Cathy and I travelled overseas with The International Congress on Revival for over ten years and established wonderful relationships with some of the most Godly people we have ever known. The purpose of the Congress (ICR), which was founded by Manley Beasley in the 1970’s, was to encourage pastors and their wives to continue preaching the message of grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The ministry started in western Europe and spread to eastern Europe, South Africa, Ireland and Australia. Many of the eastern European pastors at the time were laboring under conditions of discouragement and in some cases persecution for preaching the gospel. When Brother Manley died in 1990, God called Brother Bill Stafford to lead the ministry and this led to Cathy’s and my involvement in the ministry. We had been good friends with Brother Bill for the previous ten years.
The first year we attended the western European conference, which was held in Salzburg, Austria we met and became good friends with Mia and Costel Oglice. They were Romanians who lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee while working and ministering with Precepts Ministry founded by Kay Arthur. Mia and Costel were ICR’s translators for the Romanian and Russian pastors who attended the conferences. When Mia discovered I was a general surgeon who specialized in gall bladder surgery, she said, “I have seven pastor’s wives who are suffering death on a daily basis because of gall bladder disease.” I told her if she could get them to El Dorado, Arkansas I would work out an arrangement with the hospital to have their operations done at no cost. Amazingly she was able to get four of the wives and their husbands to El Dorado where they received care through the generosity of The Medical Center of South Arkansas.
Late one Thursday evening I received a phone call from Mia who proudly announced she had arranged for Pastor Sasha and his wife, Tamara from the Ukraine to come to Chattanooga in anticipation of travelling to El Dorado to have the hysterectomy she desperately needed. She said they would be in El Dorado by the weekend in order to have the operation the following week. I told Mia this was very short notice, but thought I could get it arranged. I said, “Of course you are coming with them, aren’t you?”, knowing her friends could not speak English. Mia said, “Unfortunately Costel and I are leaving tomorrow for a meeting in Moldova and already have our plane reservations.” I told Mia I had to have a translator because there was no way I could take Tamara through a major operation without the proper communication. Mia’s response was typical for her as she said in her heavy Romanian accent, “We will pray to the Lord He will provide the right one.” I thought to myself, “I am already praying, but who in the world can I call?”
There was no one I knew in El Dorado who spoke Russian, and my only thought was calling South Arkansas University in Magnolia which was thirty miles away hoping to find someone on that campus who spoke Russian. I asked the switchboard operator if there was a Russian Language Department, and she said there was. “Please let me speak to the Chairman,” I said as I anxiously awaited for her to connect me. When she came back on-line she said, “I’m sorry but he is out-of-town for the next two weeks.” In a low tone I said, “I’m ruined now,” to which the operator asked, “Is there any way I can help?” When I briefly explained the situation and how badly I needed a Russian translator she said, “One of our switchboard operators is from Belarus. Perhaps she can help. Would you like me to connect you?” I held my breath as I waited for her to answer.
Innesa Divisova was an exchange student at SAU from Belarus and worked part-time as a switchboard operator to help with her college expenses. She spoke excellent English, and agreed to come to El Dorado and stay with us for the week while Sasha and Tamara were there. She understood she would have to go into the operating room, at least for the first part of the procedure, to which she said, “That will be exciting for me!” As we were making those plans I could hear Mia’s voice in my head, “We will pray to the Lord—.” I was embarrassed at my lack of faith.
The following week could not have gone better. Innesa was a delight to have in our home because of her cheerful, positive attitude. Pastor Sasha and Tamara were more subdued in their outward expressions, and Cathy and I thought it was because of fear and anxiety of what was taking place and their inability to openly communicate. The actual OR experience for Innesa went smoothly, and she had no problems with the sights, sounds and smells of this new and strange environment for her. By the end of the week of healing and recovery, Sasha and Tamara were more relaxed and expressed gratitude for all that had been provided and done for them in the name of Jesus.
Cathy and I were grateful for the many doors of opportunity opened to us through the ministry of ICR. We experienced the joy of saying “yes” to using our skills and especially Cathy’s hospitality in opening our home to brothers and sisters in Christ who were in need of medical care. At the hospital I was chided by a few physicians for having such an international referral practice but was confident God used the witness of those pastors and wives with all the hospital staff. The language of love of the Lord Jesus Christ is universal and transcends all cultural barriers.