MY FAVORITE ILLUSTRATION
I was in the middle of my favorite illustration, when——— Bam! Bam! BAM! was heard on the metal doors below. We were in the second-floor classroom. James, my translator, was carefully communicating to the students the Biblical principles of spiritual warfare which I was teaching.
The director of the school ran to the windows. From that vantage point, he saw five policemen, armed with assault rifles in hand, banging on the double steel doors, the entrance to this private Bible school. He quickly returned to the classroom. With his fingers to his lips (the universal language for silence), he firmly took me by the arm and ushered me into a secret room behind the room! All the Bibles and student notebooks quickly followed. The director bowed out backwards…again with his finger to his lips. That motion would not have been necessary. The tension had heightened to a level of absolute silence. There was no smile on his lips nor twinkle in his eyes. He was acting with the knowledge of the seriousness of this situation. A deadbolt turning in that locking devise rang loudly in my ears. This was not a “practice drill”; this was the “real thing!”
Unknown to me until later, the students had quickly taken out their English grammar books. James had erased my spiritual warfare notes and had put up some English verb conjugations. All in this country were anxious to learn American English. What could be wrong with this school?
Some of the students had experienced such an intrusion before. You see, their previous “campus” (a three-story apartment near the edge of town where not too many families had yet moved in) had been compromised. To clarify: That means that the police had come and had taken them to jail! They were interrogated. They were reeducated. They were released. Having experienced the cost of discipleship, about two-thirds of them had gone home. This was too much for them. But this is good; this is okay.
Not to be desired or staged, this is all part of the “toughening up” to be a good soldier of the Cross. The rest of them had taken in the experience as a part of their training for missionary work, for they know that as they follow the Silk Road with the Good News of Jesus Christ, there will be a trail of blood—the blood of martyrs, as the lyrics of their theme song say. Their determination had them join this school.
They were ready for the inquiring soldiers.
However, for some reason, the director chose to not go downstairs to greet them at the door. Equally unexpected, the police decided to not come in. Oh, they could have. The door was not locked. They certainly had reason to suspect unusual activity.
You see, the day before, a local businessman had brought two taxi loads of foreigners to visit the school. It was only to be a five-minute greeting, giving the foreigners a first-hand experience. The taxis could wait that long, for sure, without raising suspicion.
Not so! I generally came late at night when the streets were empty. I would not even show my face at a window, lest a passing neighbor would see a foreigner in a home. All foreigners had to stay in special hotels. And I would leave a week later into the night to arrive before the night was over at my next assignment.
But the students had prepared a program. Singing turned into rejoicing. Rejoicing turned into dancing. And dancing turned into a forty-five-minute sharing of the goodness of the Lord. Windows had been carelessly left open. The taxi drivers had gone to the neighborhood pub. The streets were filled with curious people when the foreigners emerged, bringing their joyful environment with them into the street and, in not too big of a hurry to leave, into the waiting taxis.
Should we not then have expected the uniformed visitors the next day? But we hadn’t. I was released from my “lockdown” to my great relief! Had the police come upstairs, would they have wanted to look in my room? No doubt! I would have lost my visa and been escorted to the nearest exit from the country. The students, my translator, and the director would find themselves in prison; for some, a second or third time.
The leaders were puzzled by the (lack of) police attention. They were not sure what to do. But the police might come back again. Thus, the decision was made: We would leave as soon as the streets cleared.
There was, however, a serious logistical problem. My gregarious teaching partner had chosen to make a tour of the town, having completed his class in the morning. How would we—how could we—keep him from returning to this location? A student was released to look for him. James and I packed up our things—and my partner’s. Lookouts decided after about 40 minutes that the streets were clear enough for us to leave. It was agreed that when (if) the student found my partner, we would meet at the south end of a busy park.
Sitting on a low wall, having melted into a new scene, we began to breathe freely. We watched children and adults fly kites—strings and more strings of kites! As one was being reeled in, I counted 24 kites of decreasing size all attached to the one string. But my thoughts went deeper than enjoying kite-flying. The laughter and fun that parent and child were enjoying made them oblivious to the situation playing out before them. How could such opposite environments intermingle?
I reflected on the previous two hours. What could have been a devastating tragedy, I realized was becoming a powerfully peaceful time. The quiet of the room following the banging of the rifle butts on the steel doors did not produce the expected adrenalin rush of “fight or flight”. The students were calm. I remained calm. Though it seems strange these many years later, my standing in that dead-bolted room was peaceful. Yes, it could even possibly be called a “holy calm”. But, why not? I am sure our prayer partners had invested their time and energy on my behalf before the Throne of Grace, that we might find mercy and grace in our time of need. And His grace was sufficient for my need in that hour. To God be all glory!
My teaching partner was found. He had not returned to the school. He joined us in the park. Soon, the three of us were on a train, heading for another group of students willing to count the cost, as they studied the Word of God in preparation for their cross-cultural ministry.
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