Friday, July 31, 2009

A Story from a Missonary Nurse

This is just part of an e-mail that my mother sent me a day our two ago. She is working with our mission's clinic in Honduras, and always has quite the stories to tell.

..."His is one of the many sad cases that arrive at our door as a consequence of sin. But in a land where grudges and arguments are resolved with slashing machetes, some of those involved don’t make it here in time to do them any good. Hopefully, that wasn’t the case with the man who was wheeled in on the Red Cross ambulance stretcher not long ago. It was only my second time in six summers of working here that the ambulance had ever brought me a patient, as opposed to the usual taking them from here to a larger facility. As soon as I got a good look at him, I knew we’d just be stabilizing him, and the ambulance crew would wait to take him on. At least, I hoped we could get him stable enough to leave, and not have him die on our treatment table. He was, without question, the most desperately wounded person I have ever seen. The stretcher was completely covered with a sheet of clear plastic, the size and thickness of a large tablecloth. Someone on either side held up the edges of the plastic so the copious amount of pooled blood would not pour off onto the floor, as yet a third person carefully guided the stretcher with its gruesome burden down the hall.

The wounded man was praying loudly and brandishing his Bible aloft in his right hand. His left arm lay inert and helpless beside him, grit and splintered fragments of bone mixed with the mangled flesh of a nearly severed forearm. The ambulance attendants and I lifted him with infinite care onto the table, and with shaking hands I inserted a large bore, #18 IV catheter into his right arm and started a liter of fluids infusing wide open to replace the lost blood. “Tell me what happened,” I questioned while assessing his other wounds: a deep, 2 ½ inch long gouge on the right side of his neck that narrowly missed his jugular vein and another, longer one on his right upper back. I worked to dress and bandage his wounds while listening, horrified, to his story.

During his walk down the mountain on the main dirt road leading to town, he had chanced upon a stranger, and began witnessing to him of Jesus. The fellow listened with mounting fury, which was unnoticed by the gentleman intent on evangelism. That is, he didn’t notice his companion’s agitation until the stranger suddenly jerked his machete from his belt, screaming, “Well, let’s see if your God can save YOU,” and took a frenzied swing at the guy’s head, intending to sever it from his body. His victim reflexively threw up his arm to ward off the attack, catching diagonally across his elbow and the length of his forearm a blow of sufficient force to have rolled his head into the dirt. His upper and both lower arm bones were all three shattered, and half of his forearm sliced away. Thankfully only the tip of the machete reached its intended goal, leaving the gouge on his neck. A second wild chop whistled down across the man’s shoulder and upper back before his attacker fled.

By the time I’d heard his story and his wounds had been dressed, the man was silent and pale, drifting in and out of consciousness. I started a second bag of IV fluids and prayed aloud for God’s healing touch, and for safety in the journey. We loaded him carefully onto the ambulance once more, and the driver revved his motor, heading out with his fragile cargo. Tragic indeed! Yet what comfort the viciously brutalized man had in the midst of his agony – the promise of a loving heavenly Father to go with him even through “the valley of the shadow of death.” Whether he crosses that valley now or not, he has the hope of an eternity in heaven. How much better than the end awaiting his would-be murderer, who hates so intensely a God who loves him so dearly that He died to save him."

Friday, July 24, 2009

And Now, For the Rest of the Story

After standing along the highway for about half an hour the police were ready to take the two criminals to the police station. Steve and I were supposed to go there too and give a report of what had happened. Thankfully the police with whom we were riding took us home first, and I was able to change. They then drove all over creation trying to find the police station (the police that we were with were from a different district and were too embarrassed to radio for directions). I’m guessing that we probably arrived at the police station at about 4:30.

We thought that we might just have to give a report and then we could be on our way. Simple, right? Guess again! I don’t think that anything having to do with the Costa Rican government is quick or painless. For some reason the officer who took our report had to write it out by hand. Or, should I say that she had to right THEM out by hand. The next time that I have to go to a police station I think that I will take my laptop and teach them how to us the copy and paste features. Then again, I don’t know if my laptop could even be hooked up to their archaic printer. Anyway, I had to give my information. Steve had to give his information. The police had to give their version of what happened. They had to fill out on official report on the robber and how the whole episode went down. Then they had to fill out the exact same report for the driver (enter copy and paste). They no doubt had to fill out a report of what both the bad guys had to say. Are you getting the picture?

