David and Becky’s growing ministry involved many volunteers. The idea of helping those in need in this isolated area of a third-world country drew Gilbert and Melissa Sissons to volunteer as missionaries. God prepared Melissa for this challenge through her training as a nurse at Loma Linda University and by her experience as an emergency-room nurse.
They began in the small village of Kimbia on the Berbice River in Guyana. Melissa was the only nurse for nearly a hundred miles along the river. She worked in a two-room clinic. Daily her dependence on God increased.
The most interesting part of her work came when she and Gilbert took their boat and traveled the winding jungle river to hold clinics. In May 2003 they stopped at the village of Wiruni, twelve miles upriver from Kimbia Mission Academy.
Late in the day a young man approached with his little boy, who had pain in his ear. After treating the boy, Melissa asked the father, “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
He smiled, held out his hand, and spoke simply. “My name is Andy LaRose. I was born with a hole in my heart.”
She placed her stethoscope on his chest. A harsh, whooshing murmur sounded in her ears. Surprised at what she heard, she asked, “Have you ever gone for medical help?”
“Yes, I took a trip to a doctor in a nearby town. He put me in a public hospital for a long time. Then he gave me a note that read, ‘Go home. You have a heart problem and should stop eating rice.’”
Melissa wondered what he ate, since rice is a staple food in Guyana. Worse, the horrible truth hit her that Andy could have but a short time to live. She felt helpless knowing there was no place in Guyana to get the treatment he needed. Every day she prayed, “O God, the Master Physician, save this young father’s life.”
Six months of waiting and prayer passed. The Dr. Tom Jutzy came to Kimbia to run a two-week dental clinic. At the last minute, his father came with him.
Tom introduced his father to Melissa. “This is my dad, Dr. Roy Jutzy. He’s a retired cardiologist [heart doctor] from Loma Linda University Medical Center.”
Melissa’s heart skipped a beat. Was God answering her daily prayer? “May I tell you about a young man I met two years ago, the father of three small children? He lives in a jungle home in a small village twelve miles upriver. Every day Andy goes into the jungle to cut timber or hearts of palm, hoping to feed and clothe his family. Usually he works only half a day due to his increasing shortness of breath and lack of energy from his deteriorating heart, which will no doubt fail soon. Will you go and see him?”
“I’d be glad to go. Maybe this is why God impressed me to join my son on this trip. God cares for his hurting children,” Dr. Jutzy smiled.
After Dr. Jutzy examined Andy, he told Melissa, “Only open heart surgery can repair the defect in his malformed heart. I promise you I’ll try to find help for Andy, for Loma Linda often helps the less fortunate.”
A short time later the Sissons received the news that Loma Linda had agreed to provide open-heart surgery at no cost to Andy. But because of his isolated location, they could not get Andy’s birth certificate, which was necessary to complete his paperwork for travel to the United States. Often they prayed, “God, we know You want Andy to have a new heart. Please guide us through this discouraging time.”
Meanwhile Gilbert spent many hours studying with Andy and his wife. They chose to accept Jesus as their Savior. Happily they believed each new truth and depended on God’s promises, especially Luke 18:27, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (KJV). Andy’s trust in God grew.
In the spring the Sissons were due to leave for the U.S. If Andy didn’t get the necessary papers, all would be lost. Would God work a miracle? In less than 10 days God opened one door after another. They received his birth certificate, passport, and visa to the U.S.
When Andy arrived in California, the medical center provided a room and meals free of charge. Several doctors joined the team that carried him through the days of testing and preparation.
On April 5, 2005, the long wait was over, and Andy went to surgery. The surgeons used the skills God gave them to transform his malformed heart into a smoothly working one.
When Andy awakened in ICU, Melissa stood by his bed. She placed her stethoscope on his chest and heard a steady, even rhythm. Lub-dub, lub-dub. She hung it back around her neck and reached for Andy’s warm hand. He opened his eyes, glanced at her with a look of uncertainty, and slowly asked, “Am I OK?”
“Yes, Andy,” Melissa smiled. “You’re fine, just fine. You have a new heart that is working perfectly. The impossible has just become real because we have a miracle-working God.”
Andy returned to Guyana one month after his successful surgery. Guyanese families living in the Loma Linda area purchased a chainsaw so that now he can work full days cutting timber to provide for his family. God has given him many more years to work, not just for a living but to tell others what God did for him.
God has shown His love for His Amerindian children through David and Becky Gates and the many volunteers who work with them. Today David Gates is president of Gospel Ministries International. This organization runs medical aviation programs, schools, Christian television networks, and other ministries in many countries around the world. David and the other workers still operate on faith, trusting God fully to provide for their needs.
See photos and read more stories of God’s care at their Web site, http://gospelministry.org.