July 1, 1968 – June 15, 2012
PAMI field director, Pastor Chito Mendizabal was called home to be with the Lord last Friday, June 15, after a long battle with lung cancer. PAMI president Mike Thorud has been in the Philippines since the beginning to June to be with Chito and his family in this difficult time. Below is an E-Mail letter from Mike to PAMI supporters.
Dear PAMI friends,
I’m sorry I haven’t given an update about my trip to the Philippines until now. Things have been very busy and a little hectic. I’m very glad to be here at this time (it seems to be God’s timing).
Although there have been many positive aspects to my time here, it’s with great sadness to inform you that our beloved field director, Pastor Chito Mendizabal went home to be with the Lord last Friday, June 15 at the age of 43 years old (his 44th birthday was to be July 1st).
The suddenness of Pastor Chito’s death was a bit unexpected, although not totally surprising with how gaunt he was due to the effect of the stage 4 cancer in his right lung. When I first arrived in Sorsogon on Saturday, June 2nd, we went to the hospital to pray for and encourage Pastor Chito. Amazingly, he was able to come home the next day, and did fairly well for 1 ½ weeks, until Thursday, June 14th. During that time, we had a lot of good conversations, fellowship, and prayer, with many visitors stopping by. We even had an all PAMI workers meeting where we did a bit of a reorganization, with Pastor Chito’s input and blessing, relinquishing the overall field directorship to Pastor Virgilio Fulo, while Emmaus Bible Institute was to still be headed by Chito/Ofel Mendizabal.
Below is a video of Pastor Chito as our all PAMI worker meeting on June 7th
During Pastor Chito’s ten days in the hospital from May 23rd to June 3rd, he received antibiotic for pneumonia, human albumin to reduce swelling of feet and legs, blood transfusion because of low red blood cell count, and a stomach muscle relaxant to reduce stomach pain to eat more. He was instructed to eat a lot of egg whites for protein (up to 18 per day) and bananas for potassium. Since he was able to eat and sleep more, we kept hoping and praying that he could gain back some weight and strength. During his time back at home, he really seemed to be doing better than when I saw him on June 2nd in the hospital. Since he was no longer needing oxygen and had less back pain, he really seemed to be on the mend.
Upon discharge, the hospital doctor recommended seeing an oncologist for more advice. We found one in Legazpi, which is one hour away. The oncologist recommended a new TKI targeted therapy drug called Tarceva, which was supposed to be as effective as chemo, but without bad side effects. Although very expensive ($2300 for a 30 day supply), we decided to give it a try. At this point, I really thought that Pastor Chito might have at least another few months of good health. We kept hoping and praying that God would magnify the effectiveness of the Tarceva and grant more miracles. It was already a miracle that he had survived almost a year since being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer last July 1(when average survival is less than 6 months). Not only was it amazing that he had survived this long, but that he was doing as well as he was (rather than being bed-ridden, he was able to sit in a chair in the living room a lot of the day, and even walk a bit). He also continued to maintain a positive attitude, where visitors that came to encourage him would leave encouraged and inspired themselves.
The oncologist also recommended a baseline blood test, which showed the red blood cell count getting lower again, so advised it would be good to get another blood transfusion in the Sorsogon hospital. When we went to the Sorsogon hospital on June 13th for the blood transfusion, we really thought this was just going to be an in and out short stay. It was just after eating lunch on June 14th that Pastor Chito suddenly coughed up and choked on blood, evidently from internal bleeding in both the lungs and stomach. Although this could have been a side effect of the Tarceva (which he had started taking for two days), it could also simply have been due to progression of the cancer. He then went unconscious and was given cpr. The heart restarted, but he needed continuous ventilation after that, and was transferred to the ICU.
While in the ICU, they felt he needed more blood, but there was none of his A+ blood type available. Since I just so happen to have the same blood type, I donated 500 cc’s, which he received the night before he died. We were now not only spiritual brothers, but also blood brothers. I like to think that part of me went to heaven when Pastor Chito passed away to heaven.
My blood seemed to bring back some red color to Pastor Chito’s skin. The internal bleeding in the stomach stopped and the internal bleeding in the lungs had lessened.He even seemed to become slightly conscious in how he moved his eyes when talked to. So he seemed to be showing slight improvement, but then went into cardiac arrest and passed away. All the strain of the cpr, ventilator, and cancer finally took their toll on his already weak heart.
