"Till He Bids I Cannot Die"

"My times are in your hand..." (Psalm 31:15, ESV).

Plagues and deaths around me fly;
Till he bids I cannot die;
Not a single shaft can hit,
Till the God of love sees fit.

(John Ryland, 1753-1825)

Every now and then, stunning events occur in our lives that leave a deep impression on us concerning God’s work in providence. Such opportunities do not only leave us stunned, but we marvel at our Creator’s care and sustaining grace. Such is the dramatic experience that Mr. John Mthetwa and his wife Vivian (pictured below) went through recently.

Thursday, May 7th, 2009 started off like any other day for Mr. and Mrs. Mthetwa. They left home early in the morning for work in their Toyota Lucida (Estima). If there was anything significant in that week, it was Mrs. Mthetwa’s birthday two days previously. So as the Mthetwas left home that morning, little did they suspect that something was going to happen an hour later which was to remain indelibly imprinted upon their minds.

Before proceeding to their office on Nangwenya Road, they made a stop at Saint Mary’s Secondary School to pay school fees for their daughter. That done, they joined Leopards Hill Road, driving northwest towards the Kabulonga roundabout. As they approached the junction of Leopards Hill Road with Mwatusanga Road, they noticed a Jeep Cherokee which had stopped at the stop sign on Mwatusanga Road. In a flash, the stationary Jeep made a right turn into Leopards Hill Road, heading into the opposite direction. That’s when the inevitable happened! (see picture below of the Leopards Hill and Mwatusanga Road intersection)

At about 8:40 hours that morning, the Jeep rammed into the left passenger side of their Estima, causing it to overturn three times, before it finally landed on its side. Everything happened so fast. They are sure the vehicle overturned three times because they remember seeing the trees and the road in an upside down position three times. Their vehicle was a total wreck, but to think that they came out of this terrible accident with no single injury, internal or external is an eloquent testimony of the preserving hand of the Lord. “As the vehicle was overturning,” Mr. Mthetwa recalls, “the immediate thought running through my mind was, ‘Lord, is this our last day, is this the way people die?’”

Trapped in the vehicle for a few seconds, and still strapped in their seat belts, Mr. Mthetwa, in a feeble voice, asked his wife, “Dear, are you ok?” “I am fine, what about you?” was her response. “I am also fine,” he answered. Then he kicked out the shattered front windscreen, and that opening became their exit.

The entire events surrounding the accident are so amazing and could only have been crafted in the secret counsel of the God who “moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.” The God who, with unfailing skill, “treasures up His bright designs, and works His sovereign will.”

Obviously, it might sound out of place to talk of the “perfect timing” of this accident, but believing in the providence of God, as the Mthetwas do, they see the hand of God that orchestrated everything for His own glory and for the sake of His children. First, the Jeep hit the side of their vehicle just a few centimetres short of where Mrs. Mthetwa was seated. Looking at the extent of the damage on that point of impact, it is chilling to imagine what could have happened had the Jeep rammed right on her door (see picture of Mr. Mthetwa pointing to the spot where the Jeep hit them).

Second, the first people to arrive on the accident scene were a group of Zambia Army soldiers. The most senior officer, a major, asked if he could rush them to the hospital, and in the meantime, he commandeered his men to surround the vehicle, and remove and secure from it all their valuables. There were two laptops, cell phones and a few other things. Not a single item went missing. (By the way, both laptops and cell phones survived the impact and are working perfectly).

Third, when they thought of phoning some brethren from Lusaka Baptist Church, the very first person Mr. Mthetwa called was Mr. Sylvester Hibajene, an elder, while Mrs. Mthetwa called Mrs. Annie Phiri, the Church Administrator. And the interesting thing is that Mr. Hibajene happened to be in the vicinity of the accident spot, and in no time, he drove to the scene. Blind unbelief would conclude that this was mere coincidence, but we know better, the “sovereign Ruler of the skies, ever gracious, ever wise” had all the events at His command.

Mr. Hibajene drove them to the hospital where they were examined, and everything was found to be fine. Later that day, when the vehicle was tolled back home, their maid saw it come through the gate before she saw the Mthetwas (she had not yet heard about the accident), and she started wailing. The extent of the damage on the vehicle was enough to make her fear for the worst. Not until she saw her employers, did she leap for joy, and the tears of grief turned into tears of joy.

A number of brethren visited their home that day, and everyone was thankful to the Lord that their lives were spared. Indeed the Lord has spared us from sorrow upon sorrow by preserving the life of this dear couple. Our hearts soar in gratitude to God for Mr. And Mrs. Mthetwa who have faithfully served the Lord all these years, and have been a blessing to many of us. Who doesn’t know of the selfless and humble sacrifice in their ministry to the saints? Only a few days after the accident, as I went to see them and discuss whether I could post their experience on my blog, Mr. Mthetwa got news that one of the members of their house group had lost a sister, and this member was hosting the funeral at her house. With their muscles still aching from the impact of the accident, they still got busy making arrangements about how they and their Home Fellowship Group could minister to the bereaved family. Such is a couple the Lord has seen fit to still keep among us. Always thinking and concerned about others.

As they escorted their last visitor on that day, Mr. And Mrs. Mthetwa went into their bedroom, with their hands clasped together, thanked God for His mercies in sparing them from death, and prayed: “Lord, that we have survived this accident is your reminder to us that we still have work to do for you here below. Help us to be faithful to that call.”
Through this episode, the line of the above quoted hymn continues to echo in their minds. More than ever before, the words of this hymn ring with the truth that shall live with them throughout this earthly life:

Plagues and deaths around me fly;
Till he bids I cannot die;
Not a single shaft can hit,
Till the God of love sees fit.

All our times are in God’s hand. There will never be as much as a millionth of a second of our lives that escapes the notice of the infinitely wise, holy and omnipotent God. Praise be to God for the comfort this thought affords.

[Thank you to Ms. Jennipher Sakala who took the pictures at the accident scene just a few minutes after it happened]


  1. He has surely saved us from great sorrow.This just reminds us all that the Lord has placed us here for a season and a reason.Great is His faithfulness.
    Isaac and Ruth Sakala
    Pennsylvania USA