From the moment we became missionaries, it seemed like Satan tackled us on every side.
I was opening the gate to our home when the wind from an unexpected storm yanked it from my hand, knocking me on my face and gashing my ankle clean to the tendon.Six stitches and a pair of crutches later I was back home, ready to unpack and start my new life as a missionary. From that point on, it seemed that Satan tackled us at every side.
Our vehicle was broken into. Our groceries were stolen. I got bitten by a dog. Our baby got roseola. We were robbed. We had problems at work. But each time God performed some miracle—great or small—to confirm that He was with us.
Living in the tropical country of Papua New Guinea, we often faced health challenges. Many times, one of our kids would have a fever that wouldn’t respond to medication. While they slept, I would pray and cry, asking God for help because I felt I couldn’t take it anymore. Each time this happened, our child woke up well!
We had been in the country only a few weeks when our daughter’s temperature soared to 107.5. We tried medicines, cold baths, charcoal—everything we could think of. As we prayed for guidance, I suddenly remembered meeting a young mother at church who had given us her phone number. I called her, thinking she might be able to recommend a good hospital.
Imagine our relief when we learned that she was a pediatrician and her husband was a surgeon! The couple rushed over with their medical bags, examined our daughter, and made plans for her to be admitted to a hospital. They even took charge of supervising her treatment and arranged for us to stay with her.
To determine what was wrong, our daughter needed an X-ray. But here, as in many countries, there’s often a long wait to get one. To complicate matters, it was a national holiday. But, once again, God sent an angel. The only person trained to use the X-ray machine (he wasn’t scheduled to work that day) just happened to walk down the hall. Our doctor friends asked him do the X-ray on the spot. This gave us the diagnosis—pneumonia—and allowed immediate treatment. Within 24 hours her temperature was down enough for us to go home!
Security was a constant issue. One morning during worship with the children, we talked about God’s protecting angels. Then I took my daughter to run a few errands. We were in a store when I realized we were being watched by a group of men. I saw them split up and begin to surround us. One of them had what looked like a knife behind his back. I grabbed my daughter and ducked under the racks and ran for the guards. The young men weren’t caught, but we were safe. Turning to me, my daughter exclaimed, “Mommy, Jesus sent His angels to protect us!” It was a wonderful lesson for her about God’s protection.
Another time a construction worker told us that his wife had seen two questionable men come to our gate during the previous week. One stood guard while the other took out a key, opened our gate, and entered our yard. When the men saw the construction crew within view, they quickly left, no doubt intending to return later. As soon as our night guard arrived, I told him, so he could be on the lookout for these intruders. His response was chilling but humbling. “Several times during the past week, something told me to ‘urgently go to your house!’” he said. I had been alone with the children all week, yet God had not left me undefended. He spoke to our guard—another of His angels.
One time I was out shopping with two friends and a guard. While the guard ran an errand for me, someone stole my purse. In it was a significant amount of money, my phone, my driver’s license, and a bankcard. After so many difficulties this seemed like the last straw! I went home crying and claimed what was by now a very familiar verse: “I will contend with those who contend with you” (Isaiah: 49:25, NIV).
Amazingly, my husband called 30 minutes later, telling me that he had my phone, card, and driver’s license. It turned out that another customer overheard me report the theft and took it upon himself to get my phone number and my husband’s. He texted the thief and talked him into returning my things. He then called my husband with the news, apologizing for the behavior of his countryman. Another angel.
Every time we were overwhelmed with discouragement, God did something to remind us of His care. Several times we ran out of money, and our food was nearly gone. Suddenly every fruit tree in our yard produced fruit.
The climax of our experience came at the end. We are still trying to understand why God allowed things to happen as they did, but we do know that He displayed His presence and protection to us in a mighty way. Our son had become critically ill. We had already flown him to a clinic twice, but the cause of his illness couldn’t be found. The decision had been made to give him the strongest medicine available, and if that didn’t work, he would be taken by medevac to Australia. The third time he became ill we were unable to fly, so we drove—something very difficult in a country where torrential rains wreak havoc with the roads and crime can create security issues.
We had traveled for an hour when we came to a one-lane bridge. An oncoming bus pulled aside to allow us to pass first. The road was full of car-sized holes, and where the bridge reached land on the other side it was particularly bad, so we proceeded very slowly. Just as we were reaching the bad section on the other side next to the bus waiting its turn, another passenger bus came flying toward us. With an embankment on one side and the waiting bus on the other, we were two seconds from a fatal head-on collision. Yet God created space and the bus crashed between us and the other bus. Our truck took most of the impact.
We knew that loss of life was likely and had been told that in situations like this, it’s imperative to keep driving to a safe place. In shock we noted that we were all unharmed (although glass was everywhere, including in my mouth and in my children’s ears). We quickly drove to a nearby store, reported the accident to the police, and called for an ambulance. We prayed for the people in the crashed bus and drove the remaining hour to the clinic to tend to our critically ill son.
Upon arriving at the clinic, we discovered that the impact had nearly torn the bed off our truck and had broken the leaf spring that holds on the axle. For a full hour, we had driven over huge potholes with only a little safety wire holding the axle together.
The staff rushed my son to the doctors while I told the story of our accident. They decided that the treatment was working and could be continued in-country, but a new crisis developed. There was increasing concern for our safety as reports were coming in of deaths from the accident. (We later learned that the bus had gone over the bridge and 12 people had died.) When someone is killed, it’s the custom of the village people to kill the person they hold responsible. Because we had been part of the crash scene, we became the recipients of their wrath.
The clinic’s compound security guards came to tell us that angry villagers had come looking for us. The guards were able to turn them away, but they only left to round up more villagers before coming back after us. The clinic packed a bag with all the medicines my son would need for the next week, and the guards told us, “You must get out of here now!”
They had us lie down in a truck with guards in one truck in front of us and in another truck behind us. They urged us not to let anyone see us. We lay against the floorboards praying, my sick son screaming in pain and confusion as I held him down, not knowing what we might encounter in an area where people still use guns, bush knives, clubs, and spears to fight. When we got to the grass airstrip, the guards quickly got out, encircled us, and shuttled us onto the waiting plane, which immediately took off. Within a week we were advised by embassy and church officials that we should leave the country permanently for our own safety.
What a disappointment! This was certainly not how we dreamed that our mission service would end. However, looking back, it’s humbling to see the many things that God did for us. He miraculously spared our lives multiple times, and although we were literally running for our lives in the end, no harm came to us. We learned that God is stronger than anything and that He never leaves His children. We saw Him work through many wonderful people. And someday, we will understand it all.
We’re the Kennedy family from Tennessee—Shelley, Kyle, Nova (6), and Kameron (4). We served as missionaries in Papua New Guinea, where my husband maintained the mission planes for Adventist Aviation Services. We’re now in Tennessee working on airplanes and raising our children, waiting to see where God leads us next! —Shelley Kennedy
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