Tag Archives: Murder in Honduras

2016 Yearend Updates and Prayer Requests

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8-year-old Josue who has been in our family with his older sister Jackeline (age 13) for nearly two years and who has experienced great advancements in his general motor skills and ability to communicate. We continue to pray for total healing for this precious boy as he continues to use diapers and still cannot learn in  a normal classroom environment due to his special needs.

 

Healing With Christian Counselor for Our Girls

We recently had a sister in Christ, an American missionary who has been serving in Central America for several years, come stay in our home for the better part of a week to do all-day group counseling sessions with our girls to aid in their ongoing healing process from difficult situations they went through in their early childhood. We are very thankful for the investment of the counselor in our girls’ lives, and we are hoping to have her back 1-2 times per year over the long haul. Please continue to pray with us for our daughters’ healing and freedom in Christ as chains of abuse and sin are being broken from their past with their biological families.

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12-year-old Josselyn, who since moving in with us in July 2015 has learned to read and write for the first time in her life and is now successfully on her way to fourth grade in our accelerated homeschool program for older students. She is one of our pianists who dedicates 12 hours each week to practicing her instrument now that she is on school vacation until February.

 

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12-year-old Gleny, who will be entering our discipleship-based homeschool program in February after having spent the last two years in a private Christian school. Unlike the rest of our kids, Gleny is not very interested in music, so we are currently exploring other areas to get her involved in to discover where her God-given gifts lie.

 New Initiative/Job Opportunity for Local Youth

Last month we began offering a short-term job opportunity for a select group of our students at the Living Waters Ranch. We held three open informational/training sessions with all the youth interested in the job, assigned an in-depth homework assignment as part of the selection process, and then chose 9 youth ages 12-15 who would be the official ‘tutors’ (think fun educational babysitters) for developmentally-challenged 8-year-olds Gabriela and Josue during the winter vacation months.

We are about six weeks into this new initiative, and thus far it has produced abundant blessing both for the young tutors and Gaby and Josue, who are being joyfully occupied with art class, basic literacy, P.E., hide-and-seek, etc, while Darwin and I thus have more free time to dedicate to our older kids and other responsibilities.

As part of the job, the teenage tutors have to read Heidi Baker’s book Compelled by Love, a Christian non-fiction book about how to live Jesus’ command to love the lost and the least. Before each ‘pay day’, the teens have to submit a lengthy summary of the chapters that were assigned in addition to a personal reflection on the subject matter covered.

There are almost zero employment opportunities for teenagers in our poverty-stricken rural area (and almost no one has the habit of reading long chapter books), so the experience thus far has been of great growth and blessing for our young tutors. We are excited about this new initiative because it keeps wiggle-worms Gaby and Josue occupied and growing while at the same time makes a lasting investment in the lives and development of the young people who are learning for the first time what it means to hold a real job, read a very impactful book and deepen their walk with Christ.

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8-year-olds Gabriela and Josue (those who are now in daily sessions with our young team of dedicated tutors) enjoying an afternoon playing in the rain

 

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Miss Isis, one of our treasured Honduran teachers who has committed to serve alongside of us again next year, giving Gaby and Josue a fine motor skills class with paperclips.

Educational Field Trip to Local Nature Reserve with Our Students; Darwin’s Recorder Ensemble Plays During Lunch

Several weeks ago we were invited by an internationally-known nature reserve in our small town to spend the morning bird-watching with professional guides, hiking through a forest, wandering through a butterfly farm and seeing many snakes up-close in a Serpentarium. It was a very special experience for all of our students, teachers and live-ins as they had never participated in such an event in such a breathtaking landscape. During lunch on-site, Darwin organized his small group of dedicated student musicians to play several pieces as a thank-you to the owners of the reserve who had received us that morning.

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Who needs traditional hair barrettes when you can use the plastic clips we use on our clothesline? You’re a great hairstylist, Gleny!

Prayer Needed for Continued Protection Against Local Violence

There is much senseless violence and fear in our immediate context. Just this week two of our beloved teachers were kidnapped by a masked taxi driver. One of them began praying out loud that God would protect them, and finally the masked driver miraculously let them leave as he was taking them to a very isolated part of the city. Weekly we hear about (or personally see) large commercial buses being burned by extortionists and rampant gang-related murder taking the lives of innocent citizens. Please pray with us so that we do not fall prey to this spirit of fear and that Father God would protect us from the deeds of evil men so that we may continue to peacefully fulfill His will for many years to come.

