Rev. Paul Hostetter, a former pastor with the Garden Grove Community Church, left for an assignment with the National Presbyterian Church in Mexico. Paul and Dorothy were involved in translation of the Bible into the Cho’l language and the development of Bible study and other curriculum materials for the training of future church leaders. The Cho’l Bible School and a Christian Bible Book store in Palenque were among some projects the Hostetters were involved in with the Reformed Church in America missionary who was stationed in Palenque.
Better medical care for the poor in the region was needed and the medical clinic project was born when the Hostetters returned to the ministry in Garden Grove in 1979. The first medical project was started in Bahtzibitic on the road to San Cristobal de las Casas near Temo junction in the Ocosingo area. Two buildings were built on the Bahtzibitic Ranch know as the “Clinica El Buen Samaritano” (The Good Samaritan Clinic). Later a more favorable site was found near Palenque located on Rancho Ashupa. The new name for the future hospital/clinic was “The Good Samaritan Medical Center.” After it opened it was changed to Centro Medico Maya. Paul and Dorothy Hostetter along with Dr. Robert H. Schuller were instrumental in getting this project moving forward.
Pastor Hostetter spent time finding land and then designing a hospital that would be comfortable in the tropical environment. He studied the prevailing winds at the location for a building that would provide comfortable temperatures in the tropical environment. He located approximately 20 acres, which was close to a well-traveled footpath and road coming from various Mayan villages.
The land was beside a stream and a spring, which offered a water supply. The design of the building is shaped in a U configuration with jalousie windows that allow the prevailing winds to pass through an outside corridor through windows on each side of the patient rooms and treatment rooms. The operating suite is designed to be small and compact and be air-conditioned. The roof is of white material to reflect the heat from the sun and it is raised up from the cement ceiling of the rooms to also allow the prevailing winds to flow through and cool the rooms of the hospital.
In 1983 after the property was purchased and the hospital footings were dug Crystal Cathedral turned the work over to Mexican Medical Ministries who has managed the site until the present time. Missionary Jim Ritchie was responsible for leading teams and managing the construction of the hospital named El Buen Pastor (The Good Shepherd) that was completed in 1985. July 1986 marked the grand opening of the hospital.
A grounds keeper, Diego Solis Montejo was hired to care for the property. While serving at the hospital he became a Christian. For two years Allan Lee and his wife Rosy were Site Directors at the hospital. (1990-1991). During the Lees’ time in Palenque, Diego became very active in going together with Allan to remote Cho’l and Tzeltal Indian villages to share the gospel. They also spearheaded getting the Jesus film dubbed into the Cho’l language. It was during this time that Diego caught the vision to become a pastor among his people.
Through many people’s effort Diego successfully completed seminary and was assigned to a pastoral position outside of the hospital. Although there were a number of different administrators in the first years, in 1992 Diego became the administrator of the hospital in addition to his pastoral work. A nurse, Margarita, of Mayan decent who could speak Cho’l, Tzeltal, Spanish, and English managed much of the medical affairs of the hospital in the early years. There were many Mexican physicians who have staffed the hospital as well as the clinic that was eventually established in downtown Palenque.
The hospital was initially developed and designed to serve the Mayan people who speak mainly the Mayan languages and had difficulty communicating and receiving care in the government hospitals of Palenque. There have been multiple medical specialists that have come to Hospital El Buen Pastor over the years. Other Mexican doctors associated with Mexican Medical Ministries have traveled to Palenque, some spending a month’s time to do anesthesia and general surgery.
One of the largest groups to work at the Palenque hospital was a group from Westwood Baptist church in Olympia, Washington. In the early 1990s they constructed a dormitory and kitchen facilities at the site. The purpose of that facility was to provide living space for short-term mission work personnel as well as provides a facility to teach medics in the local area.
Currently the hospital has two major campaigns each year from Mexican Medical Ministries doing evangelism outreach work, surgery, dental care, and general medicine. A Mexican physician is hired to work at the clinic/pharmacy in downtown Palenque throughout the year, while the hospital is only open for the surgical teams and occasionally for use by the local physicians.
There are 4 buildings currently on site. There is the dorm/kitchen facility and the hospital, which has an operating suite, small kitchen, 2 treatment rooms and 2 in-patient rooms as well as bathroom and shower facilities. The third building is a duplex apartment each with three bedrooms, living room, kitchen, and bath. The fourth building is the groundkeeper’s quarters. Access to the hospital is by black top highway from Palenque. The hospital is located about 12 km from downtown Palenque. The world-renowned Palenque Mayan ruins are close by, as are beautiful waterfalls.