In January of 1989 Tom was in a serious motorcycle accident that left him with lots of bumps and bruises but most seriously, a severely broken leg. The following letter was sent to friends asking for prayer and recognizing that God is our help when everything goes wrong!
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IT ALL GOES WRONG?
On December 23rd I was prepared for the holidays and a January of intense, hectic and exciting ministry. For the last four weeks, I had prepared the games schedule, flights, hotel bookings, literature, equipment, etc. for the 12 Australian Venture for Victory basketball players who would arrive on December 30.
I would be taking the team to Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines to paly 25 basketball games, sharing the Gospel and starting Bible study groups for the local churches. I had run and lifted weights each day the last month to be physically ready to survive the unicycle shows, travel and hectic pace of the three-week tour.
On December 27th I was taking five short-term missionaries to the province when we collided with a passenger jeepney on the highway causing damage to both vehicles. Thankfully nobody in either vehicle was hurt.
The car was in the shop for repairs
On December 29th, because the car was in the shop for repairs, I took the motorcycle to run all the last minute errands for the team’s arrival the next afternoon. The jeep in front of me stopped right in the middle of the highway and I could not. The motorcycle was still sliding sideways when I hit the jeep with my body, right leg caught between bike and jeep. My helmet was cracked and left in the street with the motorcycle. I was rushed to the hospital with a compound fracture of the right leg, bruised ribs, a headache and after a trip to the operating room was confined to a hospital bed for the next week. But I was thankfully alive.
One January 2nd the Australian team left for Zamboanga with my assistant leading in my place.
On January 6th Karen brought me home from the hospital and the phone rang with the news. Muslim rebels had taken a general and his men hostage at the military base in Zamboanga just a half kilometer from the hotel where I had the team booked. For the next 24 hours they watched helicopters, tanks and heavy artillery destroy the rebels and the buildings they occupied from the windows of their hotel.
On January 8th the team was flown back to Manila with everyone safe. In Zamboanga the hostage had been killed, many rebels killed and military and civilians wounded. Zamboanga remained in a state of emergency and under curfew. Obviously, all the games and ministry meetings were cancelled.
There are four more teams coming in 1989 to try and prepare for. But it has been one painful, scary, and discouraging start. Please do not stop praying. We want to overcome January and get on to winning more souls for Jesus.
“The Lord is close to those whose hearts are breaking. He rescues those who are humbly sorry for their sins.” Psalm 34:18
“God is our refuge and strength, a tested help in times of trouble. And so we need not fear even if the world blows up and the mountains crumble into the sea.” Psalm 46:1,2.
But several weeks later Tom, feeling much better, would pen this ode to his broken leg.
I flew through the air with the greatest of ease,
Hitting the jeepney—don’t ask me how, please.
So it’s hello to pain, my dear old friend,
He has come to visit me again!
Emotions and memories came back in a flood,
When I looked down and saw the leg covered in blood.
My helmet was broken by the force of the blow,
A gentle reminder that angels still guard me, I know.
Everyone says, “What can he do next?
He is reckless and crazy, maybe he’s hexed.
For his kidneys and elbow and health we all pray.
But he acts like his body is made out of clay.”
“In week two he fell and broke the cast.
How does he expect to heal up fast?
His lifestyle seems to be somewhat high risk.
He’s an accident waiting to happen, tsk, tsk!”
I can’t say much in my own defense.
Quite possibly it won’t make much sense.
But if you looked into the faces I see,
I’m sure you would at once agree,
No matter what the pain and strife
The treasure is still eternal life.
A broken body is little to pay
For the opportunities I’ve had to say
That Jesus Christ died for me
And from my pain can set me free.
If my health and many broken bones
Have caused you all at once to groan,
There is a reason to be glad indeed,
At least I’m not a centipede!