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13-year-old Jackeline, who is making great strides in her overall recovery from many difficult situations she had been through prior to arriving in our family in January 2015. She is another one of our pianists who is practicing 12 hours per week during the vacation months and just participated in her third public recital last night.

 

Twice-Weekly Bible Study and Worship Continue During Vacation Months

During the winter vacation months before our new school year starts up again in February, we are continuing to meet as a family twice a week to study God’s Word and grow in Him. A small group of our students and neighbors continue to attend as we are taking turns leading the discussion as a way of allowing leadership/growth opportunities to the precious young people God has placed in our lives. Brayan and Josselyn led the discussion on Thursday, and sisters Dayana and Gleny are scheduled to lead on Tuesday of this upcoming week.

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Our 9-year-old son Jason, who is always ready to lend a helping hand. The other day he was helping me move a few pieces of furniture around the house, and his older sister told me, “Hey, Ma, what a great assistant you have,” referring to her younger brother. Jason slouched over good-naturedly and said, “Assistant. That’s what everyone calls me. My Pa calls me that. And Dayana. Everyone always calls me their assistant…”

Prayer Needed for Sleep Issue and General Vitality

More than local violence, police corruption or behavioral problems confronted in our household, the biggest struggle I’ve come against day after day has been insomnia. Despite many natural and prescription sleeping aids and other treatments I’ve tried,  I frequently spend the entire night wide awake or sleep only a couple hours. It is very easy to become discouraged and/or fall into hyper-adrenaline rushes to combat utter exhaustion as I daily struggle with general irritability with those around me. Please pray for this very real battle that oftentimes has my sanity hanging from a thread as I’ve been constantly sleep deprived for several years.

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Cristian (one of our night watchman’s sons who is in school with us) and Brayan (the one whom the prior blog was written about), enjoying lunch in our front yard. Cristian will be entering 5th grade and Brayan 6th in February as they continue to seek God’s protection and will for their lives in a country where too many young men turn to violence and despair.

Christian Youth Conference Participation

This past week we drove six hours across the country with two of our beloved teachers and our two oldest kids (Dayana and Brayan) to attend the first-ever Christian youth conference held by a respected  organization that seeks to help at-risk youth and those growing up without their biological families to base their identity in Christ. It was a very busy three-day event with several speakers, team-building activities and small group discussion/prayer time. Events such as these are very uncommon in developing countries such as Honduras, so to be able to participate and continue growing in Christ with those we love was a very huge privilege. It was a very healthy experience to get out of our immediate context and meet other Christ-followers from around the country and be exposed once more to the truth we’ve come to know and love.

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12-year-old James Bond, er, I mean, Yexon, enjoying one of our new trapeze bars hung from the porch of our school building.

 

Amen! Glory to God!

Worshipping Death: What Happens When We Reject the Life-Giver

Yesterday morning (Sunday) at 4:41am the startling, loud sing-song tone of Darwin’s cellphone rattled us both out of a very profound sleep. We bolted upward, shaking loose the cobwebs from sleepy minds as our attention snapped to that peace-shattering jingle lighting up our dark bedroom about a yard away.

Darwin reached for the phone, both of our nerves suddenly on edge. Who would call so early on a Sunday?

The night prior a dear neighbor who lives on the rural property adjacent to ours had called in the night with the disturbing news that two armed gunmen had stormed their property. Luckily, the young woman and her family had enclosed themselves in, hurriedly securing the small padlock on the inside of their front door as the aggressors forcefully passed through their gate, throwing a knife under the door and threatening to break in. Without touching our neighbor, the men had fled to the mountainside behind our property when a couple local watchmen showed up to scare them off. We called the police in an optimistic attempt to enact justice in this land ruled by anarchy and, as expected, they never came.

In this country where anything goes, we’ve been granted the grace of understanding that the only real justice is the one Creator God will enact at the end of time upon the inception of His kingdom.

So now, 24 hours after the initial phone conversation with our neighbor, both Darwin and I thought we were receiving some kind of unnerving follow-up call. After all, we had heard the gunshots the night before. Had the gunmen come back, and why? Had they raped our dear neighbor? Who were they, and what did they really want? Why storm the home of a very poor single mom and her four kids? The violence never makes sense, but, even so, we keep searching in vain for answers.

Darwin, in one swift motion throwing off any last remains of the deep sleep he had enjoyed only but a half-second prior, clicked the little button on his cell-phone, brought it up to his ear and mustered a somewhat startled but under-control greeting.

