Heat billowed up in waves off of the dusty wilderness [as we traveled along the border of Iran and Turkey]. As we came around a sharp bend in the road, we encountered a large truck … parked to the side of the road and blocking all traffic. The engine was shut off, which seemed strange to me. I got out of our vehicle and walked up to the truck. I found the driver sitting quietly in his seat. …
“Get back in your truck!” he said, gesturing wildly towards the road in front of us. “There are land mines everywhere! During the night, Iraqi terrorists came up and seeded the road with land mines.”
I looked up the road. All day that road had felt distant and secluded, but now . . . it felt downright ominous. What was hidden under the dirt?
“Okay,” I said. “We’ll just turn around and drive back to the last village . . .”
“No! You can’t do that!” he almost shouted. “You’ve driven past land mines just getting here. The army is working from the east and the west clearing the mines …. They will meet in the middle, somewhere close to here. You need to get back into your truck and turn the engine off so the rumble doesn’t trigger a detonation.”
“Really?” I was incredulous . . . and beginning to feel a bit apprehensive.
“Yes. We have to wait right here. Please don’t drive anywhere! It’s not safe!”
So I went back to the truck, turned it off, and explained the situation to Ann and the kids. It was a stifling, hot August day, probably 105 degrees. Ann and Elle were completely covered, wearing hijabs and long tunics. The hijab is a headscarf that wraps all the way around a woman’s head and can be pulled up in the front to cover her nose and mouth, leaving only her eyes exposed. Their tunics were long and tan, sort of like robes, and they wore them over their normal clothes.
To say it was hot and uncomfortable in that truck is an understatement. But we waited. There was nothing else we could do. The air was filled with an intense silence. Every once in a while dust billowed across the road. I looked up warily at the surrounding mountains and gorges and rock formations. It wouldn’t have surprised me to see terrorists appear at any moment.
A few hours later, the military came up behind us and passed by. … Suddenly we heard an explosion. Then news came back. The road had been cleared. A mine had been discovered only one kilometer in front of us, in the middle of the road. The road wasn’t that wide—two cars couldn’t pass each other except in select spots. We probably would’ve hit that land mine had the truck driver allowed us to continue on ahead of him.
I got out of our truck and walked up to the truck driver who’d warned us.
“Thanks for stopping us,” I said. “Can I ask a favor? Since it’s getting late, would you let me pass you?” I didn’t want to follow in the dust of his truck for the next 100 miles. Again he became very concerned.
“No, no,” he said. “I can’t do that. I have to drive in front of you. We don’t know how many land mines are still in the road. The military may have missed some. My truck is heavier, so if there are any mines left, I will detonate them. My truck might be able to absorb the blast . . . and in any case . . . I couldn’t stand to watch you and your family hit a mine in front of me. I will go ahead and clear the way.”
He pulled out and we followed him, passing slowly by the crater where the land mine had been detonated. It was massive. A land mine that size would’ve torn our truck to pieces!
For the next hundred miles we crept along in his dust. His love for a foreign American family was so great that he couldn’t let us go in front. He refused to put our safety at risk.
We finally came to a junction where the dirt road connected with an asphalt road. He honked as we passed by, and we beeped our horn back at him and waved. It brings me to tears every time I think of the kindness of that man.
-Stan Steward, who died of cancer while serving the Lord in Turkey (excerpt from Dying Out Loud by Shawn Smucker)
“Oh God, I stand in the gap today on behalf of Turks. God, raise up men and women who are so desperate to reach them that they feel as if they are going to die if they don’t.” -Stan Steward (Dying Out Loud Journal – a 28 Day guide to praying for the Turks.)
Image Credit: Praisaeng via FreeDigitalPhotos.net