This story was selected as the winner of Redemption Press’ first Greatest Redemption Story contest.  

The Camel Hump Road by Stephanie Durand

We are driving along one of those long tedious roads where the reflection in the rear view mirror mimics the humps on a camel’s back. Up and down over hills and valleys in a straight line towards our destination. We are on our way to the town of Marble Hall for a local community meeting with a box of pamphlets on the back seat of the rental car. Nellie has asked me to drive because she is finalizing her presentation to the community youth forum regarding education opportunities for the local disadvantaged youngsters. We are in a Nissan Almera with a 1600 engine, new on the market and advertised as a fuel efficient and all round good runner.

The road is flanked by farmlands at times alternated by grasslands typical of the Highveld scenery. There aren’t many cars on this road and the drive is relaxed as we banter about the current news events in our country. The public have been complaining about the long queues at the local municipal offices after a new licencing format was implemented. Both of us have paid our dues in the queues and have two brand new driving licenses in our purses.

Roxy Music “There’s a band playing on the radio” is pouring from the speakers. The station is known for playing oldies but goodies, and they are living up to their motto. Occasionally, I look in my rear view mirror to see a lone car in the far distance also travelling on the camel hump road. I see him every time he is on top of a hump, and then he disappears for a while as he hits the valley part of the road.

Nellie has finished her preparation for the talk and we discuss the type of vehicles we have been hiring. We play a game where the rental is evaluated and given a mark out of 10. When either of us have an opportunity to use a rental for work we try and get a different make and model car.

As I look in the rear view mirror, I see the lone car still in the distance but steadily gaining on us. They must be in a hurry because we are travelling quite fast at the top of the allowed speed limit for this road. I make the observation to Nellie that the car we are travelling in is new to the fleet because we have never been given the option of it before. She in turn comments on the dominant color of rentals being white.

As I look in my rear mirror, I see the other car has gained significantly and in order for it to pass with ease, I slack down. We chat on as I wait for the other car to pass because they are no longer visible in my rear view mirror. As I look around for the other vehicle, I find myself looking into the barrels of not one, but two semi-automatic guns. They are driving next to me and indicating for me to pull over. By now Nellie has also seen them and her words, “Oh no, now it’s happening to us as well,” makes me realize that we are indeed in danger of being carjacked.

I make an instant decision to try and outrun their vehicle as I put my foot to the floor in an attempt at acceleration. Although the car veers forward, it is no competition for theirs and they manage to keep up quite easily. By now I am frustrated with the performance of our car, but I keep trying to move away from them. They are right beside us and shouting and indicating with their guns to “pull over, pull over”. I never thought it possible that one vehicle could literally push another vehicle off the road, but here I am experiencing it firsthand. We come to a standstill in a corn field.

There are five men in the other car, three with guns, two semi-automatics and one nine millimetre handgun. They command us to get out of our car. Their language is crass and monosyllabic and there is no denying they mean business.

Both Nellie and I have been trained in conflict resolution and our communication is calm and measured.

“We know how this works. Please take the car. We will not stand in your way,” she tries to soothe. But we are motioned to get into the back seat of the car to sit on either side of the nine millimetre yielding face tattooed thug on the back seat.

We talk calmly to the hijackers as if they are our friends and as our training taught us. They are unresponsive, but tell us to “sleep.” We don’t know what they mean, but are quickly shoved into this “sleep” position, which could be compared to the brace position as explained by air stewards on an aeroplane in case of emergencies.

I think we both realized the situation was serious at that point, and we both started praying out loud. Nellie, having the typical evangelist personality, praying loud and furiously, and I, trailing along in a more demure manner. “Stop praying,” we are told, which seems to fuel the evangelist in Nellie, and she prays even more fervently, and I follow suit in my heavenly tongue.

The thug beside us tries to hit me with the butt of the gun to quieten the prayers. He seems unable to deliver the blow, even though he started out quite forcefully and has a look of confusion on his face. He tries to deliver another blow, this time to Nellie, but the same thing happens. He has a horrified look on his face and starts to talk furiously to his fellow hijackers in a vernacular we don’t understand.

The car comes to an abrupt standstill. We are told to get out and we oblige, assuming they have had enough of our prayers and have decided to let us go. But before we can start to celebrate, the trunk is opened and we are motioned to climb into it.

Two things flash through my mind: I cannot deal with small spaces, and Nellie weighs 280 pounds. There is no way on earth we are both going to fit into the trunk of this car. However, despite her weight, she glides over the rim like a gracious dancer and proceeds to push as far into the back of the space as possible. I’ve started to argue with the carjacker: “No, I can’t get in. There is not enough space,” I plead. Nellie looks directly into my eyes and says in an authoritarian voice, “get in!” I comply, but with a million thoughts racing through my mind.

For the past few months, I have been having a recurring dream where I am pressed in as if being squeezed into a small space. I wake up in a cold sweat unable to regulate my breathing. With a jolt I realize this is it; this is the real thing. As I look into Nellies eyes and see the urgency of her request, a panic starts to take hold of me. I get into the trunk with my heart pounding and short of breath. The carjacker slams the lid closed and the hinge hits my head pushing me down into a very tight and dark space. It hurts and I realize that we are in real physical danger.

