We couldn’t hold gospel outreaches and preach in Mozambique, but thankfully, the government said our visas still allowed us to enter to assist the poor. For the next couple of years, we often drove back and forth from our home in Nelspruit to Maputo and other points in Mozambique. Every time we reached the border I’d have to fight the fear that engulfed me because of the impending dangers I could face during the next few hours. I knew that as soon as I crossed that imaginary line, my life was at risk.
We continued to encounter burned-out shells of cars and trucks. Some were still burning or smoldering. We also continued to encounter other obstacles, including numerous military roadblocks. The worst thing about those roadblocks was that you never knew who was in charge. Were they government soldiers or rebels? It didn’t matter that much because either side could be dangerous.
We often came upon roadblocks manned by a couple of non-uniformed teenagers with assault rifles and three or four hand grenades hanging on a string around their necks. It was a time of intense pressure and real, heart-thumping, stomach-clinching fear. We had no option but to completely trust in God to get us safely through.
On one occasion, as we drove into Mozambique from Swaziland, we rounded a bend in the road and came upon a Volkswagen Beetle engulfed in flames.
“Oh no!” I slammed on the brakes. “There are people in that car?” Through the flames, I could see someone frantically trying to open the driver’s side door, but it would not budge. I jumped out of our truck and ran to see what I could do to help. I couldn’t get closer than 15 or 20 feet because the flames were too intense. It made me sick to know that at least two people had just burned to death right in front of me. And it also frightened me to know that the rebels who had attacked the car were undoubtedly still nearby.
There was nothing I could do but get back in the truck and continue on our way, shaking with shock and grief over what I had just seen.
We knew that God was with us. If a rocket or mortar hit us, we would instantly be with Him in heaven. But that did not keep us from fearing the danger that waited around every turn.
Not long after our encounter with the burning Volkswagen, I had another close call on this same stretch of road. This time, I was alone and on my way home. It was a bright, sunny afternoon, and I bounced along on the bombed out, pock-marked road. As I drove, I constantly scanned the horizon for signs of trouble.
Up ahead, the road sloped down into a green valley. Hills covered with scrub brush rose sharply on either side of the roadway. Relaxing for even a moment on the roads in Mozambique wasn’t a luxury we had.
Suddenly I thought I saw something move. It was a couple of hundred meters in front of me, high up on the right side. I held my breath and squinted to get a better look. There it was again. As I drew closer, I could see that a rebel soldier was looking down on the roadway. The sun glinted off the barrel of his assault rifle.
He had probably seen me before I had seen him, and now he ran down the hill as fast as his legs would carry him, heading toward the spot where the road came closest to the hill.
I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t outrun a bullet. And I didn’t think I could get to that spot in the road before he did. Once again, I called out the same name I had shouted on that racetrack so many years ago. “Jesus!” But this time it was a heartfelt prayer. “Please help me!” I pressed down on the accelerator, but I couldn’t go too fast because the torn-up road would have ripped my truck to pieces.
Ahead of me, I saw the soldier exit the brush and stand on the roadside. He lifted his rifle and prepared to shoot. I tensed, awaiting the bullet that would end my life here on earth. It never came.
To this day, I don’t know what happened. Perhaps his gun jammed, perhaps he changed his mind. Perhaps he was out of ammunition. All I know for sure is that I wasn’t about to go back and ask him. Jesus heard my prayer and protected me once again as I took that curve.
Hear from Peter’s widow Ann and two of their children this Monday on LIFE TODAY. Excerpted from Death Defying Faith by Peter Pretorius. Copyright © 2018 by Inprov, Ltd. Used by permission.