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Radio Diospi Suyana

The Emergency Generator

Arrival of the donated generator

A call for help

During the rainy season power cuts happen almost on a daily basis in Curahuasi. Especially in thunderstorms it will go dark before long and all you can do is to light a candle. However our mission hospital with its four operating rooms and five ICU beds desperately depends on a secure power supply. For that reason I was trying to find an emergency generator as a donation. I contacted several companies who were mining for copper, gold, and silver in the Apurímac region. Ín March 2007 I had even asked at the Lima Rotary Club Annual Convention for help. The entire audience had responded by rising to their feet in a standing ovation. But none of the dignitaries present ever donated a dime. I had knocked on every door. I had made hundreds of phone calls to multiple countries and sent at least as many emails. But still, I had made no progress whatsoever.

When David Brady and I presented our petition before the Directors of the German-Peruvian Chamber of Commerce on April 22, 2008, we were sure that this time, the outcome would finally be positive. The hospital was operational now, after all; it wasn’t just a dream in progress. We had already treated thousands of patients. After seventeen television reports and 40 articles in the press, Diospi Suyana was almost a household name throughout Peru. With Pilar Nores de García as one of our sponsors, we clearly had the approval of the President and his wife, so….

As I finished my presentation, the gentlemen around the table applauded. The men before us embodied a considerable proportion of the Peruvian Gross National Product. There was no doubt they could and would pay for a generator for us, even if only for publicity reasons.  Unfortunately a few days later they turned me down. The amount of $60,000 necessary to buy such an equipment was to much for them. 

Another week passed. I was out and about in Lima, visiting various government offices. At about 10 o’clock in the morning, as I was sitting in a cab, I noticed a small scrap of white paper in my wallet. I must have been carrying it around with me for at least six months. On it was scribbled contact information for a Peruvian company called Detroit Diesel MTU, which makes components for generators and generally markets its products to mining companies. I had been seeking funding for a generator, and thus far had not contacted any business that might consider just giving us the generator itself. Undecided, I turned the paper over and over between my fingers. Should I call, on the off chance? What did I have to lose? As the cab driver sped around the residential blocks as though he were on a Formula One racetrack, I gave Detroit Diesel a call and was given an appointment for 5 pm.

Whenever I am in Lima, my schedule is crammed full, with every appointment beginning right on the heels of the one before. This visit was no different. At 5 pm, I was just leaving the Ministry of Health. There was no way I could make it to Detroit Diesel in a reasonable amount of time, so I called to cancel. It probably didn’t matter—I had not been expecting much to come from that meeting anyway.

“I am sorry, I can’t make it today. It would be 6 pm before I got there.”

“That doesn’t matter at all,” replied a friendly voice. “If need be, I’ll wait two hours for you. Please come by.”

It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why the engineer was being so kind and obliging. Clearly, he assumed I was a potential customer with money to spend. Who would want to miss such a sale? In neither of my two calls had I mentioned that, as a mission hospital, we didn’t actually want to purchase anything at all.

With its eight million inhabitants and corresponding traffic, the streets of Lima were nearly always a challenge to negotiate. During the 5 o’clock rush hour, they were an absolute nightmare. At its worst, it could take as much as two hours to get from the north to the south end of the city.

The cab driver was highly skilled and maneuvered easily through the stop-and-go traffic, weaving in and out of lanes, and creating entirely new ones to get past the endless lines of cars. As I sat in the back, my thoughts started to slide down a dark path, spiraling into negativity and approaching despair. I had tried everything for an entire year, just attempting to get a generator donated. I had always come up empty. Everything thus far had been a complete waste of time and energy.

Dusk was falling as the taxi pulled up in front of 2020 Avenida Argentina. I paid the driver and slowly stepped onto the pavement. I knew it was completely ridiculous to walk into a Peruvian company, holding out my hands, and saying “pretty please”. At best, they would simply laugh me off.

