A few Fridays ago, we encountered one of the hardest days we have ever faced in our work here in the Horn.
I must begin this story with enormous praise of the Father. Most “normal” people try their best to not think of a worst-case scenario, such as a spouse or child suddenly dying. But after the events of this particular Friday, we were somewhat forced to consider what that might be like. I begin with praise because the Father was watching over us as something traumatic occurred. He was keeping us safe in the midst of something that could have been life-threatening.
On Friday I left our house headed for Grace Centre around 8:20am, as I do most days. Before I made it to the end of our road, just minutes later, a friend called and told me that another friend in my neighborhood had suddenly died the previous afternoon. This was a shock that shook me. This friend was only around 30 years old and has a wife and 2 small girls almost the same age as Esther and Ruth. It is a friend that I have had here ever since 2008 when I first came to this country, and is also a local restaurant owner and well known in the community.
I was stunned and immediately turned back to my house to tell Carrie, drop my bike, and head to where the funeral was gathering. That was about 8:25 am.
As I sat at the back of the gathering, crouched down and praying and wondering how to make sense of this tragedy, my phone rang at 8:44 am. It was an American friend that lives near to us.
My first reaction was to ignore the phone call, but I thought this friend was maybe wanting to ask about the funeral. I decided to answer.
The words that I heard from the end of the line gave me yet another shock, “Go home now, someone broke into your house with knives and Carrie needs you.” My immediate response, “Are you serious?” (as this friend is often a jokester and prankster) was countered by, “Go to your house now!” Completely in disbelief, I had to ask if again if he was serious, and again he said, “Yes, go!”
Finally convinced of the reality of what I’d just heard, I took off running as fast as I could. My friend had informed that Carrie and the kids were ok, and that the thieves were gone, but even with this information, I knew I needed to get there asap. I was maybe about a mile away from my house, and shamefully I could only sprint for maybe two minutes.
As I arrived on our street, Andreas came running to me still hysterically crying, a large crowd of neighbors had already gathered by our front gate, and Carrie with the other kids were standing there still in shock.
At approximately 8:34 am, just 10 minutes after I had left my house, 3 young men came into my compound casually. Carrie, nursing Ruth at the time and inclined to ignore the knock on the gate, allowed our oldest son to answer. The men led him to believe that they were relatives of the house owner, so he let them in our main gate. In the meantime, Carrie had gotten up to greet them at the door of the house, but as they pushed passed her and entered, their only response was, “sit down, sit down”. Assuming they were being polite, telling her to sit because she was still nursing Ruth, she continued to question them and greet them culturally, originally thinking that these men just had a simple question about our house or the house owner.
When she did not comply to their demand, each of the three men pulled out a knife. Once the image that she was seeing registered in her mind, her gut reaction was to scream and yell at the kids to run.
We assume the men’s motive was to have Carrie simply sit and be calm while they took what they wanted. However, she genuinely thought they were there to harm or kill. Had only our houseworker been present, they very well may have killed her. Had Carrie not screamed, alerting the neighbors and everyone in a 50 ft radius, they may have done something more.
Carrie (still holding Ruth) and the boys did run out the back door. We actually have two back doors and Carrie immediately realized that Esther was still sitting at the dining table which is part of the same room where the thieves had come in. Carrie came back in the other back door to get Esther, but in complete terror not knowing what she might see the men doing, and what she might face in the moments to come. As she came back in the men were on their way back out of the compound. Still screaming for Andreas, thinking they had taken him (she did not know that he had followed her running out of the room). He came running and screaming into the room behind her. Praise God! Esther was still sitting at the dining table and the boys were both safe as well.
We learned later that the men had grabbed my computer, but had not had time to take anything else, as surely the neighbors would be gathering to see what the commotion was in a few short moments.
I can not imagine a day that could top the events and emotions of this day. As I sat grieving the loss of my friend, and for this new widow and 2 new orphans, some punk kids were trying to steal my things and terrifying my family. In broad daylight. At 8 in the morning!
We will not forget this day. It will haunt Carrie for some time.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”