Today I was privileged to be in the presence of greatness. Some of you may have heard about the serious automobile accident last month in Sierra Leone, involving four newly arriving missionaries. The latest news I have seen was published last week in this article in BYU’s Daily Universe, which gives an update on the missionaries’ recovery. We continue to pray for them and their families and were thrilled that Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve could visit Sierra Leone this past weekend to spend time with the wonderful members and missionaries there.
What doesn’t get much play in the news is the driver of the mission van who played a huge role in ensuring the missionaries’ survival. Bishop Markus Wallace, a Church employee, was driving the van with four missionaries on a rural highway, taking them to their first assignment in Bo, when an oncoming taxi tried to pass another car on a blind curve and rammed straight into the mission van. Bishop Markus had no chance to avoid the crash, but swerved the van to lessen the impact, and despite the fact that both of his wrists were immediately broken and his back injured in the collision, maintained control and prevented a rollover.
For the record, there is no such thing as 911, roadside assistance or Life Flight in Sierra Leone, one of the absolute poorest and least developed nations in the world. Fortunately, there was another vehicle with more new missionaries trailing about five minutes back. When it arrived, they transferred the injured missionaries and Markus to that vehicle and took the ninety minute drive back to Freetown to get medical attention. Because all the missionaries had just arrived and the other driver was not familiar with Freetown, Bishop Markus fought through the pain of his own injuries to remain conscious and guide them back to the hospital and mission home to secure medical assistance for the seriously injured missionaries.
Bishop Markus came to Ghana last week to have his broken wrists set by a specialist here and will be recovering here for another week. The wonderful news is that he already seems to have a full range of motion in both hands, says he is counting on a full recovery and that it really wasn’t that big of a deal. For perspective, Markus has survived numerous life-threatening situations and injuries while protecting others during Sierra Leone’s recent civil wars and cared for his ward while serving as a bishop during the recent Ebola outbreak.
My own encounter with him today came when he called to ask if he could come to my office and close out the audit of his ward that was done just before his accident. He has been in the hospital ever since, but knew that the audits needed to be closed out. We took about fifteen minutes to finalize the audit, while he told me how privileged he feels to be working to build a better future for the rising generation in his country.