Prayer and devotion help save lives

by Msgr. Donald Gorski

ZORRITOS, Peru — Merry Christmas! May that Jesus, who is “Life” — fill you with his Life! We see him doing that here in so many marvelous ways. I stand in awe as I watch the wondrous ways that he works.

I’ll say it again, “Somebody, somewhere, is praying for this parish.” We see the results of this prayer in so many ways — including lives being saved.

I’ve written before about Carlos Tocto. I first saw him some years ago as a young boy selling bread from his bicycle. His father abandoned the children and his mother died. Carlos came here and worked for a few years. Then he traveled and walked for days in two trips to bring his three younger sisters and a brother to live here with him — after building a little place for them.

Now at 22, he is the ‘father’ of the family. Three years ago his 14-year-old cousin Elver arrived from the same distant place. Carlos welcomed him and squeezed him into his little shack. Seven days ago Carlos was riding home from our rectory with Elver on his bicycle when a pick-up truck struck them from behind on the Pan American Highway, apparently traveling over 30 mph. The truck (not the tires) ran right over Elver, with the differential under the truck apparently banging his head into the pavement. Carlos was brutally knocked to one side. He says, “I knew I was being killed; I was dying.” That’s what anyone would have thought. The truck seemed to have no brakes and ran completely over Elver before it stopped. Both Elver and Carlos were covered with blood — and Elver was coughing up blood. But, incredibly, they were both alive when the vehicle finally stopped. The driver — no insurance, no money, no brakes — carried their blood-covered bodies to a doctor. Then they were carried by ambulance half an hour to the Tumbes hospital.

I was in Lima last Tuesday. Our secretary called me at night to say, “Your sister is in the hospital.” Only then did she add, “She’s looking out for Carlos and Elver who were in an accident.” I was told Carlos would recover, but Elver was near death. Bleeding inside his head was just one of his serious problems. We decided to pull out all the stops and try to save his life. The parish sent him by ambulance  five hours to Piura. He needed an immediate operation on his head, but there was a strike on that day in the medical profession. Elver was dying but he could not get medical care.

One of the ex-seminarians living with us called a friend in Piura who is well placed in the medical world, and he made things move. Incredibly, within hours of arriving in Piura, the parish had a specialist operate on Elver’s head to discover a rupture pouring out blood. He was able to stop it.

Another ex-seminarian, who lives with us, spent four nights at his side, meeting his every need. Sadly, his mother was informed way up in the mountains and asked to come help her son, but she never came. The driver of the truck was put out of the place he was renting, but he came to give about $45 towards expenses on two occasions.

Amazingly, Carlos, now out of the hospital, traveled to Piura yesterday with the ex-seminarian to continue nursing Elver back to health. Two women from this parish have also been there to nurse him. It’s beautiful to see the response of so many people all trying to save a human life.

I had finished this letter, I thought. But it’s a week later and everything has changed. I wrote of his miraculous recovery. But Carlos came back in tears after spending two days in the hospital with Elver, who had fallen into a coma. We were losing him again.

Intense prayer for Elver continued. God’s Providence is a marvel to behold and never ceases to amaze me. By the most bazaar set of circumstances I’ve ever heard of in 45 years in the priesthood, a doctor from Germany arrived in Zorritos! Somehow he was staying at the house of our former cook, who told him I have prostate cancer. He called me and came for lunch. He told me a man in Lima is actually curing cancer with herbs, including prostate cancer. The doctor is a cardiologist who worked four years in Houston, Texas. He told us, “I was incredulous, but after interviewing patients and studying medical records, I know it’s true.” He said he has the man’s number and could get me an appointment.

During the meal, by “coincidence” we started talking about Elver and his critical condition. When the German doctor learned of Elver’s treatment, he said, “The doctors are killing him with medicine.” He was taking 10 strong medicines and injections every morning. In Peru, the hospitals generally don’t give medicine to the patient. Rather, the hospitals tell the family or friends which medicines to buy and administer to the patient. Our two people caring for Elver faxed the names of the medicines they were buying, and the German doctor told which medicines to give him and which ones to leave out. Immediately Elver began to improve. Current reports say he is now alert and talking. Everything indicates he will live! Praise the God of Life!

The German doctor asked me, “Do you really think I’m here by coincidence?”

I quoted the famous spiritual writer Brother Carlo Carreto. Toward the end of his life he said, (and I quote from my memory) “It’s taken me a long time to see it. But now I’m a very happy man for I see so clearly that there is no such thing as coincidence! It doesn’t exist.” Then he explained, “There is only the Providence of God.” And that Providence is even now saving the life of Elver. If you have ever said a prayer for this parish or given a donation, you’ve had a part in saving a human life — and more than once. Ordinarily, any young person here could not have survived what happened to him.

He still has a hard road ahead of him. The bone below his nose is broken, and he’ll need some new teeth. Please pray that the Lord will continue to strengthen and heal him. Please pray for the parish and know that your prayers are accomplishing more than you’ll ever know — until you learn the full truth in the next world. We here are very grateful and can only thank you by our prayers. By the grace of God, we just learned Elver will be released from the hospital and will return to Zorritos tomorrow. Families here are offering to receive him into their homes and nurse him back to health. May God be praised!

Msgr. Don Gorski is a priest of the Diocese of Charleston who ministers to the people of Zorritos, Peru.