Katie shared her Nutty Bar with me this morning, I had a cup of coffee at the hotel, we hopped in the truck and, voila! we were off to Tulear. We had spent a long day driving on Tuesday after packing a moving truck and two Land Cruisers. After a night in Ranohira we only had a 3 hour drive on Wednesday to complete the trip, oh, and it was a beautiful drive still ahead of us.
Our crate truck was on it’s way as well and going to meet us at our new house – an African house – but still an exciting place to set up as our own, start ministry, and make memories. Not having seen our personal effects for the past 14 months made us even more excited to arrive. Caden wanted to see his toys that he didn’t remember but that I talked about all year; Ashley was eager to see American “stuff”; Katie longed to set up her desk and have her own place; Andrew had his sights on unpacking and assembling the basketball hoop Grandpa had sent as a gift. Yes, filled with such eagerness, I jumped in the truck and declared to the girls, “today is going to be a great day!”
The southern drive to Tulear is spectacular. After the hilly plateau with it’s windy, pot-hole filled roads, tree-lined landscape speckled with boulders, brooks, and rickety bridges, the openness of the southern drive is a stark contrast. The road stretches for kilometers – as far as you can see, the sky is an outstanding blue and the perfect backdrop for the purple rock mountains in the distance and all around. Although the dirt is still red, it is toned down when mixed with the desert sand. There is no red hue that covers the landscape as it does on the plateau. It’s bright, cheerful, and a touch mysterious as you pass through a few tiny mining villages in the middle of nowhere.
The road is highly favored by everyone because you can cover so many kilometers quickly unlike the day before weaving through the mountains. There are however, a few neck-braking curves mixed among the openness as you wind through low-lying hills. It was at one such blinding curve that the girls and I slowed and came around when I spotted the underside of a truck. It was laying on it’s side in the other lane perfectly perched to be hit from another car in any direction around the blind curve. In Madagascar it is quite common to see overturned vehicles or broken-down buses on the side of the road. I am not a “car” person, so the bottom of all vehicles look the same to me – or, so I previously thought. As I slammed on the brakes at this wreck I instantly knew this vehicle was different. It was vazaha – foreigner. In other words, of the 6 beautiful people in my family, 3 were trapped in that metal structure. I pulled to the side and told the girls to stay in their seats. I ran to the crash site as Ben’s arms were trying to push the driver’s door up towards the sky and heard him yell, “we’re, o.k., we’re o.k.” I tried to hold the door but my arms gave out just as 2 Malagasy men caught it for me so Ben and the boys could climb out. Andrew and Caden – after brushing glass off of them and inspecting my 2 sweet boys – they were really o.k. Hugging Andrew, I held Caden as he squirmed and wimpered that he needed to get his orange flippies from the car. More people were flooding around us and there was an outpouring of many languages. I asked a man to have people put bushes in the road to warn on coming traffic of the danger – we needed to get away from the site as it was badly positioned to cause a worse accident.
Ben and I climbed hills in opposite directions to get a cell signal – yes, that’s right, we were in the middle of nowhere and no one knew exactly were we were. Failure on the signals. I loaded the 3 younger kids and myself in our other car and took off with Katie sitting next to me pressing “send” every few seconds. 15 kilometers away we reached friends to inform them of what just happened. Devising a plan through various phone calls, I ended all conversations with stating we were at kilometer marker 55. It was vitally important to me that our location was known to someone, whether they could help or not. I returned to the site – not knowing what to find. We’re they really ok or would I find Ben or Andrew laying on the side of the road with internal injuries we failed to see before I left? Would cattle thieves have made their presence known and an old-west style shoot-out have taken place – yes, those are real fears.
I came upon the scene and couldn’t believe my eyes. The Land Cruiser was in an upright position and the area was swarming with missionaries. As stunned as I was to find the original accident, I was equally stunned when I climbed from the truck yet again and inquired of the happenings. A film team had been in Tulear filming water well projects and they were leaving the area when they saw the accident. The team went to work lifting the vehicle and prepared to tow it away, they were just waiting for me to return.
There are no words to explain, but if you are a believer, you know the incredible hand of God you sit in and you know when you physically feel His palms embracing you. Enough said.
We unrolled the straps and hooks (thanks to our training I actually knew how to use!) and towed ourselves 55 km to our new town. You’ve seen someone limp across the finish line? Yes, that was us. I sat in the towed, mangled car to steer. Ben and kids were in the front car. I cried. All 55 kilometers, I cried. Thankful that everyone was ok – there was no help if they weren’t. I recalled a passage that was preached in our small Malagasy church several weeks previous which sparked in me a study of the book of Philippians. Rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say, rejoice! I could honor God in that moment. I could recognize He was in control. I wasn’t the least bit “happy”, but I could rejoice in my Maker. Paul was sitting in jail when he penned the words. God was with him, I can’t imagine he was “happy”, but he continued to rejoice.
Here are my take-aways:
1. God always knows where we are. I was adamant that our team knew where we were – km marker 55. Whatever else happened, I needed to know that others knew where we were. God did. God does. God always will.
2. Rejoice always – good times, bad times, thankful times, irritating times, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping bad times. Rejoice. God, through Paul, tells us to rejoice.