No more witch doctors for this family


Ruth and Kevin
Katie Anderson (center), a volunteer missionary with Extreme Nazarene Ministries in Peru, met Ruth and Kevin through a free medical clinic. Anderson and her missionary partner, Luz, followed up with the family, who are now new believers. Photo courtesy Katie Anderson.

We were just getting ready to leave for the first of five Sunday school classes when the phone rang at 8:03 a.m. It was Ruth, a new believer that I and my missionary partner, Luz, have been discipling.

Ruth was distraught, so her Spanish wasn't clear enough for me, whose native language is English, to understand exactly what she was saying. I passed the phone to Luz, a native Peruvian Spanish speaker. Luz talked and listened to Ruth, and I was hearing (in Spanish, of course) "What? How? How? OK, we are coming!"

As an American volunteer missionary giving two years of service in Peru through Extreme Nazarene Ministries, I work with Luz in outreach projects, church planting efforts and discipling new believers. Our first Sunday School class with some of these new Christians was scheduled to start at 8:30, but this was an emergency. Part of living life alongside our young brothers and sisters means being available to them in moments of crisis. So, we rushed off to Ruth's side.

At about 8:22, we stopped at the corner of Ruth's street. We had to walk two blocks to her cuarto, which is a small room -- about 12 feet by 12 feet -- that typically houses an entire family. All we knew was that Kevin, Ruth's husband, was sick.

We were just ready to enter her "yard," when Ruth came running toward us from the house of her mother-in-law. She fell into Luz's arms and began sobbing. For about five minutes we tried to comfort a very distraught wife. When she was able to gain her composure, Ruth told us what had happened in the last week.

The previous Sunday, Kevin had gone to play soccer in the afternoon. At one point in the game, he collided with another player in the game and broke his collarbone. They went to the hospital for X-rays. They found out from the X-rays that not only was it broken, but it was out of position. If he didn't do anything, it would heal badly. They intended to treat that.

Inexplicably, the next day, there was a painful red spot on his leg that they thought was a bruise from the collision. The next day, however, the red spot had spread, and the pain was excruciating. Being the good jungle family that they are, they went to the local witch doctor on Wednesday, who mixed up a mud paste and applied it on the sore.

The mud didn't help, and so he cleaned that off, cut open a toad and laid the toad on the spot. You guessed it: That didn't help either. Next, the witch doctor removed the toad and heated up an herbal water, applying it as a compress on the leg. That made the strange sore even worse, not to mention that all this invited Satan in to work.

The family returned home and waited.

On Thursday, Kevin was in so much pain that he wrote a good-bye letter on the back of a receipt, asking Ruth to take care of their little girl, Estrella (almost 2). In the message he said he was sorry for anything he had done that was bad, but explained he needed to end his life because the pain was causing such torment.

Fortunately, Ruth found the note before he could follow through and prevented him from taking his life. He continued to get worse over the following days and was too weak to follow through.

After Ruth told us all this, we entered into one of the most troubling scenes of my life. Had I not known him before, I would have thought that Kevin was a severely handicapped individual who was at the point of death. And he was at the point of death. He looked nothing like the normal, active, vibrant, 24-year-old young man we knew.

We walked into the room where Kevin lay on the bed with his eyes rolled into his head. His mouth was partially open, and his breathing came in short gasps. Ruth had laid a Bible on his chest.

Ruth showed us his leg. What had started as a red spot on his lower, inner thigh had spread to his ankle and waist. His leg was nearly doubled in size. We insisted that he go to the hospital immediately; it is only seven blocks from the house. They didn't want to take him to the hospital because they didn't have any money to pay for treatment. In Peru, if you don't pay up front, the hospital will not provide treatment, even in an emergency like this.

We called Hermano Jose, the leader from the central church who is helping us in Yarinacocha. He said he would come and help us get Kevin to the hospital.

Luz and I prayed with Ruth over Kevin. Estrella walked in and, before I could stop her, touched Kevin's leg. Instantly he came out of his semi-conscious state to scream in pain. 

Luz began talking, comforting and praying with him. He wanted to say the sinner's prayer, so Luz began to pray. As Kevin prayed, repeating her words, his voice became stronger and stronger. When they finished, Luz prayed for him again. Then he asked for some water. He hadn't had anything to eat or drink for a long time because of his unconscious state.

As we left, Kevin smiled and thanked us for coming and helping him. He was a totally different person from when we first arrived. We left, knowing that Hermano Jose was on his way.

Later in the day, Jose called and said that Kevin was being treated at the hospital, but that the infection was so bad the doctors were debating the removal of his leg. They were just waiting to see how he responded to the medicine.

The next time we saw Kevin, on Tuesday afternoon, he was still in pain, but his spirit and life were changed. His leg actually looked worse, with a black area and blisters where the infection originally started, but he is thankful to be alive. The doctors say that it will take time and medicine, but his leg should be fine. We are planning to see him again on Saturday after we help with a grilled chicken dinner to raise money for his hospital bill.

Continue to pray for Kevin, Ruth, Estrella and their extended family. This experience has been an opportunity for us to minister to the family even more. God has used this to help anchor their faith in Jesus Christ.

There will be no more witch doctors for this family. Their faith is in Jesus.

-- Katie Anderson is a volunteer missionary, serving in the Extreme Nazarene Ministries 40/40 strategy, in which 40 Peruvian volunteers are partnered for two years with 40 non-Peruvian volunteers to plant churches in Peru. Anderson, who is originally from West Virginia, U.S., is serving in Pucallpa.

Talk about it

  • Katie Anderson and her missionary partner, Luz, met Ruth's family through a free medical clinic they'd hosted. How do you think medical clinics fit into a holistic approach to ministry?
  • Why do you think Ruth called Katie and Luz when her husband's illness became so dangerous?
  • What are some of the reasons Ruth and Kevin first sought a witch doctor's treatment for his wound?
  • What are the possible consequences of seeking power from a spiritual source other than God?
  • What happened when Katie and Luz prayed with Kevin and he submitted himself to God?
  • The missionaries not only prayed for Kevin, but took him to a hospital, as well. Why pursue medical treatment in conjunction with prayer?
  • How can you pray for this young family, as well as the volunteer missionaries with Extreme Nazarene Ministries?