Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Face Down: Hopelessness Turns to Prayer (Part 2)

(This is a continuation of the story from yesterday. There are two different postures of prayer in today's story. Can you find them? Haven't read the first part of the story, click here.)


Black Monday

John was firm that he had never taken up a gun at any time during the Liberian civil war and certainly had never killed anyone. We believed him and were resolute in our determination to protect him and his son from the heated accusations. The local pastor came and talked firmly to the crowd but they ignored him. 
The frenzy grew. 

It became not so much an attack personally on John, but a tangible and hopeful appeasement for the whole war situation. John and his son were to be sacrificial lambs. And here we were, five white
missionaries in the midst of tribal animosity, raw and out of control.

Jeff and Mark Sheppard quickly decided it would be best to drive John and his son out of town in
the Lada (yes, that is the name of a Russian-made car) that we were borrowing. It took a little bit to get the Lada going due to a slack right front tire that needed air - available only by using a bicycle tire pump, but finally Mark brought the car around to the front door. Jeff went out the front door with the two emotionally dismantled Liberian men and headed towards the car, but the crowd rushed the
group in a way that made all of them feel unsafe.

Another departure was tried a little later as dusk fell, but the reaction was the same. “We want these two men. Give them to us and we will leave you all alone,” was what the mob's spokesman told us. As the evening went on, several leaders of the town came and tried to gain control of the situation. As it was unprecedented, no one really knew what to do other than appeal to the crowd to lay down their animosity. To no avail, the mob remained adamant, continuing to chant, threaten, and rave about how the white missionaries were siding with the Liberian rebels. We knew that before long, it could turn on us. Then, unexpectedly, the spokesman of the mob knocked on the door to our house and asked to talk with us. He told us that the crowd had decided we could leave with the two Liberian men and get them out of town. Thinking that the change of heart was a little sudden and strange, we still took it as an answer to prayer and prepared for it.

Before leaving, Jeff took me in our bedroom, cut off the lights while we laid on the floor as he went over some “just in case” instructions with me. He gave me the pouch with mine and the girls’ passports and most of the cash we had in the house. Lying there for a not-long-enough moment, he held me tightly. I was doing my best to be strong and to not completely fall apart in his arms.

Opening the door to the outside, we were surprised to see that the crowd had moved farther away from our house, giving a tangible nod to the plan we had to get the two men out of town. As the men walked towards the car, still sensing the tension and danger of the situation, the other two missionary ladies and I knew nothing else to do but to lay prostrate on the floor in prayer. Sad to
say, it was the first time that I had ever prayed in a face-down position.

We pleaded with God to calm the hearts of the crowd and put a strong hedge of angels around those men. Meanwhile in the car, another drama was being played out. First of all, the previously
pumped up tire was flat again. Jeff had to go for the bicycle tire pump as Mark attempted to start the car. But it refused to start. As Jeff manually put air in the tire, Mark kept trying to start the car. For the longest time, they tried to start the car. Nothing. The motor wouldn’t even turn over. Jeff
remembers looking out at the crowd moving closer towards them, watching the tire slowly, too slowly, inflate, and hearing the whining of the engine that refused to start. Then he simply looked up.

Being far from city lights, the night was inky black and millions of stars were blinking down at him. His prayer was simple. “God, there are some Liberians men and white missionaries down here in trouble. Protect John and his son and please allow this car to start so that we can get them to safety.” He was confident the car would start. He had faith. Again, the key was turned. And again, nothing. Complete silence except for the angry shouts of the crowd moving closer and closer.

(If I get 10 comments -from 10 different people- on this blog post, I will post the rest of the story on my website in a couple of days.)