Share your story. Be a witness. Tell me about yourself.
It seems people want to know about other people. We want to hear stories – adventures, tragedies, romances. And maybe, we even want to know people and be known by them through the sharing of our stories, our experiences, our lives. So here we go.
February 2012, I am traveling in Tanzania with my CrossFire team. We’ve been in the country for about a month, and some other missionaries have offered to help pay for us to take a day off and go on a safari. Pretty sweet deal, so the five us head off one day to Arusha National Park.
It’s a beautiful day – sun out, but not too hot. Rather than try to explain the safari itself, I’ll let some photographs from the day tell the story.
Yes, it was a bit tourist-y of us, but after a month of cross-cultural ministry it was nice to have a day to just enjoy.
Less than 30 minutes after that last picture was taken, our team and safari driver were headed out of the park. As we come up and around a corner, there is a large bus coming quickly at us. The roads are dirt, and wide enough for 1 1/2 vehicles… maybe. So, our driver does his best to pull over to the side to get out of the way. Everything is fine.
For about five seconds.
Then we feel the jeep tilt.
The next thing I really remember is being upside down in the vehicle. At least two of my teammates are crying/screaming… and there is clearly commotion outside of the vehicle. The other male on my team is already out of the vehicle, I convince the girl who was in the back with him and I to get out, and make it out myself. We are way down the hill (later we decided that we rolled 4 1/2 times). I look at my teammate with the “what the hell do we do?” look. Maybe I used words… I don’t remember. He says he’ll get the other two girls, because the third is having a panic attack, so I coerce her up this hill…
Many Tanzanians are up there (more than the 5-10 who had come down to our jeep) and they try to get water for us. Eventually the rest of the team makes it up. One girl looks beat up and the other has been carried up by several men.
[there is no way to share how many thoughts and questions were racing through my brain at this point. and possibly no way for anybody to understand unless they also have been in a severe accident in a foreign country]
Through much miscommunication and several cultural barriers we make our way from the park to the police station (because the accident had to be reported….) to the hospital. The girls insist that the guys get checked out too, but we both politely refuse to make sure we know what’s happening with the ladies of our team. The hospital decides that the girl who was carried up the hill needs to go to a larger facility, so I travel with her in an ambulance. She gets x-rays. I talk with one of the pastors we’ve been working alongside. He convinces me to go back and sleep… the adrenaline was finally wearing off at midnight during the x-rays.
I crawl into bed, finally aware of some of my own pain but too exhausted to care. When I wake up in the morning, I’m so stiff and sore. It’s Sunday. I’m alone and beat up. But one of the teens asks me to go to church. I have nothing better to do (because I can’t get to either hospital until after church anyway), so I go. We walk very slowly. Myself with a noticeable limp in my left leg.
The church service was nothing spectacular. In fact, it was kind of terrible. There was a guest pastor from the US… and he used a football analogy. American football analogy in Tanzania. [facepalm]. But during one of the songs – Great is Thy Faithfulness – though I was busy being annoyed at the choice given the circumstances of my team, I felt some brush past my left side. I looked over, but nobody was near. Whatever, maybe I was going crazy.
The three teammates from the other hospital joined me later that day. The next morning as we’re going to the larger hospital, I realize that I’m not limping anymore. With no specific prayer on my part… and no way of anybody else knowing to pray that specifically, I could walk without (much) pain.
Fast forward through hospital (teammate with compression fractures in her back, another with a broken rib and arm) and physical therapy and time spent not as a team of five all in one place. We had a lot of pain to process. Coming back together as a team of five wasn’t easy. But we talked. And we prayed. And we continued to do life together.
We ended our year together. We ended our year healthier than most would expect after an accident like we experienced – both physically and emotionally.
It’s been five years since that day. And there are days, weeks that I don’t think about what happened. But this is a reminder, to myself if nobody else, that God has and does still work. That each day has value. That life is better lived together.