“We can’t let you walk down there. It’s too dangerous,” cautioned our church friends in Goroka, the capital city of the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Going down into the settlements of Goroka, where high unemployment and alcoholism often fuel hot tempers, can be a risky adventure. Yet our church family was willing to take that risk if it meant being able to share the gospel with their countrymen. We’d planned a series of evangelistic meetings in Fish Water, a settlement down in a steep, narrow valley, not far from our church.
Our church family knew that the presence of my husband, Brooks, and me at the meetings could be both a blessing and a curse. Foreign missionaries didn’t come down into the settlement often, and the novelty of our presence would draw larger crowds to attend. But we would also stand out as foreigners, making us highly visible targets for crime.
As plans were being made, the church asked Brooks to present several sermons and me, because of my nursing background, to speak on the health effects of alcohol. They would take us down the steep, bumpy road into Fish Water in the back of a pickup truck full of church members.
They also arranged to have a platform placed at the side of Fish Water’s main dirt road. The settlement elders consented to close off the road during the meetings so that the attendees could sit on its relatively flat surface.
One night while Brooks and the church elders were praying for God’s blessing before the meeting started, my friend Olivia and I placed our roll-up mats on the ground, trying to find a “comfortable” place to sit for a couple of hours. Olivia’s eyes shone with kindness and love as we spoke about the meetings and our desire for people to come to Jesus. Olivia is a prayer warrior, and I loved getting to spend time with this sister of my heart.
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Olivia and I were deep in conversation when we heard a horn honking loud and incessantly. We looked up and saw a white pickup truck barreling down the road toward us. Surely it will stop when the driver sees all the people sitting on the road, I thought. But it didn’t stop or even slow down. People started jumping out of the way like frogs leaping off lily pads. Before I realized what was happening and got up, the truck was upon us. I felt frozen to the ground. Suddenly, I was tackled from the side and shoved off the road. Realizing that we both weren’t going to make it out of the way in time, Olivia had decided that I was going to live even if it meant her death.
As I looked over my shoulder, I saw Olivia lying under the front bumper of the truck, alive and unharmed! The truck had stopped just inches from running her over. I don’t know what mighty angels brought it to a halt, but I praise God for His protection. As Olivia and I picked ourselves up from the ground, a belligerent drunk driver emerged from the truck, threatening to kill us all if we didn’t get out of the way. Several strong men quickly subdued him. For the rest of the night, Olivia and I clung to each other in sisterly love.
I went to Papua New Guinea as a missionary to share the love of Jesus. While I believe God was able to bless others through my activities, I feel like I was the one most blessed. I witnessed a tangible manifestation of His love—the willingness of a friend to lay down her life for me. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (NKJV).
When I left Papua New Guinea, I was a changed woman. God was transforming me into His likeness using the very people I went to serve. What an amazing friend! What an amazing church family! What an amazing God!