And There was Morning...
I sit here in my quiet room, having finished a time of prayer and worship. Assorted Christian music is playing from my laptop computer, and I find myself in a very contemplative mood. I look out the windows and notice the burgeoning green of my garden; now that the dry season is over, I can no longer see through the vegetation. I think every shade of green God ever made can be found in Uganda, and there's a wall of it around my house. I notice the cold spot on my thigh where my cat just left from sitting with me. I have found this contemplative mood attending me quite a bit lately, related in part to tending to the issues of repairing my wrecked pickup truck…
As I've had recent reminders of my road accident on March 30th, that I briefly mentioned 2 newsletters ago, it has caused me to marvel at just how precisely God controls the events that touch our lives. In Dr. James Dobson's book When God Doesn't Make Sense, he says,
"I remember seeing a terrible collision on a Los Angeles freeway as I was coming home from work one afternoon. The first car crashed through the center divider and struck an oncoming Pontiac head-on. Both drivers were killed instantly. I have thought often about the incredible timing that was necessary to produce that wreck. If the two men were each going 60 miles per hour, they were approaching one another at a combined speed of 120 miles per hour. Computed another way, their cars were coming together at the rate of 176 feet per second. If the man in the first car had been early by one-tenth of a second, the driver of the second car would probably have been past the original point of collision by the time of the accident… When you think about it, the most infinitesimal change in either man's day would have saved the second man's life. Most fatal accidents, in this way, depend on split-second timing if they are to occur as they do.
Our lives literally hang by a thread even when we are oblivious to a particular danger…" 1
Dr. Dobson then goes on to quote from the Holy Bible, which I will quote from The Message translation:
"And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, 'Today -- at the latest, tomorrow -- we're off to such and such a city for the year. we're going to start a business and make a lot of money.' You don't know the first thing about tomorrow. You're nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say "If the Master [Jesus] wills it and we're still alive, we'll do this or that." 2
The first time I recall having to seriously look at this issue, it was 1996 and I was planning on taking my then 12 year old daughter Becky with me on a 2 week trip to Israel. I had never had a desire to visit Israel, but God had directed me to make the trip and had provided funds for it. It turned out to be one step on my journey that would eventually take Becky and me to live in Africa. We were not going with a tour group and we had never traveled overseas before. A few weeks before we left, Israel was having Palestinian elections, and a Palestinian leader was assassinated. Friends thought we should cancel our trip. We went during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, and we stayed in the Muslim sector, on the West Bank in Jerusalem. We could see thousands upon thousands of faithful Muslims coming to worship at the Dome of Rock across the Kidron Valley from our hotel. Ten days after we flew home, terrorists bombed 2 buses in Jerusalem.
Before our trip, with the cautions of friends and family ringing in my ears, I had come to the conclusion that if what God's Word says is true, "Are not 2 sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows," 3 then I had nothing to fear. I would not die one day before my God-ordained time; there are no "accidents" with God, in Israel or anywhere else.
Back in about 1989 or 1990, I was earning my Bachelor degree in nursing, and I was president of the Nurses' Christian Fellowship at my school. That summer I drove to northern California with some other NCF members to attend a week-long seminar on inductive Bible study. About half way through that wonderful week, four of us decided we were hungry for some ice cream. We piled in a car and headed from our lodge in the Mt. Lassen National Park down towards Redding, a long, straight, but hilly, county road. We found a place about halfway to Redding where we enjoyed some ice cream and were heading back up to Mt. Lassen, when suddenly we experienced one of those God-moments when you know it's not your time to die.
The hills on this narrow county road were high enough to impair passing ability, as you could not see over many of them. We were buzzing right along, maybe 60 mph, approaching the crest of one of these hills, when suddenly right at the top, we met 2 cars, side by side -- one passing the other on the blind crest of the hill! I felt a slight jerk as the driver responsively started to throw us towards the ditch, but in the same instant, the 2 cars were gone! It had happened so quickly that the 2 ladies in the back seat, who must have been looking out the side windows, never even knew what had happened.
There was no room for 3 cars to pass at the crest of that hill! There was no time for us to get off the road and out of the way. The car facing us in our lane could not have got back into his lane, because he was alongside the other car he was passing. Our survival was a supernatural miracle, a physical impossibility, something that I cannot explain to this day.
Now, today, as I contemplate the repair list my mechanic gave me for fixing my truck, I see I am going to have to pay at least half the purchase price of my truck, that I bought only 6 months ago. Most of the front half of the truck's body must be replaced. The engine has to be rebuilt. The frame was bent in 3 places in the left front, the side where I was sitting at the time of the accident. The front end must be rebuilt.
As I struggle about the financial aspect of this, the up side is that I could never buy another truck like this one for the cost of its repairs. The mechanic tells me it will be stronger than before from the way he will repair and strengthen the frame. And the other factor on the up side is that all 4 of us who were in the pickup that day we rolled it, are alive and well.
As Dr. Dobson did after seeing a horrible wreck, I have also contemplated what happened and what could have happened. To go from about 70 mph to a stop in what was probably only 5 very violent seconds, puts incredible stresses on both vehicle and passengers. Even as I crawled out of our upside down wreckage, as I looked back at my smashed truck with its wheels up in the air, I marveled at how 1) we had survived, and 2) how we were all walking around, uninjured! Another second or two, we would have run off a sharp embankment and fallen into a water-filled swamp a bit further down the road. There was an oncoming truck that we missed hitting as we crossed the highway because of our broken steering gear, which stopped briefly, apparently ascertaining in their minds that we must be dead, drove on, and notified some police who were doing traffic checks over the next hill. Their quick presence no doubt prevented us from being robbed and maybe worse by "rescuers."
David, who was driving, was unaware at first that he was upside down. He found his cell phone still in his hand. My purse was still at my side, where I grabbed it (in my state of hanging from my seat belt) when I heard running feet coming towards us, fearing robbers. I saw shattered windshield, grass and dirt, just inches in front of my face, and thought my glasses must be broken. But they were still on my face, and unbroken. Two laptop computers in the back seat were intact and worked fine afterwards. To my knowledge, we lost nothing from the truck, nor was anything broken aside from the truck itself. We did not suffer bruising from the seat belts, nor any kind of the pain predicted in the days to come.
The day after the accident, I woke up and saw the sun rise over Kampala city, and I marveled that I was alive to witness it. On our way back to Luweero that evening, I saw the sun setting over the beautiful papyrus swamps as we drove home, and I thought of Genesis 1:5b which, when God was creating the earth, says, "And there was evening, and there was morning -- the first day." I felt as if I was seeing my first day on earth -- the first day of the rest of my life! Even though I long for heaven, I found myself intensely grateful that God had seen fit to allow me to stay longer with loved ones and to continue my work here in Uganda.
I have mentioned in previous newsletters our spiritual battles related to the local witchdoctors banding together to rid the area of our ministry. As vehicles drove past our accident that day, seeing the condition of the truck, everyone assumed we had died at the scene. So the word was carried to Luweero that we had died. The witchdoctors ran around, trying to find out what had happened, and when they finally concluded we must indeed be dead, they slaughtered a goat in celebration. I believe that our survival, uninjured, has been a real testimony to these men and to others, of what a mighty God we serve!
In conclusion, I'd like to again quote Dr. Dobson:
"The bottom line is that our welfare on this mortal coil is influenced by forces that are beyond the scope of our intellect. We are caught up in a struggle between good and evil that plays a significant, although unidentified, role in our lives. Our task, then, is not to decipher exactly how these pieces fit and what it all means, but to remain faithful and obedient to Him who knows all mysteries." 4