Alud is a Spanish word that translates “avalanche” or “landslide” and can be used figuratively to refer to a flood of something. It comes from the same Latin root as the English word alluvium which refers to a mass of substances collected by means of the action of snow, ice, or water.
On May 31, 1970 at 3:23pm, the earth trembled in the Ancash and La Libertad Regions of Peru and the mountain town of Huaraz with its quaint Spanish colonial ambience, the place where we are currently based, was completely flattened. More than 95% of the regional capital was destroyed and 25,000 people living here perished. Today’s Huaraz retains little to none of its former ambience. The earthquake lasted a mere 45 seconds, and it is estimated that between 65-70,000 people died and approximately 50,000 were injured in Northern Peru.
Up the Huaylas Valley from Huaraz, the large and bustling mountain community of Yungay was going about its normal business when the quake hit. Most were listening on the radio to the opening World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Italy. About 15 seconds after the shaking ended, at 3:24pm, a giant glacial slab fell from the north summit of Nevado Huascarán, the highest mountain in Peru (22,205 feet). This chunk of rock and ice collected a mass of snow, more rock, sand, mud, and debris as it traveled 9 miles downhill at speeds between 300-600 mph, quickly growing to 50 million cubic meters of allluviumthat literally leapt over a ridge. In less than 3 minutes, the town of Yungay, situated on the other side of that ridge, was erased from existence. Approximately 20,000 people were buried alive, most not even knowing what had hit them and some simply looking out their doorways to see what was happening. This horrible disaster is what Peruvians now refer to as El Alud.
In Yungay, only about 350 people survived El Alud. Most of these were 300 children who had been led down by a clown to a circus at the local stadium that sat on higher ground. One man later commented, “It’s like the clown led the children to safety like the Pied Piper.” The others were two separate groups who fled to higher ground, most to the local cemetery and a large statue of Jesus situated atop a pre-Incan fortress mound.
Today, the old city of Yungay remains buried, and the Peruvian government has forbidden any excavation. Crosses and tombs litter the grounds where houses once stood, engraved with names of those who were never found. It has become known as Campo Santo (i.e. Holy Field), a national cemetery.
A few years ago, I have heard, a construction crew was doing some digging nearby to build a school. They actually unearthed a woman standing in her doorway, in the exact same spot she was standing decades earlier when El Alud came barreling down the mountain . . . Que horrible!
We decided to take the Team Yeshua volunteers down to Campo Santo for a look and a little street fishing (i.e. fishing for men). The place is quite eerie and reminded me of the solemn pall I sensed hanging over the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng concentration camp I once visited in Cambodia.
At the site of Old Yungay, we were literally walking on top of a buried city and the thousands of bodies still in the positions they were at 3:24pm on May 31, 1970. In one spot, the remains of the TOP of the local Catholic cathedral can be seen sticking out of the ground. There is also a twisted old bus and four broken palm trees that somehow survived that day.
The old cemetery is there, now four levels compared to the two at the time of the quake, and the statue of Jesus erected in 1966 still crowns the mound that was once a pre-Incan fortress.
As we combed the grounds, there were some interesting witnessing opportunities. To several folks, some family members visiting a site where loved ones were lost many years ago, I commented in Spanish: “Truly this place is a testimony that death is real and comes suddenly. We must be prepared. The Lord Jesus Christ is our only hope.” One older man either told me he was one of the children that survived in Yungay or that he lost a child that day. His Spanish was hard to understand and his age difficult to determine. He spoke of God sending El Aludand not understanding why. I explained the curse of sin upon this earth and that God, in spite of our sin and in spite of our deserving much worse than El Alud, sent us Jesus Christ to die for our sins that through Him we might have life. He took a Gospel tract. Up atop the cemetery by the large statue of Jesus, the same place where a small group of people fled on that fateful day and were spared, we gathered to look across the valley at New Yungay, situated on higher ground about one mile north, and the ominous west face of Huascarán still towering above. Up there, I met Timoteo whose mother was buried alive by El Alud. He and his friend were simply visiting to remember. We expressed our condolences and spoke of spiritual things. He accepted a Bible and was grateful. Eric also had opportunity to share the Gospel with a young couple who spoke good English. They were Peruvians who live in the United States. It was a sobering time but a good time. As I have said on many occasions, one of the most gratifying things about Jewish ministry is the divine appointments that result amongst the Gentiles.
