Spilled Suitcases and Scattered Seeds
Saturday, January 27 2018
It happened so quickly.
One moment the four of them were happily returning from a two-week intensive Christian training event in evangelism and prayer in Quito Ecuador – packed into an old station wagon with teaching materials and photos and slides, flying around the mountainous curves just beyond the city of Pasto in Colombia sometime during the late afternoon of January 25, 1985.
The next moment, a large bus appeared, the driver of the car swerved into the guardrail to avoid hitting the bus, the car was swept up onto the guardrail, it balanced back and forth for a few moments in eerie silence – and then it went crashing and banging down the steep mountainside, somersaulting 400 meters to its fatal and final resting place.
Everything and almost everyone was thrown out of the car somewhere along the way: suitcases and bags and boxes filled with clothes and teaching materials and pictures – and three of the four men that had been travelling in the car. The fourth man, Hernando Hernandez, the one who was driving and who was seatbelted in, didn't manage to fly out of the car on the way down. He, along with the car, found his final earthly stop hundreds of meters down the mountainside.
Two of the men, Alvaro and Juan Gabriel, were banged and bruised, and one had an injured knee – but in general, they were fine. They slid down the hill from where they had been thrown out, looking for the other two. One saw the third passenger, Ruben Dario, being led up the hill with a helping stranger – they knew he was being taken care of somehow. And so, they continued down to the wreckage, hoping to find and save their driver. But his injuries were too severe – the hour too late and the sky too dark – the mountainside too steep – and medical help, although called for right away, came way too late. Try as they might, and pray as they did, their beloved friend and leader Hernando died in Juan Gabriel's arms.
Ruben Dario was taken to a hospital back in the city of Pasto. By whom? To this day, no one knows. Someone – an angel perhaps? - found him partway down the steep mountainside in the dark, helped him back up to the main road, and took him to Pasto for medical attention. He was almost dead on arrival: he had head injuries, no teeth, 13 broken ribs, a punctured lung, 4 fractured vertebrae – a sight to behold, I'm told!
But, thanks be to God! and thanks to the prayers of many all over the world – Ruben Dario pulled through miraculously! And I'm so glad he did – because 5 years later, he became my husband!
Last week, the three survivors of that fatal accident 33 years ago, Alvaro and Juan Gabriel and Ruben Dario and their wives, got together for a 3-day celebration of remembrance and life. We heard the story of the accident from the viewpoint of each of the three men – we remembered Hernando: his leadership, his zeal, his charisma, his love for God and his passion for others to love Him as well – and we prayed and thanked God for sparing the lives of the other three men, who each one went on to serve the Lord together with their wives and children: Alvaro, as a pastor in Medellin Colombia – Juan Gabriel, as a doctor in Tucson Arizona – and Ruben Dario, as a pastor in Armenia Colombia.
Ruben Dario, Juan Gabriel and Alvaro
As we prayed and cried with both thankful and hurting hearts, I had a vision: I remembered Juan Gabriel and Alvaro telling us that, the day after the accident when they returned to the car wreckage to get Hernando, the mountainside was crawling with people – people who were stealing everything they could get their hands on and carry back home. The spilled suitcases from the accident the night before, and all their contents, were vanishing before their eyes.
But what I saw in my vision was more than just suitcases that had spilled out of a car somersaulting down the mountainside. I saw seeds, many many seeds that were scattered as the car and Hernando crashed and banged down the hillside to their death.
I knew that, because one seed fell to the ground and died that day, many many other seeds were scattered. And over the years and decades since then, those seeds have grown into beautiful and fruitful plants all over the world.
"Very truly I tell you,
unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains only a single seed.
But if it dies,
it produces many seeds."
(John 12:24 – NIV)
"I tell you the truth,
unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies,
it remains alone.
But its death will produce many new kernels--
a plentiful harvest of new lives."
(John 12.24 - NLT)
I know, because Alvaro and Juan Gabriel and Ruben Dario told me, that Hernando for years had longed for and prayed for and evangelized for a "plentiful harvest of new lives" in Christ. I don't think he knew or suspected, and the rest of us certainly don't understand why it had to be so, but the seed of his life planted in the soil and dying that day 33 years ago did produce what Hernando was most passionate about: "many seeds"- "a plentiful harvest of new lives" committed to loving Jesus as he did.
January 25, 1985.
What most people saw that day was disaster and tragedy – injury and death. What they saw were suitcases spilled out all over a mountainside: their contents representing the efforts and successes and glory of man that over the years had been captured on paper and in pictures, first flung far and wide, and then snatched up and stolen away.
But what God saw that day, and what He allowed me to see for a split-second during our prayer-time the other day, was the result of one seed that fell to the ground and died: because it died, it did not remain a single lone seed – it multiplied into innumerable and countless seeds that were scattered and blown and planted all over the world, truly an abundant harvest of new life in Christ for many.
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