After all the reports had been filled out, we were told that we would have to go to some court house a ways away to give more reports. But of course they had to wait for an official transport vehicle to come and take us and the criminals to the courthouse. So, we waited and waited and waited some more. After a while we asked if would could go outside and were given permission to stand out front with the robber (who was handcuffed to a gate) and the driver (who was handcuffed to a motorcycle). The robber kept his jacket pulled up over his head so that we couldn’t see him; he must have forgotten that we had been with him for about a half an hour along the road. The driver was only 17 (did I forget to mention that he didn’t have a license) and got really bored. I heard him complaining to a policeman that he had missed his supper.

Our transport, AKA a pickup truck, finally showed up at 8:30. If you do the math, that is about 4 hours after we first got to the station. Of course the efficient police force didn’t want to waste gas, so they got the bright idea to send five policeman, two Americans, and two robbers in a little Mazda extended cab. At least Steve and I got to sit inside; the bad guys were just handcuffed hooks in the bed of the truck.

By the time we finally got to the courthouse Steve and I decided that we really needed to call our wives to let them know what was going on. The last that they had heard from us was our goodbyes as we jumped into a police car around 4:00. But we were told that we couldn’t use the “only available phone” (I have my doubts) because it was in the same general vicinity of the criminals and we might actually see them. Never mind that we had seen them during the robbery, along the highway, at the police station, and then sat 4 inches from them (through a glass window of course) on the way to the courthouse.

Well, to make a way-too-long story a little shorter, we had to wait to call our wives until the officials got done doing whatever it was that they did with the robbers. By the time that we could actually call home it was about 10:00 and our poor wives were worried sick. We finally got done giving our reports at the courthouse (basically the exact same report that we had given at the police station [enter copy and paste again]), and then had a wild ride back home. Don’t ask me why the cops down here have to fly like crazy no matter what the occasion. We were going full tilt, running a red light our two with lights flashing. And oh yes, on the way back the two policemen who had sat in the bed with the robbers on the way to the courthouse got to sit inside and the two Americans had to sit in the bed. Steve saw a Costa Rican laughing at us; I was quite indignant. We finally made it home to our waiting wives at 11:45 PM.

The End

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Armed Robbery Part 2

...It is amazing that the police were able to capture the robber. He had jumped out of the getaway car, run to a bus stop, and actually gotten onto a public bus before the police located the getaway car! However, witnesses had seen him flee and when the police pulled over the getaway car they were told what the robber had done. Upon receiving a description of the bus, the police were able to chase it down and pull it over. Four officers stormed onto the bus and arrested the robber; I’m sure that the other riders were quite surprised!

The police searched the car and found the black scarf which the robber had worn under the front seat, and they also found the robber’s hat which he had tried to hide in the glove box. We were along a very busy road this whole time. Four police cars, a dozen police, a junker of a get-away vehicle, two Americans (one of them still in his PJs), and two young guys under arrest attracted plenty of stares. I did plenty of staring myself; cops and robbers make me very curious.

Some police retraced the route that the robber took when he jumped from the car, and they found Steve’s sopping wet wallet which had been thrown into a sewer. The approximately $60 cash that had been in the wallet were missing, but the robber hadn’t taken Steve’s credit card. The cash and the gun were never found, so it is possible that either there had been a third person in the getaway car who ended up not getting caught or that the robber threw the gun in a bush or something like that.

I wish that I had time to tell you what happened next, but I need to do a translation assignment so I will have to tell the rest of my story later. Don’t worry, there is plenty more to tell.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Armed Robbery Number Three

Never witness an armed robbery unless you have a lot of time on your hands.

