I will not soon forget the night in Mozambique I was driving down a roadway and the highway disappeared. It was April of 2016 and we had been visiting African SDB churches that day in the Milange District within sight of the border of Malawi. I was accompanied by Douglas Machado of Brazil, as a translator, because the brethren there spoke Portuguese, but not English.
On the way out to that region, I had taken a turn operating the vehicle since, besides our driver, I was the only one with some practice driving on the left and had a valid driver’s license. Driving on the other side with a left-handed shifter can be a fairly harrowing experience even in the daylight — especially where the roadway is not in good repair, the drivers are aggressive, and you often share the streets with children, carts, and livestock. This is one of those situations where you can easily find yourself consciously seeking a perpetual state of prayer. I had eagerly given back the wheel after a couple hours as the sun began to set.
Around 2 p.m. the following afternoon, we were about eleven hours away from the city where we had a flight the next day. Even starting our return then meant we could hope for, at best, a 1 a.m. arrival in the vicinity of Nampula Airport. I endeavor to maintain a good bit of buffer in our schedule for unanticipated challenges that are common in developing world ministry. Keeping that truck moving was fairly important to me so that we could get back with plenty of time to spare.
The vehicle we were in was a large red Toyota Double Cab 4×4 truck with a shell over the bed that the Conference Secretary’s brother used for his construction business. He was glad to drive, but as the night wore on and the road way had fewer and fewer vehicles, Bartolomeu realized he was struggling to stay awake. I had been napping, anticipating the need to take a turn, so when he gave me the nod I knew it was time to focus. The lack of cars was a blessing that allowed me to drive down the middle of the highway, keeping my eyes peeled on the limit of the headlights, watching for tire swallowing potholes that popped up at irregular intervals. A time or two, we came to warning signs that diverted us off the road to cross rivers in places where the current roadway bridge was out or under construction. This was no big deal because we had ample notice and the temporary bridges, though narrow, seemed of solid construction, and we could soon get back to the higher-speed blacktop road above.
Because driving under these conditions required a great amount of concentration, I planned again to drive for only two hours — and counted off the minutes until I could awaken Bartolomeu and let him retake control. It turned out, as we neared the end of my time it was not necessary for me to wake him.
Watching the road with low beams was more effective at clearly spotting potholes, but shortened the distance down the highway that was visible. As the time neared to change seats, I gently veered around a couple potholes doing the posted 100 KPH (62 MPH) when suddenly I stopped seeing asphalt at the end of the lights. With no warning, the highway was about to drop off into a red dirt road bed with two truck-width depressions looming ahead — one after another right past the highway edge. There was no time to do much! But by grace, I knew that sudden breaking or veering at this speed would likely not end well. I braced for impact and we bounced into, through, and over the depressions as we left the blacktop onto the area under repair. Sleeping pastors we were transporting with us in the covered truck bed were tossed about like a salad and people in the front woke to each other’s screams when the previously smooth travel turned into a rodeo bull ride.
I was sure I heard glass breaking and was certain we had done serious damage to the vehicle. Soon, however, the roadway leveled off and we crept back onto the asphalt. As we regained our composure and speed, I released the wheel to see if our alignment was compromised and everything appeared OK. Directly after, the driver indicated he was quite awake and we stopped to inspect the vehicle and passengers for injury. By God’s mercy nothing and no one seemed to have been damaged.
~ Clinton R. Brown, Executive Director
- For the rest of the March 2016 Sabbath Recorder click HERE