The Long Night[1]

At 4 am, Dick Miller, the pilot, Sigmond Evenson, the director of the Institute, and Dr. Helen boarded the airport van in Ukarumpa for the bumpy ride out to the hangar. As Dick was preparing the single engine Cessna aircraft for the flight, Dr. Helen was still grappling with the decision that had kept her awake all night. Should she make arrangements to have Robert airlifted to Cairns, Australia, for medical help? Or were the medical facilities sufficient at the General Hospital in Port Moresby, capitol of Papua New Guinea? Much would depend on Robert’s condition when they arrived in Sopu after the eighty-minute flight.


At seven o’clock in the morning, I flipped on the two-way radio. A few minutes later the radio begin to crackle. Suddenly it burst into life, “24 Bravo Zulu, this is Sierra Romeo. We’ll be landing in Sopu in fifteen minutes.” I wept for joy. The long night was finally over.

A few minutes later, I threw open the door to Dr. Helen, Sigmond, and Dick, gasping the words, “Welcome here.”

Dr. Helen immediately knelt down to examine Robert. She gave him a shot that put him to sleep for the rest of the day. “Robert has lost between a liter and two liters of blood. In my estimation, Verna, you saved his life,” Dr. Helen reassured me. “But we’re going to have to fly him to the General Hospital in Port Moresby for surgery. The front and side deltoid muscles have been completely severed and the rear deltoid muscle partially severed. Also, the ball of the humerus bone is cracked and will need to be wired together.”

Hastily, Dick prepared a stretcher for Robert. As the village men carried him to the plane, I assured the people that we’d be back. Amid hurried good-byes, I boarded the plane. As I settled into my seat and fastened my seatbelt, I wiped the tears from my eyes. The long night was finally over. God had answered my prayer. He had stopped the bleeding. Now I was among friends and I could relax. Everything was going to be all right I thought as the plane lifted into the air.


Back in Ukarumpa, everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the news came over the telephone emergency system that Robert was going to be all right. “Thank you God, for sparing my parents’ lives,” Jason prayed.


After surgery in the Port Moresby hospital, Robert underwent several months of physiotherapy to regain use of his left arm. Today Robert has use of his arm, but frequently experiences pain if he over-exerts it with heavy lifting. Robert and Verna stayed in Papua New Guinea for another four years helping the Lou people of Manus Province in Bible translation work and as consultants to their co-workers.

Today Robert and Verna serve with Wycliffe Bible Translators at the International Linguistics Center in Dallas, Texas. Robert works in the International Translation Department editing Translator’s Notes.

Verna is the International Dictionary & Lexicography Coordinator for SIL International.

[1] This incident happened June 5, 1991.