We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Even when I walk through the darkest valley ...

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.

He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. 
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,

and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23)

Tim read this Psalm aloud for us as a family on Sunday morning, following what has been a difficult few days... passing through a valley of death. We have been afraid, we have not known the way, and we have felt in the presence of the enemy. Yet our Shepherd guided us, he renewed our strength, he let us rest, he protected and comforted us, and he even prepared feasts for us. Truly we feel that His love and goodness is pursuing us.

This is a rather long account... and many of you may have already heard it, but I feel I need to tell it all here.
We were driving home to Mwanza from Musoma on Friday afternoon; it was a beautiful drive, close to the Serengeti, with flat open roads and almost no traffic. At 1:45pm, in the middle of nowhere, a truck was approaching on the other side of the road when a teenage boy suddenly ran into the middle of the road. It was instant and awful, as we hit the boy head on, at 80km/h. Tim was driving and there was absolutely nothing he could have done. Sobbing, we had to just drive on, leaving the boy's body on the side of the road, not even knowing whether he was dead or alive. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, to just leave a person dying on the road, but yet at the same time, I am afraid I would have struggled to go to his broken, bleeding body. Coming from our culture, driving on feels so very, very wrong, but it is what you must do here. You must not even get out of the car but go straight to a police station (or to a hospital) to report the accident. It is dangerous to stop at the scene; friends or family of the victim could arrive wanting blood for blood or money; a crowd would gather and we would be defenceless in such a situation.

Shaken and horrified at what had just happened, we drove on. As soon as we had a phone signal, we phoned our friend, Mama Kileo, a Supreme Court Judge in Dar es Salaam, to get her counsel on what we should do and what we should expect. We then stopped at a police checkpoint further down the road. They had already heard about it and were looking for our vehicle. A police officer got in the car with us to drive to the police station not far away in a place called Bunda. It was just a small building - two wooden desks in a small room with a shortage of chairs and a messy bookcase full of brown files.
We were suddenly in a very foreign situation. There were lots of policemen, confusing and repeated conversations and lots of waiting. Eventually, Tim sat down with a police officer to write up a statement. Tim's phone came in useful to look up a Swahili word online, as there was a reoccurring, obviously important, but unfamiliar word the policeman was using. The uncertainty from not fully understanding was worrying as we knew this was not a good situation. While sitting there, we witnessed another accident as a local bus hit a motorbike right there in front of us. The motorcyclist was crying in pain as people scooped him off the road and put him on the back of another motorbike with a third man holding him upright from behind to get him to hospital. The girls were very worried, frightened by a couple of the policemen who were telling them their dad was a bad man who had killed someone and they were going to lock him up. We could only reassure the girls that God was with us. And they knew this. One police officer asked Amisadai in Swahili if she loved Jesus (knowing that we were Christians), and she was able to confidently reply that she did. She asked the police officer if he loved Jesus and he replied "No. But I have five wives, so Jesus would never love me." To which she replied, "Actually he would. Jesus loves everybody. "The Lord is our Shepherd. We will not be afraid.

We were so thankful to have Judge Kileo at the other end of the phone; she also spoke to a high-ranking official in the Home Affairs Department in Dar es Salaam, who supported us through everything.We were so thankful to Bishop Charles (in Mwanza) who arranged by phone for two local pastors to come and help us; they were such a great help as things got more complicated. At around 5pm it was confirmed by the hospital that the boy had died of his injuries. Even when I walk through the darkest valley...
Members of the boy's family came (wanting compensation), and we realised that things were not going to be resolved quickly; we would certainly not be able to go home that day. Our car, which had the bull bars, front bumper and bonnet damaged and the windshield badly cracked, was impounded and Tim's license taken. The police asked Tim for a family member to come and be a guarantor if they were not to lock him up. We had no nearby family or even friends, but Pastor Stephen, whom we had only just met, agreed to bail Tim, pledging one million shillings if he failed to return the next day.

Through an initial call to our friends the Galvins in Iringa, and then a series of phonecalls, through the amazing network we know as our large family of God, as darkness fell and the police were all leaving, we made contact with some Australians living in Bunda. We were allowed to leave at 7:45pm (with instructions to return the next morning), and tired, hungry and worried that we were, this lovely family took us all in at a moment's notice and gave us a safe and comfortable place to sleep and food to eat. While the enemy was at work to destroy, a feast of delicious spaghetti was put before us. He lets us rest in green meadows. He prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies.

