I came to Peru in June of 1971 and have been mainly assigned there since. I have worked in Lima, on the coast of Peru, Recuay, Ancash, the sierra high up in the Andes, and am presently in the heart of the desert. Throughout my time in Peru, I have worked in religious education with children, young people and adults.
I was visiting a very poor hospital in Ica, Peru , when I met Frank. One day as I was about to go home for lunch, I decided that I had a few more minutes to visit and popped into the surgery unit of the regional hospital. It was there that I saw a young man, 16-year-old Frank, sitting on the side of the hospital bed holding his bandaged hand, or, more accurately, the stump where his hand used to be. He was obviously in complete shock.
Frank had been minding his animals up in the sierra and picked up a landmine, a lingering reminder of terrorist times. He was intrigued with the shiny thing and picked it up not knowing what it was, and in an instant lost his right hand from wrist down. I stayed with him for a while, prayed with him and for him and kept in touch until he left the hospital.
I hoped that he would get the help he needed. He was always on my mind, and one day I received a phone call from him. He was very depressed and ashamed of his missing hand. He kept it well hidden from the gaze of other people and kept very much to himself. He taught himself to write with his left hand and little by little resumed his studies.
Joanna, an occupational therapist, advised Frank that he should go to the rehabilitation centre in Callo, Lima. It took a long time to convince him to go. Frank was finally convinced of the necessity of rehabilitation and decided that he really wanted to help himself. Eventually, he went to the centre and met many wonderful doctors and therapists. Many of the other patients were much worse off than Frank. The psychological change in Frank was remarkable. Truly the Spirit was working to aid Frank through the employees of the centre.
Once he was committed to his own recovery, we began to see that he needed financial support and help to continue his studies. Furthermore, he had not been baptised. In preparing for entry to the university he decided to prepare himself for baptism and invited his family to join in the preparation too. I served as his godmother which was quite special for me.
Finally Frank was accepted at the university in Ica and will graduate in business administration this year. After his accident with the landmine, Frank determined that he would use his brains to earn his living and has been an excellent student. The Columban Sisters gave him a small donation each month as a scholarship, and with some help from his own very poor family he is ready to start his new career.
It has been a very blessed and joyful experience sharing Frank’s road to recovery and success. Frank’s story is special because of the many obstacles he has overcome through the years. The joy and pride in his expression now are a testimony of the presence of God in our lives and what God can do when we are open to the Holy Spirit. As Christian songwriter Stuart Hamblen wrote, “It is no secret what God can do.”
Columban Sr. Eileen Rabbitte still lives and works in Peru.