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prayer at 14,000 feet (part i)

Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, shared this story.

"Pray, but when you pray, move to your feet." -African proverb

A few years ago my wife and I traveled to Peru. We were there to capture video footage to show our viewers the difference in the lives of the poor after World Vision had worked in their communities, proving that we can have a transforming effect in people ‘s lives and literally restore hope to their part of the world.

One day we were traveling in the Andes Mountains to film one of the “before” stories. It was there I met a woman I will never forget. Her name was Octaviana. These are the field notes I wrote as I returned home:

Today our travel took us high up in the Andes mountains. Our vehicle left the main road and began the arduous ascent up a winding and treacherous dirt road to an elevation of 14,000 feet. On this gloriously day, the views of the peaks and valleys were spectacular. This was literally a natural paradise . . . Shangri-La in this mountain range, second only to the Himalayas in their grandeur. Adding to this natural beauty were the occasional adobe brick houses with sheep, llamas, and alpacas grazing on the slopes . . . and the remarkable people native Peruvian Indians adorned in festive colors with brightly woven shawls and skirts with their distinctively colorful hats.

In the US, this would be priceless land, dotted with resort hotels, ski lodges, and condominiums. But here the natural majesty was a deceptive veil hiding the suffering and poverty.

We stopped in front of a small adobe structure and were greeted by a remarkable woman, Octaviana, and her three young children. We entered a small, one-room structure with walls and a dirt floor. We listened to Octaviana tell her story. She was widowed just nine months earlier. Her husband succumbed to respiratory problems, leaving Octaviana and the children alone to fend for themselves. She wept in despair as she described the loss of the man who was her provider, her husband, her children’s father and her friend. She spoke of her loneliness and her fear, with no one but her and the children to carry on the strenuous work of raising sheep, growing crops, and the daily struggle just to survive.

In this “paradise” we had found pain and suffering. No heat, no lights, contaminated water, and little food. The entire family was sick with parasites and respiratory disease. The children had to stop attending school to help with the heavy workload, and on top of it all, Octaviana was struggling to pay a three-hundred-dollar debt her husband had incurred buying his livestock. Worst of all, her only source of income, her small flock of sheep, were dying of some disease. She could no longer sell them at the market; she could only bury them.

Octaviana’s story, sadly, was not unique. Each family in this region had their own sad story. These magically beautiful people in this breathtaking setting suffered deeply and anonymously.

I asked her what she prayed for? She said that she prayed to God that He would not forget her and her three children -that He would help her carry this burden and that He would send help. And as I held her hand and prayed for her, God revealed to me a profound truth-that I was the answer to Octaviana’s prayer. Eight thousand miles from my home in Seattle, 14,000 feet up in the Andes Mountains, she had cried out to God for help, and He had sent me. God had sent me to help her, He had sent me to comfort her in her suffering, and He had sent me to be Christ’s love to her. She had prayed and I was God’s answer, I would be God’s miracle in her life. (To Be Continued Next Week)

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