Adjusting After the Bomb
ADJUSTING AFTER THE BOMB
I've been steadily writing my Bible papers, but people ask to hear more personal details of the bomb and my stories of self-adjustments after loss of eyesight.
When I awoke in the hospital someone came to my bedside to ask if I could give them a telephone number to call so a friend or relative might come. My identification had given my address but no telephone number. I could visualize our mission, also friends and their streets and houses, but I could not pluck a number from my memory still woozy from something. Finally I gave them a stuttering number ending with, "It is either 31 32, or 32 31. Call both!" Soon a friend rushed in, and some hours later began a stream of church friends that climbed into the scores and caused trouble to the hospital.
Trying to talk to the first visitor I realized two and a half days had passed since the bomb explosion. I was woozy then from being under drugs and anesthesia for long hours of somewhat complicated operations. I had not lost consciousness at the time of the blast, recalled the spot, situation and time clearly, and talking this over with some of those first friends we came to the conclusion it was not directed against me but that I had just been passing a police or soldier station and the bomb had been aimed at them, along with three or four others in various places each day for about a week. In the other, they had resulted in more destruction and many deaths. However, I had been spared alive which had to be a miracle. Friends went to see my car and reported it a complete wreck. Motor, wheels, tires, front and rear, the whole looked like it had been through one of those big bailing machines that take a junk car and compress it into a lump of scrap iron.
But, I had not lost consciousness so was not very worried about myself at the time, just shocked at the tremendous crash I thought was a giant, speeding truck sideswiping me
Then people came and I could see booted feet of soldiers. I tried to explain things, but found words would not come out logically, then a medic shoved a needle in my leg and I went out.
In the hospital my second awareness was trying to hunt around with my left hand to find my right arm. There seemed to be a bolster along my right side, perhaps to keep me from rolling out of bed, but no arm. Gradually I became aware that the big heavy dead thing was my arm and the intern began to explain it had been cut and shredded deeply such that they could not sew some blood vessels together but had to make an incision in my side and pull up sinews, and blood vessels, and pass them via the shoulder and down into the arm.
When he saw how cold and lifeless it was he put his stethoscope on it in various places, then went to tell a doctor it ought to be amputated. But, I heard them talking and began to haul that heavy dead weight up onto my body with my left hand and to massage and work on it steadily. When the senior doc saw my doing that he said, "Leave it for the time. See what develops."
I was working on the arm, but not feeling very desperate about it. I recalled that some years before a young student preacher had his whole arm torn off in an automobile accident and his supervisor, instead of remarking how difficult it might be to adjust to that, had quietly said, "He will not live." He had not. So I felt either the arm would respond, or we would both go. But there was no tragedy to that. A consecrated Christian dies out to this terrestrial life long before. He sees the awful power of death to the unsaved, and makes appropriate changes so that he can go into that experience which must inevitably come to all. We have thereafter made repeated sacrifices of every kind to lay up treasures in heaven, have our hearts and desires there, be with loved ones gone before and our loving Lord, and leave this valley of tears without having to make more sacrifices nor other sufferings. So, work on the old arm, but don't worry about it or anything. Later on a nurse was sent in who, for an extra fee, would work on making the arm get back some usefulness. "Move it in that direction until it hurts, then over there likewise, then up, then down, then start over again for an hour." I asked if that was all. "Yes, just keep going steadily and I'll be back tomorrow." I said, "Don't bother." She was sitting there while I was doing all the work, so I set to work a lot more than just one hour,I tried to just get into a habit, always moving that arm.
Some weeks later a fellow missionary, seeing how the arm was responding, sadly recalled that his sister had suffered some kind of trouble with a paralyzed arm, but instead of steadily working it, she had sat, worrying, pitying herself, then using it as an excuse for not doing much work. I felt he was giving me a bit more credit than I deserved because once I got the habit of exerting the arm, it would not let ME rest. If I forgot or neglected, it would begin to ache, so I was rather forced to keep up the exercises even though at times I felt lazy.
