A Long But Blessed Road Home

August 22, 2017 • Tanzania
Wilson with his mother and father in Tanzania.

Three Tanzanian bus crash survivors displayed grace in action as they finally returned to family and friends.

Sadhia, Wilson, and Doreen—the three ‘miracle’ children of Tanzania—experienced an emotional rollercoaster ride this past weekend as they returned home after months of medical care in the United States. These three survivors of a deadly May bus crash were transported back to Africa in the same way they left the continent—via the Samaritan’s Purse DC-8 aircraft.

The Tanzania bus crash survivors prepare to return home with their mothers aboard the Samaritan's Purse DC-8.

The Tanzania bus crash survivors prepare to return home aboard the Samaritan’s Purse DC-8.

First came a festive Friday morning celebration at the Mt. Kilimanjaro International Airport in Arusha. An estimated 1,000 Tanzanians offered words of praise and tears of joy as they welcomed them home following critical medical treatment at Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

Within 24 hours, the threesome returned to Lucky Vincent Primary School—where they attend—for an elaborate ceremony held in their honor. When they arrived, teachers and administrators immediately embraced them. The trio giggled with their fellow classmates and thanked them for their songs and speeches of appreciation and friendship. But the mood turned somber as they tearfully laid flower wreaths in front of a memorial tower dedicated to the 32 students, two teachers, and driver who died in the horrifying bus crash last May 6.

Wilson, Doreen, and Sadhia lay wreaths in front of a newly dedicated monument to the 32 students, two teachers, and driver who died in the May 6 bush crash.

Wilson, Doreen, and Sadhia lay wreaths in front of a newly dedicated monument to the 32 students, two teachers, and driver who died in the May 6 bus crash.

They next traveled across town to the Mount Meru Regional Referral Hospital, where they were reunited with the doctors and nurses who initially took care of them before they were airlifted to the United States by the Samaritan’s Purse DC-8. While remembering little about the accident itself, they do recall the kindness showed to them by the hospital staff.

“They were so good and helped us a lot,” Sadhia recalled. “I thank them so much.”

Dr. Elias Mashala, one of the hospital’s orthopedic surgeons, thanked God for both the healing the children have experienced and for the gift they brought with them from Samaritan’s Purse. World Medical Mission contributed badly needed hospital equipment and supplies that will improve the quality of patient care.

“These [items] represent a new chapter in our hospital,” he said. “They will have a big impact in reducing mortality and saving the lives of people who come here for treatment. We are very thankful to God for Samaritan’s Purse.”

Wilson is tearfully greeted by his younger brother and sister.

Wilson is tearfully greeted by his brother and sister.

Finally, as the Saturday sun was rapidly setting, the caravan escorting the children arrived at each of their respective homes. Doreen, Wilson, and Sadhia were immediately swallowed up by extended hugs from family members who had been awaiting this heartwarming moment for 15 weeks to the day since the accident.

“When I saw my daughter at the hospital three months ago, she was near death,” said Doreen’s dad. “I didn’t expect to see her again. I’m just so happy to have my daughter home now. I am amazed and thank God for His work. He did a miracle.”

God Sent You

Wilson, Doreen, and Saddhia held up bravely throughout the two-day whirlwind, even as their every move was chronicled by a large group of photographers and reporters. But by day’s end, they understandably crashed, emotionally exhausted.

Doreen and Kevin Negaard

After a whirlwind two days of activities, Doreen cries on the shoulder of Kevin Negaard, who helped save her life three months earlier. Kevin has been with the three children throughout their journey.

And yet, though barely able to keep their eyes open, they took the time to hug and thank and even joke with guests to their home from Samaritan’s Purse and Siouxland Tanzania Educational Medical Ministries—two organizations woven together by this triumphant story. Three of STEMM’s missionaries were on the scene shortly after the crash occurred, helping to save their lives. And Samaritan’s Purse put into action President Franklin Graham’s decision to fly these children from East Africa and then back home.

As the guests were ready to leave Sadhia’s home, her uncle stopped them and shared a heartfelt word of gratefulness. “We don’t have the words to adequately thank you,” he said. “I think God sent you just at the right time to save the lives of these three children. So again, thank you very, very much.”

Just before leaving for church Sunday morning to go worship with the families, Lazaro Nyalando, a Member of Tanzania’s Parliament and a STEMM cofounder, took a moment to reflect on Wilson, Sadhia, and Doreen’s months-long journey.

“These children carried the hopes and aspirations of a nation,” he said. “They went through so much and everybody knew how much they went through. And yet they were very gracious. They had smiles. They showed us hope.”

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