As we approached the three-way intersection, I saw a few people staring down at a small motorbike lying in a ditch to the right of our truck. From the expressions on their faces, something was terribly wrong.
It was a Sabbath afternoon late in 2020 when Tonya, I and our boys, returning home from the learning center, came across the accident. A young man, about 18 years old, was riding his motorbike home and completely ignored the stop sign and flashing amber traffic light at the intersection. At the same time, another motorist was crossing through the intersection and disregarded the stop sign. The young man on the motorbike swerved to miss the motorist and was thrown off his motorcycle into the ditch. He was not wearing a helmet or shoes. The other motorist never stopped and perhaps never saw the young man.
I turned on my hazard lights and pulled off the road. Hopping out of the truck, I asked Tonya and the boys to pray.
Four or five people surrounded the young man lying with his face buried in a rut in the ground. Blood began pooling around his face. He sputtered, trying to get a breath. Clearly weakened and in severe pain, he tried lifting himself, and then he fell flat. His body started convulsing. I was concerned he might have a spinal injury but more concerned about him suffocating. I asked some bystanders to help me turn him slightly onto his side so he could catch his breath.
Shortly after, the young man’s mother arrived. When she saw how severely injured her son was, she began wailing and crying out to him. In distress, the young man tried to move towards her. Two people tried holding him still while I embraced his mother. I spoke softly to her, trying to get her to stop calling out to her son.
From a roadside shop a short distance away, the mother of one of our students heard the commotion and sirens of approaching emergency vehicles. Quickly, she came to the scene and embraced the young man’s mother. Another bystander and I stood in the road, signaling approaching traffic to make way for the paramedics and police. A few minutes later, the emergency team arrived, securing the young man on a gurney, loading him into the ambulance and whisking him away.
When I returned to our truck, Tonya and the boys looked subdued. We prayed for the young man and his mother, then drove home. The next week, we heard he had slipped into a coma shortly after arriving at the hospital and succumbed to his injuries a couple of days later—the spinal cord severed and the bowel broken.
I attended the young man’s funeral at his mother’s home the following week. Several hundred people from the community came to pay respect throughout the evening while monks from the local temple performed rituals. I sat and watched for some time as that young man’s mother attended to the needs of the many guests coming and going from her home, offering them water and providing them places to sit. She looked tired, but she maintained her composure.
The smell of incense was heavy in the air, and as I left, the grieving mother came to bid me farewell, her hands folded and with a slight bow of the head. I moved to embrace her, and she immediately rested her head on my chest and began to weep as I put my arms around her. Soon, her tears soaked my shirt.
I believe that in these moments of tremendous loss, we come to realize what is truly important in life. When I held that young man’s mother in my arms, I was sure that she would have sacrificed anything to hold her son in her arms again. Whatever troubles in life had previously occupied her thoughts were now replaced by one singular longing—to see her son live again.
In our ministry, in every activity or interaction, we try to stay focused on why we are here—to help the children we work with discover that Jesus is real and cares about their lives. Days of trouble will come. It is unavoidable. But we can help guide our students into a relationship with their Creator, Jesus Christ, before those darker days arrive. Please join us today to reach them and help them remember.