The Quechua connection
By Tianna Haas and Sara Hart | Bolivia in América del Sur
Concepción and Sara Mamani
Sara Mamani visited the hospital in Cochabamba, Bolivia, to brighten the spirits of children and share the gospel. Seven other people came with her, representing the puppet ministry, Soldiers of Christ in Action.
Although they intended to bring cheer to the little ones, their lively puppet show attracted the attention of parents and adult patients, too. Their presentation explained who Jesus is and his gift of salvation, and the team took time after the display to connect with the listeners.
Sara found herself in conversation with a woman, Concepción, who only spoke Quechua, a language of the Andes and highlands regions. Concepción was from a small, isolated village in southern Bolivia, but she and her husband, Juan, were visiting the city so she could get medical treatment. However, none of her doctors spoke Quechua, so she couldn’t find out her diagnosis.
Sara asked Concepción and Juan, “Have you heard Jesus’ story before?”
In their small village, neither of them had heard about Jesus. Sara described Jesus’ life and ministry and prayed with them. She promised to return the next day to translate the doctors’ conclusions for Concepción.
When Sara came back, she interpreted the doctor’s words: “There’s a tumour in your uterus. It appears malignant.”
Sara’s background in nursing and an inspection of the sonogram confirmed the diagnosis: Concepción had a tumour the size of a new-born baby’s head that needed removal.
Concepción’s own new-born child rested in her arms as she received the news. Back in their village, eight more children awaited their parents’ return.
Sara encouraged Concepción and Juan to turn to God in light of this problem. “God is in control. Will you trust him?” she said.
Concepción and Juan embraced Jesus as their saviour in the hospital room. Sara, elated that she gained a brother and sister in Christ, rejoiced with them in prayer.
Now that they were united in God’s family, Sara felt a new bond with them, and she continued to reach out as they waited for the next step in Concepción’s medical treatment. Sara visited them several days each week to stay updated on Concepción’s condition and offer further Quechua translation.
Years before, Sara's life was deeply influenced by SIM missionaries, Jake and Sarah Wetzel. In the same region where Sara grew up, the Wetzels directed the leadership of Camp Kewiña. Their love for the Bolivian people impacted her in a way that, to this day, motivates Sara to reach out to the physical and spiritual needs of others.
Concepción’s hospital stay
When Sara came by the hospital, she brought gifts for Concepción’s family. The first gifts she brought were Christian hymns. She taught them the songs in Quechua to encourage their newfound faith.
The second gifts were clothes and essentials to make them more comfortable. By this point, the doctors had delayed the operation three times, and the family had extended their stay far longer than expected.
The third gift she brought was deep concern that Concepción received proper medical attention. The more the time stretched, the more apprehensive Sara became.
The reason for the delay was unclear to the Quechua couple and Sara.
A doctor reassuringly told them: “We haven’t operated yet because the surgery could increase the risks for Concepción.”
They feared agitating the tumour could cause cancerous cells to multiply and spread throughout her body. The surgery had been postponed until a specialist arrived to review Concepción’s situation.
Although there was risk involved, the doctors decided it was time to go forward with the surgery. A new appointment was set to operate on the tumour, and Sara remained attentive to Concepción in the period of waiting.
The surgery and a name
Since Sara had been a dedicated caregiver for Concepción, the medical staff entrusted her with Concepción’s new-born baby during the surgery. Sara took even this brief period of care seriously. She purchased diapers, baby clothing, formula, bottles, pacifiers and toys for the child.
As she picked the baby up from Concepción’s room, she found Concepción in tears. Concepción had been distraught all night, because the patients who shared her room told her she would go to sleep for the surgery but not wake up.
Sara renounced their comments and begged God for a miraculous healing in Concepción’s body.
Concepción said: “If I come out alive from this surgery, I want you to visit my village.” Sara agreed, and with a hug, they parted.
Concepción’s surgery lasted six hours and was completed without any complications. However, once the doctors removed the tumour, they discovered an astounding fact: it was benign.
While Concepción recovered and took strong antibiotics, Sara continued to watch the baby. Their unique connection and an overflow of gratitude gave way to an idea – Concepción chose to name her infant Sarita after Sara.
Sara told Concepción about the biblical figure, Sarah, and how the name means “princess.” God kept the little princess healthy around the illnesses of the hospital and with her temporary caregiver, Sara.
After more than 3 months at the hospital, the family could finally leave. The mother and baby stayed with a relative nearby, but they soon returned home. Sara continued journeying to see her friends and her namesake, Sarita, during this time.
As the couple has readjusted to life at home, they’ve realised the importance of telling their neighbours how God clearly transformed their lives. Sara helped them find a church, and the believers there gave them a warm welcome. They intend to plant a church in their neighbourhood and encourage others to follow Jesus, too.
• Sara to continue courageously starting relationships to share the gospel.
• Sara and other Bible teachers to be able to visit Juan and Concepción in order to establish a church for the community. After a day's drive, visitors must walk for two more hours to reach the village where they live.
• the puppet ministry, Soldiers of Christ in Action, which ministers to children but also reaches adults and their families. The team hopes to bring their ministry to this remote area of Bolivia.
• Concepción and Juan’s family to grow strong in faith and impact their village with the good news of Jesus.