The red shoes were her graduation shoes. After hours of pouring over pictures of shoes at Amazon.com and other online stores, Cori settled on a pair of red patent ballet-like shoes to go with her graduation dress. Not traditional by any stretch of the imagination, but so Cori. They remind me of a cross between the red shoes Dorothy needed to take from the wicked witch to get back to Kansas and the glass slipper Cinderella lost when fleeing the ball at midnight.
The black shoes were a pair of black flip-flops that we grabbed at the last minute that she and I could wear as shower shoes while we were at our Field Forum at the Mongolian Secret Histories Camp (MSHC).
It is fascinating the things your brain isolates to remember from traumatic events. She was wearing the red shoes when she got in the car to leave. The next time I saw her she was wearing one red slipper and one black flip-flop. In the accident one slipper came off and she grabbed the first thing she found for that foot -- a flip flop lying by the road. I’m always scratching my head by the fact that she never matches her socks any given day of the week. The fact that her shoes didn’t match when she got out of the van that brought her to the lodge after our car was turned to a twisted heap of metal was evidence that she walked away instead being carried away and that was just amazing.
I remember Jonathan having to hold a cold coke can on his mouth because they don’t have ice at MSHC. Everytime I pull the mate to the set of blue pillowcases off the linen’s shelf, I’ll see Bernie getting out of the van with the blood-soaked pillow case on his head.
These are the pictures that I see. Here is what I know. We have a wonderful God in heaven who goes before His children, watching over them, keeping the enemy at bay. I know this because everyone who has seen the car after the accident ask the question: “How many died?” The answer is no one. No one died. No one was critically injured. I spent our time there marveling every time I heard the laughter of my children louder than any of the other teens there.
I know this because the first person to arrive at the scene of the accident was the head of the Secret Service in Mongolia. He saw the entire thing happen. He stopped and took control, commandeering a van with a Mongolian family in it to take Bernie and the kids to the MSHC where I was waiting with Dr. Pham to make sure they were okay. He was on his way back to UB from Darhan. The next day he returned to the police station to make sure the incident was handled correctly and that Bernie was not charged with wrong-doing. In other such accidents the foreigner has been required to pay to get back his or her registration or license. He made sure that the official report stated, “The driver did nothing wrong.”
I know this because one of the next arrivals on the scene was the next door neighbors of the Manchester’s. There are over 1.5 million people in UB. Many of them travel the road from there to Darhan on a daily basis. But the one who was driving by at just the right time was two men who saw familiar faces on the side of the road and turned around to help. They loaded their SUV with as much of our things that was scattered across the Mongolian country-side and put them, along with Denise in Ellie in their van and brought them to MSHC.
I know this because of the men on our team who, upon hearing of the accident, left their dinner on the table and rushed to the scene to help deal with the local authorities, gather up everything that didn’t fit in the other vehicle and brought Jim back. I know this because of the prayers and support of fellow team members and visiting guests that surrounded us that evening.
I know this because of so many little things. I found it precious that Josh Ward, our visiting friend from our home church in Franklin, who stepped up to help with our worship time, had already come prepared to lead the kid’s singing with “Trading our Sorrows” and “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord.” Specifically, the lines, “I’m trading my pain...I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.” I watched my family go from barely able to move from soreness on Sunday morning to running up the hill in a race on Wednesday night. And of course, the second verse to Blessed Be the Name that says “Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering. Though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be your name.”
What else can be said? Blessed be the Name of the Lord. I’ve already determined that I will never throw away those red shoes. I will always keep them as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. So, if you visit my home someday and there is a pair of red shoes on the mantel or in some other prominent place, bless Him with me, okay?