Second of two articles
February 2006 – July 26 was a beautiful day in Guaimaca, Honduras. A team of 30 mission volunteers, some from the small town of New Albany, Mississippi, prepared to spend the day in the rural village of La Union high in the mountains of Honduras. The team traveled two hours to set up a medical and dental clinic where they ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of many Hondurans.
Little did they know just how life-changing this day would be as they drove down the mountainside and into the unexpected. Their journey downhill turned fatal when the brakes failed on one of the trucks carrying 17 people. (See AFA Journal, 1/06.) Dr. Ronald L. Feather, of New Albany, died at the scene and several were critically injured.
A sense of desertion came over the the landscape of broken bodies. Although the following hours seemed hopeless, God’s provisions were powerful. Below, a registered nurse, an injured volunteer and a grieving son reflect on that eventful day when God came near.
Charlotte Grisham, the nurse
We were about 20 minutes down the mountain when it happened. I realized something was wrong because I could hear screams coming from the truck full of team members that sped past our vehicle. The truck veered toward the ravine and then to the mountainside, hitting a ditch and then the mountain. Everyone was thrown from the vehicle.
We immediately jumped out and ran to the scene. I remember saying, “My daughter was in that truck.” Another nurse grabbed my arm and said, “You’ve got to get yourself together. We’ve got work to do.”
All you could hear were moans and screams. I looked down at my feet and there was Ron [Feather]. I just touched his face and said, “I love you, my brother. I know you’re going through the gates.” And I had to move on.
I quickly found my daughter among all the injured. We had only packed one suitcase of supplies. By the grace of God, it was all we needed at this time. It was amazing to see a team of people, some with no medical knowledge, who overcame fears and worked together as a medical team.
After what seemed like an eternity, a vehicle came up the mountain. We decided the most critically-injured would go down in the first ambulance. Dr. [Shane]Scott told me I needed to go down with one of these victims [that being Katherine Skinner]. I said, “I can’t leave my Katy Anna.”
He said, “You can. You’ve got to go down and make sure everything is done that needs to be done.”
So I went over to Katy Anna and told her I needed to go down with Katherine. She said, “You go, Mama. You go and take care of Katherine.”
Leaving my daughter on the mountain was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but God gave Katy Anna the strength to tell me to leave her. I kissed her and got into the ambulance to find that it was basically a vehicle with no medical supplies .
Katherine was hurt badly. She had a lot of facial injuries and a lot of swelling, which would soon obstruct her breathing. I had nothing to put in her airway, then the swelling stopped right at the jaw. That was another act of God.
After an hour-and-a-half trip down the mountain, we got to the mission clinic in Guaimaca where we did a few extra things to stabilize the patients before transferring them into a van and on to a more well-equipped hospital in the country’s capital.
The van ride was another hour-and-a-half. The wreck happened about 4:00 p.m., and we got the first group to the hospital at 9:01 p.m. By the time the last ones got to the hospital, it was 12:21 that morning.
Upon our first entry in the emergency room, a doctor came to me face-to-face, and he spoke to me in the most perfect English. I said, “I know God brought us here to you.”
We conversed briefly about the patients, and I told him I couldn’t be a fly on the wall. So we worked for many hours getting everyone x-rayed, but we needed to get them to the United States as quickly as possible.
After waiting almost 24 hours following the wreck, the first medically equipped airplane arrived and the injured were flown to U.S. hospitals on various flights. Within a few days all were discharged except Katherine.
Although the physical and spiritual healing process continues, I can honestly say, God is good!
When we didn’t think we had enough supplies, we had some left over. When I didn’t know what I was going to do for an airway in Katherine’s throat, God stopped the swelling. Hondurans prayed for my daughter. Prayers that began before this trip continued on that mountainside.
Everyday, I think about this, and I am reminded of another way God provided that day.
Katherine Skinner, the injured
I don’t remember anything that happened during the accident or after the accident or for the next several days. But in the days since then I’ve learned a lot … and God has been real near to me.
Most of us probably would have been a bit hesitant to go if we had known this wreck was going to happen. But God chose to let us have this experience and chose to speak to people through us.
The other night I was praying and saying, “Thank you, God, for these people who saved my life. That’s something that has never happened to me before.”
And God said, “Yes, it has! I saved your life.” And I thought about that, and that’s not how I remember it when I was young and I said the prayer to be saved, and everything was good. Of course, as I’ve grown up, I’ve learned more about salvation and what God really did for me.
Now, it has a whole new meaning. I was on the side of the road. I didn’t know I was hurt. I was lying on the side of the road bleeding and dying and not even able to ask for help. I was unrecognizable, and God provided folks who knew what they were doing and who had the ability to save me, and it wasn’t just doctors and nurses. It was the folks at the bottom of the mountain who were praying the whole time.
That’s how salvation is, too. There may be one person who leads someone to Christ, but there are many people praying for that person’s salvation.
It’s a huge act of God. We don’t realize how much is done on His part. We’re inactive in the whole thing.
I’ve learned a lot about inability, and I’m still learning. We don’t ask for help. We’re not even aware of our need. He gives us that awareness, and He supplies the cure.
Randall Feather, the son
I was at home watching the 10 p.m. local news when my aunt called and said she needed to drop something off at my house. I began to wonder if something was wrong.
When I opened the door, there were some family friends and my pastor with her. I knew then what had happened.
My immediate thought was that they had received wrong information. Surely what they were telling me couldn’t be right.
My dad was so excited about being a part of this mission team. My biggest fear was that he would lose some luggage or have some sort of stomach bug.
There hasn’t been a day since that accident that I don’t think about my dad. It sometimes still seems unreal, but God has been so good. The Bible says that He will never leave us or forsake us, and we take great comfort in that promise.
It would not have surprised me at all if this was the first of many trips my dad would have gone on, which is why I decided to go on a foreign mission trip only weeks after my dad’s death.
I had made plans earlier in the year to go with a local group on a medical/dental trip to Ecuador. After the accident, I decided there was no way I could go on this trip and leave my expectant wife, my 2-year-old-son and my grieving mom.
But one of the Honduras team members came by the house. She grabbed me by the cheeks and looked me in the eyes and said, “Yes, you can go because your dad would have wanted you to go.” After much prayer and talking with my wife, family and pastor, I decided I would go to Ecuador.
I am so glad that I did. God worked mightily that week and I also had two opportunities to share the story about my dad.
It is overwhelming to think about how many people have heard about the accident. My dad’s story has touched the lives of so many in Honduras, Ecuador and the U.S. We have already heard reports about people’s lives that have been changed forever because of this accident. A church has been started on the mountain in Honduras not far from the accident scene.
People in Honduras are asking why my dad left his comfortable life in Mississippi to go to Honduras. He did it because he loved those people and wanted to meet their physical needs. But most of all, he wanted to share that Jesus loved them, that He died for them. He prayed they would come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I hope that people will continue to go and serve where God leads them and find their place of service. Be sensitive to what He asks you to do.
I believe that my dad received the affirmation from Christ that is found in Matthew 25:21, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” May all of us be found as faithful when we meet our Savior face to face.