I squinted at him, not a foot away as I sat propped-up on my elbow, the small glow of his cell-phone the only light available to help my eyes see. I tried to read his expression but couldn’t.

The conversation was quick and stressful and, in retrospect, I do not remember what was said. When the conversation was finished, I looked at him expectantly and asked if it was that dreaded follow-up call to the night before.

“Who was it?” I asked, my heart now beating quickly as the rest of my body still felt drugged from having been dragged out of such a profound sleep – that precious, rare sleep that almost always eludes me.

“It was my sister.”

His sister? She had nothing to do with our neighbor from the night before. His sister lives over 30 minutes away in another rural town, and –

“My brother got murdered.”

The words register in my mind.

Murder. It’s always murder. Darwin almost got murdered after having been kidnapped by local gang lords not three months ago, but they miraculously spared his life (Read: Triumphing Against the Blows of Fear). This time death came not only to flirt but was fully consummated. Not with Darwin’s life, but with his brother’s. He’s really dead. His wife and two kids really will never get him back.

It was one of Darwin’s older brothers, one of many in his family to make his living off of cattle and livestock. He had spoken out in a public place against some local men who had been stealing his cows. They didn’t like his comments, showed up on a motorcycle on his walk home late last night, and shot him point-blank. Another one of Darwin’s brothers was walking right next to him when he got murdered.

In this world where the Great Reversal reigns – that great confusion of trust where the people of planet Earth have rejected the good, loving God, deciding rather to wholeheartedly trust and obey the lord of death and lies – a murder like this or any gross deed at all is not surprising. Terrible, yes, but not surprising.

When you turn your back on the Life-Giver, you get death. When the vast majority of the inhabitants of planet Earth shout in unison that they do not want the love, the joy, the abundant life and Truth of their own Creator – the free redemption, the extravagant invitation to participate in an eternal Kingdom, renewed with true peace and justice! – when the nations roar that they prefer their own sin, rejoice in their own darkness, desire nothing beyond their own control and understanding, perhaps they do not know that they are voluntarily choosing the exact opposite of all that God so freely offers: pain, confusion, suffering. Death. Not only physical (which comes eventually to all), but an eternal, spiritual death, cut off from the Life-Giver. The father of lies – Satan himself – has utterly blinded humanity. So many live under this great deception.

And then when there’s dreadful human suffering all across the globe – AIDS victims, riots, marital unfaithfulness, teen pregnancy, drug trafficking, terrorist threats, communism on the horizon, deep-rooted depression and self-loathing widespread – those same people who turned their backs of the Life-Giver shake an angry fist at Him, accusing Him for not having showed up, for not having forced humanity’s hand, for not having magically made everything “okay”.

Oh, but He respects our freedom – wants to win our love freely, not by compulsion. He who is faithful is waiting for us – this generation of prostitutes, for we have been utterly unfaithful with the One who bought us back at a high price. We have prostituted ourselves – our lives, our souls – to the love of money, to the great lie that there is no God (alas, we like to believe we are our own gods!). He lies in wait – broken-hearted, abandoned by His own creation as men and women across the globe spit in the face of the only One who can actually save them from their own misery, exchange their sorrow for joy.

We prefer deeds of darkness, prefer all that is lie, all that is deception. We openly defame the God who wants to share all of creation with us, who has not given up on us even though He would have every right to do so. We ignore Him, accuse Him — We kill Him! We did so 2,000 years ago and continue doing so each and every day henceforth! — and then wonder why there’s so much chaos in our world, our lives. “What is Truth?” We ask sarcastically as if there is no answer.

We have edged out the One who actually saves, who actually loves until the point of death. We want nothing to do with Him. We prefer to worship ourselves, to worship the evil one who comes masked as a beautiful lie – he who comes with great promises of fulfillment, but always deceives, leaves you empty. Just a little more money, and then you’ll be happy. Just a little more pornography, and you’ll be satisfied. Enjoy your life – Buy! Eat! Drink! Travel! – because life is short and it has no meaning. God is dead.

Lies!

This is the Great Deception, the Great Reversal. We want to throw God off His throne – throw Him into the dirt; trample Him! — putting Satan in His high place. We bow down and worship. And die.

So, no, it’s not at all surprising that something so tragic would happen. Of course it would. It does.

The phone rang again, only moments after the first call, shattering the dark silence, my many thoughts. Darwin answered. His eldest brother, weeping, shared the same news.

