Friends in Peru

If you lived in Peru, you would probably enjoy a favorite game the boys and girls play called Lobo, Ya Estáas (Wolf, Are You Ready)? One player is chosen to be the wolf, while the other children stand in a circle and keep calling, “Lobo, Ya Estás?” When the wolf is ready, he chases the children. The one caught then becomes the wolf.

If you lived in Peru, instead of eating candy on a stick, you’d like to buy pieces of roasted meat from a woman in the street who cooks chunks of meat, puts them on a stick of bamboo, and then covers them with a spicy sauce.

If you lived in Peru, you would probably speak Spanish and live in an adobe house. You would look up at the jagged snow-capped Andes that run lengthwise north and south through the entire country.

If you lived in Peru, you would begin going to school when you were seven years old and attend until you were at least sixteen.

If you lived in Peru, you would study the history of the Incas, who lived as early as 2,000 B.C. And you would learn how General José de San Martín (see the May 1971 Friend) declared Peru an independent nation from Spain.

If you lived in Peru, you would expect to feel earthquakes very often. But no one expected such a terrible quake as the one that occurred May 31, 1970, and killed about 70,000 people.

Allen E. Litster was president of the Andes Mission at the time. From his notes we learn some of the things that took place on the peaceful Sunday afternoon when that great quake shook Peru.

The first earthquake lasted for about a minute, and in that sixty seconds all the houses in one village fell down and the people who were not killed ran about, climbing over the rubble trying to find the other members of their families.

In another place a whole mountain moved down and buried an entire city. The moving of the mountain caused so much dust that for three days the sun was hidden and helicopters could not land to see if there were survivors or to survey the damage.

There were sad and tragic experiences for many of the people in Peru, but there were great blessings to some people too. President Litster wrote:

“Late Sunday night sketchy reports of damage along the Peruvian coast began to filter in from the north. Telephone and cable lines were down, and so communication was limited to ham operators and private company radios.

“Monday afternoon urgent pleas began to come in through small private radios located in the beautiful Callejón de Huaylas, a deep narrow valley located in central Peru at the foot of Peru’s highest peak, Mount Huascarán. The communications reported extensive damage in other areas. Ninety percent of the city of Huaraz had been destroyed. Caraz, a city of some twelve thousand, had reportedly disappeared from the map.

“Our concern increased as we considered the missionaries and members.

“By Tuesday morning there was still no communication from either Caraz or Huaraz, nor was there any by Wednesday morning.

“Then lists of survivors and dead began to be relayed to the public through Lima radio stations. Missionaries and members were assigned to listen for news of missionaries and members in those areas.

“Wednesday evening, seventy-eight hours after the earthquake struck, the telephone rang.

“‘This is Colonel Beckett, U.S. Air Force. Would you like some word about some of your long lost friends? Today I flew a chopper into Caraz. Your elders did some translating for me. They are well and happy and wonder if they could help more where they are or somewhere else.’

“Now maybe there was some hope for the missionaries in Huaraz. Suddenly a cheer broke out in one of the upstairs offices where missionaries were huddled around a radio listening to reports from Huaraz.

“‘Attention, Lima. Mormon missionaries in Huaraz are well.’ Grateful prayers welled up in the heart of each one of us. This accounted for all of our missionaries, and most of our members were safe. The Lord had indeed been good!”