Stories of the Andean Highland

Recollections from South America.

By CLAYTON R. POTTS, M.D, Former Medical Director, Clinica Juliaca, Peril

After living in South America for several years, I have many happy memories of the experience of life encountered there, from the standpoint of a medical missionary the privi­lege of association with and ministration to all classes of Latin Americans is Indeed great. Dur­ing the years spent in Peru it was my privilege to travel from north to south and west to east, meet­ing people everywhere who were friendly to Amer­icans and to Protestant missions,

The hospitals established for the care of the sick play an important part in acquainting the people of the Latin countries with the true spirit that pre­vails among Christians of North America toward fellow citizens of the southern republics. The hos­pital represents the true spirit of Christianity. It is tangible and accessible to all classes; likewise it is appreciated by all classes.

On one occasion I called upon the prefect of one governmental department on business pertaining to our mission. It was startling to hear him tell us a story of one religious worker who had been accusing some of our workers of spreading propa­ganda in favor of a political party that was not in power. We were not fearful long, however, for immediately upon telling us that we had been ac­cused by this person, the prefect stated that he had told his informer that he did not believe a word of the accusations. He said he knew of the Adventist missionaries, and had found them to be serious-minded, diligent people, attending to their own business and not mixing in politics. The work of the clinic in Peru is well known to these officials, and this is always of benefit to our mission pro­gram in time of need.

Those who carry on propaganda against Prot­estant missionaries would have the public believe that the Latin Americans have their own culture and civilization, and therefore are in no need of the gospel of Jesus as preached by North Ameri­can Protestants. But the Bible is the Christian standard, and it commands us "to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in Me." Acts 26 :18. "Go ye therefore, and teach all na­tions." Matt. 28:19.

Do the people of some of these lands have the Bible and know God's will? It would be difficult even to buy a Bible in some Latin-American coun­tries if it were not for Protestant bookstores. I looked for a Catholic Bible for years and never found one. The law is God's standard of morality. David said, "I delight to do Thy will, 0 my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart." Ps. 40:8. How could one know the will of God without the law of God? How could one know the law of God unless it was called to his attention?

On a trip down into the jungle territory I spent one night at the home of a Peruvian lawyer. He told me of the difficulties he had with the Indians, of how they robbed him and spoke not the truth. He always tried to have one member of his family on the farm at all times, so that everything would not be stolen. Even then he lost much through the dishonesty of his laborers. It was my opportunity to offer him a copy of the Ten Commandments by the translator Felix Torres Amat. This large scroll of the law was sent to him, and some of our acquaintances passing that way told us how grate­ful the Peruvian lawyer was for his copy of the law. He placed it in his patio in a prominent place so that all his workers could see it and bene­fit thereby.

Yes, the law is holy, just, and-good, and practi­cal, too. The daily life on that farm became changed. Before, they had not known God's law, nor practiced the principles of love and justice that it contains.

In our clinic it was customary to have the chart containing the divine standard, God's law, hanging on the wall. One day as the provincial governor passed through the waiting room, he read the chart and perhaps for the first time saw God's comments regarding the making of images and the worshiping of them. He commented on the clarity of the statements, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image . . . : thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them." Then he ex­claimed, "Such a direct command, and yet my peo­ple have images and bow down to them!"

To the Christian this lack of conformity to the divine standard presents a challenge. Isaiah 9:2 says : "The people that have walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." Truly the light has shined, and needs to continue shining until the day dawn and the day­star arise in their hearts.

On another occasion a priest who was suffering Abdominal pain came to the clinic. He related to us that he had been advised to go to the capital for his necessary care, but that he preferred to stay iin Juliaca and be operated on in the Protestant clinic, where he had confidence in the people. We re­ceived him and prepared him for the surgery indi­cated in his case.

Before the operation we had prayer, commend­ing the priest to the care of the Great Physician who can heal all our diseases. This man regained his health. During his convalescence he had the opportunity to read gospel-filled literature. The results are, in part, witnessed to by another pa­tient of mine who heard the priest in his church on a certain Sunday later on. The priest was talk­ing about the holy day of worship, and commented as follows : "The Adventists observe the correct day of worship according to the Bible."

People often wonder what Protestant mission work can do to help the governments of Latin-American countries. I would like to mention a few instances in which medical missionary work has benefited governments and brought our work to their favorable attention. As the medical direc­tor of Clinica Juliaca is usually requested to serve on the city council of the local municipal govern­ment, his duties include inspection of the hygiene of hotels, restaurants, bakeries, and barbershops. This work in preventive medicine is an opportunity to demonstrate that Christianity is practical. Several times during sessions with the city council it was my observation that the presence of a mis­sionary doctor was a restraint to that group in their conversation. At other times, when' the coun­cil was supposed to attend festive occasions that involved a form of worship that Protestants do not approve, the absence of the missionary doctor was a witness to them.

Our Juliaca Clinic was also requested to attend the Peruvian airmen who were establishing an air base in the vicinity. Workers in the Peruvian Government oil fields near Lake Titicaca were all sent to the clinic for their accidents or. sicknesses. Government employees on the road service and soldiers in the garrisons around the location of the clinic were cared for by us. Thus the missionary clinic was in a strategic position to serve impor­tant government agencies.

There are important industries that receive at­tention from the personnel of this fine medical mis­sionary institution. The mines of south Peru send many of their employees to our hospital. In our institution the white employees of the mines, espe­cially foreigners, are able to get service near their mines that otherwise would necessitate a long jour­ney to Lima.

