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Hello everyone! What are some of your favorite things to do on Sabbath? I like to watch nature shows, listen to music, and read! :)

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Staying Alive

by Benjamin Baker

At times, living in the Philippines was hazardous to my health.

One sweltering day I hopped off the bus as soon as I caught sight of the glowing insignia of a popular grocery store chain. In order to reach the safety of the curb and proceed to the store to do a little bit of shopping, I had to negotiate through three lanes of traffic. A car let me pass in the first lane. A truck gave me the go-ahead in the next lane. I boldly walked through the final lane, thinking that the jeepney driver had given me the signal to go. Ever heard of a jeepney? A jeepney is a U.S. military jeep from World War II that Americans left in the country after departing. It is now the most common form of public transportation in the nation—shiny, boxy, usually gaudily decorated, and potentially deadly.

Well, I was halfway through the last lane before the bank (imagine real-life Frogger) when I discovered that I had misinterpreted the gesture of the jeepney driver. I don’t know exactly what he had done with his hand, but it was certainly not a sign for me to proceed. The square metal grill of the military vehicle struck my leg—my knee to be more specific. I acutely felt the hard steel punch my kneecap.

A week later while I was walking to my apartment after a day of teaching, a tricycle rolled full speed toward me from a sloping driveway and rammed into my leg—yes, the same leg that had been introduced to a jeepney grill. The tricycle wasn’t really the issue; it was the “full speed” part that was the zinger. Anyway, the satchel I was carrying hooked onto the tricycle handle and was dragged about twenty yards down the street.

The next day—and I’m not making this up—a pack of four large Rottweiler dogs, up to no good, fangs bared, surrounded me. Usually when you encounter an aggressive dog, the kind owner is there to pull the animal’s leash and thus save you the trouble of a bite. But there were no owners in sight this time; I was on my own. 

After dozens of barks, the leader of the rogue pack lunged at me full force, a big, mean, black and brown missile of muscle coming at me in real time. I sidestepped to the left and punched the canine’s nose with my right. Oddly, I remember the soft and moist sensation on my knuckles to this day. The big dog landed, whimpered a bit, then turned around snarling. The others began to launch at me, one of them connecting with the back of my forearm, his teeth touching my skin but not breaking it. I kicked his flying companion in the ribs, his body changing course in the air from the force of my foot. At first trepid and hesitant, I was now fully engaged—this was a fight for my life. In the midst of the battle, I heard the familiar sound of an ice cream truck in the distance, and, yes, it pretty much sounds the same in every country. It was a child’s lullaby, and the ditty was like the Pied Piper to the rats, for they instantly lost interest in me and galloped after the truck. 

By this time I was wondering, Why does God keep me alive?

That Sabbath after church I led a group of literature evangelists in passing out Steps to Christ in a small town an hour north of Manila. Our goal: to give a copy of the classic on the life of Jesus to every person in the town. Quite frankly, the hours we passed out the books were unreal, and I still can’t believe what went down to this day. After marveling at how tall I was, the city father requested that I read from the little book. I consented, not knowing what to expect. What happened was that people began to flow from all sections of the community, dropping their market shopping, games in the street, barber shop haircuts, and coming to hear the simple words of Jesus. As I read in the town square, which soon was surrounded by half the population of the town, including little kids who looked up at me in wonder, a church member by my side translated in Tagalog. While I was reading to the precious souls for whom Christ died, it dawned on me: so this is why God kept me alive! 

Benjamin Baker writes from Rockville, Maryland. 

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