The Jeep Ride That Changed Your Lives Before You Were Even Born

tim92

Dear Ezra and Lian,

Ezra, at the beginning of May, you went to the school program, “Racing Against Drugs.” Sadly, I realized then that you are now old enough to read this story, but your sister sure isn’t. Please keep this from her for at least a few more years. When she is old enough, she needs to read it. This is “The Jeep Ride That Changed Your Lives Before You Were Even Born.” Another title might be “Back in Champhai.” Either way, this story will explain why a lot things have happened in your life and will happen in the near future.

Until November, 2013, I had buried this story in my mind. I had no recollection of it at all. For almost twelve years, I never thought about it. Things happened in 2013 that dredged this back up to the surface. While having a massage for my aching neck and back and talking about Rob Ford, the former mayor of Toronto, I found myself telling this story.

I had a real good friend in Mizoram. I lived in his house for a couple of months. We ate his wife’s amazing cooking. I played with his young son. We talked for hours. I learned fascinating stories about Mizoram and his life. He was incredibly honest with me. I became like his priest to whom he confessed everything. He was smart. He knew a little bit of everything. His father had me edit his memoirs, which were very interesting since he drafted the Mizoram Peace Accord. I ended up “working” for them. They were a very powerful family in Mizoram, but they were my friends too. I loved them. His name was Fela. His father was the former Congress politician and Chief Secretary Pu Lalkhama.

Later that year, Fela and one of his Mizo friends were taking your mommy, Auntie Beth, our friend Sarah, and me from Champhai to the Burma border. We were driving in his big jeep called a Sumo. It was a beautiful day. We were travelling over rolling hills in the countryside. There were hardly any vehicles on the road.

Two things quickly changed this ride from a relaxing trip to one of stress and fear. First, Fela was drinking hard liquor and getting drunk fast. About halfway into the trip, I saw that he was also taking drugs. His mind was getting messed up. Second, he brought a loaded handgun.

When we stopped for a brief rest, Fela took some shots at the trees for target practice. Even as we were driving, he was shooting out the window. My friend had become a mad man with a gun. Since we were getting close to the border, this was very dangerous behaviour. We could get shot by the border guards. I knew I had to get the gun from my friend.

I asked to see the revolver. I was admiring it when I distracted my drunk and spaced-out friend. I hid the gun in my stuff so that neither of the Mizo guys would know where it was. Then my friend started talking about how we would be crossing the border illegally (for the non-Mizos). This situation was getting worse.

At this point, I will simply say this: as we were pulling into the border area, I whispered to your mom that it was extremely important to do as I said. (I was trying to keep the gun out of my friend’s hands.) Also, I needed to make sure we pacified my drunken, obstinate friend. We needed to walk to the river on the border and get out of this place As Soon As Possible. We parked the vehicle and got out. Your mom wouldn’t listen and started talking loudly about the gun. This made my friend realize that I now had the gun. To keep my friend and his friend quiet and avoid a scene near the border crossing, I had to quietly give the gun back. An Indian or Burmese soldier could have seen or heard this at any moment.

If it is possible to yell at someone while whispering, that is what I was doing to your mother. We were less than 100 yards from the Burma border and, potentially, soldiers of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. There was an active insurgency against the Myanmar dictatorship (junta) by the Chin (mega-tribe including Mizos). Those soldiers would be happy to blow the head off any Mizo walking around with a revolver in his hand regardless of which side of the border he stood. Just because their dads were important in India meant nothing to soldiers who routinely raped, killed, extorted, used slave labour, and beat up Chin people. Even now, a Chin is automatically accepted as a genuine refugee in Canada or the United States because of this persecution. Thankfully, the Burma (Myanmar) government has improved immensely since 2012. I was so fed up with the Mizos in that jeep being complete idiots. I was finished trying to keep them from getting killed.

Fortunately, at that time there was no bridge, just a crude, rowboat-sized ferry. Consequently, it was not an official border crossing or customs point. Unbelievably, there wasn’t a single soldier in sight on either side. Eventually, my friend’s friend gave me the gun when he realized what I was trying to do. We saw Burma from across the river. I got all of us out of there as soon as I could.

By the time we got to our hotel, my friend Fela was nearly a zombie. I practically dragged him to the toilet in his room. As he threw up, I had to hold his head so he didn’t drown in his own vomit. Then he had to take a pee. I had to pull his pants and underwear down. My left hand had his one arm wrapped around my shoulders. My right hand held his bare hip. I tried to steer the firehose of urine into the Indian-styled toilet. Half of it was on the floor or on my shoes. When he finished, I hauled his body to the bed. He was like a sack of potatoes. He was soaked with the hard liquor sweats, urine, and vomit. I pulled off his shoes, slung his arms and legs around, and wiped vomit from his face and clothes because he was completely passed out. I looked down on my mess of a friend and sat down on the edge of the bed with my head in my hands. I wanted to cry.

