Paul and Lois Steward, Retired Missionaries
Revised from The Call, May/June 2010, Page 19
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” (Psalm 32:8 NKJV)
What a promise for two new missionaries left in charge of the isolated mission station of Santa Maria, Bolivia. Having been on the field only a few months, we were still struggling with learning the language and the culture, and we had absolutely no medical training. We were trusting the Lord to instruct and teach us.
Nestor was a Siriono Indian who lived at Santa Maria. Several of the Siriono were invited to live there by earlier missionaries. Nestor was a slave who had escaped two different times. He earned the name El Diablo after killing a man with an ax. He had come to live at Santa Maria several years before we arrived, was converted, and now he had a small family.
Nestor was injured while he and several men were traveling on the river. The water was high and the current pushed the canoe into some trees along the river. A sharp point of bamboo hidden in the leaves entered Nestor’s arm and tore it open about eight or nine inches.
The older missionary family had left for medical reasons and we were staying in their house. Nestor’s friends brought him to us. Nestor’s wound was the worst I had ever seen. There was no one else to help, so we were the ones who had to take care of it. The Wings of Peace airplane was out of service and medical help upriver was too far away.
We asked the Lord for wisdom, and the promise that He would guide us with His eyes was very special. Lois boiled thread and curved needles (a bit rusty from the high humidity). Nestor was in a lot of pain, and I found some Novocain in the medicine cabinet. There were no disposable syringes back then, so after we boiled a glass one, I filled it with the medicine. I remember thinking: Where do I give the shot?
Then I remembered from experience that the dentist always put the shot as near the bad tooth as possible. I injected several places along Nestor’s arm and his pain lessened. We cleaned the wound and were very thankful there was no bleeding. One tendon was damaged, but it seemed like it would heal. We started at one end of the wound and began stitching. I had to give him more shots for pain, and we kept him at our home that night. We made some mistakes (we knew that a career in medicine was not for us!), but his wound healed without infection, although with a big scar. Nestor still lives today as far as we know. Truly Jesus was with us and helped us do something we never expected to be able to do.
Note: When the other missionary family returned, they said that if we had tried to send Nestor out, he would have died. This took place in 1959, so there was no way for us to communicate with the other missionaries until the next morning. We know people in the U.S. were praying for us.
PRAY: Missionaries are often placed in situations they don’t feel qualified for. This is when they need your prayers more than ever. Commit to praying for God’s provision on behalf of missionaries for the rest of this year.