Machu Picchu was an isolated Andean village where about a thousand Incas once lived—and died without ever hearing the gospel. Built between AD 1400 and 1500, it was a thriving urban center. The Incas devised innovative agricultural techniques on dozens of terraces carved into the mountainsides. Strategically located between the Inca capital of Cusco and the resource rich jungle, it was both a stepping stone for the Inca to expand their empire eastward into the jungle and the last refuge for the Inca when the Spanish began their conquest. The end of their story is a mystery since the former inhabitants completely abandoned the city for reasons unknown.

After years of reading about and researching the Inca Empire and their Quichua descendants, I was fascinated to finally visit there this month. I enjoyed an extremely informative tour and then had the privilege to hike around on my own. The mountaintop site is so well recovered that it is easy to imagine the city still bristling with activity. I hiked up to the highest peak of Machu Picchu where I sat down and enjoyed a breathtaking view of the five hundred year old city. Several thoughts came to my mind in waves of realization.

I first thought of the precious Inca people living in that isolated Andean paradise all those years ago. Sitting there, I could imagine their daily comings and goings and reconstruct in my mind what life would have been like there. Their lifestyle and daily activities are becoming known to us as more research is conducted. We know that the religion of the Incas was animistic and centered on the worship of the sun. I thought of the thousands who would have lived and died during Machu Picchu’s heyday. As far as we know, they are all in hell now, separated from Christ for all eternity, even though they lived 1400-1500 years after the giving of the Great Commission. If only . . . .

My next thought was imagining that I had lived in that day and that God had led me to them to share the gospel. I could envision living among them, learning their language, adapting to the culture, making friends, sharing their food, sharing their lives, and sharing the Truth. I imagined them coming to understand, believe, and accept Christ. I even imagined which of the buildings would have been the church where we would gather on the Lord’s Day. In such isolation, the discipleship would affect all aspects of village life. I imagined that they would have survived and taken the gospel to all other areas of the Inca Empire. If only . . . .

As I stood to descend from the thin air of my lofty perch, I thought of all the Machu Picchus in the world today. There are countless isolated Quechua villages throughout the Andes with no gospel witness. Everyday, inhabitants from those unreached villages die and go into a Christless eternity. In addition to these, the world is filled with thousands of other groups that likewise have never heard the gospel. One day, someone like me may sit and ponder the remains of a village whose people lived and died without Christ and wish he had some way to go back in time to share the gospel with them. Yet, today they are still here and alive. While they live and while we live there is hope. If only . . . .

Dr. David Sills

Dr. David Sills is the founder and president of Reaching & Teaching International Ministries, a missions professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaker, and author.

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