So another human being has now found himself standing in the presence of the just, holy God, giving an account of his life without ever having believed that he would, in fact, find himself in said position. During many of our trips out to see Darwin’s family we have boldly, lovingly shared the good news of redemption, of a caring God who longs for a worshipping people, but there has been little to no visible result thus far. And now it’s too late.

I don’t remember what was said between Darwin and I Sunday morning after those two phone calls, but there weren’t many words. No tears. Just an even deeper, shared, appreciation for God’s justice in the face of such bewildering, maddening injustice. Yes; there is a good, trustworthy God who is just and loves justice. Our world does not know His justice because we have chosen not to know Him. But here – in our little cinderblock home in this little country raped by senseless violence we, alongside of so many other little people scattered all around the globe in the most diverse of places – we choose to love and trust He who saves us, He who promises to enact a final, unbiased judgment, He who promises to end all wars and bring an everlasting peace, a new Kingdom with a benevolent King. We really believe this, and we dare to participate in His joy even when the world screams Pain.

After all, just two days prior one of our 14-year-old high school students had shared the news with us that one of his old classmates was recently found dead in a field. Our student’s sister was crossing the overgrown field on foot when she stumbled over the young teen’s corpse.

On Thursday as our community Bible study was coming to a close in our dining room and all students and Christian laborers were flowing out those swinging front doors, each prepared to return to work and study, the wife of our night watchman informed me with wide eyes that the news had just come to her that a dead body had been found in a local swimming hole that many of our students frequent. Nobody knew whose body it was and, honestly, there are probably very few who care. It’s just another dead body in a country that wreaks of death.

All this – the armed gunmen, the two local murders, now Darwin’s brother – in the last three days.

In the dead of night – in the dead silence of Honduras’ many dead – Darwin commented in an even tone, “In the United States people die from sickness or old age. Here people die by murder. If someone here actually makes it to old age, it’s – it’s…really surprising…”

We both layed there, wide awake without much further exchange of words at all. I tried to fall back into that heavenly sleep I had so violently been stripped from, but we had both reached the point of no return.

After several minutes, the sun still hiding its face, Darwin informed me, restless, “I’m gonna go milk the cows.” He got up, as he does in the wee hours of every morning, slipped on his black rubber boots along with an old pair of work clothes and headed out the door without another word.

Cows. Darwin went with the cows. Darwin’s brother had cows, and he tried to protect them from being stolen, and he was killed. Someday will they come for our cows too? Are those armed gunmen out there right now, waiting to strike?

Many years ago Darwin and I came to understand that our lives in and of themselves – our own desires, our control, our own goals and hopes – are worth nothing. United with God in His purposes, our lives become infinitely worthy, useful in His hands, rich beyond money. We lost our lives in order to find them, and – Oh! – how we have discovered such a satisfying, hidden life in Christ. But our kids? I cannot help but wonder… If someday our lives are taken, who will raise them? Did they come under our care only to one day become orphans again, abandoned to the harsh fate of parentless children in a world that knows no true justice? Lord, may You keep us alive so that we might finish the task You’ve given us…

Another hour passed and soon enough all the kids were up, everyone getting ready for our weekly Sunday trip out to spend the day with our faith community over an hour away. 8-year-old Gaby came bounding toward me as I shuffled about the house, still in my pijamas: “Ma! Mommy! I didn’t pee in my bed last night! Come! Come and see! My bed is dry!” She squealed with delight over her triumph as I let her little stubby hand grab mine, leading me through the bright teal curtain into her bedroom as she jumped up and down for joy, so proud of her own achievement. I swept my hand across the plastic mattress covering, allowing a big smile to spread across my face – it was dry!

The kids received the news of their uncle’s murder just about as we did: saddened by the devastating loss but not at all surprised. If we were to sit down with our kids and make a collective family list of all the murders that have skimmed close to our lives – all the family members, neighbors and local townspeople who have been murdered – we would need many sheets of paper.

So I wobbled over to our little cave-like bathroom, feeling the effects of the too-early wake-up call, and stared dumbly at the dark circles under my eyes as they reflected tiredly back at me in the little three-inch mirror hanging from a piece of bright yellow yarn that’s been duck-taped above our bathroom sink.

Unimpressed by the reflection of my exhausted face, I tried to prepare myself emotionally and physically to spend that day and the next by myself on combat duty as Darwin would be heading out to his parents’ home to accompany his family members during the funeral preparations.

Suddenly I heard Darwin’s easy footsteps enter our bedroom behind me. He was singing a hymn about God’s love as he began changing out of his cow-milking clothes and into the nicer attire he would be wearing out to his family’s property.

