[Note: This is the story of a family’s drive in the face of death in Central America. Our family and Charles and Regina Sperry attended the same church when all of us lived in Independence, Missouri. Also, we performed some ministry together. The Sperrys now live in Honduras and we, in Canada. A more detailed story about Charles can be seen in “I Have a Story to Tell”.]
Just before 9:00 p.m., three vehicles travelling at high speed caught up with ours. Two passed and then slowed down. I successfully passed one truck, but could not pass the other one. Therefore, reacting quickly, I accelerated our truck to over 95 mph (153 kph). As we neared the top of a hill, I eased off a bit. The second truck took advantage of this and pulled along side of ours. Then a passenger started shooting! I had our truck ram the other vehicle. Regina yelled for the children to fall to the floor. At least seven bullets entered the truck.
Then, another man commenced shooting. Regina was hit on one hand and on her arm near her elbow. Three bones were broken and her elbow was shattered! A bullet which went through the driver’s seat hit one of the boys on the leg. Another bullet struck another boy in the back. I suffered slight injury as a bullet hit me on the arm and a fragment glanced off my head. Other bullets came close.
I continued to ram one of the cars until it disappeared and drove another one off the road. Then I raced our truck about 3 miles (5 km) until we reached a Shell gasoline station,and pulled up behind two semis. I asked for someone to call the police. However, there was no telephone or cell phone that was working. The two older children, who had trained for emergency preparedness with the Scouts organization, began to treat their mother in an effort to stem the loss of blood. Eventually, one of the truckers had his cell phone in operation and was able to contact the police. The assailants watched, but were afraid to attack now. Despite the injuries to Regina, three sons, and me, our family was blessed in not being killed.
In about twenty minutes, motorcycle police arrived. They did not want to escort us to a hospital, but wanted to wait for the firemen. I eventually persuaded them to do as I had requested because of Regina’s serious condition. After arrival at Hospital Nación in Mazetenango in about an hour, she was stabilized and all of the family were X-rayed. Work was done to remove any bullets. The police placed guards within the hospital and near the truck lest there be a hit squad sent to the scene. In the previous eight months, a number of other missionaries and foreigners had been shot; and, if they were not killed outright, a number of times a “hit” squad was sent into the hospital where they were to finish the job. The police wanted to avoid this.
The next morning, I contacted the American Embassy in Guatemala City. The local police responded well to the quick action by the American officials. The police commissioner took me back to the Shell station to examine the site. A witness there was able to identify one of the vehicles used in the assault. However, our assailants were never apprehended. Regina was released from hospital four days later so that she and the younger children could return to the United States by air. Neil Simmons and Kreg Levengood, ministers of the church, arrived in Mazentenango to help. The family and these men were taken to Guatemala City by ambulance with a police escort. The American Embassy provided security at their hotel in that city.
Under police escort, our oldest son and I left for Xela, where our truck was being repaired. After that, we would drive the truck back to Missouri. While the repair job was being carried out, I was able to perform successful missionary work in a home.
Both our family and medical personnel who treated us in Guatemala and in Missouri saw that a miracle had taken place to save our lives. However, Regina is partially crippled in her left arm. We have not had any emotional stress from this experience other than we are much more aware of our surroundings. Despite the horrible experience, I saw that it gave me the opportunity to provide ministry where I would not have done so otherwise. Our family testifies to the divine protection that they received during this experience.
My advice for anyone driving in mountainous areas of Central America is to pray a lot and not to drive on the highways after 6:00 p.m.