So to add even more color to this story, I’ve decided to post Josiah’s perspective on it. Josiah has been here 2 other times with TTC, so he’s not a newbee. He’s 20-something and is a long time family friend. We’ve known him since he was 8 months old. He’s staying with us until December. I’m rather hoping that the rest of his time in Niger is a little less exciting than this.
As soon as we arrived home late Monday night, well, as soon as he took a shower, Josiah was chatting with a friend telling him about the experience while it was fresh in his mind. His words are cryptic yet detailed and I enjoyed hearing his take on things. The response of his friend is even more cryptic, and quite humorous. Those are in italics.
Well, it was quite a day. Among other things: It poured rain for hours, a bridge went out, we sank an SUV into a river, and someone almost died.
And I have sand EVERYWHERE.
You know how your feet can move around a bit in your shoes? Not mine. No wiggle room. Sand. My entire body, caked in sand. My underwear had at least a full cup of sand in them.
(Friend D): ahaha wow! is that from being in the river? What happened?
Well, the bridge went out. We had to get home. The water was rising. We watched someone else successfully cross. We tried to cross. Got 1/3 of the way through, started floating. Shortly after we started floating, we started sinking.
Water starts coming in the doors. The car slowly fills. The engine doesn’t die, we try to get some people to push us. No luck. Water in the car continues to rise. Reach back and grab soaked bags from the trunk, at least the ones I could reach. Clutch tablet closely. Water rises. Climb out window onto roof.
After transferring what we could save to dry land, try to push/pull/lift car out of sandy river. There are maybe 30 local villagemen watching/trying to help. 3 or 4 languages being spoken, none of which I understand. As the river washes away the sand behind the car, it tilts up at a steeper and steeper angle. We try to push it, and get it out of the hole. Water is neck-deep behind the car. We keep pushing. We make progress, but the sand keeps collapsing, and the hole pretty much moves with us. Car ends up pointing up at around 30 degrees.
Local dude passes out from the fumes behind the car, gets a lungful of water before anyone notices, stops breathing. Carried to shore. Is unconscious and not breathing for something like 2 minutes. Comes to somehow, walks away.
Car is clearly stuck at this point, at a rakish angle, and completely full of water. Engine is still somehow running.
Danette doesn’t want to get out because if she shuts off the engine, the water will flood up the tailpipe and wreck the engine with sand and such. But she was in the car, and my dad went to try and get cell coverage. Tara, our other American, was watching all the stuff we had saved, mostly electronics, on the shore.
So, picture this:
Danette is sitting in the car. It’s at a 30 degree angle, front up. The water is above her waist. She’s got the window down, one hand on the wheel, and one hand resting on the edge of the window. She was a bit fazed at first, of course, but at this point, she’s smiling, and talking to the group of ten or so locals who have gathered around her window in the rushing water.
Standing just outside her window, it’s about chest high.
Most of the locals prefer to speak French, but she doesn’t know it, so she asks if they know Hausa, the trade language. Some of them do. So she starts sharing what we’ve been doing, that we just came from a youth camp we’re hosting, and how she’d like some hot tea. (It was cold water!)
The conversation continues, and she decides to ask them, “have you ever heard the story of Jesus?”
“Oh, a little bit.”
Some town nearby.
“Well, Jesus is God’s son. I know you don’t like to hear that.” [Muslims don’t believe that God had a son.]
“So, have you ever sinned? Ever made a mistake? We’re all sinners.”
“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.”
“Well, God sent Jesus to take all our sins, and he died for our sins, and when he rose he took them away, because he loves us.”
The guys around are all saying – “Yes, yes, it’s true!”
“You’re saying ‘yes’, but do you really believe it?”
Islam is all about works.
“You know, when I say we’re saved through Jesus, it has nothing to do with works. You accept his grace and forgiveness through faith. THEN He gives you work to do. He shows you His plan for your life. So, you can accept Jesus, but after that it doesn’t mean that it’ll just be an easy life. There’s gonna be problems. I’ve been in Niger 17 years and I came here with my family to tell others the truth about Jesus and look where I’m sitting right now [in this car]. But when you have Jesus, you have someone to go through the problems with you. And God has a plan for your life. And what about heaven? I know that you don’t think you can have assurance of going to heaven. But you see as believers in Jesus, we have the assurance of eternal life. In fact, if this car washes away right now and I drown in it, I’ll immediately be with Jesus in heaven. You can have that assurance too.”
She’s just sitting in this flooded car, in the middle of the river, happily sharing the gospel. Smiling like the sun, as if she’s a queen on a throne instead of a woman covered in mud sitting in a flooded car. It was really something.
(Friend S): that’s insane
She and her husband head up the ministry over here – 35(ish?) churches, 2 or 3 bible schools, 2 primary schools… She’s totally awesome. Oh, and while all this is happening, the sun goes down. Dad’s off looking for help, Tara is covering the stuff, and I’m making sure Danette doesn’t get washed down the river and killed or something. And it gets really dark. And the car is still in the river. And the water is still rising.
So there’s the question – will there be help soon? When do we just abandon the car?
(Friend S): I feel like the most pathetic human being / Christian right now…
Because somehow, it’s still running. Normally it’s unable to push the exhaust out the tailpipe because of the water pressure and your car dies. But for some reason it was still going, even with the tailpipe like 5 1/2 feet under. So what do you do? And then the electrical system on the car starts going nuts. Lights turn on and off, and Danette’s window rolls itself up. She can’t get it to go back down. That’s bad, of course. That’s how people die in situations like this.
So Danette climbs out the passenger window.
And lo and behold, the cavalry arrives. My dad has conjured up a MASSIVE road grader. Which pulls out the two other cars that are stuck with no problem. But then comes our car. It’s further out, and, like I said, the back end is way, way down in the water. They can’t find anywhere to hook the cable to. They try 3 or 4 times, and it breaks each time.
Once the car is out, everyone wants money. The people who helped us try to push it out early on, the guy with the grader, and probably a bunch of people who did nothing at all. It was bedlam.
Meanwhile, the car finally died as we pulled it out. But the electrical system isn’t willing to give up yet. It’s going absolutely nuts. The car begins to try and start itself. Nobody is doing anything. The key isn’t being turned. But it keeps repeatedly trying to start. This goes on for about 5 minutes, until my Dad manages to disconnect the battery.
A bit later, some pastors and Danette’s husband arrive. But they don’t have any chains or other elegant way to tow the car. So they take giant springs, run them through random points of metal at the corner of the car and the truck that is towing it, and then through holes at the ends of a metal bar. Apparently they’re still slowly towing it somewhere.
But we made it home, and I finally got to get all the sand off. I have sand in my hair, behind my ears, because when we were pushing from behind the water was so deep you almost went under.
(Friend S): dude… I don’t even lift.
And on the way back, we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to get out to the camp tomorrow, since the bridge is out and our car is useless. And I’m just sitting in the back thinking to myself, “my life is a party.” I mean, it might be a mess, but that’s what you should expect when you’re out here – I didn’t even mention what we did today, that was just the trip home.
(Friend S): soooo uhhh… I filled out a spreadsheet today. yep. that’s about it.. . . that’s insane dude.
So. There you have it. The story from another angle. And for those who think being a Christian is boring…all I can say is – “Seriously”?
Oh – and a friend who has been here and traveled that road with us during dry season sent me this picture. It’s the reason we had to drive around on the riverbed ‘road’.