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The memorable story of a missionary family’s life journey through the land of Peru. Their faith is tried and tested through tragedy and grief. At the age of four, a son grieves the loss of his father, and questions why. Forty-four years later he embarks on a seemingly impossible quest to find closure and healing for a broken heart. Deep in the heart of the Andes Mountains, he finds his peace.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Ken Isensee’s steps quickened as he worked his way through the narrow, bustling side street of downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina, in search of the Peruvian Consulate. It would be difficult to fully explain the series of life events that had brought him to this moment. He was on a quest and had just taken the first step of a journey he had dreamed of for years. He desperately hoped it would bring healing to his broken heart, but everything hinged on acquiring assistance from the consulate.
Silently, he breathed a prayer as he opened the glass door and entered the busy consulate lobby. Once again, he pulled out a well-worn map of Peru, and spread it out on the counter in front of him as he awaited his turn in line.
“May I help you, Señor?” the pleasant, professionally dressed official inquired.
“Yes,” Ken replied. “My father was a missionary and is buried in the Andes Mountains of Northern Peru, and I was hoping to take a trip to locate his gravesite. None of my family has ever been to his burial site, and all I have to go on is the name of the town of Retamas listed on his death certificate. I have searched so many maps, and I just haven’t been able to find this town. It has to be here somewhere,” he insisted. “Can you help me, please?”
By now, several staff members had gathered at the desk and joined the search. Ken watched, but after a long wait, the result was obvious.
“I’m sorry, sir, that we couldn’t be of more assistance. Evidently, the town no longer exists. If it was located in a remote part of the northern Andes, then there is the possibility it was destroyed by an earthquake. We have had many devastating earthquakes in that region over the years, and they often wipe out entire communities.” A young Peruvian lady, sitting nearby at her desk, stood up and walked over, adding, “There is also the possibility of mudslides from the heavy rains. Even if the town still existed somewhere along a remote road, there have been real problems with vandalism where grave markers have been destroyed. We seriously doubt any trace remains that would enable you to find your father’s burial site. It would be a very difficult journey to make, only to find nothing.”
“Do you have any recent, more updated maps?”
“We’re sorry, Señor. We have checked and rechecked all our sources.”
“Gracias. Thank you for your help,” Ken sighed, as he folded his map and returned to the busy street. He was oblivious to the raucous noise, crowds of people, and chaos of the traffic around him as he caught a train back to his apartment. He was overwhelmed with frustration and disheartened that he had been unable to get any guidance or help. He was unsure of his next step.
He had been only four years old when he waved a final good-bye to his father on the front porch of their home in Trujillo, Peru. The emotional trauma and sadness at the loss of his father had followed him well into adulthood. As a child, and even now as an adult, he still dreamed about his father. Never having the opportunity to say good-bye had left something unsettled in his heart. Missing out on a life with his father had left many unanswered questions, and a deep scar that had never healed. Ken’s mother suggested he seek the professional counsel of a trusted family friend: “Perhaps Ray can help you find the emotional healing and peace you need.” Ken agreed. It was worth a try.
“You’ll never overcome your grief and loss until you find your father’s gravesite and face this. It’s the only way you’ll ever find closure,” Ray advised. Several years passed, but Ken had never forgotten his counsel. The desire to return to South America to find his father’s grave had only intensified over time.
Now here he was, with his wife, Darlene, in Argentina, South America, where the Burlington Northern – Santa Fe Railroad had sent him to help in the privatization of their commuter rail system in Buenos Aires. “I really feel, while we’re here in South America, that we should make the trip to Peru to find Daddy’s gravesite,” Ken had suggested, and Darlene readily agreed.
Ken was more than surprised and pleased at her response. Coming to Argentina was the first time his wife had ever traveled outside of the United States, and he knew she couldn’t possibly imagine the difficulty and challenge of traveling into the rugged, remote Andes Mountains.
Ken’s phone calls to friends, who he had hoped could give him guidance on directions to Retamas, were futile. Of the two men who had been on the last missionary journey with his father, one had passed away and the other was unable to remember any useful details. Now he couldn’t even depend on assistance from the Peruvian Consulate.
Arriving home at the apartment, Ken began sharing with Darlene the day’s events, and his disappointment. “If we’re going to make that trip to Peru, we need some kind of direction.” He was hesitant to make any kind of decision. Then with renewed resolve, he turned to Darlene. The decision was final: “We’re going to Peru.”