Yes, we were worried; worried about the stench of the alcohol that had permeated the police room, about corruption and bribery with the police, about the possibility of revenge from the family, about a potential court case on Monday, worried about meeting the family of the boy now dead and how one could ever negotiate money over a life. We were worried about how long it would be before we could go home. He is close beside us. He renews our strength, He comforts us; we have all we need.
On Saturday morning we left Amisadai and Louisa in the care of our wonderful hosts, to play with their very fun kids. Bishop Charles and Pastor Jovin set off very early from Mwanza to make the 2-hour journey to Bunda. They were an incredible support and much needed help. Jovin spent a long time in conversation with the victim’s family. Bishop Charles came with us, the police and a representative from the family to the scene of the accident. I found this difficult; Tim actually found it helpful for himself as we could clearly see in the skid marks on the road that he could not have avoided the accident. It was a mere 9m from where the point at which Tim applied the brakes to the point of impact. He was also sobered to see what could have happened had he lost control and gone off the road; with the truck on our right and a steep embankment immediately on the left; the reality was that it could have been fatal for us as well. Your rod and your staff protect me.

We returned to the police station where we stood outside in the shade of a tree to talk with the family of the victim. We have heard that the Mara people can be aggressive and difficult to communicate or work with and even government officials can be scared to deal with them. The police wanted no part in our meeting. But God was at work here. We now had an army of people all over the world standing with us in prayer. And these Mara relatives were calm and peaceful, attributing no blame or accusation. They just asked for us to pay the funeral and burial costs and monetary gift of condolence. No negotiations were necessary. No charge would send this case to court.
But we did not have the money with us and there was not a branch of our bank in Bunda. But the Archer family, our generous and kind Australian hosts, lent us the entire amount. This meant we were able to settle the issue there and then as everyone involved signed the agreement that the money was a gift and that what happened was an accident for which we were not at fault and that no charges would be pressed. Thumbprints were stamped in ink. I have all I need.
We were still however embroiled in the slow-paced procedures of the police. We were still not sure that they would release Tim in order for us all to go home. There was talk of more to come on Monday, there was talk of keeping the car for a week. But in it all, the police were treating us well, and one of them was a member of the local church! And then suddenly within the space of half an hour, everything was done. We have since found out that our friend in the home office was talking with the Mara Regional Commissioner and also the Regional Traffic Commissioner. We think God worked through him at this point! Our car passed inspection. It was agreed that Tim would return on April 14th to retrieve his passport and driving license and sign the final forms to close the case. So he was given police bail again, and we pray nothing arises to complicate the case before this date.

We returned to collect Amisadai and Lousia; and again, a feast was prepared for us. And at 4pm we were on the road home. It was a difficult drive home. We drove through a terrible rainstorm with lightening and hail; there was very little visibility and people were running on the roadside. Memories of the impact were fresh in our mind. But God kept us safe and our windshield intact. He guides me along right paths. I will not be afraid.
Within ten minutes of arriving home around 7pm, a friend (who we have only recently met) came with a feast of quiche, bread, fruit and vegetables. And within another five minutes a man from our insurance company arrived at our house and all is set for the car to be fixed this week and the cost covered. My cup overflows with blessings.

We have truly seen our God at work through the prayers and actions of His people all over the world and are so thankful for a powerful God and being part of his large and loving family. We have been overwhelmed by the support and help of people, many of whom were complete strangers, but yet brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are amazed at the miraculous way that God has been our Shepherd in the midst of a dark valley. We have truly felt as helpless as sheep, but completely in his hands. This tragic event could have been so much worse in so many ways, ways that we are even still realising now. We have seen and felt keenly the fragility of life and the strong power of darkness seeking to destroy.

We are grateful, so grateful. Yet we still wrestle with the fact that a young man is dead and his family are grieving. They are walking through a very dark valley. We grieve with them. But we can now only pray for them. This is an "only" for us, but it is everything with God. Pray that goodness and unfailing love will pursue them and that they would live in the house of the Lord forever.
We have seen, and we hope that through our story others can also see, that Jesus, our Shepherd, is before all things, that in that in Him all things hold together and that He is supreme! In Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities or Bunda policemen. Our prayer is that we may all continue in our faith, established and firm, not moving from the hope held out in the gospel. (Col. 1:9-23)

So thank you so much to those of you who have been praying for us! Please pass on our thanks to those that have also been standing with us and share our testimony to the fact that God answers prayer!

20 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing the story. We will continue praying for you through the valley that casts long shadows into the days ahead.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear Rachel & Tim & family - standing with you in prayer. Never having experienced anything like this, we can only imagine all that you have gone through, and the sad loss for the family of the young boy... God is sovereign...even in this...especially in this! May life come out of death, hope out of despair, light out of darkness, faith out of desperation... Clive & Petra

    ReplyDelete
  3. It is wonderful to hear the whole story in the context of psalm 23.

    Praise God! It is both terrifying and awe-inspiring to hear of God's provision for your every need and the support of the body of Christ through those known and unknown to you.

