New Bridges

New Bridges

by Sr. Ruth Percival MMM                      England                               09.02.2024

The story I want to tell you comes from my time as a new missionary in Makiungu Hospital, Tanzania. Makiungu stands at the top of a steep escarpment, so travelling by road up and down to the plain can be quite an adventure!

Our ambulance was a Land Rover and off I set one early afternoon to bring in a newly delivered mother and baby who both needed hospitalizing. When I set out in the early afternoon it was like any other journey. The wet season had begun, and I wondered what the road would be like. It was a sandy road that goes through scrub and then drops spectacularly over a thousand feet down into a valley where cotton grows, and baobab trees thrust their roots spectacularly into the sky.

We arrived without incident at the place where I thought we were going, but I was told to continue onwards. However, our progress was almost immediately blocked by road works. A new bridge was under construction over a swollen river which had appeared since my last visit. Undaunted, and following directions, I went “off road” and through a swamp to the river’s edge again. It was a ford in the best of times, but not passable on that day. I persuaded the husband to wade across the river with his bicycle to fetch his wife and child who were “Just over there”. He was to come back to the new bridge which I felt would be safe enough for the weight of foot passengers. He had difficulty crossing the river but managed it.

We headed back to the new bridge. There we were met by a little man who was the guardian of the place. I explained our problem about not being able to ford the river, even in a Land Rover, and his eyes twinkled. With a truly Shakespearian flourish, he told us to use the bridge. I doubted my correct understanding for what I saw was a construction site only. Cement, steel supports, piles of gravel and wood, but not exactly in the right places. I thanked him and told him I would wait!

He insisted that we use the bridge and I equally insisted that we would wait in safety. Then he showed me the tyre marks going in the direction of the bridge and said that a Land Rover had passed that morning, I drove up and sure enough it looked all right. I put my foot on the accelerator and tried not to look at the water flowing on either side. Soon we caught up with the man pedalling furiously. After picking him up, we drove a further 19kms before we came to the “very nearby” house.

On the way back I thought about the new bridge and thanked God for it. Many times since then, I have wondered about the “new bridges” God has given me in my life and I have preferred to wait in safety. I wonder what new bridges are ahead of me in life’s journey?