Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: South America (02/05/09)
TITLE: Sacrificial Love
By Connie Dixon
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I fell in love with the Guedes family. Maria was the oldest of 10 children, ages 7-25 years. Her parents instilled in all of them a strong Christian faith, and each had made a commitment to follow Jesus as their Savior.
Maria and I had planned to do some sight-seeing, but a family gathering to honor her Uncle Omar postponed our idea for a couple of days. He lived about 225 miles away and we would have to fly to get there. Omar’s son Daniel flew for a taxi-airline and could accommodate us for next to nothing.
We boarded the small, twin turboprop on Saturday morning. The front seats were occupied by paying customers, so the rest of us, all 13 members of my new family went to the rear of the plane. There were not enough seats for everyone so we had to double-up. The seating arrangement troubled this safety conscience American, but no one else seemed to mind as we anticipated a short eastern flight over the Amazon jungle.
About half an hour into our trip, the heavens opened up and thunderous winds shook our craft like a paper plane in a mid-western tornado. Darkness filled the afternoon sky and lightning flashes bounced off silver wings, illuminating the faces of terrified passengers.
Daniel’s anxious voice came over the intercom: “Due to inclement weather, we will be returning to Coari.”
I started to panic, but for the sake of the children, I stayed relatively calm. We banked to the right and the plane shook so hard I thought it was going to self-destruct in mid-air. Anna, who sat on my lap, began to cry so I held her tight and promised not to let go. Next to me, 9-year old Marco tried to look brave but when I offered my hand, he reached back and took a firm grip.
Suddenly, one of the engines went dead and the nose of the plane tipped downward. Our speed picked up as Daniel lost control. His voice resonated, this time more uneasy, fearful: “Prepare for an emergency landing. Put your heads down and hold on to your seat cushions.”
We gained momentum and continued gliding downward. Suddenly there was an explosion and the plane jolted and flipped end over end, landing right side up with a bounce and a splash. A stillness flooded the blacked out cabin. A moan came from nowhere. Anna called out my name and burst into tears. Marco came to life. Maria’s father jumped out of his seat and stepped behind us to push open the emergency door. He grabbed Marco and pushed him outside. I handed Anna over to him, and moved towards the open door. I stopped to look back into the darkness but he pushed me forward and out onto the tail of the plane where Marco stood with Anna. The plane rolled in its watery grave and Mr. Guedes disappeared back down into the darkness. He emerged quickly when the giant scrap of metal shifted. We waited on the tail of the mangled wreckage. I expected to see Maria close behind. I screamed her name, “MARIA!!!!!”…….but no one followed. I moved to re-enter the doomed vessel but Mr. Guedes seized my arm. We had landed in the Manacapuru River and our ship was sinking.
Mr. Guedes guided me and the children to the dismantled wing floating nearby. With his assistance we were able to make it through 30 feet of murky water to the river’s edge. By the time we pulled ourselves up onto the shore and looked back, the plane had disappeared. We held and comforted each other throughout the night until rescuers arrived.
I miss my friend dearly, but helping take care of Anna and Marco these past 10 years has been the greatest gift anyone could ever experience. Only God could bring something good out of this tragedy and I will be forever grateful for the valuable lesson He has taught me about sacrificial love. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
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