the kids turning down the shoes because they didn’t like some of the colors. He shut down his effort and started taking the shoes to African kids instead.

You Can Help – Our team needs to raise money to purchase the Bibles, shoes, school supplies and toys we’ll give away to the Quechua villagers we meet. We’ll buy these items upon arrival in Peru for several reasons. First: The Peruvian government would tax us on large quantities of items we bring, assuming we plan to sell them. Second: They are dirt cheap in Peru. Third: It’s hard to find Quechua New Testaments at Family Christian Bookstore in the greater Des Moines metroplex. Fourth: Quechua kids stare blankly at American toys. An Iron Man action figure can’t compete with a rubber band in the eyes of a Quechua kid who’s never seen a TV.

Anyone reading this post can help by giving money to buy these items. 100% of everything you give will be used on materials we’ll put in the hands of the Quechua people. For 40 bucks, you could go have a Bloomin’ Onion and dinner at Outback, or you could put shoes on the feet of 40 people who will be thankful for years for this upgrade in their life. For the same 40 bucks, you can put a New Testament into the hands of 6 people who have never seen one and can now read it in their own language. For 100 bucks, you could help transform the physical and spiritual life of half a village.

If you want to be a part of this, contact me for info on how to send donations to the Andean Blanket’s office.



  1. As always, well written and compelling. Tell big Russ that if I were going along, I wouldn’t be afraid of the snoring, since we’re both cut from the same cloth. We will add your team to our prayer list and, with your permission, I will pass your note along to those who are part of our church body.

    • Please do pass it along. We’d be glad to accept prayer and donations from anyone who can help. I know everyone’s finances are tight these days, but as you can see, even small gifts can really help these people.

  2. […] recorded New Testament into the pockets of deployed American troops.   The Proclaimer unit I’m carrying into the Peruvian Andes is loaded with a recording of the New Testament in Quechua, the language handed down from the Incas […]

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