[continued from May 7, part 1]
The next phone call I received changed my life forever. It placed a wedge between what had come before and what would follow. I don’t believe that wedge will ever be removed.
A pastor we knew from our church in California, Karl Ortis, had been visiting us. He had come to Indonesia to see how his church might be able to partner with us in our ministry there. We had just finished a very fruitful and hopeful trip. We had gotten up early in the morning on May 7 and we rode together into Semarang where I was teaching at the seminary. Karl came with me to my Greek class. We went to chapel, and then I took him to lunch before his flight back to Jakarta and then home to San Francisco. Our lunch that day was frog legs. He was so excited because he had not had frog legs since his days growing up in Louisiana.
After I dropped him off at the airport, I went back to my car and started out of the parking lot. While I was just leaving the airport, Timberley’s first call came, telling me that Anna was lost and they were searching for her. After I talked for a minute with her, I texted a few friends in Salatiga and asked if they would go over and check on Timberley. Then I went to the gas station to fill up before heading home. When I left the gas station and started back toward Salatiga, I crossed a bridge on the road right in the middle of town. I remember the phone ringing the second time while I was in the middle of the bridge. Timberley was screaming on the other end “My baby . . . My baby is dead . . . She’s dead . . .” And she was sobbing on and on. Then I was disconnected. Silence. Nothing.
What in the world is happening? What is going on? I immediately started calling back on her phone. No answer at first. Then, finally, a male voice, “Is this Todd? Hi, Todd, this is Mike. Where are you? Semarang? You need to get home quick. Get home now. . . . It looks like there’s been an accident . . . I don’t know what has happened yet . . . I don’t know for sure but I think Anna is dead . . . We just don’t know yet, but it doesn’t look good. . . . But you need to get home now.” All the while I was listening to my friend, Mike, I could hear Timberley screaming in the background.
I needed to talk to someone. I needed help to know what to do. Uncle Paul. Paul Sheriff and his wife Lucy were about the best friends we or anyone ever had. He was the older man and woman we needed while we on the field. They were the grandparents that our kids were missing while we were in another country. I needed Paul to tell me what to do next.
He told me to stop at his house on my way through town. He would drive me on the hour-long trip to Salatiga. When he joined me at that moment, Paul did not leave my side until we boarded a plane in Semarang about three days later that would take us home to America for Anna’s memorial services. He was a rock for us at the most crucial time we have ever had.
[to be continued]