Shirt changed. Pants changed. Looking for the right pair of shoes.

He kept singing softly as he moved about our bedroom, probably oblivious that I was a couple yards behind him in the entryway of our bathroom.

About a half-hour later we all piled into our cab-and-a-half truck, a handful of the kids comfortably in the truckbed with the rest of us tucked in the cab. This time I would be driving as I would drop Darwin off at the main intersection for him to take public transportation out to his family’s home. As he left the vehicle, he gave me a quick kiss and said, “Pray for me.”

A little over an hour later we came barreling over the bumpy mountain roads and came to a screeching stop (our breaks are very touchy) in front of our mentors’ home as the kids and I unloaded. As we crossed the threshold of their small front gate, Josselyn, our 12-year-old daughter who is the only one of our kids to call us by our first names rather than ‘Ma’ and ‘Pa’ and who is a very successful third-grade student after having learned to read and write for the first time last year upon moving in with us in July 2015 – this same Josselyn whose uncombed short, black hair almost always resembles a rat’s nest – came up to me with wide, sincere eyes and said, “Darwin told us to pray for him.”

I smiled, patted her on the back and assured her, “Yes, I know. We’re going to.”

She seemed satisfied with my answer and darted off to help the others get the breakfast plates ready. Every Sunday we eat granola and cows’ milk at our mentors’ home before entering into the Discipleship Group.

Many breakfast dishes, spoons, cups of water and such in place on both sides of the long wooden table, I asked who would like to lead us in prayer.

That same Josselyn, who can tend to be timid when it comes to public prayer or participating in any kind of group setting, shot up her thin arm.

I smiled and nodded, we all clasped hands, eyes closed in unison and she began to pray:

“Thank you, God… For this day. And this food…We pray now for the man – who killed our uncle…. May You forgive him—“

She stopped there. We waited. It seemed she was searching for the right words, as she oftentimes does in prayer and in conversation. Her words tend to come out a bit haltingly, as if there were some loose socket in her mind caused by years of abuse and neglect, but God’s own heart has begun to shine through her in a way that surpasses the most elegant of words.

Many moments went by before she continued in that same abrupt fashion:

“We pray also for…Darwin. May you allow him – to give You thanks…even when things are difficult…Amen.”

This morning (Monday) my phone rang at 5:31am. Luckily, the majority of our household was already up and getting ready. Three of our kids were already in the kitchen eating breakfast as I ran from the living room to our bedroom nightstand (which is a plastic bucket turned over) to answer the call. I assumed it would be Darwin, because he knows we’re up early.

I answered and, sure enough, it was him. I asked how things were going out at his parents’ home with the preparations for his brother’s funeral, and he answered in an even tone: “My mom died.”

A void opened up in my chest, and all my words seemed to quickly fall into that void, disappear. What to say?

He explained: Having experienced a very emotional reaction to the death of her son the day prior, she had a heart attack and died shortly after arriving at the emergency room.

He continued: “Tomorrow morning will be the funeral, and I think you and the kids should come…”

So we made the plans via phone, and I hung up. Kids still shuffling about the house, getting ready in the wee hours of dawn. Gaby came hurdling toward me from her bedroom, ecstatic: “Ma! Mommy! I didn’t wet the bed last night! Come look! Come and smell my bed!”

I bent down to receive her love tackle with open arms, making a quick mental note that I would inform our kids of their grandmother’s passing that night over dinner. Now was not the time.

I took Josue to the bathroom, changed his diaper, brushed his teeth. Received a local single mom (the same mom whose home the gunmen had stormed a couple nights prior) at our front gate around 5:50am to show her the ropes of our kitchen and cleaning routines as she will be laboring alongside of us now two days a week. Got the clothes ready to haul out to the washing spicket, carried the bucket of cows’ milk to our kitchen. Fed the dogs, greeted our students as they come trickling through our front gate.

After assuring that everything was in place – students in their classrooms, breakfast plates put away – I began heading for our front gate. On the way, our night watchman’s wife came up to me, once again with wide eyes, and informed me that two more dead bodies have been found in our small rural town. According to what she heard, one of the bodies had a message taped to it: “16 more to go.”

I thanked her for the information, very intentionally refusing to fall prey to the fear trap, and threw my black Jansport backpack in our truck and began heading out along the bumpy gravel road toward town. I would be spending the day at a small local hideout that has internet access, because I hadn’t checked my email or done any computer work in the last 7 days.

