A Few Close Calls
Over the last few weeks, it seems like we’ve had an uncharacteristic amount of “close calls”.
A week and a half ago my wife was getting ready to leave the our apartment to drive down to the public hospital. She was planning to visit one of our volunteers who had just given birth to her fourth child. As normal, Joy was having a dickens of a time getting out the door. When she finally did manage to extract herself from the vortex which we affectionately call “flight base”, she bumped into the principal from Siparuta Mission Academy coming in the gate. When Joy informed her that she was on the way down to public hospital, Tamara quickly informed her that there had been a bad shooting right outside of the main entrance to Public Hospital. Evidently a man had a disagreement with another gentleman over a woman, and heated words were exchanged. The first man went and got a high powered rifle and shot both persons. When two officers responded to the 911 call, the man shot and killed one and seriously wounded the other. The police sent in a SWAT team and the ensuing fight lasted for hours with both sides shooting large amounts of bullets and tear gas canisters. Eventually the man became tired and desperate, and eventually turned the gun on himself and ending the standoff. We were so thankful that Joy didn’t leave the house when she should have, otherwise she might have been caught in the cross-fire.
Last Tuesday I had an accident with a motorcyclist as I was driving out to Ogle to wrap some plastic around a giant satellite dish that I was sending up to Kamarang. For months we had been trying to send this dish out to our industrial college in Paruima, but because of the size of the dish it was unable to fit through the doorway of the Cessna Grand Caravans, which are commonly used.. Only the Guyana Defence Force has an airplane (A Shorts Sky Van) with a door wide enough to carry this six foot diameter dish. But alas the Sky Van has been out of service for months, plagued with engine troubles. So I decided to call around and see if there was a possibility to get the dish out to Kamarang by road. I had hear a rumour that there was a rough road that allowed trucks to make it as far as Kamarang. From Kamarang the dish would be put on a boat and transported upriver to Paruima. After calling around a bit, I managed to talk to the right guy and get him to take the dish up to Kamarang for $40,000 GYD ($200 USD). We were ecstatic! Two days ago Todd Anderson and I packaged up the dish with a foam mattress on either side and then cardboard on the outside. Then for good measure we taped it all up with three rolls of tape. The next problem was to get it to the man. We lashed it securely to the roof of the van, and with a prayer that we wouldn’t be stopped by the police for questioning, we set off for Ogle. As I drove down the railway embankment road toward the airport, I saw up ahead that the police were stopping random cars and asking to see their documents. Not wanting to create problems I turned down a side street and drove the long way around to avoid the checkpoint. Later that night I got a call from the gentleman saying that I needed to come back to tie the package up with plastic. Evidently he was afraid that the tape and cardboard wouldn’t hold up to the elements. So yesterday morning I dutifully drove back to wrap it with plastic and rope. As I was turning onto the street, I saw something flash by, closely followed by a “booooom!” A motor cyclist had tried to pass me on the inside of the turn, but when he saw me turning directly into his trajectory, it was too late. He glanced off the left front panel, and went careening off into the grass and eventually dumped over. I put the car in park and immediately got out to see if the young man was ok. He appeared very shaken, but otherwise in almost perfect shape. His baby toe was a little scuffed, but no broken bones, cuts, or lacerations. When I helped him up he blurted out, “You didn’t have your turn signal on!!!” I turned around and looked at the car. Fortunately I had quickly put the car in park and not even bothered to turn off the turn signal. “Look for yourself! It is still on!! and you were trying to pass me on the inside!! That’s clearly your mistake!!” “Well, well, uhh. I saw another car coming, and I thought I could get around you.” “Well you though wrong!!!” Together we picked up the bike to inspect the damage. Miraculously, other than a little bend in the kickstand, it was in perfect condition. With much foreboding I went back to survey the damage to my car.
He had dinged the front left side panel with his mirror, putting a 6 inch dent about 1/4″ deep, but not a scratch. Hmmm. What to do? I calmly wrote down his license plate number, and asked if I could see his drivers license. He looked a bit chagrined when he informed me that he didn’t have it on him. I then asked whether he wanted me to call the police to come fill out a report. This brought an immediate response, “Oh no no! That wouldn’t be necessary! We can work it out without involving the police…” Since I was less than a block from my destination I drove down and parked the car so I could wrap the satellite dish with plastic. By this time, the guy was preoccupied with getting his bike started. I suspected that the engine had flooded when he had laid it over. This commonly happens to us when we’re riding through the savanna’s and pitch over in deep sand. So I told him to cheer up, it just needed a few minutes to dry out. Eventually the motor bike sputtered to life and he rode it triumphantly up and down the street a few times. But then he hung around waiting for me to finish with my task. I suspected that he was hoping for a little handout of money for his bent kickstand. Sure enough when I came out he asked me for $5000 GYD (about $25 USD to pay for his bent kickstand) I was incredulous. “Look!!!” I said, “You ran into me, damaging my car!!! I should be the one asking you for money to pay for my car, not the other way around!!! But I’m not asking you to pay for my damage. Now, if you don’t like the situation, let’s call the police right now and have them come out to do an investigation!” I then pulled out my cellphone and made as if I was going to call. He quickly interjected “No, no, we can work this thing out.” He vainly tried a few more times to get me to pay for his kickstand, but when he saw that I wouldn’t budge, he finally gave up. Just before he drove off I looked him in the eye and said, “Please my friend, please be more careful next time. You could have been seriously hurt” He nodded and left.
My last close call was last Wednesday morning. I had woken up exceptionally early to study my bible and get ready for my day. By the time I had finished my devotional time it was 5am and still dark outside. By 5am, the sky was just starting to brighten a little in the eastern sky. I dressed in my exercise clothes and quietly left the house so as not to disturb those sleeping. I like to exercise in the morning because it’s cool and quiet, and it’s a perfect time to surrender myself to God, and pray for each of our missionary projects. As I was walking along I passed a young man walking the other way. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but then he spoke up. “Excuse me sir…” I slowed my pace and turned to look at him. He was a fairly well-dressed young, about 18 years of age. He continued, “There are two young men down there with knives and they are robbing people.” “What?” Yeah, I was walking by when they jumped me. I had a knife in my pocket, but before I could reach for it, they had already reached in my pocket, grabbed my cell phone, and got away.” “I just didn’t want to see you get robbed.” By this time my mind was racing. I needed exercise, but I decided that it might be healthier for me to walk a different route, so I turned around and walked with him out to the main road. “But I don’t have anything on me, there’s nothing they could rob.” I said. “Doesn’t matter” he replied “They would just bore (stab) you” “Aren’t you going to report this to the police?” I asked. “No…” He looked sad “The police won’t do anything, and even if they did come and questioned them, they wouldn’t find anything, and would just let them go. It’s not worth it… I can replace a cell phone.” I walked on in silence thinking about his statement. I’m sure a majority of crimes go unreported in this country because the justice system is so corrupt, and it’s very hard to get a conviction. He continued on, “I’ve had friends who were robbed, but this is the first time it’s happened to me.” As I watched him cross the main road and disappear up the street, I couldn’t help but wonder how God had sent this young man along at just the right time to warn me about danger ahead.
These three accounts leads me to this inescapable truth… Like it or not, we are constantly surrounded by dangers seen and unseen. How many times are we on a trajectory toward disaster, and something happens which breaks the chain of events. The good news is that God see’s what out there, and if we commit to walk together with Him, and daily obey His will, he will direct our steps. How do I know? Because the bible tells me so. Psalms 37:23 “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.”