Manorom Accident: 40 Years On

1978 was a year of special prayer throughout OMF for spiritual breakthrough in Thailand.

On January 14, Thailand’s Children’s Day, several OMF families left Manorom Hospital for an outing. On the way home their minibus was hit head-on by a truck. Five adults and seven children died instantly, including two whole families. Five more were seriously injured.

Though used to violence and losses in service in Thailand, this crisis was greater than any of us had been through.

Reflections

To all affected the events are as vivid now as they were then. Time has not erased the pain of loss, nor the courage and spiritual fortitude of the survivors and grieving relatives.

Surpassing our inabilities to cope was the overwhelming reality of God’s enabling presence, and an assurance that what happened was under his loving sovereignty.

These impressions remain because I saw them up close as a personal friend of all who died. As the young, newly appointed OMF field leader in Thailand it was a crisis beyond my capacity to handle.

Questions flooded my mind: what could be said to the bereaved and the injured? Upper-most in my mind: Why had this tragedy happened? Why this waste? (Mark 14:4)

God’s Faithfulness

Like me, people asked ‘why?’ and many other questions, but amazingly with reverent trust and faith, rather than anger or dulled acceptance.

A surgeon whose wife and two daughters died but whose son survived, explained ‘God does not have to justify to me or give his reasons for what he has permitted.’

Another bereaved relative quoted Job ‘the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name  of the Lord’ (Job 1:21) and spoke of ‘the privilege of offering to the Lord our costliest treasures, namely our children’.

An injured mother shared God’s love with many saying: ‘God cocooned me in his love. He wouldn’t carelessly let this happen.’

To the question of whether this was spiritual warfare, and connected to the prayer for breakthrough, there were no simple answers. Spiritual attacks were relatively common in Thailand. But we all understood that ‘in the battle, the cross precedes the crown’: that suffering is a price to be paid and an honour in following Christ. One parent speaking of their loss and the cost of evangelism said ‘in Thailand we don’t count converts, we weigh them.’

There was puzzlement but never despair, and a note of hope throughout the events and beyond. The Lord’s comfort and reassurance was real and some of our friends were ‘home’ and in heaven.

God led volunteers to come and strengthen the depleted team. News of the accident moved a Thai paediatrician to serve at Manorom, the first Thai doctor to join the staff.

A memorial fund for the 12 who died also helped pay for an excellent site for a conference centre and campsite to serve churches in Central Thailand.

Latterly as I travelled around the world I met many whose lives had been touched by the book In His Time by the mother of a surgeon who died.

We sang then as now: ‘How good is the God we adore, our Faithful Unchangeable Friend’.

David Pickard
In 1978 David was Thailand Field Director. He went on to serve as General Director from 1991 to 2001.

  1. Dear David and all,

    I was there is Manorom. As anesthetist. Bryan was the only surgeon left at the hospital. Almost immediately after hearing his wife and two daughters were killed and their unborn baby, and though his only surviving son, Matthew, was injured, Bryan took 5 year old Jonathan for emergency surgery. The theatre was dead quiet. I looked at Bryan and marveled at God’s provision for him in this crisis. But Jonathan was bleeding from the big vein behind the kidneys. I’m sure Bryan had never seen this before and was not equipped to deal with it. He paced up and down theatre, praying for guidance. “I will put in a drain and close him up.” And he did. Jonathan survived. As did all five who were injured.

    Diana Srinivasagam (Nee Currie)

  2. Brings back many memories. We were still young missionaries in Central Thailand. We were preparing our daughter to go to school with one of the boys who died. Many conversations with the children about Heaven, and questions we tried to answer. A time of shock for all, but a time of growth and building trust.

  3. My daughter, Mei, was born in Manorom hospital on Dec 19, 1997. While we were there, there was the 20th memorial meeting of this tragic event. I am pondering the meaning of 20 years since then as I read this article. The surgeon told us that he hesitated to re-marry with his new wife as he loved his wife who died at the accident so much being afraid of losing his love for her. However, he realized that his love for his lost wife and his love for his new wife had been equally strong after he remarried. He also told us that he felt heaven much closer after this accident. In 2017, I lost two colleagues by cancer. Both of them had struggled with cancer for the same period of time. One died on April 25 and another died on April 26 in spite of much prayer from people in all over the world. I had asked God why. But, God challenged me by these sad event to dedicate my life again to God while I am still alive on earth. We do not know the reasons of many events on earth. However, we will not be in despair as our citizenship is not in this world but in eternal city of our King.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *