Cruise injury unites Methodists on global level

By Ariel Gilreath

CHARLESTON—Worldwide travelers Tommy and Ellen Davis, members of Bethel United Methodist Church, took a cruise from Tahiti back home, thinking they would be on a relaxing vacation. Instead, their trip veered into emergency, rushing by ambulance to a hospital in Peru several days later.

During the cruise, Tommy had grown weak and dehydrated from the flu. Their trip was supposed to last 33 days, but by day 12, he suffered a serious injury. During the night, he had gotten up but, too weak to stand, fainted and fell backwards. Upon waking, he tried again with the same results.

The ship’s doctor thought Tommy might have fractured a vertebra from his fall, but when the captain of the cruise ship made an emergency stop in Lima, Peru, to get Tommy help four days later, local doctors discovered he had broken his neck.

Upon arrival in Peru, the Davises first searched for a translator, who they found at the Port of Lima. Eduardo Mendoza told them he learned English at the Methodist Mission School, which Ellen Davis later found out was the very same mission she was to stay at during Tommy’s treatment. This was the first of many United Methodist connections that would soon follow.

“We travel extensively worldwide, but had never been to South America and spoke no Spanish,” Ellen said. “We had become painfully aware that almost no one else we encountered spoke any English.”

Ellen then reached out to her pastor at Bethel UMC, the Rev. John Warren, who emailed Peruvian Bishop Jorge Bravo asking if there were any ministers available for prayer. The bishop decided to visit the Davises himself.

With the bishop, the Peruvian ministers blessed the couple by praying for Tommy and offering Ellen a place to stay at the Methodist Mission School, as well as the school secretary’s home.

“They became a constant support we knew we could fall back on—truly an extension of our Charleston church family. They are a very family-oriented culture in Peru, and immediately made us part of their family,” Ellen said.

After the Davises returned to Charleston, the doctors determined Tommy had broken several vertebrae in his spine, which was shifting, and he was losing all feeling in his right arm. Ellen said Tommy’s pain was severe.
His spinal surgery in Charleston was successful, and he was fortunate enough to be allowed to go home only two days after his surgery. He is currently in recovery at home and is undergoing physical therapy for his right arm.

The Davises said they were blessed by the help of the Methodist Church of Peru, as well as their translator, Mendoza, who assisted them in communicating with the ministers and doctors.

“We learned that ‘church family’ is a much more meaningful phrase than we ever imagined,” Ellen said.

The Davises were welcomed back at Bethel UMC with open arms and prayers as they recounted their trip to the congregation.

Warren said the Davis’ experience has shown him how valuable the Methodist connection can be on a personal level.

“Tommy and Ellen were in a bad spot far from home,” Warren said. “Our Peruvian brothers and sisters were limited in the amount of tangible assistance they could provide, but the value of their emotional and spiritual support is beyond measure. One of the wonderful things is that family is there for us in times of trouble. Our Methodist family is large and spread throughout the world, and came through for Tommy and Ellen when they needed them most.”

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