SAMARITAN'S PURSE HAS RESPONDED TO THE EAST AFRICAN NATION'S TRAGEDY BY TRANSPORTING THE HURTING CHILDREN TO THE U.S. FOR URGENTLY NEEDED MEDICAL CARE.
Samaritan’s Purse has brought three severely injured Tanzanian children, the only survivors of a bus accident that killed 35 people and recently made world news, to the United States. They will be receiving specialized trauma care at a hospital in Sioux City, Iowa.
On Friday, May 12, Samaritan’s Purse sent our DC-8 airplane to Tanzania to pick up the children—Wilson, a 12-year-old boy; Sadhia, a 12-year-old girl; and Doreen, a 13-year-old girl. Their mothers have accompanied them on the journey, along with a Tanzanian doctor and nurse, as well as Ed Morrow, director of World Medical Mission, the medical arm of Samaritan’s Purse. They all arrived in Charlotte late Sunday night, May 14.
Update: The children are resting well at Carolinas Medical Center and are expected to be transported to Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City today. “I appreciate the Carolinas Medical Center responding quickly overnight to accommodate these children,” Franklin Graham said. (as of May 15)]
“When I heard about the tragic bus accident in Tanzania and the three children who survived, I knew Samaritan’s Purse had to do everything we could to help,” President Franklin Graham said.
Thirty-two of the children’s primary school classmates and three adults—two teachers and the driver—were killed in the May 6 crash when their bus plunged off a gravel road into a steep ravine in remote northern Tanzania. They were on the way to another school to take an exam when the accident occurred. Tanzania President John Magufuli called the accident a national tragedy.
How the plight of the surviving children came to the attention of Franklin Graham is providential at every step and begins with three missionaries who acted as Good Samaritans at the scene of the horrifying crash. The missionaries, serving with Siouxland Tanzania Education Medical Ministries (STEMM), happened upon the accident moments after it occurred.
Jumping out of their vehicle and rushing to join others already scurrying to help were Jennifer Milby, a licensed nurse practitioner; Manda Volkers, a nurse with 25 years of experience; and Kevin Negaard, the executive director of Sunnybrook Church in Sioux City.
As they pulled bodies from the wreckage, the missionaries found three children who, despite massive injuries, still had heartbeats. After stabilizing them, the missionaries helped put them into arriving ambulances, which rushed them to a local hospital.
“Kevin, Jennifer, and Manda were by the sovereignty of God late by an hour and a half that morning to where they were going,” explained Dr. Steven Meyer, a Sioux City orthopedic surgeon and STEMM’s co-founder and board president.
“If they had been two minutes earlier, they never would have seen it, and they never would have known about it. “There’s no question that God put them there at that point in time,” Dr. Meyer added.
The three visited Wilson, Sadhia, and Doreen at the hospital the next day and thanked God they were alive and stabilized. But the team knew the children needed much more extensive medical care beyond what local hospitals could provide. That’s when they sensed that God wanted them to do everything they could to bring them to America. They approached Dr. Meyer and other board members who were also in Tanzania for that trip and told them of their conviction.
They discussed it, prayed about it, and contacted medical personnel at the Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City as to its feasibility. They received the green light.
Now they had to receive approval from the Tanzanian government. At the same time, how would the children be transported to Iowa? Major pieces of the puzzle still had to be solved. The STEMM team prayed for God’s direction. Over the next 72 hours, His provision became clear.
God Answers Many Prayers
Lazaro Nyalandu, a STEMM co-founder and former member of Tanzania’s parliament, arranged a meeting for Dr. Meyer with Samia Suluhu Hassan, Tanzania’s vice president. She agreed to talk with the country’s president John Magufuli.
Meanwhile, Dr. Meyer and others began contacting U.S. government officials to explore the use of a military evac plane. When those talks stalled, Rep. Steve King from Iowa’s 4th congressional district—a good friend of Dr. Meyer’s—contacted Franklin Graham. He called Dr. Meyer and offered his assistance.
Dr. Meyer was stunned by Graham’s telephone call.
“When he said, ‘Dr. Meyer, this is Franklin Graham from Samaritan’s Purse, how can we help you,’ I just broke down,” Dr. Meyer said. “I sensed the hand of God on my shoulders and the Lord telling me, ‘Take a deep breath, this is going to happen, I’ve got this.’”
Within 30 minutes, a Samaritan’s Purse disaster response team was assembled and rushed into action—gaining special clearances from the FAA to allow two flight crews to fly the plane 24 hours nonstop.
At a heartrending memorial service in Tanzania for the 35 who were killed, tens of thousands attended. Vice President Hassan recognized the efforts of the American missionaries and thanked them. Then she said that her government would assist in every way possible in the transport of the three surviving children to America and back again. God provided once more.
And so that’s how the Samaritan’s Purse DC-8 aircraft brought these injured children to America for trauma care.
“We are so grateful for Mercy Medical Center Sioux City providing the medical care they need,” Graham said. “I believe God has a plan for these children, and we are praying for their recovery.”
“I believe God has a plan for these children, and we are praying for their recovery.”—Franklin Graham
Dr. Meyer anticipates the children will be in Sioux City for a couple of months.
Following extensive surgeries, the children will receive physical therapy as well as counseling to help them recover emotionally and psychologically. While there, they and their mothers will stay at the homes of local residents, who have opened up their arms and embraced these families.
“The entire country of Tanzania is going viral with this story,” said Dr. Meyer, who committed his life to Jesus Christ 21 years ago while attending an open-air meeting in Hong Kong.
“It’s been baffling to many Tanzanians, some of whom are Muslims, why these Americans were willing to help save these children,” he added. “It’s been a ray of light in this tragic event where God gave us a tremendous opportunity to share Jesus’ love and to help them understand what the Gospel really means.”
Please pray for the children and the doctors who will be treating them.
_Samaritan's Purse stands ready to respond at a moment’s notice whenever and wherever disaster strikes. We specialize in meeting critical needs for victims of conflict, disaster, famine, and epidemics throughout the world, often working through ministry partners on the ground. We provide food, water, shelter, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ._