Thursday, November 10, 2011

LDS missionary killed while cycling

Actually missionaries.

20-year-old Derek Walker, from Fairfield, Idaho, was killed while riding a bicycle in Donna, Texas. He and two other missionaries were struck by a hit-and-run driver; two were fatally injured, the third was treated and released. The driver later turned himself in. Story HERE. (Another story from the Deseret News can be read HERE.)

I see 'em now and then when I'm riding. They're easy to spot... 19- and 20- year olds, always two-by-two, wearing the trademark white shirt and tie and name tag, often a suit jacket. In these parts at least, usually wearing helmets. (If they're not, they're breaking the rules.)

I always greet them warmly. "Hello, elders!"

Although I never met Elder Walker or his companion, I take this rather personally. Two of my brothers have gone Up Yonder.

Many, many, many years ago, I was a white-shirt-wearing elder. I served a 2-year Church mission in Uruguay.

It was probably much different in Uruguay in 1973, than in Texas in 2011. Except for Montevideo, the capital city, there weren't really any traffic issues because relatively few people owned cars. Public transportation, bicycles, etc. - that's how you got around.

I once had a bicycle mishap, and have always felt that I received some "divine protection."

My companion and I were riding home at night, after a visit went longer than expected. It was a dark, moonless night... really dark, because it was a couple miles out of town in a rural area. I was riding a gnarly old "beater" bicycle, with "drop" handlebars that had been rotated around for a more upright riding stance. I was also carrying a briefcase in one hand, and a filmstrip projector (roughly the size of a toaster) in the other. No headlight. Foolhardy, in retrospect. At the time, we were just anxious to get slowly and safely home.

I never saw the pile of dirt on the shoulder of the road. It was maybe 18 inches high, and it stopped my forward progress immediately. And it should have caused a disastrous face-planting crash. But it didn't.

As the bike catapulted, somehow I completely cleared those turned-up drop handlebars, and hit the ground running on the other side of the dirt-mountain. (I can't explain it.) Not only did I not land in a heap... I didn't drop the briefcase or projector! I shook my head in wonderment at my good fortune, and went back to check out the bike. The front rim was badly bent. "Taco'd," as they say. We walked our bikes the rest of the way into town... me holding my front wheel in the air since it wouldn't turn.

I took a photo of my bent bike the next day.

Why didn't the Good Lord protect His servants in Texas? (We missionaries are all on the errand of the Lord.)

I don't know. He rarely intervenes in human affairs, or there would be no tragedies.

I do know this: when you consider that there are 52,000+ missionaries* scattered across the globe... many assigned to work in unsavory, dangerous places... it is truly amazing how few of them are victimized by tragedy.

May the Lord bless and comfort the families and loved ones of Elder Walker, and his deceased companion Elder Strong, of Taylorsville, Utah.

* There are 52,000 full-time missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to the website. That number, of course, doesn't count the thousands of missionaries serving for other denominations, who I believe also enjoy special blessings, and perhaps special protection, because of the cause they are dedicated to.

1 comment:

heidi said...

Steve, thank you for your sensitive perspective on this tragedy. I have been sharing the story of these two faithful young men with my seminary students. Their lives and their families lives are examples of extraordinary faith, courage and devotion. Your story causes me to wonder how many times a day a missionary is spared injury in a miraculous way . . . and, like the organist at church on Sunday . . . we seldom notice anything but the missed notes. Thanks for reminding us that miracles occur everyday for those who love and serve the Lord.