Melba's Mission Journal: Father Nature (Aug. 10, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Melba's Mission Journal: Father Nature

Aug. 10, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0134}

NOTE:  A headshot of Whitaker is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By Melba Whitaker**

In July of 2002 I was traveling on a tour of some of the countries in the Southern ConeUruguay, Argentina and Chile. I was traveling with Tim [Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker], Bishop Leo Soriano from the Philippines and Dr. Doug Ruffle, our translator from the General Board of Global Ministries.

On July 12, 2002, I met one of the most unforgettable persons in my life.

ALEJANDRA, Argentina — Luis Gallay (left), a well-known natural healer in the area here, met with Melba and Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker in July 2002 while they were touring  Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. Melba Whitaker called Gallay "one of the most unforgettable persons in my life." Also pictured is Dr. Doug Ruffle, a translator from the General Board of Global Ministries. Photo by Melba Whitaker, Photo #04-0058.

The main destination of the day was a small country town, Alejandra, Argentina. On the way we stopped for lunch with a fellow Methodist, Luis Gallay, a well-known natural healer in the area, and his wife Adela Siri Gallay. As we pulled into his overgrown yard, Luis welcomed us wearing a huge smile on his face, a peasant shirt and knee high boots with the top five inches folded back. His homestead had several buildings, one that was more than 100 years old and whitewashed over dried mud. Its thatched roof was beginning to show signs of wear. Plants of every imaginable kind grew in profusion even in the wintertime of the southern hemisphere. All along the roadside, horses were grazing, unfettered and unfenced. Gauchos were galloping along in their traditional dress, herding cattle and enjoying the cool sunny day.
Luis and Adela led us to an outdoor table that was laden with delicious barbequed beef and sausages, salad and homemade bread. Argentine beef is the best because cattle are allowed to roam free, feeding on grass. Eating outdoors caused our appetites to increase and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal. As we ate, Luis told us about his practice of alternative medicine, and other visitors filled in the blanks with stories of how people come from miles and miles for Luis's help. After lunch we asked Luis to show us the plants that he uses to heal people. His philosophy is that God created Eden with all of the plants that we would ever need. All you have to do is to utilize the plants that God has given us and you will be healthy.

ALEJANDRA, Argentina — Luis Gallay's homestead includes several buildings, one that is more than 100 years old and whitewashed over dried mud. Gallay is a well-known natural healer, who grows "plants of every imaginable kind" on his property, according to Melba Whitaker. Whitaker and Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker met with Gallay while touring Uruguay, Argentina and Chile in July 2002. Photo by Melba Whitaker, Photo #04-0059.

The tour of his property was fascinating. Each plant was lovingly caressed as he told us its use. There was the aspirina tree that gives us aspirin. Luis told us how figs were great for lowering blood pressurejust putting leaves in your shoe will lower your blood pressure! I have had a chronic cough for about 20 years and have been to doctors all over Virginia and Florida with no diagnosis or help from modern medicine. As we were walking, he heard me coughing, and I told him about it. He listened to the cough and said that it was a fungus and caused by breathing polluted air. He took me to a bush and broke off 20 leaves and told me to steep three leaves for 10 minutes and drink the tea once a day until the leaves were used up. Doug, our translator didn't know the name of the bush, which I would love to know, as it helped my cough as long as I drank it daily. It was just amazing to listen to him tell about plants and their healing powers.

One of my questions was, "How do you determine which plant will cure which person?" An unbelievable answer! He grabbed several branches of a bush with his great fist and then grabbed my hand and said, "I hold the plant with one hand and the person with the other and pray. The Holy Spirit tells me what plant to use because each person is different and responds differently to different plants." Bioenergy! The spiritual energy surrounding Luis Gallay was so overpowering that I am certain the Holy Spirit speaks directly to him.
We were out in the country, and it was time for worship. When we walked over to a neighbor's house an old couple stepped out of their thatched roofed home (which they were in the process of rethatching themselves). They were dressed in formal gaucho attire with huge silver belts, wide-brimmed hats and tall boots. I began coughing again, and Luis took me into the couple's barn and sat me on a chair. He placed his hands on my head and began praying. He spoke so softly that I couldn't tell if he spoke Spanish or was speaking in tongues. He prayed for about three minutes and then gave me a hug. When I walked outside to go back to Luis's house for church, it was as if scales had dropped from my eyes. I saw the earth and sky with new eyes. The sky was so blue that it actually sparkledas if stars were shining in the middle of the day. The trees vibrated with energy, and I felt like I was seeing the earth as God had created it millions of years ago, before mankind had polluted the air.

The worship service that afternoon was a family affair with about 20 people that included the seven from our group. Luis's daughter and her family came and the old gaucho couple rounded out the congregation. We sat outside under the trees, singing to a guitar and listening to a sermon from Tim. The cool winter wind was whistling through the shade trees as the afternoon wore on. Worship outdoors among family and neighbors is the true meaning of community of faith, a coming together of people who know and love each other deeply with a love for God's creation.

Finally, it was time to leave. As I was thanking Luis, I told him how cold my hands were. He surrounded my hands with his great big fists and laughed and laugheda deep belly laugh. Energy began flowing into my hands and for the next 10 days my hands were radiating heat! Usually my hands are freezing cold in temperatures under 70 degrees. But even in the unheated buildings of Argentina in the midst of their winter, my hands were consistently pulsating with warmth. 

I told the group that I had never met Mother Nature, but I had met Father Nature, and that is how I prefer to think about him. His home is a place where I experienced healing and holiness. That little corner of earth, outside of Alejandro, Argentina, is a Garden of Eden where one man walks with God every day of his life.


This commentary relates to Missions.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitaker coordinates the Florida Conference's Children's Harvest ministry and leads conference clergy spouses in mission trips around the world as part of an initiative by spouses of United Methodist bishops to promote and support mission activities.

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