Trusting God for Breath

A Peruvian pastor and his family celebrate God’s provision during the COVID-19 crisis.

From Message magazine issue "Ukraine Through Missionary Eyes"

Tessy wiped away tears as she hooked up her father to the empty oxygen tank. “God,” she pleaded, “if you could feed a multitude with five loaves and two fish, please multiply this oxygen to save my father’s life!”

Tessy’s father, Agustín Sandoval, a veteran pastor and church planter, had fallen ill with COVID-19 when the pandemic swept through their hometown of Iquitos, Peru.

The sick and dying flooded the only hospital designated for COVID patients in the region. Finding no hospital rooms available, the Sandovals set up a bed and chair in the first-floor hallway.

Agustín’s oxygen level quickly fell to 60 percent as his condition deteriorated. The doctors informed his family that he would need five to six tanks of oxygen a day to stay alive.

Due to extreme shortages, Agustín’s teenage son, Dany, had to wait in line for nine hours at the oxygen plant to refill an empty tank. Each tank cost 4,000-5,000 soles ($1,000-$1,300 USD). In desperation, Dany began volunteering at the oxygen plant in exchange for one full tank each day. But even working around the clock could not provide enough.

By the second day of Agustín’s hospitalization, he had lain without oxygen for eight hours. Tessy stood beside her father, crying to God for a miracle as she reconnected his oxygen mask to the empty tank. Her frantic prayers were interrupted as a TV news crew crowded into the hallway. Reporting on the COVID deaths in Iquitos, a reporter approached Tessy for an interview. Tessy tearfully described their desperate need for oxygen.

As Agustín’s breath faded, a miracle happened. A woman had seen Tessy’s interview on TV and immediately left for the hospital with half a tank of oxygen. Over the next few weeks, the Sandoval family continuously witnessed God’s provision. Oxygen tanks would suddenly appear at Agustín’s bedside, dropped off while he slept.

Even while immersed in grief and stress, the Sandovals ministered to those around them. No additional visitors were allowed to enter or leave the hospital. Tessy saw this as a divine opportunity. She prayed with patients and their families throughout the hospital. And in the midst of death, Tessy led multiple people to the Lord.

Dany also demonstrated Christ’s sacrificial care, once giving his full tank of oxygen to a young woman struggling to provide for her hospitalized parents.

After fifteen days in the hospital, Agustín took a turn for the worse. Tessy, exhausted and discouraged, surrendered her father to the Lord.

Throughout the night, local believers prayed with Tessy over the phone. When morning dawned, the hospital staff informed her that Agustín needed to be transferred to the second floor. Although initially alarmed, Tessy soon realized the transfer to a private room would greatly aid his recovery.

After twenty-eight days in the hospital, the doctors released Agustín to his home, where he made a full recovery. God’s hand was clearly upon the Sandovals: of the 45 patients in the hospital when he was admitted, Agustín was one of only two who survived.