Sunday, May 13, 2007

Highway Assault

It's 12:40am & I'm exhausted. Today I thought I'd be writing about the challenging crossing of the Costa Rican mountains suspended within raging tropical storms, or about the scorpian bite that floored me. Perhaps even write about the radio interview with Light FM in Melbourne to air on Tuesday morning or the large photo & article in the Costa Rican national newspaper & coverage of the walk4one on the nightly news. Maybe even write about the beautiful hospitality of Damian & Tatiana Burger here in San Jose... but that's not where the week has ended up. In fact, I've only just arrived home from the San Jose Courthouse following a road side assault. At around 2pm, with my very first group of walkers (11 in total) accompanying me to the next destination, we crossed a large bridge high above a canyon. As we approached the end of the bridge four young men with shirts tied around their heads ran across the highway & acted to walk past us, only to spread themselves along the group before producing long-blade knives which were speedily thurst in our direction. Being at the front I had the honour of getting the leader of the gang who was insistent on getting his knife as close to my abdomen as possible. One by one they frantically stripped us of everything valuable & lined us up against the railing as traffic continued to flow past. With a final grab for jewellery the four men ran off down along the bridge with my backpack, 3 other backpacks, cameras, mobile phones, wallets, watches & sunglasses. Incredibly, as they started to run, two motorbike police rode past & we were able to draw their attention to what was happening. I swear, within 30 seconds there were around 10 police vehicles screaming through the traffic as Damian & I gave chase on foot across the bridge. Our sprint through the highway traffic though soon came to a rapid hault as the Police began to open fire on the 4 thieves as they made for an escape down off the end of the bridge. The four men split & made off in different directions through the canyon & no one was apprahended, but the circus had only just began. With 6 lanes of traffic stopped, police cars everywhere & a news crew on the scene it was hardly the place to quietly debrief & regroup. To cut a long story short though, three bags were eventually recovered (including mine, though minus $2000 worth of gear) & one man arrested. Everyone was visibly shaken from todays proceedings & we thankfully did get an oppurtunity to eat a late lunch together, debrief a little & pray - including for the four assailants.Damian, Tatiana & I then spent a couple of hours at the police station followed by another couple of hours at the courthouse playing "flip the coin into the cup" while they processed the arrest. We had the oppurtunity to later meet the man they had arrested - he was 16 years old. He was incredibly ashamed & very quite as he stood there looking at the floor. We introduced ourselves & I explained why we had been walking. I gave him a World Youth Day postcard/invitation & Damian popped some rosary beads into his hand. He looked up, smiled & said thankyou, before tentitavly extending his hand. We each shook hands & he once again bowed his head & returned to his cell. Two hours later I saw him entering the court house still holding his postacrd and beads - the kid wasn't the ring leader. His name is Danny if you'd like to offer a few prayers for him. Finally though, we are back home & contemplating nothing more than the blessings of a comfortable bed. Tomorrow will be a non-walking day as I try to sort out replacement gear (including the camera - sorry, no pics this time round). Many of the others still have mobile phones, watches and cameras unaccounted for as well so it will most likely be long day for them too. They are the Costa Rican World Youth Day group for 2008, so we hope to meet each other again in Sydney & perhaps, at pilgrims end, finish what we started. God bless, Sam. Goodnight...
"Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1Cor13:6-7


Martin, Lisa, Olivia, Emily & Julian Pannell said...

Hi Sam, Damian & Tatiana & Costa Rican friends - please know that your trials today WILL bear incredible fruit for God's Kingdom. My wife Lisa & I just sat & read of your news & we assure you all of our prayers. Sam can you (or someone reading this blog) provide bank details to rally some support for the cause to replace your gear? MP & family (fan club)

Britton Jacob-Schram said...

Hi, Sam,

My name is Britton Jacob-Schram and I'm a journalist with a free, weekly English-speaking newspaper on the Guanacaste coast, The Beach Times. Our paper, should you like to check it out, can be found at; there are also hard copies available at a number of places in San Jose, including: Papyrus; in front of the Nissan dealership, Sabana; Bagelman's in Escazu; Hotel Costa Rica; and at the airports.

We saw your La Nacion article and would really like to do a follow-up piece, especially after what happened this past Sunday. We are truly sorry for your troubles.

Is there any chance I could get a contact number from you today (as it is a non-walking day)?

We are on deadline, so expediency is much appreciated.


amy said...

Hi Sam. My family was wondering if you have a place to stay until you get your passport. My mum is Australian and we live in Escazu. You are more than welcome to stay with us if you want. My email is , message me if you like !


jose said...

hi sam,
i hope this bad experience only serves as something that makes your message even more meaningful... the world is in desperate need of people with love in their hearts who want a change.

Ang said...

hi Sam,
You are in my prayers. Remember that God is walking beside you and protecting you during this time.
God Bless

micah said...

Sam, I am praying with you, for you, and for those involved in the encounter. May the God of goodness and truth use what was meant for evil. And I agree, these trials will bear much fruit for His Kingdom.

Joy and grace for your journey,

micah from texas

Bernie said...

Hey Sam & Gang,
My brother Martin (Pannell, YMT Woolongong) just forwarded me the articles & links to your epic journey. WOW! What a trip you have on your hands. Well done though, what a terrific job you're doing. You're in our thoughts & prayers, at 4:01 now!! :)
Peace in Christ,
Bernie, Gosford NSW AU.

Yinan said...

Goodness...I was only told not long ago that there's a blog of your walk on the YMT site so I logged on for the first time today to see how it was all going. It was a shock to read about the highway assult!

How are you going Sam? The journey so far sounds incredible, although I hope there will be no asssults of any kind for the rest of your trip. But I do admire that you always look on the bright side even in adversity.

I'm with Martin Pannell, I would love to chip in too. I might not have a lot but I'm a working girl now.

Well it's good to hear updates of your journey and despite this incident I know you have all the strength and faith that's required to rise up to any challenge.

Take care and if you need support in replacing your gear, don't hold back. Nothing is too difficult if everyone just put in a little, isn't that true for all the problems we face in this modern world? Happy walking!


Mark Ratas said...

Sam, I have been following your journey, what an inspiration you are...certainly makes you think about whats really important in life. Keep going mate..will be praying for you...GB Mark Ratas ( Perth DOj's)