    During the afternoon of Friday I had a sense that we were to begin praying and studying about Tanzania for our special Friday Night meals. In particular I felt that we were to cover in prayer the work that you are doing as a family, the work and ministry of Dr Makori and the fundraising efforts the girls and others are doing.

    So when we recieved the initial news from Greg it felt like a confirmation for us too that it was the Holy Spirit urging us to support you even more profoundly.

    You sound so rooted - praise God - but I sense that there will be ebbs and flows in how each of you feel with the longer-term emotional impact of the crash. So we will continue to pray as we feel led and to uphold the family who have lost their son.

    The passage from Hebrews 10 especially verses 38-39 came to mind for you all.

    With much love and prayers,
    Ellen, John, Samuel, Joshua, Daniel and Isaac,
    xxx


    ReplyDelete
  4. It was incredibly moving to read through the whole story again, to experience the various emotions at each stage. What a great God to have brought you all through relatively unscathed. It reminds me of the story of Daniel's three friends who were cast into the furnace, where God actually came to be with them, and from which they emerged without even the smell of burning on them. Only God could do that and only God could have such a tremendous worldwide family to give such loving and appropriate help. We will keep praying for the family and also the proper conclusion next Monday.
    With heartfelt gratitude to The Lord and much love to you all

    ReplyDelete
  5. We continue to pray for you, especially when thoughts threaten to run out of control in the small hours. We understand something of the pressures of living in a foreign land, and that helpless feeling when bureaucracy and officials seem to loom like giants. May the Lord continue to hold you in a place of trust and peace, and even surprise you with joy unexpected!
    Much love from Simon and Jane

    ReplyDelete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. When I had posted my comment I found that Simon had expressed it so much more effectively a few minutes before, and yes, I say Amen to his prayer!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Amazing and profound testimony of God's provision in the extremes of life. Thankyou. I find it so reassuring that those words written so many centuries ago have complete resonance and relevance in our world. The psalms truly plot a path through life's journey - encompassing the highest peaks and the lowest valleys, and all points in between. Our God travels life's roads with us - literally in this case and metaphorically in all cases. God's people, in unity, in prayer - there is nothing more powerful, nor humbling for those of us on the receiving end. Praise Him. Jonathan xxxx

    ReplyDelete
  9. It's so wonderful to hear that you are all alright, and how Father has kept you in his powerful hands through this trial. Bless you all! lots of love Sue and girls x xx

    ReplyDelete
  10. We are Samantha Archer's parents in Australia and I am so grateful that she and Matthew and the children were there for you! Such a sad situation but Praise God for his provision! We are praying for you all! with love Kay and Trevor Cutmore

    ReplyDelete
  11. Dorcas Oredoyin8 April 2014 at 02:06

    What a faithful God we have and serve
    He is faithful in every way.
    In our darkest hour he carrys us
    Praise God forevermore
    Our God reigns over all the affairs of our lives!
    Thank your our saviour

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you so much for writing out the full account of what happened to you. Knowing a little of the situations one can face with authorities in Africa your story is confirmation once again of the confidence we can have trusting that God goes before us into these situations. "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory", says Paul in Philippians 4:19. God bless you all as you walk together with memories of this this experience in the days ahead and continue knowing His peace. Thank you for all you are doing with God in Tanzania. I continue to pray for you all. Alan

    ReplyDelete
  13. He is our Shepherd who guides us through dark valleys! Your testimony is true and sure. Standing amazed and grateful with you, Rose and Eric

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you so very much for sharing this testimony of God's wonderful grace in the midst of your trial. We will pray for you in the coming days. We also pray for the family of the deceased. May God bring beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Our prayers for spiritual peace for your family and for the family of the child. And we lift up prayers of thanksgiving for the support of Tanzanian Christians who helped you walk through this valley. Blessings, Alan Graham and the Emmanuel International Mission Board of Directors.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Your testimonies are so encouraging to our family! We will continue to pray for you and the boy's family. Praise the Lord!

    Rachel and Tim, thank you so much for having Dean(two years ago) and Max, you are a treasure to the two young Chinese fellows! May Him remember what you have done to them and bless you!

    Cathy from Langley BC

    ReplyDelete
  17. Tim and Rachel... surely "amazing grace" in every respect. Our hearts and prayers go out to you and yours and the other family. May the God of all peace garrison your hearts and those of the grieving relatives. Rikk and Katie

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thank you so much to all of you for your words of encouragement! We are so grateful for your prayers and support.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Prayers for you and your family from Mankato, Minnesota, USA!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keira, we don't know each other ... but are sisters in Christ! Thank you!

      Delete

Please leave us message! We love to hear your news and thoughts too!