“Lord,” I pray, “I cannot do this. You know that I cannot do this. This is my weakness, this is my fear, and this confinement is not something I can cope with. I couldn’t even cope with it when I dreamt about it. Just give me a few minutes.” I reply to Nellies words of comfort. I need to focus on my Lord and ask Him, no implore Him, to help me.

Although it takes a few minutes, I slowly experience a peacefulness coming over me. I turn to Nellie who has kindly squeezed herself as tightly as possible into the back of the trunk, trying to make my captivity more bearable.

“I know this is a tight fit,” she says, “but rather this, than being separated from each other.”

In my panic, I didn’t even consider the possibility. I am calm now and we start praying about our situation. We pray for God’s protection and His grace; we pray for the carjackers to have mercy on us. We pray for our country where crime and violence is out of control and where human life has become cheap and meaningless. We pray for what feels like a very long time, all while being bounced around like rag dolls in a suitcase.

The music from the sound system is loud, but our prayers are louder. Suddenly the car stops, footsteps on gravel and then the trunk is opened. The light is blinding and it takes a few seconds to adjust to the sunlight. I am shown my bank card and the word “pin” is shouted at me, while the nine millimetre is pointed squarely at my forehead. I comply with the four digit pin code, and the process is repeated with Nellie’s ATM card. The trunk is shut and we continue the treacherous journey.

I have my fingers wedged between the metal opening of the trunk and the rubber seals just to get some fresh air into the cramped space. It is midsummer and the outside temperature is 86 degrees. Dehydration is starting to set in, and we are both soaked with perspiration. The drivers’ reckless twists and turns could easily end in disaster. Surely it is not standard practice to open the trunk of a car involved in an accident? Nellie read somewhere that you should kick out the backlight, but we are travelling on a dirt road and there is no space to manoeuvre, never mind manage a kick forceful enough to achieve this. Again panic sets in, but we pray and the peace that surpasses all understanding again brings relief.

The news channels have been abuzz with a horrific incident where carjackers raped a woman in front of her mother and a toddler and then shot and killed the woman and her child in cold blood. As we discuss this, we realize this incident happened in the same vicinity where we were taken today. What if these are the same savage criminals who are responsible for that vile act? What if they decide to keep us captive and withdraw the daily limit of money from our ATM daily until the bank is emptied? What if they decide to rape us? What if they beat us up and kill us? These are the realistic possibilities we are considering and talking about in our confinement.

“Lord, every day, I pray for Your protection against bad things happening – why is this happening?” I clearly hear His answer: “I am with you always and I will never leave you or forsake you.”

I realize that this situation is completely out of my control. I don’t have the physical strength to overcome it, but I definitely have the ability to choose how I will respond and I have the Master of the universe with me. I take a deep breath and say to Nellie, “We need to trust God to work this for good no matter what happens. If it is our time to go home, so be it. Let us ask Him to make it quick and painless if so, and if not, we will live to testify of His goodness.”

After two hours of rally driving, the car stops again suddenly. The trunk is opened and three silhouettes obscure the glaring light for a few seconds before coming into focus. We are told to “get out.”

My body doesn’t respond well to my brain’s instruction because of the long cramped position it has been in, but I manage to climb out, and so does Nellie. We are patted down and they find the watch Nellie put in her pants pocket. It is inspected and taken. Mine holds no interest and is returned to me.

“See that fence – jump it!” It is a high wire fence they are pointing at, and we both realize we will be unable to climb over it, but we move towards it in obedience. We both expect to be shot in the back, but we are calm and compliant. At 15 yards in we hear a car speeding away and when we turn around they are gone. Nellie turns to me. She is covered in sweat and dust and looks exhausted, but the elation in her hug is overwhelming and I share the sentiment. We shout and laugh and praise God loudly because we are alive. We live to tell of His goodness and His grace.

The incident impacted my life significantly. I realize mind knowledge and heart knowledge are two very separate things. The truth is that Godly revelation redeems. On the day of the hijacking I realized three things that changed the way I understand my Lord and Saviour.

  • First, God does not protect me from bad situations, He protects me through bad situations. Bad things happen to good people all the time, but that doesn’t mean God is uninvolved. He is right there to give guidance and bring peace to the situation.
  • Secondly, when a crisis occurs, I am not always in a position to do anything to change the situation. My best weapon is prayer, because God is in control. He knows everything beforehand and my fervent prayer is what He desires. I am unable to subdue a gun wielding thug, but God is able to send an angel to intervene and stop the butt of a gun hitting my head.
  • Thirdly, when my relationship with God is a way of life, He prepares me on some level for whatever I will have to face during my walk with Him. For months before the hijacking incident, I dreamed about confined spaces. Even though I did not have breakthrough in my dreams, I was prepared better to deal with the situation when it presented itself and it was not completely unfamiliar to me. Some time after the incident, Nellie and I tried to fit into the trunk of another Nissan Almera, but we were unable. It is my belief that the space of the trunk on that day was miraculously stretched to accommodate both of us. I praise God daily for His generous grace and magnificent mercy.

Redemption Press would like to thank all the writers and authors who submitted their Redemption Story. It was a wonderful experience to read them all!

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