Who Is He?

The summer of 1976 was hot and dry. Ellie was pregnant with Sam and we were fulfilling our call from the Lord to go to Guatemala. Ellie had taken maternity leave from the Fox Chapel Schools and I had completed my studies at the Western Pennsylvania Bible Institute. I had visited Guatemala on two short-term teams in response to an earthquake disaster and felt we were to move there and start our ministry to the nations. Several families from the church also felt they were to go, so we formed a happy band and drove from Oakmont to Guatemala City.

We lived together in a big house in the center of Guatemala City and were referred to as the Guatemala Assistance Project by our home church, Oakmont Baptist Church.

We worked for a church in Guatemala under the banner of CEMEC. People had come from many churches and ministries to help the devastated population. The earthquake had destroyed the roads, infrastructure and family units. It was very strong in the city, as though focused on the impoverished peasants.

We formed building teams and began to construct temporary housing. Four walls and a roof needed to be assembled for widows and orphans. There was a young man (18 years old) who knew the city well and would go out and vet the applicants before our crews would arrive to construct their shelter. It took us about 2 hours to assemble the shed-like structures. We pre-cut the wood in a factory donated by a church member. The trucks we drove were running all day hauling houses to building sites where short- term teams were ready to assemble. We worked six days a week from dawn to dusk for the need was great and the time short before the rains would begin.

I liked this young man. He was happy and served with joy. We were brought together by his pastor and began to work together daily. I was 28 and ready to be a big brother. He was a rascal and very street-wise with a burning desire to help his people and to present Jesus to them. He spoke little if any English and I spoke no Spanish so we began to teach each other.

“What is this?” We would say going through the tool bags and the lunches.

“How do you say ‘How do you say’” was our most often used expression.

We learned alphabet and read street signs and sang Christian songs. Piece by piece we began to understand each other and, with the Lord’s help, began to communicate.

One day a short termer, Bill McConnell, came to me and asked if I had been to the young man’s house. I had not, but on a Sunday Bill had gone over to see how this kid lived. It was a hovel. Much worse than any place we had worked. He and his mother and two brothers and an invalid sister lived in a pile of wood with a dirt floor and drainage flowing in a trench through the midst of it. His mother would buy six chickens in the morning and then walk barefoot to the wealthy part of the city and sell her chickens. She walked miles each day. The hovel was up against a towering cliff and when it shook or rained, dirt would fall down on them. They were squatters on what had been the city garbage dump.

He never asked us for anything. He served others all day to gain a meager wage. He suffered hardship. He never took anything from our home. Nothing was ever missing. And he smiled and praised the Lord with every breath.

He is Hector Zetino.

About the Author
Mark Geppert image

Mark Geppert

Mark Geppert is the founder of SEAPC and is committed to changing lives through prayer, channeling resources into humanitarian projects, raising up prayer teams which will penetrate unreached people groups in the nations, and nurturing new ministries through affiliation all over the world.