As the car rumbled down the shady road lined with tall trees and bushy green plants on either side, I took my husband’s lead from the day prior and I began to sing. I sang alone in the car below the shadow of the tall trees about God’s justice – how I long for His justice, and the way to experience it is to live according to His will, receiving freely the redemption He’s offered us in Jesus – our escape from our own punishment, our own depravity.

My voice – pure in spirit but probably raspy and tired to the ears – filled our empty car as I allowed my heart and mind to be consumed with joy. Justice does exist, and He has a name. I know Him, and He’s my Father. With our small hands tenderly grasping that Hand that created the whole universe, we will triumph in the end. Justice is near.

 

Triumphing Against the Blows of Fear

Three years and one day after our wedding I almost became a widow.

I paced in the little cottage we had rented during our week-long anniversary get-away; today was our last day and we were scheduled to head home 30 minutes ago. I had eaten alone, packed up all our luggage by myself, done a basic clean of everything, and had been waiting for Darwin for several hours. He had left nearly six hours earlier to go on a walk and hadn’t taken his cell-phone with him for fear of someone robbing it (as had happened a month or two ago), so I had no way to call and ask where he was. My thoughts accused him for what seemed to me utter absent-mindedness. How could he have so lost track of time?

Restless, I sprawled out on the cottage’s bed, frustrated with what seemed to be the irresponsibility of my loves-to-go-on-long-walks-and-not-take-his-cellphone-with-him husband. I opened up my Bible to read the book of Hosea, assuming at any moment he would walk through the door all sweaty and happy after having found some remote stream or untouched mountainside by which he had spent hours praying and meditating. After all, two other days on our vacation trip he had left to go on a walk and was away several hours, returning with a renewed mind and soaring spirit. He is the man who runs from our rural home to the other side of the city for fun, some 15 or 20 miles!

Regardless, this time he really was late and we needed to return home because we had promised Miss Isis, who had stayed to take care of our kids all week, that we would be home before 1:00pm. I lay on my stomach, my mind going in circles as I focused more on Darwin’s strange absence than on the paragraphs my eyes glazed over. I prayed a quick prayer – however odd it seemed and however put-off I was with his delayed arrival – that God would protect him if he were, in fact, in some kind of trouble.

A few minutes later I thought to check his cell phone, which had been on silent in his backpack all morning not a few yards from me. Mine had not rung, but his had six missed calls, all back-to-back from the same unknown number in the last couple minutes.

I returned the call. A policeman on the other end informed me that my husband had encountered some problems.

My pulse stilled for the first time that day after having passed the majority of the morning in busy activity with unclear thoughts blaming both my husband and me for his unexplained tardiness on our last morning of vacation together.

As the policeman’s voice met my ear, the only two thoughts that laboriously presented themselves to me in that moment — as if the channels of my mind had been clogged with peanut butter — were: Darwin was in trouble, but he’s alive. I have no idea what happened, God, but I thank you that he is alive.

At my request the policeman passed the phone to Darwin who, with an unusually upbeat voice trying to overpower a subtle shakiness, informed me: “Oh, I got kidnapped! But I’m okay. How are you?”

So the police truck came a few minutes later with Darwin in the backseat. As if paralyzed, I weakly braced myself for the worst, still wading through my own peanut-butter channels as everything happened as if in a dream.

Darwin came hobbling through the gate of the small hotel complex, t-shirt drenched and ripped at the shoulder, several bloody wounds on his face, bruises on his arms, tennis shoes almost destroyed, one cheek swelled, black eye, and dark red marks around his wrists and neck. He could barely walk, but his boyish smile as he saw me remained firmly intact.

The police escorted us to the local public hospital where Darwin shuffled in to the emergency room and lay on a bare table. At once Darwin recognized the emergency room nurse – an old classmate of his from college – and they began to converse. She, as well as I and all others present, seemed to be initially thrown-off by his big smile and this-is-nothing attitude as his cheekbone and chin left a long trail of blood on his face and neck. Answering her question as to what could have caused such damage to an early-thirties foster-dad music teacher, he smiled and said, “Oh, I got kidnapped by a gang who thought I was someone else and they beat me up a bit.”

Her eyes grew in shock as she asked empathetically, “But it was only for a few minutes, right?” (Because I suppose it is common and not so bad if it only happens for a few minutes.)

In the same upbeat tone he managed, “Um, four hours.”

