Presented with a plaque, former patient María Dávalos mentioned some of the first missionary doctors: Ev Fuller (founder of the hospital), Art Johnston and Wally Swanson.
“María was delighted to learn that Dr. Swanson was actually present, and she was able to share a few words with him afterwards,” said nurse Florence Judd.
The weekend event included a video presentation showing original footage from 1958 when the hospital was dedicated as Epp Memorial Hospital. Nate Saint, a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship, donated land for the hospital as he saw the facility as a way to care for needy jungle dwellers and assist the many missionary efforts in the area.
Saint and four other missionaries—some of whom helped construct the building—were speared to death while making contact with the once-savage Waorani people (then known as the Aucas) in January 1956.
Fuller, now 90, shared Saint’s vision and made the hospital a reality, doing everything from planning and budgeting to fundraising and helping with the actual construction. A small clinic was built next to the construction site in 1955 so that Fuller, and later Johnston, could also attend to patients as well as treat emergencies.
The video also documented the present and future dreams for the facility, more commonly known as Hospital Vozandes del Oriente (HVO) or Voice of the Andes Hospital in Ecuador’s eastern Amazon basin.
“Untold hundreds of thousands of lives have been touched by the Savior here at HVO,” wrote Les Hirst, who serves in Ecuador with his wife, Priscilla, as special assistant to HCJB Global’s president. “Priscilla and I have been humbled as we have read and heard the stories coming out of this hospital, and we thank the Lord for the legacy of those who have served here,” he said.
Among those whose lives touched were members of the Waorani tribe who suffered from a polio epidemic in the late 1960s. Swanson, who took care of many of the patients, showed anniversary attendees the film, “Polio Strikes the Aucas,” which he produced in the early 1970s. Today many members of the Waorani tribe, numbering about 1,500, are Christians.
(Audio: Dr. Swanson describes Christian response to polio epidemic: ChristianResponseToPolioEpidemicInAmazonRegionOfEcuador .)
In a written statement, Jim Allen, acting president of HCJB Global, recognized Jesus Christ as the strength, provider and model to follow in ministry each day through the decades. He thanked Ecuadorian and missionary staff for their work as well as authorities
from Pastaza province authorities and the area military hospital for assistance and collaboration in providing integral healthcare.
Guests were invited to tour all departments of the hospital, “except the operating theater,” according to Judd, originally from the U.K. But “theater” seems appropriate in another way for Saint’s son, Steve, who recalls years earlier standing on a ladder on the outside of the hospital, peering into the operating room to observe Dr. Fuller performing a surgery!
“Dr. Fuller would always try to give us a good view of the really interesting part,” he wrote. To finalize the 50th anniversary celebrations, HVO chaplain Jesús Montero led in prayer, giving praise to God for the hospital’s past ministry and praying for His blessing on the years to come.