"You can always rent a bathing suit." The words hung in the air like the smell of rotten fish. Rent a bathing suit? I'd sooner die. And yet, there were my husband and our friends already enjoying the hot springs for which Aguas Calientes was named. We had just finished hiking the Inca Trail for 4 days and exploring Machu Picchu. This was our reward.
After a minute or two of watching them in the water, I sheepishly asked the Peruvian Hot Springs Policewoman where the used bathing suits were. She pointed in the direction of a pile of $1.00 suits I swore I would never touch. Never swear. Moments later I was wearing what amounted to a bikini with a strip of material connecting the top and bottom and partially covering my belly. Except I have a long torso, so I had to hunch over to keep the bathing suit covering the right places. I quickly walked to the hot springs, my friends cheering and stated, "We will never speak of this again." I plunged into the brown water. My English friend Sylvia assured me, "Trust me. If you get any disease, it will be from this water... not from that suit." That's comforting.
As it turns out, God used the $1.00 rented bathing suit and our time in the brown pool for eternity. There, in the water, my 25-year-old London friend who was traveling the world for 8 months by herself, opened up. For some reason, our other friends soaking with us, never came over as Sylvia shared how her Jewish mother recently became a Christian after reading the Bible. "She seems happier and has more friends since her conversion." Then she asked, "How about you? Are you religious?"
"No," I answered. "We're not religious," knowing the preconceived notions that go along with that term. "But we do believe the Bible is true. And my husband and I both decided years ago that Jesus is God, and we have decided to follow Him and to live our whole lives for Him." I shared about our pastor who is Jewish and came to believe in Jesus from reading the Bible as well. Sylvia said, "Yeah, I wonder if I should read the Bible too." "Do you have one?" I asked. "No, but I figure if I walk into one of these Catholic Churches in South America, maybe they'll give me one." I told her that our pastor always says, "Follow a dead god, and you'll end up just like him. Follow the living God, and you'll end up just like Him." She listened carefully and never looked away.
That evening we took the train and bus back to Cusco where we said goodbye to Sylvia and the other friends from our trek for the last time. As we hugged goodbye, I handed her a Bible wrapped up in a map of Machu Picchu. It was our travelers' Bible. Even before we left for Peru, my husband and I had said that maybe we'd find someone to give this to on our trip. Did we ever.
Since then, I've heard from Sylvia on Facebook. She thanked me for the Bible and said she's on the beach now in Lima with plenty of time for reading. I guess that rented bathing suit was worth every penny!