After he had already been on the table several minutes, I asked the nurse tentatively if there was any possibility of acquiring AIDS if other bloody patients had used the same table. There was no covering, after all. She assured me that, no, that would not happen because they spray the table down with some kind of disinfectant between each patient. I looked at the bare table with its sparse surroundings wearily and didn’t know if I should believe her.

As we sat and stood near Darwin – the two police officers and Miss Isis’ dad who had very kindly accompanied us – we constantly swatted away pesky flies that wanted to land all over his body on his wounds. Another young man with similar fight-wounds and open sores all over his face and body sat on the table next to him.

X-Rays, shots, stitches on his cheekbone and chin. Buy pills, push him around in a wheelchair to different rooms of the hospital. Take his shirt off and find his entire back marked in a dark purple. Many distinct shoe-print bruises all over his back, open gash on his leg.

Darwin’s adrenaline running out, his body began to tremble as mine continued on in a very hollowed numbness. It was as though every thought or feeling my heart birthed that day had to push its way methodically through those channels laden with peanut butter before being expressed, felt.

Through very slowed thoughts – alas, I had not slept the night before coupled with the sobering reality of all that had happened to Darwin – I confronted with a certain somberness, humility, what I’ve known since the day I married him three years and one day ago: at any moment he –or I – may get killed. A long marriage – a long life – in this land torn by sin and sickness is no guarantee. I did not cry, did not scream, did not give in to the dominating power of fear, did not question why God allowed this to happen. Merely, I understood that this always could have happened, still can happen again. Death is always close. In any country, any place.

In a sense, the thought that overwhelmed all others on that weary day was this: God has truly liberated us from all fear. When push comes to shove, when things get dirty and difficult, we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we really believe all that talk about not fearing man, of only fearing God. This is actually real; it’s actually possible to live without fear even in the midst of a brutal kidnapping. These are not just words; God truly enables us to live free of fear. Thank you, Father, that even in the midst of all this neither Darwin nor I have given in to fear, have shrunk back and desperately clung to our earthly lives.

It is easy to preach a life free of fear when one has never been threatened too closely. It is easy to say, “I do not fear Man; only God!” when the evil powers of Man have never come reeling with all their fury so close to home. Only after having confronted such a situation – whatever the result may be – can we now proclaim triumphantly: “Even so, we shall only fear God! Man has no power over us!”

This we believe.

As one hour in the hospital turned to two I learned more of the story: Darwin had been walking off the beaten path – as is his terrible habit – and a group of four young men, all involved in a gang that makes its living off of extortion and murder, came upon him and found it suspicious that a man would be wandering down along a stream all alone on their ‘territory.’ Seeing it necessary to interrogate him to see who he worked for and why they had sent him, they mounted him on a motorcycle and zipped off with him to a nearby neighborhood – the neighborhood they control — where, in fact, three of our children go to school.

At one point the motorcycle crashed, Darwin tried to escape, and he was captured again as they threw him off his feet with a swift blow to the cheekbone. In the process of four hours of interrogation and torture, they tied his hands and feet with his own shoelaces and pummeled him with feet and rods as he lie in the dirt. There were many innocent passersby during the event, but the gang leaders called out, “He’s a thief! He deserves this!” and everyone else, controlled by fear, just kept walking.

The frustrating thing for the gang lords was that the rods they used broke on his back, so they had to constantly find more. Shoe-string around his neck to choke him out, punches to the ear which left him deaf for several days afterwards, a broken tooth.

They promised to cut his ears off; they promised to kill him. His response: “If it is God’s time to take me, then I’m ready.”

I think that only made them more mad; they shrieked and laughed at his responses, continuing onward, group growing to seven men as they mocked him for his ‘Christian’ claims. They howled: ¨Surely the Christians wear suits and ties, not shorts and tennis shoes! What a liar!¨ Hit him harder.

At the end of it all they spared his life without any apparent reason. Perhaps it was because he did not cling to it too tightly.

Several of our neighbors who have since become aware of what happened have begun telling us stories of fathers-in-law or nephews or this-and-that family member of theirs who have suffered very similar kidnappings and beatings over the years, each and every time ending in a brutal murder. After all, our 8-year-old special-needs son’s biological dad was murdered in the same way. They beat him brutally and then cut his ears off.

We have not heard even one story of anyone else who was granted their life back after such an intense encounter with these gang lords.

So they let him go; he did not beg, did not plead for his life. They simply let him go – he stumbled away as he took a very back-route through a mountain stream, zig-zagging across pineapple fields and then eventually arriving at the highway where he found the police station, collapsing upon arrival.