Yesterday at about 3:00 in the afternoon I was sitting at my desk when I happened to look out our front window in time to see a man with a gun and a scarf wrapped around his face robbing our neighbor and fellow language school student Steve. It was literally happening about fifteen feet from where I was sitting. I turned and told Missy “someone is getting robbed!” The robber took Steve’s wallet, patted him down, and then turned to run. As the robber turned, he looked right at Missy and I who were just staring out the window in semi-shock. The thought struck me that the he had big eyes and looked very nervous. Steve later told me that the robber was really shaking during the robbery.

The daycare at language school is shut down this week due to swine flu concerns, and so I had stayed home with Devin all day yesterday. I was in my flannel lounge pants, a t-shirt, and flip-flops when the robbery took place.

When the robber took off, I hollered for Missy to open our electric gate and I took off after the robber. I knew that he had turned the corner and was heading toward a police station which sits two blocks away, and I was hoping that a police would be out. Just as I ran around the corner of our block a mailman on a motorcycle came around the corner at the other end of the block and headed straight toward me. I figured that the robber had run up the street from which the mailman had just come, so I started hollering to the mailman, “chase that guy!” He hollered, “did he rob someone?” and when I yelled “yes” he whipped around and headed back up the street after the robber. I kept running toward the street that the robber had taken, and when I got to the corner I could see the mailman following a brown car. I yelled toward the police station at the top of my lungs, and right away an officer came out.

The mailman followed the getaway car up to the main highway and then came back to where I and the policeman were standing and gave a description of the vehicle and the license plate number. The policeman immediately radioed out the information, and then I took him to talk to Steve.

The police man and I had perhaps been standing talking to Steve for two minutes (the officer was in the process of telling us that there are now about 15 robberies in our neighborhood a day) when a patrol car pulled up. Two officers jumped out and told Steve and me to hurry up and get in the car because a suspect had just been caught a little ways away. So Steve and I (of course I’m still in my PJs) jumped into the car and took off. We drove a couple of blocks up to the main highway and then started weaving through traffic with sirens blaring. Spectators were probably wondering what in the world was up with the two Americans sitting in the back seat of the police car.

We came upon several more police cars and the getaway car which had been pulled over about 3 miles from our house. Police were everywhere, and a young kid was standing beside the car. However, he didn’t look like the robber. Steve and I got out of the cop car and were standing there waiting when another police car pulled up with the robber sitting in the back seat. It is amazing how they caught him. I need to walk Missy to language school so I will have to tell the rest of my story later. Don’t worry, there is plenty more to tell.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tonight: The View From Our Front Window

Monday, July 6, 2009

Our First July 4th in Costa Rica

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Laptops and Gunshots

This morning on our way to language school we saw two guys wrestling up in front of us. I said, "Missy, I think somebody's getting robbed!" Sure enough, the two guys take off running, and then we heard a shot followed by a second shot a few seconds later. We hurried up to the corner to see what had happened and saw an American lying on the road.

We had passed the same American a few days earlier on our way to school. He would sit on the curb with a laptop, trying to get a wireless signal. Missy and I had commented about how foolish he was being. Well, today a guy pulled a gun on the American and asked for the laptop. Instead of just giving the robber the laptop, the American put up a fight. The robber shot the American in the foot, but the American kept chasing him, so the robber shot him in the leg.

Someone called 911 right away, but it took about 20 minutes for the police to show up (even though there is a police station a few blocks away) and 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. By that time the victim's thigh had swollen to the size of a basketball. Thankfully, the man was hit in the leg instead of the upper body and the bullet passed through. I was the only one on the scene who knew Spanish and English well, so I translated for the police and ambulance driver. Yes, I said ambulance driver, because he was the only one who came in the ambulance! A fellow student from our language school who had also seen the robbery take place ended up riding with the victim to the hospital, or else the poor guy would have been in the back of the ambulance all by himself.

So the moral of the story is, "Don't sit on a curb with a laptop, and if you get robbed and gunpoint stop chasing the robber after he shoots you in the foot." Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me, so I don't have any pictures to share.

A fellow language school student was robbed at gunpoint yesterday at about the same place. It is scary, but at the same time we just have to trust God and not live in constant fear.