It started out like a normal day. I woke up before my alarm, sat up, looked at my roommate and loudly gasped: “We get to go to the bush today!!!”
These days always involve a lot of excitement, I love visiting our village in the red zone. But a cup of tea or so later the plan had a kink in it.
Our Pastor came upstairs to our little loft and shared that 13 cars had been shot out and stoned the day before. Thirteen. Yesterday. Awesome. His phone had now been ringing off the hook with caution for us not to go.
Understandable, I guess. But my first heart cry was the opposite. NO! We were born for this; to penetrate the darkest places, the regions most ridden with war, and bring heaven’s peace.
In these moments you have to still your heart. And listen. “Papa? Where are you and what are you saying?” We spent the next couple hours worshiping and making phone calls. In the end, we couldn’t shake it—this is what we were born for! Bringing “heaven to earth” isn’t just a catch phrase, it requires real love in real action.
So we carried on as planned, however, because it had taken so long to make our decision we were running hours behind schedule. That and our goal was to bring beauty/creativity to our facilities so we still had to go buy paint, pick up the extra desks, purchase cement and the list went on… By the time we all piled in the land rover and sent off the truck we had 5 hrs to make a 7 hour journey, if everything went perfect. Rebels and war pending. Hm.
From here we are thankful. The road was quiet, almost eerie quiet without many cars, no extra soldiers, no lifted guns. That is until it got dark. We were stopped a few times by yelling soldiers just before reaching the village but once they noticed it was us, we were free to pass. Arriving at the house we dumped our things and as “the woman” I got to work with my other female teammate and started making the men dinner over our charcoal fire as they discussed security. (Some cultural things don’t change lol.)
It was then that the action started. Exhausted we climbed into bed early only to have the village waking up. There had been a revolving door of rebels since our last trip and the rumor now had it they were on our doorstep. With everyone carrying their mats on their heads, people started leaving house and home to head to the jungle. A regular occurrence here, where life stops and you look for the tallest tree to sleep behind. And now, we were faced with another decision and I am so proud of my team who took over with the final verdict: “We will not listen to the rumors of man, but only to the voice of God” and while the village cleared out, we listened to papa and in trust, went back to bed. I know—many may think this is absolutely absurd and extremely dangerous but with a constant threat of war, you must be like a reed firmly planted not swayed by every gust of wind, just with your ear pinned to his chest. The saying is, “You die quicker from the rumors than the gunfire.” That, and which is greater, standing on the peace of our sweet Jesus, or hiding a blonde in the bush? ;)
Thankfully, we made it through the night without war. In the morning we laughed around the breakfast table, “I slept great! You?! –YUP! Great!” Oh the peace of Heaven!
It felt so bizarre being there however. As the start of a new school year had just begun we had a lot to do. Talking with the teachers, educational trainings, going over our values etc. Painting and decorating also felt strange. Again- we are either absolutely brilliant and on to something earth shattering, or out of our minds crazy. Our school is slightly outside of town so often when the village gets emptied the people flee to our school as the safe haven. So beautifying, though partially felt natural and like a great idea, also felt odd as we watch the world give up hope on the region and we go in and… plant flowers? De-traumatization is often fed with beautiful things. I loved it.
While doing that we also made sure to take every moment we could to sit and talk with the people, having our hearts ripped from our chest and tears streaming down our cheeks. Stopping to hear the stories and pray the with the people they were all quite similar: “Everything has been taken. They ransacked EVERYTHING” That weekend the rebels had hit the hardest and as people had left, many returned home to empty houses.
“I have nothing but this one wrap” the head of our woman’s sewing program said. “They took my pots, my pans, they left me with nothing.”
Any chance to open our mouths we were declaring peace and proclaiming blessings—HOPE HOPE HOPE to anyone within ear shot. This is what we were made for. To shift atmospheres. “Joy is not an option.” It’s not dependent on our circumstances. Such a contradictory time of so much pain and so much joy wrapped into one week. It’s so heart wrenching to sit amidst their reality. To hold the sick and dying and hear how they ran all night in hopes of avoiding a raid. But this is where we see papa at his finest. Though SO much pain you could feel it in the air, papa’s beauty pierces right through it. He brings laughter in the middle of it all and lifts spirits that had sunken so low to the ground. I say this all the time, but in weeks like these I never fail to fall more in love with him.
One mama said to us “We had become utterly hopeless” and then peering deep into my eyes finished with “Thank you, thank you for coming and bringing peace.”
I just cried. She’s elderly and would be in a special care home if she lived in America. Instead, she sat on the floor of dirt hut, shaking and preparing for another dash to the bush.
It’s amazing what a smile from an outsiders face can do. Knowing in the midst of war, they are not forgotten. Picked up when they are too tired to stand on their own. Jesus in the middle of war, sometimes just looks like showing up. Standing for love. Risking it all. And knowing that our sweet papa is not only enough for a war zone, but bigger than any conflict of hopeless measure out there.