A miracle of slow healing

Kodiak departing Uvol by kahunapulej
Kodiak departing Uvol, a photo by kahunapulej on Flickr.

I just read again about a dear friend of mine, Steve, returning to service as a missionary pilot in Papua New Guinea. This is an awesome miracle, really. It may not seem to be spactacular, or quick as we would like it, but it is nonetheless awesome and a reflection of a serious servant of the Most High God.

Now, for the rest of the story.

Steve was riding his motorcycle between Ukarumpa and the Aiyura airstrip in Papua New Guinea– a curvy dirt road that I’m very familiar with. It was my daily commute for a few years, by foot, bicycle, truck, or van. One day a PMV truck went way too fast around a blind corner on the wrong side of the road and smashed into him. The guilty driver ran away, abandoning the truck, and was never seen again. Broken bones, bruises, abrasions, and more threatened his life. Normal people die on impact with a truck like that, but somehow the Lord softened the blow just enough. Somehow, he was gathered up alive and flown straight to Cairns, Australia, nursed back to health. Months later, he actually was healed enough to pass a flight physical. He returned to his job, but his wife and he agreed that he shouldn’t commute by motorcycle any more. (It could be worse– going by bicycle or foot, like me, but he rode the Aviation department van, instead.)

Enraged that he failed to take the missionary pilot out, the enemy tried again.

Steve was in the left front seat of a van full of missionaries, mostly short termers. Another good friend of mine was in the right front seat, driving. (Yes, we drive on the left side of the road in PNG and the steering wheel is on the right.) Instead of a little local road, they were on the highlands highway, heading up the infamous Barola Pass. On a blind corner, they met a huge semi-trailer truck loaded with heavy steel pipe, coming way too fast down hill on the wrong side of the road (dodging a pot hole). Wham! There was no way to dodge the truck. No way. Conservation of momentum was NOT on their side. The truck driver abandoned his vehicle and ran away, never to be seen again. (Understandable, since bystanders probably would have killed him for that.) By the time some of them regained consciousness, one of them, a short term missionary with no language or culture knowledge to speak of and serious injuries, had been taken to the Kainantu “Hospital” by a well-meaning passerby. One of them radioed for help, and our center sent both helicopters, both doctors, and a few others. The auto shop staff took off by land to help. It took a long time and a lot of cutting of steel to get Steve out. His legs were smashed like so much spaghetti in wrinkled metal. The helicopters kept shuttling people back to our hanger, where triage took place. The worst cases were sent to Cairns on our own aircraft. The next worse were sent on another air ambulance. No more air ambulances. We did what we could. At one point, Steve’s wife was almost sent to a PNG hospital, based on the fact that the doctor didn’t think she would survive all the way to Australia… but just as he was saying that, her blood pressure came back up, color returned to her face, and the doctor sent her with her husband to Cairns.

None of them died. The misplaced passenger was retrieved.

Steve’s x-rays looked like a jigsaw puzzle that had been manhandled by a toddler and fed to the dogs. It took months of prayer, surgery, external frameworks holding bones in place, etc. Finally, Steve was released. He could walk, barely. But the doctors in Australia seriously doubted that he would ever pass a flight physical again, because he didn’t have full control of his feet, and didn’t see how that could happen. But God did.

Steve kept praying and trying to walk, run, and work that foot. God answered prayer. Again.

God wins. Steve wins. The Bible translators in Papua New Guinea that get flown around the country doing their jobs win. Glory be to God!