When you reside in a third world country, you come to live at a higher level of acceptable fear. It starts the moment your feet hit the soil of your new home. Every day is peppered with the fear of sickness, fear of traffic, fear of awkward social situations. Sometimes there is the fear of safety, for you or your family, but most of the time Arusha feels pretty safe. You just have to tell yourself that you have chosen to be in this place, this is your life, this is your home, you can do this. When fears spring up, you stomp them down with rational thought and reminders of the importance of trusting the God who called you here.
Today I found out that a friend I have made here, another missionary in Arusha, was robbed at gunpoint. She had her children in the car. The man held a gun to the head of her four year old daughter. He demanded money and her phone. When she did not give him enough cash he held a gun to her head and demanded more. He fired shots in the ground, shots at the crowd coming to help, shots over her car. He threatened to kill her and her children. This went on for several minutes before he pushed her to the ground and sped away on his motorcycle.
The robber had followed my friend from an intersection that she had passed through on the way from her daughters school to her home. It was broad daylight and a crowded place. My friend had stopped here many, many times. That day the thief singled her out, he calculated his plan. My friend, someone with whom I have shared meals and laughs and community, is now too terrified to leave her house. She does not feel safe to let her husband leave, to let go of her children. And our community, those of us who have decided to be called crazy for bringing our children to Africa to live, we all stand around in stunned sadness. We are heartbroken for her, for the suffering of a family because of injustice. But we are also stunned and saddened because it could have just as easily been any one us.
We live in a place where the color of our skin matters. In the minds of the people of Arusha, having white skin means that you have money, lots of money, even if you are a starving missionary trying to scrape by (which we are not, thanks to you). It means that you cannot walk in certain places in the day time and you cannot walk anywhere at night. It means if you walk down the street children will ask you for money and get angry if you give none. It means that people will shout mzungu (white person) if they see you. It means that if someone is going to get robbed it will probably be you. I am not making a judgment about this, I am just saying, this is how it is here. Most of the time it is an acceptable level of risk, something to be aware of, but not overwhelmed by.
The robbery of my friend, made us all stop and stand in fear. I am sure we have all imagined the events unfolding for ourselves, our husbands and wives, our children. The bible has so much to say about fear and trust in God. The thought that has overwhelmed me about the whole situation is this: God did not spare His own Son. He did not pull Jesus out of harms way. He did not stop him from being singled out. And Jesus was very clear when He gave us the instruction to be like him. We are to seek the Father at all cost, unity with Him, a love relationship with Him, just like Jesus had. Jesus guaranteed that we will face suffering and trials because of our desire to be like him and the fallen nature of our world. He let us know, in advance, the road would not be easy.
Recently, I have learned so much about what it means to be a imitator of Christ. Something I have realized is this, it all hinges on our love relationship with the Father. For Him, Jesus submitted to the cross. For the Father, because we love Him, we stand under fear. Because we trust Him, we know that it will all be okay, even if it is scary, even if the fear is real, and the threat is eminent. Even when the threat is not a threat, it is the real thing. At that moment you do not love the perpetrator, you love the Father. You desire His kingdom and His glory and His plan. Through this love for the Father, we are able to love others, we are able to submit to injustice without retaliation, we are able to be like Christ. It is tough, because I really want to be like Christ, I really want to love the Father, and I really want to avoid suffering. Here is the thing I can see so much more clearly now, we suffer because our world is broken and people are far from God and make evil choices. Sometimes those evil choices affect us, and all we can do is chose how to react. I say this now from the safety of my home, God give me the strength to live it.
I am still scared. I think we all felt robbed of a bit of our peace of heart. I will be paying more attention to the people behind me. I will carry more money to hopefully appease a robber. I will make my daughters ride in the car with their windows rolled up. I will not hide in my house and be hobbled by terror. I will be community for my sister in her time of sorrow and lift her and her family up to the great Healer. I will continue to seek relationship with my Father, to be in love with Him, to try to be like Jesus, so that I am able to love others through this unity.
After the robber left my friend and he went and robbed two more people. He killed them both. As far as I know, he was not caught. My family, my friends, I beg you for your prayers for our safety. I fully believe that God was present and did not allow the man to harm my friend or her children. I write that and my hearts quakes. If God puts us, or someone else on your heart, please intercede in that moment. You have no idea what people are facing as you ask God for their protection. I am constantly thankful for your financial support, but have never desired your support in prayer, more than now. Also, if you would, please pray for my friend, and her husband and two little girls, as they walk through the valley.