Dear Brethren, December 5, 2008
Our 15 year old son, Andy, and I got our things ready (preaching, camping and hunting equipment) and took the motorbikes up to the hangar. I hastily prepared the plane for the short flight over to El Oro (The Gold). That’s the name of the small Quechua community we were headed to for the purpose of holding an evening service. Flying reduces a 3.5 hour rough road trip to about 20 minutes. Since we were flying we were going to have to spend the night camping up on the mesa where the dirt strip is located. We had been having extremely hot weather and the winds were picking up so I decided to leave a little earlier than planned. Heat and wind are 2 major considerations when flying into this remote and marginal strip. We carried a minimal amount of fuel with adequate reserve to reduce our touch down and take off weight. On the flight over Andy was the designated bird watcher. Buzzards are a hazard to low level flight in the Andes but condors can be found at any altitude. Either one can ruin a flight. He spotted a couple of condors above us but not the one on our level. We veered sharply to the right barely missing him. Good job Andy! The absence of smoke and dust made it difficult to determine wind direction and strength. The sand bars on the river near El Oro are usually dusty so the lack of dust clouds indicated little or no wind. We flew a low pass paralleling the strip to check it for animals and try to see the small wind sock we set up some time ago discovering the wind was out of the south. This was a pleasant surprise. We would rather land into the south as the strip stops at a cliff on that end which drops about 600 feet to the river basin below. I executed a go around on the first try as I didn’t get the plane set up quickly enough. I brought her around again praying the slight southerly wind would hold stable. It did and we touched down about 70 feet from the end of the strip and had her stopped just short of half way down the strip. I hadn’t flown into this strip in some time so I was apprehensive but the Lord helped me handle the plane. As Andy and I crawled out we realized that God gave us the wind we needed just long enough to land because it dissipated just after landing. The temperatures didn’t disappoint us as the in plane’s thermometer registered over 110 degrees F!! What in the world is this northern boy doing in such a place? That’s an easy one. Taking the Gospel to the “uttermost part.”
We hiked about 45 minutes down to the settlement. El Oro is a community of 23 Quechua families just barely surviving in a very inhospitable area. It is bordered by mountains of volcanic rock and soil on 2 sides, slopes of low forest to the west rise high above the settlement, and on the east a rocky gorge leads to the river. Their fresh water source is down to a trickle because a rockslide forced most of the water underground. They herd goats, fish some, and till the soil wherever they can. It’s a long story on how God led us to this settlement but He did and now there are about 17 adult believers residing there. There were others but they have moved on to other places. Recently, Brother Mario and Sister Isabel became the first couple to ever be legally in the history of this community so far as anyone can tell. This is quite a testimony to the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives. We pray that others will follow their example. God blessed us with a wonderful service that night as about 25 Quechua Indians crowded into the school house. Oh how they sang songs of praise that exalted the Lord Jesus Christ! Their faces and hearts were aglow. So was mine.
Andy and I were fed something that resembled a meatless goulash. It wasn’t identifiable but it was tasty. Then we hiked back up the mesa, built a fire, reminisced for a while and went to bed about 11:00 pm. We were exhausted. I forgot to mention that earlier in the afternoon Andy shot his first turkey so he was elated. It pleased me, as well.
We didn’t need our sleeping bags that night as it remained very warm until the early morning hours. I was up before dawn, got the fire going for coffee, communed with the Lord, and walked the length of the strip to have a look. As I stood at the cliff’s edge on the southern end the sun peaked over the mountains to the East. Details of the landscape were not very clear but the silhouette of the mountains, the reflection of sunlight off the river surface some 600 feet below, and the colors that only God can create held my attention until then they disappeared with the morning light. I recalled the words off an Irish author of old who wrote, “Why do men lie prone in their beds and the great glory of God washin’ the hills with holy fire?”
We broke camp, readied the plane, and slipped nicely off the mesa in less than 400 feet. We were climbing steadily as we cleared the cliff’s edge. About 15 minutes later we were over the clouded in valley of Vallegrande, our destination. God provided an open spot for us the glide under the clouds on the east side of the valley and we were on the ground before 7:00 am.
Thanks for praying for our safety as we fly. Thanks for praying for the small group of believers in El Oro. Pray for them now and ask God to firmly establish a church there for His glory. Have a joyful Christmas exalting our great God!!
Serving the Master,
Lance and Karen Rader
“Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:” Romans 15:20