Only part way through the summer, Team Yeshuahas already had opportunity to share the Gospel with folks from THIRTEEN Gentile nations, including unexpected countries like Algeria and Slovenia.
There is a very sad and yet interesting chapter to the El Aludtragedy that flies under the radar. Two American scientists had observed and studied a massive slab of rock up on Huascarán that was being compromised by the glacier and was a real threat to the town off Yungay in the valley below. Their findings and a dire warning were published in a local newspaper on September 27, 1962. The Peruvian government, who wanted to avoid public panic and certainly didn’t want the tourism industry to suffer, ordered these scientists to publicly retract their findings or face prison. They were forced to flee the country, and Peruvian citizens were then forbidden by law to even speak of this impending disaster. Eight years later, exactly what these scientists predicted came true. People were warned of El Alud, and like Israel of old, they put their fingers in their ears. El Alud came, and the old city of Yungay ceased to exist.
Another strange tidbit involves Huascarán itself and it a stark reminder of how frail and finite is man. That giant slab of rock was compromised by the glacier and did break off the west face of the north summit. However, when one looks at pictures of this face before El Aludcompared to the mountain today, it doesn’t look any different. That is a huge mountain, my friends. I see it down here every morning as I am sipping my coffee and looking out the apartment window. What is man in the face of such immensity? A better question yet would be that asked by the Psalmist: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him” (Psalm 8:3)?
This past week, we have had a couple great encounters with Israelis here in town. The team volunteers met a group in a local coffee shop, and all took Hebrew Gospel tracts. They invited these to go rock climbing with us that afternoon, and one of the guys actually messaged me about it. He brought a friend, a young lady, and we took them up to Los Olivos and taught them some of the basics of climbing. We brewed a little Israeli coffee up there, a great spot with a great view of big snowy mountains lit up like fire in the afternoon, and the time yielded ample opportunity to speak about the things of Messiah. The young lady was very open, and after I took her through the Law to highlight our sin, she said: “I really need to learn more about the Scriptures and about Yeshua.” At the end of the day, both took Hebrew New Testaments and were very grateful for our kindness and hospitality.
The next day, the same young man messaged me back and asked if he could join us for more climbing (and that after hearing blunt truth about Jesus). We took him with us up into the Llaca Valley to explore some climbing routes in the high Yosemite-like vale at the foot of the mighty Ranrapalca (20,216 ft.) We spent the entire day, a gorgeous and cloudless day, at an altitude close to 15,000 ft. and climbed several challenging and unique routes. Our Israeli friend, who had never climbed before, actually got up one of the routes and had an incredible time, dumbfounded that he found himself seeing beautiful mountains up close and rock climbing with a group of Gentiles who love and appreciate Israel. Again, we had ample opportunity to speak with chuztpah about the God of Israel, the Messiah of Israel, the Holy Scriptures, and the lies of the rabbis. We explained the difference between the faith of Abraham and religious tradition, the difference between Biblical Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism. This tough and ruddy former soldier who had seen much in his IDF service listened and asked tough questions.
When we arrived back at our hired vehicle at dusk, we brewed up one final Israeli coffee, and I asked if I could read some from the New Testament to our group, one of my favorite chapters to ponder upon while out on the trail—Hebrews 11. Hearing all the names of Old Testament characters was intriguing to this young man, to hear such things from the New Testament.
Up in Llaca, there were also a couple of interesting encounters with Gentiles. One of the Peruvian national park employees vehemently rejected a tract, a very rare thing with the locals down here. He boasted in his worship of Pachimama(some mythical devil goddess) and of the sun, the moon, and the earth itself. I explained the foolishness of such vanities and that the Creator, the God of Israel, is coming to judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ who was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead according to the Scriptures. He mocked, but like the people of Peru in 1962, he cannot say that he hasn’t been warned about the ultimate El Alud. An elderly farmer along the road took one of the same tracts this man rejected. Our Israeli friend asked, “What did you give him?” I explained, “We have to tell the Gentiles about the Messiah of Israel too!” He was intrigued. It was a great day in the Lord.