I set down my laptop case and took a deep breath. I normally had at least two contingency plans mentally sketched out, but this time, I had come to the end of my rope. I had no other ideas and nowhere else to go. I felt an inner “nudge” and gave in to the sudden urge to pray. With lines of cars behind me and the Detroit Diesel property fence in front of me, I cried aloud in desperation.

“God, You know I’ve tried everything this past year! I don’t know what else to do! Please, give me a miracle!!!”

There are all kinds of prayers: prescribed prayers, unctuous prayers, spiritless prayers, prayers of duty, and prayers of habit. Mine was none of these. Mine came from the depths of the soul of a man in a hopeless situation. I finally grasped that only God could provide the answer.

As I looked at the entrance, I noticed the security guard for the first time. He must have heard me crying out in German, and undoubtedly thought I was crazy. On the one hand, such a public display was a bit embarrassing. On the other, I knew that I had done the right thing—in fact, the only thing I could do under the circumstances.

Mr. Mayorga really had stayed late in his office to wait for me, just as he had said he would. He followed my entire 45 minute presentation without the slightest hint of boredom or impatience. No sooner had I finished than I blurted out an awkward apology.

“I am sure you were expecting a customer, not a beggar. I am so sorry!”

“No, no, not at all. I am glad I heard your story. God means a lot to me too, and I would like to help you. The question is—how?”

We had connected, and were now remarkably on the same wavelength. I had heard that the owner of the company was a rather caustic, unapproachable octogenarian.

“Maybe we should approach his son,” suggested Mr. Mayorga. “He might be more receptive to your request.”

He gave me a ride back to Miraflores and we arranged to stay in touch. At the end of this very long day, May 23rd, hope had finally begun to dawn.

Six days later, I was back at Detroit Diesel once more. Luis Pineda, Sales Director, was to be my point of contact. He was younger than I, and very obviously in a great hurry. Nevertheless, I raced through my presentation with him, speaking so fast that I was swallowing whole words.

“What you have built in Apurímac is fantastic!” he exclaimed. “The boss must see this!”

Then he excused himself and scurried away.

On June 6, 2008, at 3 am, a driver took me the 80 miles to Cusco for the first flight out to Lima. I was scheduled to be in the office of the owner of Detroit Diesel at 10 am sharp. Far away in Curahuasi, several missionaries were fervently praying for God’s blessing on this pivotal meeting.

The old man beckoned me in and allowed me to set up my laptop right on his desk. He even came around to my side and took a seat adjacent to me, nodding to indicate he was ready for me to begin my presentation.

“You know, Mr. Saulhana,” I began thoughtfully. “All my life I have wondered whether there was a God. This story answers that question.”

I intentionally spoke more slowly than usual. The presentation stretched to a full hour, and yet, despite Mr. Saulhana’s advanced years, he paid full attention. Whenever I share the story of Diospi Suyana, I aim to touch the hearts of the audience. This time, I appeared to have succeeded.

Carl Saulhana cleared his throat audibly and came straight to the point.

“Dr. John, my son owns a quarter of this company. For this reason, I must speak with him first, but you will have our decision within the week.”

When my cell phone rang four days later, I was back in Curahuasi, somewhere in the hospital, and it took me a few moments to realize who was calling.

“Dr. John, Saulhana here. I just wanted to let you know that we will donate the emergency generator. After hearing you speak about your hospital, I had no choice.”

The conversation ended as abruptly as it had begun. I sank into a chair and remembered my prayer at the gates of Detroit Diesel. In the darkest of hours, my desperate supplication to God had been heard.

Over the next few months, a colossal generator weighing nearly 4 tons was manufactured especially for Diospi Suyana. It was brand new and designed to start up within 30 seconds of a power outage. Its capacity was sufficient to sustain all the electronic equipment in the hospital. Detroit Diesel MTU had never made such a large donation as this generator, worth at least $60,000. But then, probably nobody had even cried out to God for help at their company gates before either.

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