As to the eyesight, I was not trying much to adjust because I assumed my sight would gradually come back to a usable degree. As time went on I began to realize that the blast had carried both windshield shards and bits of the bomb down into the inner eye behind the retina. When I went to Miami for the eye operation the doctor said they discovered a pile of junk down in there, not only glass, but plastic, bits of tin as from home-made bombs and burnt gunpowder. They cleaned it out as best they could, sewed up the detached retina, waited several days then took off the bandages. The doctor looked into the eye with his instrument and called to some colleagues nearby, "Come look at this, and you will see a masterpiece." I said, "The operation was a masterpiece, only I cannot see." He was stunned speechless.
Strangely, I was not stunned with disappointment. It was almost as if I had expected as much. In this life if one does not expect great realization of dreams, then he won't be repeatedly depressed in disappointments. Be content with very modest material and physical riches, but hold on to God in faith expecting great spiritual ones.
Returning to Guatemala I was visited by countless Christians, both sincere friends and others who had heard of my famous bomb accident. Friends came to pray for healing, and the others brought the most renowned evangelist who had great successes in healing campaigns. Fine! I welcomed all. Who knows by what man, means, or method God may choose to work His miracles. But, all to no avail. Old time Wesleyan holiness warriors prayed loud and long, and I sincerely respect them and their power in prayer, but along with praying for healing we must always keep in mind the oft repeated Bible lessons teaching us to add, "Not my will be done, but Thine." Paul repeated his prayers for healing while God chose for him something better, a thorn in the flesh, physical poor vision, but celestial visions not given to ordinary mortal man to see. International evangelists were advertising their tremendous healing campaigns, and friends came with their car to take me. But when some urged, "Now don't express any idea of doubt. Faith is all powerful. Force it. Make it work," I said, "No. Jesus could have called down a legion of angels to free Himself, but instead He said, 'Not my will but Thine be done,' even though others were yelling all about, 'He saved others; himself He cannot save.'" Similarly the early disciples were performing many miracles of all kinds in the early church, but James died a martyr. God has answered countless prayers for all of us praying, believing servants, but at times it is not His best will, though He may do something if you insist, but then carnality takes over in the place of the purity of consecration and communion with Him.
God may miraculously hear an unbeliever or a new convert, but then allow some "thorn in the Flesh" to be unhealed in one of His elder servants. In fact, it is almost the rule rather than the exception.
So, with the little eyesight one has steadily deteriorating, you face up to blindness. I have had considerable experience with blind people, visiting, taking them places in my car, or picking them up for meetings, or just being friends. Long ago I learned that if someone never knew anything but blindness, he could be perfectly happy AS LONG AS he did not compare his lot with others'. The Bible teaches us to rein up our minds in self-discipline. The Bible has just everything. Now put it into practice. THINK of what should be done, solve the problems of how to get it done, and keep out of the mind any destroying worries or "Why did it have to happen to ME" wails.
Most of us like puzzles of all kinds. Fine! Here is an important one or whole set of puzzles on how to solve getting your work done without sight, how to get where you want to go, and how to relearn nearly everything! Instead of sinking into self-pity and being an invalid, just solve the puzzles and problems, and when one seems too difficult, take it to God for help and light.
Soon, people begin saying, "You know, your taking it so wonderfully is a greater blessing to me than a physical miracle."
A moody, self-pitying young wife came to church a few times but was desperately disappointed because her problems were not all swept away in one great hour. She said to me, "Don't you feel just desperate at going blind?" I replied, asking somewhat surprised, "Why, what is that compared to eternity?" She stopped, shocked for a moment at that, I later heard, and then rushed to the altar in tears, asking God to cure her self-problem instead of just expecting all the problems of life to be easy.
In visiting jails, holding meetings here, visiting inmates, I have thought that I wouldn't mind being here when they have a good library. This was in the U.S., not in Mexican jails where it is quite another story. In a decent jail, one might do a little work in the shop but have loads of time to do all that reading one keeps hearing about and dreaming about, old literature, science, travel, history. One might go back in time to the far corners of the world and see things through the eyes of the best writers, picturesque places. Now I had more time than before, but could not read. That was a temptation for despondency for a bit, but before that, try to solve the problem.
