“If you’re traveling in the region, you should exercise extreme caution.”
Travel advice for the area I live in, from www.gov.uk
A quick glance registered a group of around 100 or so people carrying spears and bows and arrows. It’s a parade, I thought. But something nagged me to take another look. No, those aren’t dressed up school children, those are men. A very large crowd of very angry men.
Our car blocked in by a rush of onlookers, I needed to find a safe place. Protests here can quickly turn violent and the street is the last place you want to be. “Come quick, let’s go.” I called my 5 year old son and we hurried into a restaurant just before the cook closed the metal security doors. We waited, peeking out a crack in the door as shouts intensified between police and protestors.
As quickly as tensions flared, they were quenched by armed police, and the protestors ran up the street. We quietly slipped out of the restaurant and back into our car, heading home in the opposite direction.
I’m usually pretty good at recognizing and staying away from trouble. But sometimes, you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In the two years we’ve lived in this country, we’ve been harassed by drunks, helplessly witnessed a man beaten to death in the street, threatened by teenagers high on glue, dodged street protests, witnessed a robbery, and had our yard broken into twice. All this in addition to tropical illnesses, a motorcycle accident, and the general difficulty of adjusting to a new culture, language, team, and ministry.
There certainly is a lot to be fearful about, isn’t there?
We do make every effort to be wise and cautious. We don’t walk anywhere after dark, go in groups to unfamiliar places, have learned to recognize a man’s drunken sway and a drugged child’s sluggish, stiff body from a long distance away, and know to hide in a shop or restaurant when trouble appears on the street. Our team has sent individuals for crisis training and we are each required to take an online course. We have an evacuation plan if the political situation turns for the worse.
No doubt, many of you also serve in areas where safety is a continual concern. You’ve gained street smarts, learned to live with higher levels of stress, and, in a strange twist, found that all the scary things begin to feel normal – It’s just the way life is lived here.
In the middle of writing this post I stopped to check on a commotion outside. A drunken man entered my neighbor’s property and became violent when they asked him to leave. They’ve threatened to call the police and have him arrested. He’s still there, screaming and throwing punches. I’m back inside, praying he’ll calm and leave peacefully.
Last year, after a neighbor was robbed in the middle of the night, I met with the pastor’s wife at a church just down our street. As we talked over the robbery she said, “You know, these children do these things because they don’t yet know the Lord.”
Indeed, this is the very reason we’ve come – to share the Good News that grace, forgiveness, and freedom from these awful chains of sin and shame were made possible through the cross. We learn to love and serve in spite of all the scary things because we know all the way down to the very bottom of our souls that this is exactly what Lights are for, to conquer the darkness!
In the film adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, a scene depicts the enemy army closing in and all hope appears lost. There we find the young girl Lucy standing alone on a bridge. As the wicked Lord Sopespian leads the army forward, Lucy confidently smiles and bares her small dagger. When the enemy army attempts to cross over the bridge, the mighty lion Aslan appears and summons the river god who destroys the bridge and most of the army with it, winning the battle.
Lucy could smile, fearless, because she knew by whose side she stood.
Dear friends, a spiritual battle rages and fear is an easy weapon for the enemy. Remember by whose side you stand.
The truth is, all the scary things are really just bearing witness of a world in anxious need of a Saviour.
So guard your heart and stay your mind on Christ – the ever present, faithful One. Not because there aren’t very real reasons we could feel afraid, but because we choose to stay, serve, and love with confidence – fearless in God’s hands.
“If with heart and soul you’re doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you’re still better off. Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master.” 1 Peter 3:13-15, The Message
Has facing scary things been a daily reality for you?
What has been helpful for you in terms of seeing the bigger picture?