November 1, I found myself in the back of an ambulance rushing my fiancé to the hospital. He’d spent all night vomiting and had pain in his lower right abdomen. After some tests in town, doctors were convinced it was appendicitis. But the hospital in Concepción where we live doesn’t have any surgeons. I found myself signing papers authorizing an ambulance ride to San Javier.
Things happened so fast. Friends left quickly to get us money to help pay for medical bills, but our backpacks were in their car. The doctor told me there was no time to wait. We had to go. So we did, with only our cell phones, our wallets, and about $20 available to us.
I remember looking out the back window of the ambulance, Juan Luis’ hand in mine, wondering how things would go. I was nervous, and yet I knew God’s grace. Something in me was strongly confident that He would supply for all our needs.
By the time we got to San Javier, Phil had connected with an acquaintance in San Javier, Nany, who turned out to be a brother in Christ. He came to the hospital and told me whatever we needed, he would help. His daughter, Bella, is a medical student who often works at the hospital. She was a true blessing to me, helping me navigate the Bolivian medical system that I barely understood.
Juan Luis’ aunt and cousin showed up and brought a blanket for him. This was a huge blessing, as it was a cold day, we’d left his coat at the hospital in Concepción, and the hospitals here don’t even provide blankets for their patients. She helped me feel more confident, knowing someone who understood all that was going on was there to help.
I was the one looked to to make all of the calls. They examined Juan Luis and determined it was appendicitis, then moved him into a hospital room to wait for the next step. Once he was gone, the doctor asked me if I was agreed that we should operate. This was a gargantuan moment for me. The one who least understands all of this, making the life-or-death calls. But again, in those moments I knew God’s grace, and He gave me clarity of mind to be able to sign papers authorizing an appendectomy.
Juan Luis and I were able to pray together before his surgery. I prayed that it would be the easiest and most successful appendectomy this doctor had ever done. I was so grateful for the doctor the Lord provided. A man with 38 years of experience, competent, and God-fearing. This doctor was patient with the questions I had and with the clarification I asked for when there was something I didn’t understand.
Juan Luis went into surgery at 5 pm and they called for family members at 6 pm. When the doctor saw me, he told me that beyond a doubt this surgery had been the right call. He also told me that it was the first time in his career that they’d done an appendectomy in just half an hour. The Lord answered my prayer!
Later, once I was sure that Juan Luis would be okay for the night, I left with Bella to spend the night with her family. They were beyond hospitable. They washed the clothes that Juan Luis and I had come in – the only clothes we had available – and let me borrow some of their own clothes in the meanwhile. They fed me and gave me a place to sleep and shower. I slept in a room all to myself and they had an electric showerhead, luxuries I wasn’t expecting! But a huge blessing was that their home was only a block away from the hospital. The Lord was so merciful to me.
Bella continued to help me purchase medical supplies as they were needed. This is one thing about the medical system here. I had to buy all the medication, the needles, the IV, etc. And her dad provided money when it was needed. Sometimes I miss my church back home so dearly, but the Lord used this to remind me that the body of Christ is here in Bolivia as well, and the Lord still uses His body to take care of His own.
With Juan Luis out of danger and recovering, the next problem was figuring out how to get back. His aunt who came the first day, it turns out, is second to the mayor of San Javier. Because of that, she had an official vehicle she could get us back to Conce in. The problem? Two weeks of blockades had resulted in fuel shortages. She had a vehicle, but without fuel, we wouldn’t be able to go anywhere.
Thursday morning as I walked to the hospital, I saw the longest line I’ve ever seen in my life. Without exaggerating, it had to have been at least half a mile long. It was for the gas station. Fuel had come to San Javier! God was merciful to us again!
Friday morning I came to the hospital to find that Juan Luis had made it all the way down the hallway by himself. He’d been able to sit up by himself and carry the pole the IV drip was on (the wheels didn’t work, so it had to be carried around when he needed to go from place to place). My heart was so happy to see him there, enjoying the morning view, getting stronger each day. They released him that morning, and with the help of his aunt and Phil, we all made it home safe.
I can see the mercy of God so clearly in how He cared for us through all this. Tuesday morning, when it was becoming clear that Juan Luis was no okay and needed to go to the doctor, he told me, “God is always merciful to us.” Our kind Lord so clearly showed those words to be true.
I experienced a lot of culture shock in this adventure, and God used it to make clear a lot of fears and weaknesses in me. I continue to process and work through a lot. But this is His mercy. He is so good to help us recognize the things that need to be changed, and He will be good to change me and give me confidence in Him where I feel insecure.
Pray for Bolivia. The blockades are still going on. It’s been three weeks now, fuel is hard to obtain, and food prices have gone up. I’m not sure when or how there will be peace.
Pray for Juan Luis. He is healing and getting stronger every day. He will be limited in what he can do at least until the first week of December. But I see God’s mercy in this as well, because he will likely be at least mostly recovered on time for our wedding.
Pray for our wedding preparation. We need to travel to do paperwork and other things for our wedding, but the blockades make that impossible. There is a lot to do, and not being able to have as much help from Juan Luis on top of the blockades make it all very stressful for me. Pray that in the face of what seems impossible, I will be able to declare, “Watch what my God will do!”
May the Lord bless you abundantly and remind you that His infinite mercy is new every morning.
Blessings in Jesus,