Hernán operates a small printing press in his Quito, Ecuador, home. Though he prints materials for many local businesses, his favorite work is […]
Hernán operates a small printing press in his Quito, Ecuador, home. Though he prints materials for many local businesses, his favorite work is printing evangelistic materials for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Whenever possible, he slips away from the office to give Bible studies or to speak in lay evangelistic meetings.
When the Ecuador Union was invited to distribute literature and hold evangelistic meetings in Cuba, Hernán quickly volunteered to be part of the team. Hernán had always dreamed of being a missionary, and now he was being given a chance to live his dream. For several months he took on extra jobs and worked late nights to raise the money for the trip expenses. Eager to do his very best in Cuba, he practiced his Bible presentations again and again while working at his press.
On the day of departure Hernán and his family knelt together beside their press and prayed a very specific prayer.
“Dear God, please bless Papa Hernán as he goes on Your mission to Cuba. May all his work there help people fall in love with Jesus. Amen.”
Hernán spent the whole flight from Quito to Havana reviewing his notes and dreaming about the new friends he would be making in the meetings.
“No more presswork,” he smiled to himself. “This week will all be evangelism for Jesus.”
Hernán spent the first couple days in Cuba preparing the meeting room and assembling the materials they would be distributing around the city. Rather than visit Old Havana and the old Spanish fort, Hernán met with local members and prayed for success in their work.
Hernán looked up from his breakfast to see who was calling his name.
“Hernán, I am so glad that you came along with the team from Ecuador.” The Cuban Mission president, dressed in a nice gray suit with a bright-green tie, was walking over to Hernán’s table, both arms lifted high in greeting. “I am so glad you are here. We need your expertise at the mission office.”
“How can I help you?” Hernán asked.
“We have a terrible problem. I just learned that you are a printer and that you know how to fix presses! Well, we need you. Our printing press is a very old one that has worked OK for many years. However, today it refuses to work. But we must have it working right now to finish printing the Voice of Prophecy Bible studies you and the evangelistic team will be using this month. I am so glad that God sent you to Cuba to help us!”
Hernán stood very slowly, his mind in a terrible turmoil.
“I will see what I can do,” he smiled. But his mind frowned, I came to Cuba to do evangelism, not to repair a press!
Hernán’s body shuddered as he told me the story, remembering the frustration, stress, and hope of that day in Cuba.
“God had kept their old press machine working for more than 35 years, but now it would not move paper through the rollers. When we got to the pressroom, the teenage workers cheered, and asked me for a miracle.”
Hernán, the visiting printer from Ecuador, tried every solution he could imagine, then gave up—almost.
“Maybe if we take it completely apart,” he suggested, “we might see how to fix it.”
The trustworthy old press was soon an iron skeleton, its innards strewn across the room like a printer’s junkyard. Hernán and his four teenage assistants stood among the parts, sweating bare-chested in the oppressive heat and humidity.
“A small lever is missing,” Hernán told the young men, “so the press cannot feed the paper! The part is not here, and I don’t know how to make a duplicate!”
That’s when the mission president walked back into the room and was immediately overwhelmed by the sight.
“Oh, no! The press is destroyed! We must print Voice of Prophecy Bible lessons and Sabbath School lessons for all of Cuba. Now, instead of fixing it, you have destroyed our press!”
Hernán shuddered again, reliving the worst moment of his life.
“I am trying to fix it.”
Hernán’s explanation brought much waving and shouting from the church leader.
“Please! Put it back together right now!”
Hernán calmly explained about the missing lever, and said that he thought the only thing left to do was to pray. “We’ll pray, then I will start the reassembling.”
“Everyone stood there in the room, shocked,” Hernán told me. “Then they all turned and left the printshop! Everyone! They all ran away when I said we ought to pray! They left me alone with the broken press.”
Hernán knelt and prayed, alone, press parts strewn across the floor. Hope his only friend.
“Eternities later,” Hernán remembers, “all of the people paraded back into the room. But this time their faces were washed and their hair combed, and each wore a clean shirt. The president looked at me and said, ‘OK. Now we’re ready to pray. Hernán, you start.’”
But Hernán, still bare-chested and sweaty, couldn’t pray. “I wanted to tell them how alone I had felt when they left the room, how afraid I was that maybe I really had destroyed their press! Now I was too choked up to say anything, even to God.”
The president and the others each prayed earnestly. After the prayers were finished, Hernán stood, opened his eyes, and looked down at the floor. There, right between his feet, where a few minutes ago there had been nothing but a dirty cement floor, lay the missing part!
That evening, after Hernán and the teenage workers had reassembled and oiled the machine, everyone came to see if the press might work again. No one breathed as Hernán guided a blank page through the “renewed” press.
It came out looking awful.
“The first one is always bad,” Hernán encouraged as he twisted dials, adjusted rollers, and silently prayed to the heavenly Printer. “Let’s see what it does now.”
As God’s press produced a perfect Voice of Prophecy Bible lesson, the room filled with a celebration of thanksgiving and praise!
Dick Duerksen, a pastor and storyteller living in Portland, Oregon, United States, is known around the world as “an itinerant pollinator of grace.”