Posted by: calloftheandes | July 4, 2011

Hospital Chaplain in Ecuador Steps into New Role: Cancer Patient

Right back into ministry … that’s where a diagnosis of cancer put Jesús Montero. Montero served from 1977 to 2010 as a chaplain at Hospital Vozandes-Shell, an HCJB Global Hands facility on the edge of the Ecuadorian jungle. Enjoying retirement, he went for what was expected to be a relatively simple prostate surgery.

Jesús Montero

But Dr. Eckehart Wolff gave Montero the news afterwards. Not only did he have cancer; prospects for recovery were dim. “Chaplain Montero” returned to the hospital as “patient Montero.”

“When he (Dr. Wolff) told me the news, I received it peacefully, without worrying,” Montero recounted. “I said to God, ‘You are the physician of all physicians. You know what is happening.’ I’m not going to be as one without hope.”

Decades earlier, however, Montero indeed had lived without hope, without the promise of a joyful eternity. Visits from the students at a Bible institute in Shell got him thinking. After years of consideration, he committed his life to Christ just prior to an extended assignment working with a petroleum firm deep in Ecuador’s rainforest.

File photo shows Jesús Montero with patient and visitor

Crediting radio broadcasts of Bible courses with nurturing his faith, Montero told Wolff, “I am made by HCJB!” Upon returning to Shell, he came to know Christ more intimately, learning Christian doctrine by attending classes at a local Bible school. In his off hours from work as a tailor, he came to the hospital, offering to visit patients.

“We noticed that he had results; people responded to his simple presentation of the gospel,” said Chuck Howard who formerly served as the hospital administrator. People’s disposition to talk of spiritual things opens a bit wider during the vulnerability of illness. Howard recruited Montero to fill in at the chaplaincy after a younger, seminary-trained man had left the position.

“I thought this work was for someone who had a degree in Bible, whereas I only had a certificate,” Montero recalled.

When no replacement was found, Howard convinced Montero to stay on longer, citing the example of a reluctant prophet, Jonah. In the Old Testament, Jonah’s obedience to God, albeit delayed, brought outstanding results in an enemy city, Nineveh.

“I said, ‘Alright, three more months. No more,’” responded Montero, but it turned into a 33-year chaplaincy career at the hospital. “I’m thankful to God [for those years],” he related. “It has been a great privilege to be able to work at the hospital and see many people and to see how many accepted Jesus Christ and were reconciled with Him. It’s been a wonderful time.”

Howard wrote a few years ago that Montero “never needed to worry about Jesús’ lack of education. He knows the Word of God better than I do, and he uses it expertly in winning his people to the Lord. Many hundreds have placed their faith in Jesus Christ under his direct ministry, and he continues faithfully, day after day, to visit patients and share his faith in his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

The chaplaincy wasn’t always easy. Some patients pulled the bed sheets over their faces. But Montero, soft spoken and respectful of others’ beliefs, often gained access to people’s rooms, their lives and their hearts, opening doors to share the message of salvation in Christ.

Who is pastoring the pastor now? “The shepherd of all pastors,” Montero smiled and answered, citing a New Testament reference to Jesus Christ. He lives one day at a time, receiving friends into the home where he stays with his son and daughter-in-law, David and Beth Patton de Montero. David is the Ecuador director for Mission Aviation Fellowship.

Pastor Germán Rhon recounted his first acquaintance with Montero decades ago when they served together at a local church in Shell. Both were elders, sharing their dreams and their desire to serve God. He is encouraged by Montero’s faithful service through difficulties. Montero has lost loved ones, including two of his children to kidney failure and his wife to cancer several years ago.

Pastor Germán Rhon visited Jesús in Shell

“Down through the years, this hasn’t changed in Pastor Jesús Montero—even now with cancer. His desire is to serve, and to serve the master, the Lord,” said Rhon, who directs the chaplaincy of several clinics at Hospital Vozandes-Quito.

Montero’s example continues to inspire Rhon. “It motivates me because sickness or other circumstances should not derail our desire, our passion or our faith,” he offered. “Instead, they should serve to prompt growth and maturity in our desire to help others.”

“In his time as a patient, Jesús has never complained,” Wolff added. “In my view this reflects holiness. He’s always friendly and has visited other patients to encourage them.”

Montero’s cancer is advanced, leaving him only with the options of radiation, chemotherapy or surgery. He has opted to decline all interventions, willing to face the results of that decision. Wolff said of Montero that “he is trusting God to help him and to do a miracle and receive what God sends him in the future.”



  1. […] retired a year ago as head chaplain at Hospital Vozandes-Shell. Not long afterwards, he was diagnosed with cancer. He died just after midnight on Tuesday, July 26, in the home of his son in Shell, […]

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