Fernando, our driver that I met 3 years ago, still hauls us around. And he still has that Spanish New Testament I gave to him, claiming it is one of his most precious possessions. Every trip outside of Huaraz is an opportunity to disciple him. Just the other day, he was asking about tithing, Christian liberty, and some wrong things he had been told by a Seventh Day Adventist pastor. I’m not sure if he quite gets salvation, but he is close. Please pray for him.
Fernando drove us up to Hatun Machay, a high-altitude climbing area, where Eric and I were able to teach Carter, one of the team members, some advanced climbing skills. When Eric returns to the States in a little over a week, I will need Carter’s help if we are going to continue using climbing as a tool to reach the Israelis. We did some really high routes that day at an altitude close to 14,000 ft., and even Josiah, my 9-year old son and quite the adventurer, got up on the rock. As we drove out that evening to head back to Huaraz, we picked up two climbers who were hitchhiking. Eric rode in the back of the truck with them, a Colombian and a young lady from San Francisco. Strangely, they started talking about how they despise Israelis and “their smugness.” Eric went on to explain some biblical truth about Israel and about the Gospel. Ironically, they listened, and both gladly received Bibles when we dropped them off at the plaza in Huaraz. The young lady seemed especially open.
There is definitely a spirit of anti-Semitism here in this town. I was actually kicked out of a local coffee shop for confronting the manager lady about this very thing. She and her American husband made it clear that I was never ever again welcome in that coffee shop. LOL. On one of our Hebrew invitations that we have posted around town, someone had scribbled “Free Palestine,” and we have seen several where the Israeli flag and the menorah were literally torn off. Ok, I know a lot of leftwing Jewish people, particularly in America, use anti-Semitism as a crutch and seem to find it under every rock, just like Democrat devils do with the race card. Notwithstanding, anti-Semitism is real around the world, and when given opportunity, we will take a stand against it. Why? Because salvation is to the Jew FIRST and also to the Gentile (Romans 1:16), and so is the Judgment (Romans 2:9), the ultimate El Alud. And the Lord was very very clear when He spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3.
Thus, we labor on here in Huaraz. Brother Eric will return home for the birth of his child in a little over a week. He will dearly be missed. Brother Tim Mejia from California, one of FPGM’s faithful supporters, is coming down to help us chaperone the team for a couple of weeks, and then a faithful brother from our local church will come down to help us finish out the team’s term of service. Jamie, the kids, and I will be here until October. Please pray for us, Team Yeshua, and those who are coming to help.
Our theme verse this year is Ezekiel 3:17: “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning.” True love bids a warning doom to children who play in the freeway, and a true watchman and caretaker of the Gospel cannot preach it without warning both Jew and Gentile of the coming judgment, of El Alud del Creador. You see, my friends, God is a furious storm, El Alud, the alud off all alluviums (Nahum 2:1-6). But, He is also the shelter from that storm, from El Alud(Nahum 1:7). Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel, is the escape, the shelter, from the storm of coming judgment. He alone can save both Jew and Gentile TO God. He alone can save both Jew and Gentile FROM God. There are days here and in America when I feel like those American scientists in Peru back in 1962, warning of impending disaster only to be threatened for telling the truth and rejected by those putting their fingers in their ears. In fact, the American people do a great job of of putting their fingers in their ears today, on both the left and the right sides of the political spectrum. Notwithstanding, we must be faithful and continue to warn the wicked. El Alud is real, and it’s coming to break with a rod of iron and to dash in pieces like a potter’s vessel (Psalm 2:9). Yet, there is escape, there is hope: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Psalm 2:12).
Some people in Yungay fled to the large statue of Jesus on high ground and were spared from El Aludon May 31, 1970. They spent a cold night up there surrounded by destruction below, but they survived and were eventually rescued. At the foot of the real Jesus, the true Messiah of Israel, there are no cold night waiting in fear to be rescued. Flee to Him like those villagers fled to the high ground on that fateful day. Cry to Him like Peter did in the turbulent waters of the Sea of Galilee: “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30)! He can, and He will.
Thank you, brothers and sisters in Christ, for your prayers and support. We need it.
The Boyd Family & Team Yeshua
Zerayim Colportage Board