I feel we tried all we could. Perhaps we even tried too hard. But we kept clinging to the hope that his life could be prolonged to do more ministry. Like it says in Philippians 1:21-24 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I chose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”
By the way, I was happy to be able to encourage Pastor Chito and his wife Sister Ofel with the following books that I brought with:
“The Healing Light” by Angnes Sanford
“Fighting Cancer with Christ” by Mjorud
“Destined to Overcome” and “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows” by Billheimer
In the “Destined to Overcome” book is a proclamation that Pastor Chito liked to keep quoting before he died:
“Lord Jesus, because I’m part of your body, your life is my life, and I’m constantly and graciously healed.”
Although complete physical healing never came, we can be assured that complete spiritual healing did. We can be comforted to know that Pastor Chito is now with the Lord, with no more pain or tears, and full of joy.
Now that Pastor Chito has passed away, we are in day 4 of 10 days of visitation. This practice really illustrates the relational and community orientation of Filipino culture. A lot of people keep dropping by throughout each day and there is always a lot of tasty food. Pastor Chito was so well liked and admired by so many people.There are 2 hour necrological/tribute services each night. Two different pastors are scheduled each night to speak. Someone stays with the body in the Emmaus Bible Institute church 24/7. So there is singing, music, clapping, and drum beating happening all through the night. Monday, June 25th is to be the culmination of it all, concluding with the internment.
I was originally scheduled to return home on June 19th. Fortunately, I was able to change my flight with no cost (except for $30 extra from Legazpi to Manila), and extend my visa for $75. Not only is it good to stay for the visitation and internment, but it’s also good to help facilitate more changes and adjustments. By staying longer now, I’ll probably not return this fall like I had originally considered. But I might consider coming back next spring to make sure things are going smoothly—perhaps to come back next March for the next EBI graduation, which is big class of 9 students.
By the way, the EBI school year just started on June 12th. There are 9 seniors, 4 juniors, 6 sophomores, and 6 freshmen, for 25 total. The 9 seniors are currently doing internships. Pastor Chito was able to type up the new teaching schedule before our all PAMI worker meeting on June 8th.
Although I’ve spent most of my time at EBI, I managed to visit Casiguran, Irosin, and Bulan on June 9th-11th.
Besides Pastor Chito’s passing, Elizabeth Homo (the sister of Pastor Joel Homo) passed away in Bulan on June 12th. Sister Beth was a significant figure in the history of PAMI. When my uncle and aunt started working in Bulan 30 years ago, someone brought them to the home of Ben Homo to pray for his daughter Beth, who had a mental illness. When she seemed to miraculously get better, they welcomed having Bible studies in their home. In turn, members of the Homo family were the first ones baptized, and a couple of the sons became pastors. Pastor Joel has been a PAMI pastor for about 25 years. Sister Beth stayed well for a number of years, and was an active member of the church, doing scripture readings and other things. However, she became mentally sick again these last couple years. We trust that God considers how she accepted Christ when she was mentally well, and now enjoys wholeness in Christ’s presence.
I wish to thank all those who have been praying both for Pastor Chito and his family, as well as me and my family. I seems like God has been constantly orchestrating visitors and events without me even planning most of it. I praise God for smooth travels (fortunately my plane from Manila to Legazpi was not cancelled despite a Storm Signal 1 (low strength tropical storm). Although still quite warm, it’s not as warm as it could be, due to a lot of clouds from low pressure systems. I have not even used any sunscreen up to now. I also praise God that I’ve so far stayed healthy (just had to chew a few Peptol Bismal tablets). Although Pastor Chito’s youngest daughter, 6 year old Shelly, now is staying home from school a bit sick. I think she especially misses her dad. Please keep praying.
I hope you also might consider helping with expenses. Besides $2300 spent on Tarceva (which we hope to partially recoup by reselling), there also was ~$2000 of other medical expenses this last month, $2000 for a casket, $850 for a cemetery slot, and $500 for extra food.
We really appreciate your prayers and financial support of PAMI. Tax-deductible gifts can be made by writing checks to PAMI and mailing to:
PAMI (Philippine-Asian Missions, Inc.)
P.O. Box 201444
Please forward this email to family, friends, and churches that might be interested in PAMI.
Mike Thorud 6-19-12
PAMI volunteer president