It became crystal clear to me at that moment; Fela was going to throw it all away. He could have become anything but he was going to destroy all that potential. Here was a man who could become a government minister in the state of Mizoram or a successful businessman or the leader of a charity or school, but he was in the process of losing it all. Eventually, he would lose his wife and son. He got out of business and stayed out of politics. I don’t know what he is doing now but I’m sure he is nowhere near where he could have been. Within a few months of this event, his father Pu Lalkhama was threatening to sue me for unjust reasons. My friend Fela never defended me. He was paralyzed or in a drunken stupor. Mommy and I left Mizoram to prevent a big quarrel between families.

Linus, a character from the Peanuts Gang, said, “There’s no heavier burden than a great potential.” It weighed heavily on my friend. He had the intelligence, skills, money, and connections to do remarkable things. He wasted his life due to untreated depression, drunkenness, and drugs. He could hardly see the point of even being alive, which is why he did such dangerous things.

The pathway is there for all three of us to walk down. You probably won’t even have to choose it; forces and people are bringing it our way. It is so easy. I am doing my best to stop that from happening. All I can do is delay it. The final decision is up to you. You will have to choose to forgive. If not, this is your future, kids. Trust me, it IS true.

You are going to have to forgive the same things my friend didn’t forgive. Soon I will tell you what those things are, but first, you need to put on an attitude of forgiveness. You are going to have to trust God, something my friend never did. God can easily overcome this through you. Yet, if you decide to hold onto the bitterness and disappointment coming your way, you will end up in a pool of sweat, vomit, and urine. Only with the supernatural power of God’s Holy Spirit working in you can you hope to conquer this.

There are phenomenal things you can do with this one life God has given, or you could throw it all away like my good friend did. If you go to rock bottom, I will follow you down and clean you up. I’m not scared of messes. I am scared that you might try to fight this battle by yourselves. You need Jesus; lean on Him.

When I realized that the scene of my passed-out friend on the bed could be your future, my perspective changed. Everything that led this man to that spot is prepared for you. People, places, and events are all set up and waiting for you. The trail is blazed. Don’t worry, though; we’re not going there anymore. We got out of the jeep driven by a maniac. I’m sorry we didn’t get out sooner. The road is just as dangerous, but the driver is totally different. God opened the doors on His bus. Hold my hands. Hop on board. Enjoy the ride.

Love,

Dad

P.S. You are probably wondering, How did this change our lives? I will tell you soon.

 

 

The Bus Ride That Changed My life

tim36

Dear Ezra and Lian,

I got off the train late in the evening in Guwahati, Assam, India in February, 2000. At that time, the city was a dangerous place. Over the years there have been bombings there. The wild, wild east of India. I tried to find the bus station and a bus for Mizoram. I spent a long time wandering around a very dicey part of the city trying to do that in the dark. Finally, I got on a bus.

First, we made our way up the mountains to Shilong in the state of Meghalaya. We had a layover there. Many people got off and new people got on. This was a little bit of a risky journey. I knew that your aunt and the shared jeep she traveled in had once been stopped by bandits/rebels on these roads. By bus, this trip would take about 14 hours on a roller coaster ride over mountains, along narrow, pot-holed roads mostly with no guardrails. I had been travelling for days straight across India. I was stressed and anxious and very tired.

Before the bus engine started, an elderly Mizo man prayed for a safe journey. I would come to find out that this happens all the time in Mizoram. The bus pulled away and began to make the long, slow journey to Aizawl. Not 1 minute passed before a young Mizo man began to sign a Mizo song. Then others joined in with perfect harmonies. Young and old alike sang along. Then I knew I was truly on my way to Mizoram. The Mizos had me right then and there. It was like a switch had been flicked on in my heart. I was in love with these people.

The singing went on for hours. They were mostly strangers, but they were united in song. Throughout the trip, I saw Mizo community spirit (Tlawmngaina ) in action. Young people talked to old people. People looked out for one another (especially when we stopped in Silchar).

I didn’t really realize that by the time I arrived in Aizawl, I was a new man. That bus ride changed my life. The course of my life has been forever altered because I got on that bus.

Here’s the thing, kids. If someone had shown me all the things that would happen by getting on that bus, I would have run away.  Even if I knew all the amazing things coming my way like you two, I could never knowingly volunteer for everything else. I only had enough faith to get on the bus. I didn’t have enough faith to live at the bus’s destination or endure the journey. Running away would have been a terrible mistake. I’m thankful I didn’t.

One of God’s greatest mercies to humanity is that we don’t know the future events of our lives. We may get sneak peeks, but we could never handle all the details. God is pulling up in His bus. He has opened the doors. I ask, “Where are we going?” God replies, “Do you trust me?”

“What’s going to happen?”

“Do you trust me?”

“Are we going to be ok?”

“Do you trust me?” Hold my hands, kids. We’re getting on board. Enjoy the ride.