As an example of appreciation from the miners, I would mention a British mining concern whose director offered the clinic a regular subvention if we would care for the foreign workers or the em­ployees of the mine when necessary. This gift was much appreciated by the mission, and was re­ceived for many months, being paid whether we were called upon to serve the miners or not.

The Southern Railroad of Peru engaged the clinic doctor to care for their workers who had suffered accidents. This service brought much mutual satisfaction, both to the workers of the rail­road and also to our mission employees, who were rewarded by half-fare reductions on their rail tick­ets. Many times the president of the railroad sent letters to me gratefully acknowledging services rendered to his employees. We frequently had op­portunity to attend the members of the Catholic clergy, in our hospital. One Friday evening a priest came in who had traveled many hours to come to us after an accident in a truck collision. The wound was repaired and the patient was put to bed for the night. During the night the priest became cold and was suffering pain. After I had attended him, he asked me how it was that we, be­ing Protestants, could care for him, a Catholic, when there is so much feeling at times between the religions. This priest stayed in the hospital for six weeks on this occasion and came to our reli­gious services Friday nights and Sabbaths. After ode particularly good Sabbath sermon by Pastor Olson, the priest said that truly this is the gospel of Jesus. Owing to certain circumstances, this man did not accept the gospel, but he witnessed to the truth.

Contrasting experiences do come, however, to reward the preaching of the gospel. One cold morning a policeman and his wife came in. He had been suffering with abdominal pain for sev­eral days. We recommended surgery, and they were willing that this be done. Before-surgery we had prayer, as was our custom. It was a very difficult case, and our hopes for the man's recovery were at a low ebb. The policeman's wife promised the Lord that if in His providence her husband could be saved, she would give her life to Him. The man's life was saved, and his wife fulfilled her promise. She is a faithful Christian today, observing God's commandments. The counsel in Ecclesiastes 11:6 is: "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good."

Most sick people trust in someone or something when they are sick. Some trust in God. Some do not know God, and consequently do not believe in Him. I have never yet found a patient who re­fused to have prayer offered for him before sur­gery. Prayer changes things for the sick. Prayer with a patient about to undergo a serious operation strengthens his confidence and gives peace of mind that many do not otherwise have.

On one occasion upon arriving at the clinic after a long trip I found a patient who had nearly died of hemorrhage. My wife had entered before me to talk with the woman about her condition. She asked her why she had not gone to one of the doc­tors who lived near her home, since the hemor­rhage was so severe, rather than travel so far to the clinic. The patient quickly responded: "They tell me in my town that in this clinic the doctor prays for the sick, and they get well. That is the reason I came here."

Yes, medical missionary work is a common de­nominator by which we can truly put into practice the teachings of Jesus by teaching, preaching, and healing the sick. One friend, upon learning of the difficulties encountered regarding the entrance of missionaries into some Latin-American countries, said, "I believe that Protestant missions should do so much good wherever they are that all countries hearing of their good works would petition them for help, literally as the Macedonians were doing in Paul's vision."

The Lord says, through the, prophet Isaiah, "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hun­gry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him?"

In the Indian lands of the Andes welfare work should be carried forward as well as medical mis­sionary work. The hungry should be fed, the naked clothed, the sick healed of their diseases, and the gospel should be preached to those who know not the way of salvation. On a train pulling up over the Andes one cold morning, a military doctor friend of mine was telling me of some of his work with the poor in Puno, Peru. It seemed that his work was in the hospital of Puno where the Indians bring in their sick children. Child after child came before him for examination, and time after time he found that the illness was not due to infection but to malnutrition. A famine for food was bringing many to him for care.

What a challenge are the poor sections of the larger cities of Peru, where men, women, and many children often live, eating and sleeping, in one room. It is not that we could feed all the hun­gry thousands in these countries, nor that we could treat all the sick in any country in which we work, but the charities of our mission do attract the at­tention of liberal-minded men and officials of the government. Welfare endeavor attracts friends to our work and leads governments to welcome our missionaries. Soon there is a letting down of the barriers to the preaching of the fuller gospel.

One day someone from our mission near Lake Titicaca asked a lawyer for an Ingathering offer­ing. The lawyer inquired how the funds would be spent if he should give. The solicitor replied that the funds went for welfare work, including the work of the clinic. The lawyer then said, -"I will gladly give if you assure me that the funds go to help the poor who are cared for in the clinic."

"Man cannot live by bread alone." There is a spiritual hunger in these lands to the south of us that can only be satisfied by a knowledge of Jesus. I can still hear the joyful voices of the natives con­verted in the clinic singing—

"Give me the Bible, star of gladness gleaming,

To cheer the wanderer lone and tempest tossed.

No storm can hide that peaceful radiance beam­ing,

Since Jesus came to seek and save the lost."

Truly the Bible is loved by these dear children, who long to know that all men are brothers and that Jesus died to save them. They are eager to read the sacred pages of the Bible and get an in­spiration from the Scriptures. I have seen our pa­tients in the clinic sitting in the patio or lying in their beds reading the Bible by the hour after we have placed the Scriptures in their hands.

Literally the prophecy of Isaiah 2:3 is being ful­filled. It says: "Many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and thk word of the Lord from Jerusalem."

I have two letters before me from Lake Titicaca. The first has this word, "Last Sabbath, the thir­teenth, we baptized six more believers." This bap­tismal service was conducted where we could not even rent a hall for public services when I first arrived in Peru. And from the office of the mis­sion in Puno comes this word, "We are baptizing about one person a day in our mission alone."

Well doth the scripture say, "Let us not be weary in well-doing : for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Gal. 6:9.


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By CLAYTON R. POTTS, M.D, Former Medical Director, Clinica Juliaca, Peril

September 1945

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