In Sickness and In Health

BUGASONG, Antique — Operation Blessing was welcomed one early morning by teachers and students of Lacayon Elementary School. When the team officially opened the doors to its medical mission, priority was first given to a long line of elderly men and women.

Operation Blessing staff, doctors and volunteers immediately lent a hand, guiding every lolo and lola tenderly through the process. Weak and feeble, most of them had to be physically supported from one area to the next. Elderly couples, however, were easy to spot as husband and wife urged each other—though old, stooped, small and thin—through the heat, the line, the checkups and the interviews.

PHOTOS: View our Antique medical mission gallery HERE.

The tandems of Eleuterio and Lolita Gertos, and Nanay Lilia Toledo and her husband, were the first two couples to receive care. The couples have each raised five children. The two couples were no younger than 80 years old, yet they acted like young sweethearts, laughing and chiding each other when asked, “How long have you been married?”

Eleuterio’s consultation with Doc Nanet, an Operation Blessing volunteer doctor, was a tender moment. Eleuterio has been blind for years, and Lolita refused to leave his side, standing by quietly, focused on Doc Nanet’s words and holding his hands tightly as they both prayed for his healing.

Protective and actively attentive to her husband’s needs, Lolita showed no signs of the stroke she suffered years ago. She had to be urged by the volunteer doctor, who noted her high blood pressure, to take medication and find opportunities to relax. She nodded, her hand still clasping Eleuterio’s.

Nanay and Tatay Toledo acted very much like bickering sweethearts. Tatay Toledo suffered from an ear infection that has spread, leading to redness and swelling of his right cheek. He was also badly stooped, causing him to walk slowly with a cane.

The couple took turns trying to explain these to Dr. Elizabeth Wong, pausing to argue about details very much like a young married couple who, at the end, finds common ground after a bout of bickering.

After the consultation, they gratefully grasped the medicines provided by Operation Blessing—setting aside all arguments and reminding each other of the dosage requirements and the instructions given by the doctor.

These two couples were proof that there is nothing quite like a love that has lasted an age and through extremely difficult circumstances. And they were just the beginning. A third couple’s love produced the medical mission’s first miracle.

Nanay Enriqueta’s love for her husband, Amado Espino, became a channel for God’s grace to pour forth. Through the duration of their marriage, Amado has been deaf for 15 years. They have seven children, all of whom are based in Manila. They came for a regular checkup, but received much more.

“I couldn’t speak directly to Amado because of his condition. So it was to Nanay that I directed the question: Do you believe Jesus can heal your husband? It was her yes, her faith that He answered,” affirmed Operation Blessing Pastor Ricky.

“I was surprised when Nanay returned, because I had told them we do not have the facilities to fully assess her husband’s condition. But she rushed in and said proudly, ‘Dok, nakakarinig na siya!’ (Doc, he can already hear!)”

“Something must have really happened. When they consulted with me earlier, Tatay Amado gave me no response. When he came back, he could acknowledge sounds and the direction they came from,” confirmed Dr. Anna Faith, another Operation Blessing volunteer.

Tatay Amado, repeating Pastor Ricky’s whispered words, exclaimed, “Hallelujah!” His wife expressed her joy through tears, and through two words she took the effort to say haltingly in English, “Happy, Lord!”

After the happy event, Nanay Enriqueta was eager to go home. When asked why, she replied, “I have to go home and cook rice for my husband.”

There really is nothing like a love that has withstood the test of time. For our three couples, Operation Blessing provided them the opportunity to once more care for each other for a little longer—even if it is just the simple act of love, like cooking rice for the next meal. | contributed by Pamela Imperial



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