Posted by: calloftheandes | July 29, 2011

Unlikely Candidate for Chaplaincy Served at Jungle Hospital for 33 Years

If Jesús Montero had applied to for a position as a chaplain at HCJB Global Hands’ jungle hospital in Ecuador, he likely would have been turned down. After all, he had limited education and little ministry experience.

Pastor Jesús Montero

Besides that, the mission’s facility where Pastor Montero indeed was hired already had a seminary-trained chaplain on the payroll. “I thought this work was for someone who had a degree in Bible, whereas I only had a certificate,” Montero shared in a May 2011 interview.

Originally from Cuenca, Ecuador, Jesús Agustín Montero Bermeo worked for a tailor in Shell as a young man. Around 1975 he started showing up at the hospital to offer spiritual counsel, said Chuck Howard, a former administrator at Hospital Vozandes-Shell, known in Ecuador as Hospital Vozandes del Oriente (HVO).

“He would come to the hospital on off hours and ask if he might be allowed to visit with the patients,” wrote Howard. “We noticed that he had results; people responded to his simple presentation of the gospel.”

The hospital’s newly hired chaplain was very squeamish around the sick, according to Howard. “I wondered how I could fire a seminary graduate and hire a simple man who didn’t have an education?” he wrote decades later. “What would my superiors in Quito say to that?” Howard prayed about these questions while returning to Shell from Quito, finally resolving that he would hire Montero.

A landslide blocked Howard’s return to Shell that day, but a Quito-bound missionary passed news to him—the newly hired chaplain had quit his post at HVO. Howard’s unexpected reaction was, “Praise the Lord!”

In Shell that same day, the tailor had told his employee, Montero, “Jesús, you really shouldn’t be working for me. With your love for the Lord, you really should be involved in full-time service for Him. Why don’t you go down to the hospital and see if they might hire you as their chaplain?”

“I never needed to worry about his lack of education,” said Howard, who hired the young Montero upon arriving in Shell. “He knows the Word of God better than I do, and he uses it expertly in winning his people to the Lord.”

Initially hired on an interim basis, Montero was implored by Howard to stay on. “I said ‘Alright, three more months. No more,’” Montero recounted. But his chaplaincy with the hospital turned into 33 years of ministry. Another former HVO administrator, Jim Estes, remembered Montero as, “soft, kind and gentle when he went to a room where people were suffering and yet courageous in presenting the gospel.” Additionally, Montero’s advice on dealing with employees was always insightful, according to Estes.

The Tuesday service was led by the HVO chaplain Henry Cabrera. Estes, who was among several who spoke, said afterwards that a choir of HVO staff led many of Montero’s favorite choruses and the congregation heard a message on facing death, not fearing it.

Life was not easy for Montero who lost two children to a congenital kidney disease many years ago. His wife, Laura, died of cancer.

“I have seen Jesús really struggle in emotional pain, but he has always come through stronger than before,” said Howard. “And God is using Him mightily.”

Montero 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, Ecuador.

Montero is survived by a son, David, a daughter-in-law, Beth, and a grandchild, all in Shell. He was preceded in death by two children and his wife, Laura. A funeral was held for Montero the same day as his death at Iglesia Luz del Evangelio(Light of the Gospel Church), a congregation he had helped to lead for many years and where David is the assistant pastor.


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