catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 22 :: 2012.12.07 — 2012.12.20


People who deliver

Were you as disoriented as I was back in 1997 — you know, when the Alberto Fujimori scandal broke?

“The what?"

You know, Fujimori, the ex-president of Peru.

Isn’t Fujimori a Japanese name?”

Yeah, Fujimori + Peru = what? I remember being completely confused by the Japanese name with a Latin American country. (I am not sure why it should have surprised me, since here in the States we have oodles of name combos like Natasha McNab or Hirohito Giordano.) But in truth, even the successive revelations about Peru and Fujimori’s corruption or atrocities by his henchman Montesinos has left a smaller impression on me than this little obit from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2006:


I love the daily paper. You know why? Because when I see something that attracts my eye, I rip it out. With a satisfying ffwwit, I tear the article, or story, or obituary out and I keep it. Online is okay. It’s easy, it’s clean, and it doesn’t clutter up your file cabinets, but the daily thrill is missing.

I’d rather open my door every morning, breath fresh air, and look to see where my paper has landed. He’s good, the “paper boy” (actually a middle-aged guy) who drives by early in the dawn, radio blaring, chucking papers left and right. I slide off the thin green bag and inside is a papery peephole at the world and my community: the good, the bad, the ugly.

On Tuesday, October 17 in 2006, what captured my eye was the obituary page and this one singular obituary. I had never heard of this guy. Have you ever heard of Valentin Paniagua? Yet listen to this man’s newsprint epitaph (with my own emphasis added):

Mr. Paniagua governed for only 8 months, but in that short time he forged a legacy…that took big strides toward rebuilding Peru’s tattered democracy, including overseeing clean elections. Marking a sharp break with Mr. Fujimori’s autocratic regime, Mr. Paniagua pledged honesty and impartiality as the hallmark of his caretaker government — and he delivered.

I almost cry every time I read this, even six years later. Paniagua should be a name heralded all around the globe. How many corrupt regimes doom a nation to decades of malfeasance and graft, scandal, instability, and insanity?  Yet Valentin Paniagua gifted Peru with a chance to try again.

I keep this scrap of newsprint, not in my binder of articles, but in my tattered copy of My Utmost for His Highest, the Oswald Chambers devotional that I read most every day. I keep it there to remind me, when I pray and as I scan the headlines, that there are many, many unsung and unknown, decent, God-fearing people out there faithfully serving — people, just like the paper boy, who deliver.

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