“Your God protected you”

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It had been a frustrating Sunday. My colleague Gilmore and I had not been able to get out to any of the PNG for Christ sites where things were was happening, so we’d been processing the footage and stories we’d captured thus far—trying to make the most of our time. 

And then, a lifeline. Dr Kyle Allen, vice president of Adventist World Radio, was heading out to visit some of the sites around Mt Hagen. He offered us a lift. We were happy to get out and visit a new site. But, as so often is the case in Papua New Guinea, plans changed. 

Dr Jacob Probhakar Chindrupu, who was also staying at the Mt Ararat Hotel, needed to get to the site at Minj, Jiwaka province, where world Church president Pastor Ted Wilson was preaching. Dr Jacob had been at the Togoba Mega Clinic and had performed 1500 cataract surgeries. An energetic man, Dr Jacob is such a master of his art, he can do hundreds of cataract surgeries in a day, taking less than a couple of minutes for each eye. 

Since the plan had changed, we weighed up going to the Minj site. We’d been there all Sabbath and recording anything in the dark was a lot harder. In the end we decided to join the crew going out to Minj, so I could interview Dr Jacob on the bus ride out. 

Our bus was owned and driven by Aaron Molunga, a member of Uknathan church. We were accompanied by another local youth member from Kimininga church, Peter Rime. 

The six of us sat in the bus, awaiting a police escort. Dr Jacob had been escorted in his travels as a VIP and on the previous night had a run-in on the road home with a drunk driver almost taking out his transport. The Police Area Commissioner, who had accompanied him, had apprehended the driver and miraculously, no one was hurt. So they were keen to wait. But as time ticked by, we needed to set off or we would miss the meeting at Minj. 

The decision was made to set off without waiting. The escort could meet us on the way or catch up. 

As we set out, the sun was still up. As is the way in PNG, people were walking close to the road on either side. We were travelling quite quickly to make up time and yet were still passed by another bus, similar to ours but fully loaded. The rain set in; before long it was quite heavy. It quickly got dark.

Suddenly, like an unseen hand had given it a shove, the back of the bus slid out. I grabbed the seat in front as the bus started to fishtail up the road, each slide from side to side seemingly longer than the last. Time slowed down as the driver fought to regain control over the skittish beast. Finally, the bus spun to a stop, finishing at an angle 270 degrees from the direction it had started, perpendicular to the road, in a clearing off to the side. 

As our shock subsided, we tried to figure out what had happened, and the reality of how serious things could have been, sunk in. We said a prayer of thanks. A crowd of locals materialised at the side of the bus. Apparently another vehicle had come unstuck in the same location earlier. There may have been fuel on the road, as a local shop was selling fuel right on the roadside.  “Your God protected you,” one of the locals called out. 

He was right. I hate to think what would have happened had we hit one of the numerous substantial potholes on the route, if there had been pedestrians walking nearby, an oncoming vehicle, or if the driver had over-corrected and flipped the bus. 

Other speakers who had headed up a different road, came across a bus the same as ours, on the same evening, that was travelling from a wedding and had flipped. The driver and others went to hospital and the bus was a mess. It brought home the reality of what could have been. 

God protected us that night and the six of us on that little bus will not soon forget the experience. In the land of the unexpected, and in all of our lives, God is still at work.

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