I have always been very thankful for the Lord’s protection during the many trips I have taken over the years all over Bolivia. I had always said that the Lord had protected me from having to spend the night in the middle of nowhere, hitting a pedestrian and getting sick on a trip. You may notice that I said “had.” Within a month in August and September, all three of those things happened to me.
At the beginning of September, I drove the 800 mile one-way trip from Cochabamba to Riberalta with Dr. Luís Romay, the director of ECAMM, the missionary training school that we are partnering with, in order to visit some missionary training students doing their practicums and visit a couple of church plants that the Bolivian Evangelical Holiness Church has there. The last 300 miles is a rough, dirt road. We decided to drive all night on the way back in order to get past an area that would be closed during the day for construction. About 2 in the morning the LandCruiser began to sputter, and we had to sleep all night about an hour from the nearest town. In the morning a truck towed us to Santa Rosa, and we found out that the injectors were clogged because I had neglected to clean out the air filter. After cleaning out the air filter, we were able to buy fuel injector cleaner, and we were on our way. I was very thankful for the Lord’s protection overnight in the middle of nowhere and that it wasn’t a worse problem with the vehicle.
At the end of September, I travelled with Daniel Elliott, several youth from City of Refuge, and several national denominational leaders to Huanacoma, in Norte de Potosí. During the five hour evening service, I began to get a stomachache. To make matters worse, Daniel and I shared a twin bed that night. I did not sleep much that night, and I doubt Daniel did either. In the morning I felt even worse. One of the reasons that I was so thankful that I had never been sick on a trip is that typically there are no bathrooms anywhere in the rural areas in the mountains and Altiplano of Bolivia. Thankfully I was able to take advantage of the medical clinic on the other side of the river and get some medicine and use their bathroom first thing in the morning, but there weren’t any bathrooms near the church and not many places to hide. By late morning I was feeling well enough to preach and to drive the five hours back to Cochabamba that evening. Again I was thankful that it wasn’t any worse than it was.
But the worse of the three occurred in August in Cochabamba. There are just a couple of limited-access stretches of road in Cochabamba, but it doesn’t mean that people don’t cross them or that vehicles don’t stop to pick people up, etc. It was a Thursday afternoon and as I was going under an underpass I saw an older man walking his bike down the entrance ramp on the other side of the underpass. I began to slow down, but right as I got close to him, he suddenly jumped on his bike and crossed directly in front of me. I was probably going about 40 miles an hour and threw him about 50 feet. I figured I killed him. Many people saw it happen and ran over. One man told me he would be okay, but I didn’t believe him. There was a lot of blood running down his face, but after a few minutes he began to talk. An ambulance came and took him to the hospital, but I thought if he didn’t die, he would have serious injuries. In these cases, it is common for the driver to spend time in jail and have to give the family of the person who was hit thousands of dollars. I was anticipating the worst, but Juvenal, who is 76 years old, didn’t die. In fact, he didn’t even have one fracture! He just had about 25 stitches on his head and lots of soreness. His family never treated me bad at all. On the Sunday night after the accident, I was visiting Juvenal alone in the hospital. He asked me what I do, and I told him that I’m a missionary. He immediately sat up and shook my hand and said that he’s a Christian, too. He said that he should have died, but God must still have a purpose for him to live. He was sad that he had missed the morning worship service that morning. His son-in-law told me later that this situation could have been bad, but in the end they gained a friend.
This was a miracle! I am continually thankful to God (as we should be no matter what) that this situation turned out so good. When I tell people this story, they say things like, “God protected you because you’re such a good missionary” and other things like that. I don’t believe that for a second, but I do wonder sometimes why God has protected me when other missionaries have suffered much worse. Isaiah 55:9 says that His ways are higher than our ways, so we have to trust Him no matter what (Proverbs 3), even if we don’t understand why things happen. All three of these incidents could have been much worse. It reminds me to be thankful for those praying daily and faithfully for us and the other missionaries serving around the world. We know that we are in a spiritual war, but we serve an all-powerful holy and loving God!