Full of youthful energy and untiring passion, German Gastellum wanted a bigger ministry challenge to pour his indefatigable self into, the mission field of Villa del Rosario, Colombia, just across the border from socialism-scourged Venezuela.
He was a spry 72.
You read that right. Seventy-two years old. That’s when he started. Now, he is 75.
“God gives me the strength through the Holy Spirit,” he told God Reports at a June Bible conference in Tucson. “And the body is healthy. I have been through sicknesses and Covid and all that, and I have survived that because of the high defenses I have. One, I have spiritual defenses; I have prayer and the power of the Holy Ghost working in me, and then I have normal defenses and they’re kind of synchronized.”
While the only adventure of many of his fellow septuagenarians is snuggling up in the overstuffed chair to watch Bachelor in Paradise, German is putting people half his age to shame by chasing souls in the rigors of missionary life.
“The other thing that keeps me healthy is working for God,” he confides. “It’s being a witnessing machine to people. God is pleased with that, when we take the gospel to the poor, when we go to the places that Jesus would go, then He meets us there. He says, ‘Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and my burden is not heavy.’”
German (pronounced Her-MAHN) carries a burden for the Venezuelans condemned to languish under the withering chokehold of socialism. Poverty and hunger are so chronic and acute now that vast swathes of society are resorting to crime to feed themselves.
Colombia, which sent civil-war-refugees into Venezuela in the 90s, is returning the favor by welcoming Venezuelans into its country. The border is open, and Venezuelans walk for miles, barefoot and hungry, to reach the helping hands of Colombians in German’s town, which sits on the Tachira River separating the two countries.
“Why, God?” Helen Roseveare asked after being brutally beaten and raped by Congo rebels for five months while she served as a missionary doctor in 1964.
Can you thank me for trusting you with this experience even if i never tell you why? was the answer she received.
It was a strange answer. But also, God gave her a striking revelation about surviving a dungeon of torture.
“It’s external! You’re sinned against. It’s not your sin. It can’t touch your spirit,” she explained on a 100 Huntley Street video. “It’s only your body. But it can’t get into my mind or soul.”
Helen has used her captivity to encourage others who feel powerless to defend themselves against unimaginable acts of evil.
Helen Roseveare became one of the first females to graduate as a medical doctor from Newnham College, Cambridge in 1945. She became a Christian because of the testimony of some of the girls in her school and almost immediately set off to the mission field in the “Heart of Darkness.”
She tended to patients, built hospitals and trained Africans in medical science indefatigably. While serving the population she was taken captive in the Congo during the tumultuous 1960s along with other foreigners. As was always the case, she turned into the leader, even in captivity.
“When the awful moments came in the rebellion you almost felt, no, this has gone too far. I can’t accept it. It seemed that the price was too high to pay,” she says. “And then God seemed to say, Change the question from ‘Is it worth it?’ to ‘Is He worthy?’”
During her captivity, she was called upon to help 80 Greek Cypriots, workers abducted by the rebels. One lady was in pain, seven months pregnant, so Mama Luca — as she was known — was called upon to attend to her.
With rebel guards on either side of her, she stepped among the cowering Cypriots until she found the needy lady. She didn’t speak Greek, so she went through the languages she knew one by one to ask if she was hurt: English, French, Swahili, Lingala.
Finally, she found someone who could translate into Greek and eventually led not only the lady but the whole prison hall of captives in a sinner’s prayer. As the only area doctor, she had attended to the Cypriots for years but had made no headway in evangelizing them.
But suffering brought a new openness to the Gospel.
“When I eventually left the house, they’re all looking up and smiling and they want to shake my hands,” she remembers. “It was wonderful. God, you are marvelous.”
As was their custom, the rebels subjected Mama Luca to a mock trial. The people in the area were orchestrated to participate in the judgement of “colonial, imperial crimes” committed by foreigners. Under the threat to the rebels’ guns, the locals had to join their voice in a chorus of condemnation, calling for the death sentence.
Responding to the beating of the drums, 800 locals came to her trial. You didn’t dare ignore the calls of the rebels because only they had guns. At a certain signal, they all shouted, as was the custom in these roughshod trials: “She’s a liar! She’s a liar!”
Then they would shout “Mateco! Mateco!” which meant “Crucify her! Crucify her!”
“You knew you would die. You didn’t know how,” Mama Luca recalls. “There came the moment in the trial scene when they must have been given the sign. Suddenly these 800 men suddenly, instead of seeing me as the hated white foreigner, they saw me as their doctor and they rushed forward.
“They pushed the rebel soldiers out of the way and they took me in their arms. In that wonderful moment the black-white barrier had gone and they said, “She’s ours.” They used a word in Kibbutu, which really meant, “She’s blood of our blood and bone of our bone.” The rift between dark skin and pale skin was driven away and we were reunited as one.”
“God used so many things that He’s working out his own wonderful purposes,” she says. “Many, many came to the Lord through those days of suffering. The walls of division were broken down, and the kingdom was expanded.”
Helen had refused to read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs assigned by her missionary field director. “I said if God ever asks me to be burned at the stake, I’ll say yes, but I won’t be singing,” she remembers. “I just couldn’t take it all.”
She grew up fatherless in India. Her mother was poor, so they could not do anything when Ishwari started to have trouble seeing.
“I can see things that are very close to me, but far away things I am not able to see,” Ishwari said at the time.
“I took her to the eye clinic; they told me she needed surgery immediately,” her mother remembers. “But with my meager earnings, I could never afford it. I didn’t know what to do.”
Ishwari had a case of bilateral degenerative cataracts, a cloudy area in the lens of the eye. This eye problem can cause blurry and less colorful vision.
Without surgery, Ishwari could eventually go blind.
When Operation Blessing — a CBN associated donation program focused on demonstrating God’s love by helping people in need — found out about Ishwari’s eye disease, they gave her family all the necessary money for the surgery to save her sight.
Christian medical missions from Africa to Southeast Asia speak volumes about the love of Christ.