Are there times when you look back over your life and you reflect on amazing answers to prayer? Are there times when you are in awe of God's mighty power to deal with situations you felt were impossible? Can you recall times when He has stretched forth His mighty hand and lovingly protected you? When I hear of incredible answers to prayer, memories from my own life come flooding back. Let me share one answer to prayer with you.
After five years of marriage and working in the ministry in Australia, my husband and I were called to missionary service in Papua New Guinea. Our location was a place called Menyamya, which was tucked away in mountains and only accessible at that time by light aircraft. My husband's duty as mission pilot and district director over a large area ensured he was often away. Our house was close to the mission school where children traveled from mountain villages to receive early levels of education.
One Sunday morning as I busily worked in my kitchen, I gazed out of the window to enjoy the sunny view. I noticed something puzzling. The distressed look on the child, Paul's face, as he trudged down the mountainside toward the house made me realize something was drastically wrong. Exhausted, he tried to tell me amid tears that his friend, Eli, had died. Terribly shocked, I questioned him on the whole story. He and several of the older boys from our school at Menyamya had gone on a long walkabout that Sunday morning. On spotting a Karuka palm (much like an extremely tall Pandanus palm) Eli excitedly scaled it, hoping to gather the delicious nuts. Then came the horrifying slipping sensation. He called hopelessly for help, snatching at one of the branches in an effort to save himself. Unfortunately the branch had rotted, causing him to fall head first on the rocky ground.
I remembered being warned about Paul's tendency to exaggerate. Again I questioned Paul. Had Eli actually died or was he close to death? I breathed a slight sigh of relief with Paul's answer. There seemed to be hope, but action had to be quick. The accident had occurred many kilometers away from the station.
My husband was away at the time. The government officer had gone to Lae and neither of our male teachers could drive. For that matter, neither could I! I had no driver's license and little experience driving our dilapidated Land Cruiser. In fact, I had only had two lessons on how to drive it! I hardly felt capable enough to attempt the journey on these rugged outback tracks. Besides, the Menyamya area was so mountainous that such an idea was completely out of the question.
I frantically groped for some source of help, then remembered seeing a truck in the village across the airstrip. Directing Paul to go and ask for help, we all anxiously awaited for his return. When he heard that the driver was short of petrol, I again sent Paul with the suggestion that we would supply the petrol if he would only drive our Land Cruiser.
Hurriedly gathering a few things together which I thought might be necessary, I returned to find Paul completely discouraged. This time he had spoken directly with the driver. Unfortunately, the driver was recovering from a drunken spree and in no condition to venture out.
I was at my wits' end. There was no other truck or driver available in the district. What could I do? A sickening feeling came over me as I realized that only one alternative remained. There was only one person who could help now and that was "me." Somehow, I just had to drive that vehicle!
Explaining that I wasn't what you would term an "experienced" driver, I started the engine. The fuel gauge read empty. Many attempts to siphon petrol through a hose to fill the tank proved unsuccessful. The hand-pump was useless. After what seemed an eternity, one of the boys emerged from the generator shed with a new pump. Soon the engine was purring. Those directed to stay at the mission with the head teacher (whose leg was injured) peered from behind trees and buildings for fear of being run over, while the boys in the truck and the literally "white-faced" Madam Townend drove off in the Land Cruiser. I shouted over my shoulder to the boys that they must pray for God's help.
I'll never forget that journey. The winding road, edged with steep ravines, seemed endless. Had I realized it was so far, I'm sure I would never have attempted the task. The steep descents into the creeks and riverbeds appeared enormous. Several times I found myself saying "Please Lord," out loud as we made our way up rapidly rising mountains only to stall out. I had instructed the passengers not to speak for fear I would lose my concentration. One boy watched constantly to caution me if I was too close to the mountain edge or river bank. More than once I had to discipline a wandering mind. My thoughts kept drifting to Eli. Would we be able to save his life? He was such a good boy, well-loved, and respected. I recalled the smile on his face when he was ordained deacon at our little church. He was so pleased at the opportunity to serve God. I seemed to ache inside.
Sensing that it was unsafe to go further as conditions worsened, we came to a halt. Several hundred meters before us stood a rather shaky bridge and my courage failed. The boys and Paquito (the Year One teacher) gathered a sleeping bag and set off on foot, Two boys and I remained to work out some method of turning the Land Cruiser around so it would be ready for the long trip home.
