9:00AM. CIUDAD DE DIOS. The name Ciudad de Dios or City of God, could be a civic leader’s lame idea of morale-boosting or maybe the misplaced hope of the first people who settled here because it’s so hard to find anything divine in this little town. Pushed to the fringes of Chepen proper, it lies down a dirt road a few hundred feet off the main highway. What you see as you drive in are decaying houses, fallen fences and a few dogs nosing through piles of garbage.
We were greeted by a cool breeze when we arrived after a 30-minute trip from our hotel. It won’t last. In a couple of hours the adobe church our medical team set up in will feel like an oven.
Right now, though, we’re comfortable and busy. Allison and Ariene (her translator) are handling intake as patients walk in the front door. Elizabeth’s pharmacy is tucked into the adjoining corner. Up on the stage John and Todd are running the eye clinic. To their right, on the floor, the medical people–Amy, Sarah, Bobby and Daniel–are examining patients on a rotating schedule with the pharmacy (two hours on each station).
Ronald–the young missionary pastor our church supports–is sharing the gospel in a station on the right wall. James from our team is doing the same thing on the opposite wall.
A large crowd gathered early and our first job when we got here was to get things organized. Sick people desperate to see a doctor can get out of hand quickly. But Tito–the Peruvian leader–solved the problem in the simplest possible way. He walked into the middle of the crowd, took out a black magic marker and began writing consecutive numbers on each person’s hand to tell them when it was their turn to enter the clinic. That’s Tito in the picture at top writing the number 44. Many more have arrived since then and are squeezed together under the welcome awning to escape the sun.
This is a more spacious area than what we were in the first two days. The room is wide open with maybe 1200 square feet of floor space. Everybody has room to move around, and there’s less stress on our team as well as the local people here to receive care. Right now, it looks like eye patients outnumber medical patients 2-1. That’s not a surprise considering the dusty conditions.
One woman we saw yesterday in Chepen could just as well been from Ciudad de Dios. She was eighty years old with a failing heart and when one of our doctors examined her it was clear nothing could be done. She was so old, her heart so damaged and medical care so scarce that she had only a little while left to live. “She’s dying,” the doctor said to me.
Outlying peaks from the Andes mountains surround the area and on our drive this morning we passed one on which someone had spelled out with white stones large enough to be seen from the highway the phrase, “Cristo ya viene.” Our driver told me the phrase means, “Christ is coming.”
I tried to think who might have gone through the effort and expense to do such a thing. A Catholic? A Baptist? A Pentecostal? All are well represented in the area but it seemed to me it would take someone more independent and fiery to haul such stones up the side of a mountain and arrange them to proclaim so dangerous a message. An evangelist perhaps, or a prophet.
The stone message is so large that it can be read for hundreds of feet in both directions. Maybe a few with clear vision can read it from Ciudad de Dios.