Keep a few good books on hand and when people come to visit, instead of just killing precious time in small talk, set them to reading aloud. Some do not like it and do not return soon. Others find they love reading aloud; and sharing the material, scene, humor, or Bible insight can seem doubly exhilarating as compared to always just reading alone. Later I heard of Talking Books which has a very complete library of every kind of book a regular library has, all on economical thin records, including and especially my own complete Bible.
Of course, everything is not perfect or ideal. This is not heaven yet. I wish I could read correspondence for myself instead of having to rely on students who are just learning a little English. It is especially difficult for them to read some things like my Bible commentaries, but ironically, now I have more time for such study.
That reminds me of my early boyhood. I was lucky to have a nickel for an ice cream cone about twice a week, but longed to have a dime for a more satisfying double-decker! Then the ironies of life, years later, I had a pocket with sufficient dimes, but could not indulge because of indigestion.
Friends ask me if I miss not having a car now. The answer is "Yes," but only at certain times. At other times I give thanks I am freed from the enslaving power of cars. They take one a long ways in a short time, but there is continual upkeep, expense, need for repairs and frustrations, licensing and hassle with traffic and police. Now when a church sends word that they need my help and presence, they also send a car. I have been upgraded. Now I have chauffeurs.
Years ago I resolved not to be overly dependent on a car. We had organized a group to go out to villages to some inviting church for sessions of 3 to 7 days. There would be Bible study classes for the local believers who wanted to preach, then half a day of door-to-door witnessing and invitation, then meetings in the evenings. It was a very wonderful program, but there came a time when my own commitments were in other places and the group had the opportunity but needed a car.
I gave them mine and went by foot, bus and burro. It meant walking distances in heat or cold, rain or shine, then waiting long periods for undependable buses, but many special blessings came out of that period. It was a lesson noted by a large part of the preachers who did not have cars and were unwisely putting too great an urgency desiring one. It was a very productive and blessed time.
It had an entry on the red side, though. The local boys who were using the car knew nothing about mechanics or upkeep and maintenance. A young American does not have to go to vocational school about cars. He grows up with them in his blood. People in other countries get their first car, but have no idea of the myriad of details in taking proper care of it, regular checks of oil and water, greasings, battery water and battery connections, and on and on, especially the sound of the motor so that you stop and correct before some small things get major. The preachers with my car ran it steadily, evidently, without the remotest thought of any such duties, worries or cares and within two months had blown the engine to bits.
I went on afoot or a horseback noting the special blessings, even though later on I would probably get a car again.
There was a very godly servant of the Lord, Oliver Wilson, back in the early days of the Pillar of Fire, who went from farm to farm in the hills of Pennsylvania, usually on foot, often accompanied by Brother Peters, both now in the cemetery, that very hallowed ground at Zarephath where lies my father, also a saint of the Lord. Brother Oliver Wilson reported a steady stream of people getting saved, and seeing saved souls pray through to a sanctifying deeper vision and consecration and also selling Gospel literature all over their area. When God took that faithful servant Home, some other younger workers took on the same area, but they presented their elders with the proposition that a car or motorcycle would be ever so mush more efficient than going all those distances from farm to farm on foot. Oh, indisputably! What do you think? Did their number of new converts remarkably increase? In fact it dwindled almost to the vanishing point. Before, the farmers were very impressed with any disciple trudging afoot those distances. Also the time would be far from wasted as those men of God communed with their Master and plead for the salvation of the sinners. The results showed the spiritual power of God and what He could do.
Later with workers arriving in a car, they were looked on as salesmen. It was a different atmosphere, dependence on men and methods and machines. There were fewer converts and those gained so often were superficial. The whole modern evangelistic age that calls itself rich, but is poor in the sight of God.
My testimony is now that far from being despondent over loss of sight, I am rejoicing in the Lord, testifying of His abundant Grace, not just to endure some affliction, but to REJOICE, not just patiently trying to bear up under a cross, but rather VICTORIOUS.