Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tragedy and an Important Question

  On January 11, I met my friends Tim and Mary, along with their group of American medical missionary volunteers, at a gas station near my home.  They were on their way from Port au Prince to Seguin to spend a week giving free medical care to the Haitians in Seguin.  I needed to give them some medicines they had requested, so we met up at the gas station.  Tim and Mary and I hugged, and I spoke briefly with a woman and her husband who were eager to get to Seguin and start setting up the clinic.  We didn't chat long, because they had a long journey to Seguin ahead of them, but they peeked and waved at my kids who were waiting in the car, and then I wished them all a fun week with no "FTA" (fun travel adventures) and a safe journey, and headed home.  Several hours later, I got word that their caravan of four cars had been in an accident.  After some tense moments and phone calls, we finally pieced together a horrible, tragic story.  The fourth car in the caravan had lost control on a steep mountain pass and gone over the edge of a precipitous cliff, killing all aboard, except the driver.  Among those who lost their lives was Mary.  She has two children and a husband at home in the States who have been sending her off with prayers for years on her regular mission trips to Haiti.  The husband and wife duo that I had met at the gas station were also victims and lost their lives.  They leave two children behind.  And the fourth victim was a 24 year old young man whose father was also on the trip, in a different vehicle.  It was this young man's first trip to Haiti.  The driver is a Haitian man who has worked with Tim for some time now and helps to translate during the medical trips.  He was ejected from the vehicle, suffered extensive broken bones and head trauma, but is currently in the hospital and expected to live.
   I visited this driver a few days after the crash.  He was lying in bed, with his head and arm and leg bandaged, but he was lucid and willing to talk to me about what he could remember from the crash.  He told me that the vehicle lost its brakes and that he tried to stop 4 or 5 times but was unable to do so, therefore he had sped past the three other cars in the caravan and tried to take a very sharp turn at high speed, which led to him losing control, crashing through the guard rail, flipping the vehicle, and falling over the edge.  He doesn't know how he survived the fall.  I told him God must have a reason for him to be alive, some purpose left for him on this earth.  Margarethe, who was there with me, began telling him the importance of accepting Christ as Savior and following Him.  We prayed for him and left.  As my mother and I drove back through those mountains on our way home, we saw the site of the accident.  We backtracked from that spot for several miles, pointing out to each other every good place we saw along the way that would have been an acceptable and safe place to stop or even crash a vehicle without brakes.  Places that would have possibly damaged the truck and perhaps a few limbs, but would certainly not have resulted in death.  We asked ourselves why the driver didn't downshift and put on the emergency brake.  And, failing all else, why he didn't crash into the caravan of cars that were in front of him, instead of speeding past them?  Asking these questions only led us to frustration.  And if we were experiencing frustration, I can only imagine what it was like for the passengers in the car in the moments before the accident.
   So, I had to stop asking these questions.  I had to forgive the driver in my heart.  I had to accept that, for some reason, on that particular day, God called four of His servants home.  But there is still one question that I do ask myself, and think it might be an important question for all of us to ask ourselves:  What kind of drivers are we?  Not just actually, but figuratively as well.  As we drive others along the road in our vehicles, do we take responsibility for their safety, to the extent that it's in our control?  And, more figuratively speaking, who are we driving, where are we driving them, and are we taking them there with care?
   I delivered this message to my Haitian patients a few weeks ago, and it was a little simpler to do in Creole, because 'to drive' in Creole (kondwi) also means 'to guide'.  In Creole, you 'kondwi' someone in your car, or you 'kondwi' a blind person, or you 'kondwi' people down a footpath to a certain destination.  So, back to the question:  who are we guiding and are we good guides?  I can think of those in my life that I guide, and who trust me to guide them well:  my children need me to guide them in almost every area.  My patients trust me to guide them to health with the medicines and treatments I choose for them.  My Sunday school students and my Tuesday morning patient crowd trust me to present the gospel to them clearly and accurately.  I am beginning to realize why James says, "Let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment" (James 3:1).
   I pray that the Lord gives us wisdom as we guide those entrusted to us, and that we do it with godly fear.  I pray that the Lord speaks to the driver recuperating in the hospital.  And I pray that Mary, Rita, Jim, and Matt rest in peace and that God grants their families and friends a peace that surpasses understanding.