Faith Hoyt – Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands

On a sunny Sabbath afternoon this last weekend I joined the youth group on their hike to Bird Island beach. Right before we left the church to drive there we said a prayer for God’s protection. Never under-estimate the power of a simple prayer like this. Just hours after that prayer, I witnessed God answer it. It all began a half hour after this picture was taken.Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands - Faith Hoyt
I had never been on this trail before. The hike was only fifteen minutes from the trail head to the beach. I was excited to be outside enjoying the island with this happy group of teens and hadn’t thought to bring anything in the “just in case” category. The path down to the beach was a bit narrow, a bit muddy, and in some areas quite steep. Down at the beach we played some bible trivia, had a short vespers, and then began the hike back up. We had given ourselves plenty of time before sunset to get back to the cars. On the way back Joeie, (pictured to my side) was hiking with two of the new youth group members Leoni and Carmen. Half way up, Leoni began having trouble breathing. That is when Joeie learned she and Carmen have exercise-induced asthma. This is also when Joeie learned that both Leoni and Carmen had left their inhalers at home in their school bags.Meanwhile, the rest us our group had made it back to the cars. We hadn’t been there long when some of the kids began calling for help. John, the other youth leader, and I quickly headed down to see what was the matter.I’ll pause here a moment to describe the last fifteen feet of the trail. It was fifteen feet of steep, slippery ground that had become so muddy from foot traffic that the park had tied a thick rope to one of the trees so that you could use it to climb up. Leoni made it to the base of this steep part and then collapsed to her knees. Joeie, John and two of the older youth rushed to her side offering support so that she wouldn’t not fall back. About this time Carmen, who had made it all the way to the car, was experiencing difficulty breathing as well. After one attempt to help Leoni up the last part of the hill, we called 911.

By now neither Leoni nor Carmen could give us a verbal response, and both were struggling to stay conscious. The sun was setting and we were without flashlights. The mosquitoes were out in full fury and the kids were back and forth between praying, quietly panicking, and trying to offer help. Bird Island is on the Northern end of the island, and a pretty good distance away from the one hospital on the island. It is also well outside of cell range. The first two medics who arrived quickly assessed the situation and called for more help. They would need 6 guys to carry Leoni on a backboard up the hill.

It seemed like an age before the rest of the medics arrived. It seemed like another age before they got both girls in the ambulance and were headed to the hospital. When the rest of us made it to the hospital we were exhausted, dehydrated, ready to hear some good news. Good news came. Both girls were recovering rapidly and would be discharged that same evening.

I don’t believe our group could have been more under-prepared for the events of that hike. This is one of those experiences that should go at the top of a list for reasons to remember the boy scouts motto. Yet good things came out of it. The girls learned a valuable lesson about taking their condition seriously. Joeie, John and I know how to better prepare for situations like this, and everyone on that hike witnessed God’s hand of protection over us. Praise the Lord for cell reception when you really need it.

*This was originally posted on Faith Hoyt’s blog on November 11, 2014.  Faith is a student missionary from Walla Walla University (through Adventist Volunteer Service) serving as a Public Relations Assistant/Teacher Assistant in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands.  This has been re-posted with her permission.

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