Faded blue metal shimmered as Father Edward slammed the car door. “You’re all set, Rosa. May the Lord’s mercy go with you today.”
I nodded wondering thinking of life back home, the relative safety of suburbia, the wonders of a GPS and mobile phones. Out here it felt like I was on my own.
The elderly priest stooped over as I twisted the key in the ignition. “I normally wouldn’t allow this you know. If I was stronger I would go myself.”
The engine wheezed and hacked before starting with a throaty roar. “I’ll be fine, Father.” My gut was screaming otherwise but there was no one else who could go. Mom and dad were right. I’m not cut out for the harshness of the mission field. Just as well it’s only for six weeks.
I prayed fervently as the ancient vehicle rattled down the sandy strip road. “Be with me, Lord. Take away my fear and keep me safe. Guide my every movement today.” Giant cliffs rose from the sand ahead, pale and imposing. I’d been told that bandits lurked in there and frequently attacked vehicles that passed through to the village on the other side.
About an hour into the journey, I noticed a dust cloud behind me. It hung still in the air, marking each twist and turn of the road. Muscles tense, I scrutinised the rear-view mirror, my eyes gradually making out a battered grey van. The driver was driving at breakneck speed and within minutes, drew parallel. He held the horn down as his passengers leered at me.
My heart was racing, hands slippery with sweat as I took my foot off the accelerator and allowed the car to fall back. One of them pulled a finger at me and then they were gone. Shaking I pulled over to the side of the road. It was tempting to abandon my mission but the thought of the village ravaged with measles hung heavy in my heart. “I have to keep going, Lord. I have to get those vaccines to them.”
Within ten minutes I was at the base of the cliffs and the road began to twist and wind. Sheer rock faces rose on one side and fell away to nothing on the other. It was a shock to turn a corner and find the grey van perched on the side of the road. Panicked, I put my foot down. “You’re not going to get ahead of me!” I shouted as I accelerated past. A moment later I lost control of the car. It fishtailed wildly, teetering on two wheels before slamming down, shuddering and gyrating. The grey van overtook me seconds later, the occupants whistling and shouting.
I pulled off the road only to find I’d had a blowout. The back left tyre was shredded to ribbons ... and to add to my pain the spare was flat. “Why God?” I shouted. “We pumped it up just before I left. Couldn’t You keep it inflated for a few hours? Couldn’t You answer my prayers?”
I exhaled, my lungs feeling as flat as the useless wheels. Flies buzzed in clouds around me and sweat trickled. How long before the clinic calls Father Edward and someone comes looking for me. I wondered. I took several swigs of the water Father Edward had packed as a precaution, then tipped some over my head. The coolness lasted only seconds.
Two hours later I saw dust clouds approaching. It was three police cars followed by an ambulance. I waved frantically and the third car pulled over.
“I had a blowout.”
The cop inspected the tyres as I told him about the vaccines. “Bring the medicines to my car and I’ll take you through to the village once we’re done here.
Thankfully I sank into the back seat, cooler box next to me. “So what’s happened?”
A bandit attack,” he replied. “They’re not uncommon in these parts.
We hadn’t driven more than a mile when we came on the scene. The grey van was smouldering on the side of the road and the medics were working on figures sprawled on the ground.
“Were they the bandits?” I asked the cop.
“No ma’am. They were the victims.”
The victims? If I’d been ahead of them ...
My heart buckled at the implications.
I am so sorry, God. You did hear my prayers and You did answer them.
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