Have you ever wanted to be on the top of the world? La Rinconada, Peru is the highest inhabited town on earth at 16,700 feet. It’s perched atop Mount Ananea in the Peruvian Andes lying in the shadow of Bella Durmiente (Sleeping Beauty) an enormous glacier that lurks over the town.

It’s what it is like to live above the clouds. And it’s home to some of the most brutal living conditions on earth. There are 50,000 residents who spend much of the year in sub-zero temperatures. There is no running water, no sewage system, no hospital. The government has no real presence in the town.

The town is only accessible by a traveling a dangerous mountainside road covered by grass, rocks, dirt and often ice. The journey can take several days. And when you arrive there are no hotels to stay in. The air is very difficult to breathe for visitors. Gravity holds oxygen close to the earth’s surface so you begin to feel altitude sickness at around 10,000 feet.

Why would anyone ever want to live in such a place? Money. Much of the population is made up of Peruvians hoping to strike it rich. The economy is built on unregulated gold mines. Miners can lay claim to any gold they find on the last day of each month.

Lack of sanitation and the mining operations mean the ground is heavily contaminated with mercury. So many of the residents suffer from mercury poisoning, which affects the nervous system causing itching, burning and skin discoloration. It seems absurd that people would actually live in such a place.

La Rinconada is a clear example of the lengths people will go to obtain wealth. The men travel thirty minutes every day to enter gold mines filled with hazardous gasses, mercury and cyanide. All in hopes of striking it rich. They adapt to these harsh conditions along with the difficulty of simply breathing each day.

Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world.” These residents have conformed to their environment. They are living in a place no one should ever live. But we can conform to our culture and live in ways we should never live.

Have you allowed your desire for money or anything else to cause you to conform to this world? It can slowly happen and you don’t even realize it. Before you know it, your lifestyle is one that is not God honoring. Live to please Jesus and expand His kingdom.

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