During December we’re focusing on leaning on God. Please see the Monthly Prayer Focus page to read our strategic prayer request for this month.
By Hannah Paris
Years ago I found myself at the edge of the world, waking up sore, tired, and very dirty. The bamboo under my back had not been kind to me throughout the night, and I was ready to finish our work in the sticky jungle in order to get back home to a shower. As my brain slowly worked its way to consciousness, I heard a noise that has, until recently, ranked as the very worst noise I’ve ever woken up to: a pig being slaughtered. It was loud, violent, heart-wrenching, and it was happening under the house, directly beneath me. I’ve never forgotten that morning.
We went to bed early because Brian had a very early morning. Some coworkers were heading to Australia for vacation, and he was going to drive their car back into town from the airport where it would stay for the duration of their absence. I heard his alarm go off, listened as the starter on the gas oven fired up a burner to heat his water, and fell back into a deep sleep. The next noise I heard was the scream of metal slamming metal as cars crunched under a fierce blow. It has become a familiar noise, living on the main road into town. Certainly accidents in front of our house are not a daily occurrence, but it’s happened often enough that I didn’t react as a first timer. At least until I remembered Brian was out… and due back right about then… and this is PNG where bad things happen when you get in an accident. I panicked. Leaping out of bed in my Thai silk shorts and flimsy tank top, I stared out at the line of bushes, willing myself not to see what I saw. A red truck. Drunk men and women yelling and running from the bar across the street, surrounding the truck so I could no longer see that dreaded splash of color through the leaves. What do I do?? What do I do??? The girls were still asleep and I didn’t want to leave them. I looked down at my inappropriate PJs, back out the window where I saw some of the crowd pointing and yelling down the street, and I finally calmed down. They weren’t pulling Brian out, they weren’t attacking. They were exuberant and loud, but not angry at him. Then I saw our downstairs neighbor, a nurse, running out to the gate. She peeked through, and came back slowly, clearly not concerned with what she saw. Eventually some of the national translators staying in the dorm in the back came up and opened the side gate for Brian to limp the truck into the backyard, and the drunk crowd dispersed. My pulse was still thundering.
Car accidents are terrifying. They’re blindingly fast, deadly, and uncontrollable. There are things we can do to make ourselves safer, but in the end every time we put ourselves in a vehicle we’re taking a calculated risk whether we admit it or not. In this country, they’re incomparably more terrifying and the risks higher. If you’re injured, is medical care in range? If you hit a car, a person, a tree, an animal, will there be retaliation or compensation demands? You learn that if your car can still move, you don’t stop. You drive on to the nearest police station and report your actions, because when accidents of any sort occur the onlookers can turn ugly. Seeing that crowd overwhelm Brian and the vehicle was the worst part of it all. Not knowing what was going to happen, what they would do, and knowing they were drunk. I prayed.
Brian had stopped to turn right into our property. He pulled closer to the middle of the street as standard practice to allow the cars behind him to go around on the left. As he waited for oncoming traffic to go by, the vehicle behind him simply didn’t stop, or go around. We don’t know if the driver was impaired in some way, or simply not paying attention, but at full speed he hit the back of Brian’s truck stopping his own vehicle in the process. As quickly as possible the driver skirted around the crippled truck and sped into town… not to the nearest police station. It was just as well that he hit and ran. The group of men I saw menacingly running towards Brian would have put him in the hospital. They jumped into the bed of the truck yelling for Brian to chase the car down, frothing to be part of gaining road justice for him. This activity is not encouraged by police, but it is convenient for them when things get sorted without their involvement. We don’t have much hope the driver will be found and held accountable for his mistake, but it doesn’t matter. God will take care of the details.
God cared for Brian, keeping him safe from many scenarios that could have been significantly worse. God cared for the man in the other vehicle, sparing him from the raging crowd. God cared for the raging crowd, sparing them from doing violence to another. It’s striking to be reminded so undeniably of his boundless strength, and our constant need to lean on him.
Hannah is mother of two and wife of Brian, the Branch Director.