Vision in White
As remembered to me by Rev. Don Waddell
The hospital was almost unbearably hot. Don’s wound from the drastic surgery to remove his gall bladder, itched and then shot pains that made him flinch. This surgery, in 1960 was brutal compared to today’s gall bladder removals. If there had been air conditioning, it would have helped. The fan stirred up a little breeze but it was hot air, too.
He did feel that he was lucky to be in Temuco when the emergency happened, in the Clinica Alemana. Here, everything was clean and the doctors had excellent ratings. Much better than if he’d been in one of the smaller hospitals in Chile. “No, it would have been much better,” thought Don, “if it were winter– and cold instead of in this humid heat!”
Don was also worrying about all he should be doing this week in the churches he served, as pastor.
He hadn’t planned to be a minister but an agricultural missionary. His degree in horticulture and his lifelong love of plants had made him a natural for helping Chileans upgrade their ways of propagating and growing apples and grapes and farm crops and flowers. As director of a boys agricultural school at the 3600 acre farm, El Vergel and in his work among the Mapuche Indians and later, his directorship of the Agri boarding school for High School age Mapuche Indians, he’d had every opportunity to fulfill his mission.
But, soon after he arrived in Chile, he learned that they also expected him to pastor several Methodist churches. At present, he was the minister at First Church, Temuco (second largest in Chile); Second Church, Temuco and Millaray, Temuco and preached at all three every Sunday. He was also responsible for Pitrufquin; Traiquen, Villarica and Loncoche. There he had lay ministers and visited often and preached himself when he could. And, just that week, another missionary who was in charge of working with an architect to restore or rebuild 12 Methodist churches and parsonages after the largest earthquake in history suddenly had to return to the States. Don had been appointed to take his place! This included construction of an all triangle church building to become a model to withstand earthquakes.
He hurt so much if he moved. So, he lay there, a man of schedules and action. One who loved his family, his mission and loved the people. He thought of them–and all that he needed to to do– and, he felt totally helpless.
Shifting just a little and trying to protect his wound, he thought he saw something in the open door. Just glimpsed it out of the corner of his eye. He wiped his eyes with his handkerchief, something he always had close, even in the hospital. Now it was clearer. Sort of in the shape of a person, but no, just a lot of white. Misty and all white. Oh, and now, (he felt as much as he saw) A knowing came to him. It was God! God was speaking. And then, he knew the words that were a part of the whiteness: “Don, don’t worry. I’m taking care of everything. I care,too. Be well. Do not worry.”
Don tells me that it was such a real message that he can remember it, today, distinctly. The words might not be exactly the same when he thinks of the vision, but the essence of assurance and presence is always the same. And so is the message. There have been other answers to prayers in his life, or guidance in mission, but never again such clear and certain words of comfort and never again a vision like he saw that day in Clinca Alemana, Temuco, Chile.