Close to the bridge we discovered a small clearing. Although it was covered with a heap of dirt and large stones, we reasoned that if we could somehow get over them all would be well. The Land Cruiser edged down the mountainside and veered right into the clearing. There was a large crash as I hit the pile of stones, nose first. Jumping out I noticed a puddle of oil near the right wheel and I realized the old vehicle was not quite in the same condition it had been when we first left Menyamya! After numerous attempts to back up the mountain we decided to wait for extra "pushing" help from the others to free us.
At last the little procession came down the mountainside. Before a word was spoken, their crying told me of Eli's condition. I really had to fight back the tears. Somehow I had to be brave for their sakes. As they neared, I could see Eli's stiff body on top of the sleeping bag and bed they had made from pieces of wood and vines. His neck was broken. That was my first view of a dead person. Looking at his face, I noticed how peaceful it was. "Although we are sad," reminded the boys, "we can still be happy that someday we will see Eli in Heaven." Even through their tear-stained faces, I could tell they, too, believed it.
With the extra help we were able to shift the Land Cruiser a short way back up the steep slope.
We thought it would be best if we drove down to the bridge and attempted to reverse into the small clearing. However, the steep slope and inefficient brakes made us go further than we had planned. Now we were in danger. The left wheel rested on a notvery-trustworthy piece of wood on the very edge of the bridge. To start the engine would have been suicidal. Somehow we had to push that vehicle up the steep ascent to the clearing.
Several kind natives passing by stopped to aid. After placing huge rocks in front of the wheel and to the chorus of "push," "push," we made progress, My arms ached from turning the steering wheel with all my might. Despite all our efforts, we ended up crunched against the mountain-side. It appeared all was hopeless. Then to top it all off, it started to rain.
And yet somehow I knew God would help us. He just had to. The daylight would soon be disappearing, and I had a threemonth-old baby girl at home who needed me. Besides, although I had grown to love the local people, I was not greatly excited at the prospect of sharing a grass mat in one of the huts in an unknown village for the night!
Again we started the motor and ventured down to the bridge. The boys were tired. It seemed an impossible task to push that old Land Cruiser back up that steep incline and over the pile of dirt and rocks. Calling them around, we prayed, first Paquito, then myself. Several times I had to st, 'ID to fight back the tears. God wouldn't let us down. The helping villagers watched intently. Again to the chorus of "push," "push," they worked in unison. Progress was amazing.
A strong vine was looped through the back bumper bar and with added pulling from behind we made remarkable ground. Eventually, I called for all to "clear," and after struggling with the temperamental clutch, we turned about half a meter from the large drop down the bank to the river and lunged up the mountainside ready for the homeward journey.
After gathering around to thank God for His help, Paquito invited the villagers to come to our church to hear more about our God. I heard one young fellow murmur, "Em I strong-pela God true."
Carefully we laid Eli's precious body on the knees of several of the boys and started for home. Although many immense ravines and mountainsides appeared to leer at us and several of the smaller boys were petrified, I knew that nothing was insurmountable. God had helped us and would continue to do so.
The light was quickly fading and we felt great relief when we reached Menyamya. We then faced the task of giving the heartbreaking news to the children on the station. Early that night we gathered in the church. A number of students were afraid for their lives. The "pay-back" system was very strong, and some feared the relatives of Eli would blame those belonging to enemy villages for his death and try to kill them.
We sang hymns, and Stephen (the head teacher) read Psalms 91, explaining the promises. Bible stories of God's deliverance were related. The events of that afternoon were told, showing God's great love and protection. Although a number of fearful boys had spoken of running away that night, all were found in their places at worship the next morning.
To be totally honest, I had at times found myself wondering why God had sent us to a place like Menyamya. We had enjoyed a life of fun, loads of activity and fulfillment previously in Australia where my husband was youth pastor at a large church. I found life rather frustrating and lonely in such an isolated place.
However, walking back from the church that night, I felt warm inside. It was as though I had come to know God for real, for I had never had to exercise so much trust before. After the events of that day, my faith in God doubled. Sometimes the places we least want to go teach us the most valuable lessons. I found myself, from the depths of my heart, saying quietly, "Thank you God for sending us to Menyamya. And thank you for hearing and answering my prayers."
When my husband returned several days later, he was amazed. He confessed, with all his years of driving experience, he would never have attempted such a journey. In fact, with no oil in the engine, the return trip to the station should not have been possible. All I can do is look back in awe at the miracles God performed that day.