As he lay on the hospital table a few inches from me, he said something that put everything in perspective: “Just imagine, they were so scared. That’s why they did all that to me.”

Yes, scared. Fear controls you if you let it.

The normal mind says: “What? They were scared? How is that? Don’t you mean that Darwin was scared?”

No; those men, evil personified, went to the extents they did because they feared Darwin was from an opposing gang. Fear controlled them while Darwin, receiving the physical blows, received no blow to his peace, for it is not found in nor based on what happens in this world.

Now we get it. This is the peace that passes understanding. The life of Christ. Oh, we had talked so much of this peace before this incident – and how great it is to do so! – but I don’t think we had truly tasted it until now. And how sweet it is, that blessed assurance that this world is not our home, that our felicity is not to be found among the happenings in this place! Anything can happen in this world – to our lives, our bodies, our families – and our peace remains intact because God does not change.

So that evening – which was last Saturday, June 25 – after having arrived home from the hospital to be greeted by concerned kids and all the normal daily chores and activities – perhaps ten-fold because we had been away a full week and there was much to be caught up on – Darwin sat uncomfortably hunched over on a small wicker stool in our living room and told the story to our older girls, all of whom sat on the floor in front of him. I sat in their midst.

Cloaked in an utter transparency – and not in some hyper-fear or story-telling exaggeration – he told them calmly of both the physical events of the day and their spiritual implications. He truly felt close to Christ, came to understand even a little bit more the unjust sufferings of our Savior at the hands of evil men, the Evil One in our midst. Our girls sat cross-legged on the floor at his feet, tears welling up in their eyes at the thought of almost having lost the only loving (human) father they have ever known. 12-year-old Josselyn sat on the floor a few yards away on the other side of the door-curtain in her room, wanting to hear but not wanting to see.

As Darwin finished, I carefully added, fully convinced of my own words: “We should give thanks to God even for this; we are to give Him thanks in all things, both in difficulties and in times of ease.” As my heavy statement fell on young, scared ears, 12-year-old Jackeline’s eyes grew and her head shook back and forth in protest as she made eye contact across our semi-circle with 15-year-old Dayana. I could read her thoughts: “No! I will not give thanks to God for this.” I tilted my head to one side as my eyes gently met hers, and I prayed that some day she might understand.

So after a long afternoon of consoling our young daughters, cooking and serving dinner, unpacking bags and attending to the general needs of a very busy household with very needy and complex residents, late that evening I went to 11-year-old Gleny’s top bunk to kiss her good-night. With a big smile she showed me a white piece of paper taped to the wall next to her bed marked with her scribbly-scratched writing. Quite excited, she motioned for me to read that little paper she had just prepared moments earlier: ¨Goals for Gleny to fulfill.¨ My eyes passed over her sloppy cursive hand-writing as I came upon her second goal: I will give thanks to God for everything, in difficulties or trials or good things. 

My heart swelled with gratitude as I read each of the four or five goals written in large print. She studied my face and told me, ¨This afternoon when you said we should give thanks to God even for what happened to my dad, I thought you were wrong. But then this evening God revealed to me that that is, in fact, what we should do. We should always give Him thanks, even when bad things happen!¨

I hugged her closely before bidding her good-night. A few minutes later I finally collapsed in bed next to Darwin, where he had spent the afternoon in an uncomfortable curled-up position. Exhausted to the bone but without the least sign of sleepiness, I took my Bible out and wedged our flashlight between my shoulder and ear to illuminate the page in the otherwise dark room.

Several moments passed before Darwin asked in a whisper, “What are you reading?” Feeling as though that simple question had just come from the mouth of a dead man, a man who very well might not have made it back to our bed that night at all, I let the flashlight travel up the wall in front of us to above our bathroom door, shedding light on the simple black sticker-letters that we placed there so many months ago that state: “He takes care of us.” Neither one of us said anything as we let our eyes trace and then re-trace the Truth. We must lay all our burdens on Him, for He cares for us.

Then, unexpectedly, a little collection of crumpled papers slid under our door, audibly heard on the tile floor in the silence of the night. I got up to retrieve them. They were from Gleny. She had prepared several love notes for her dad along with a rather long and thoughtful list of Bible verses she wanted to encourage us with. And so we sat propped up in bed with our little black flashlight and flipped through the Bible, searching for each of the verses Gleny had indicated for us to read. Psalm 86, several passages from the Gospels, some from Exodus and others from Paul’s letters.

Minutes turned to hours and Darwin had long since fallen asleep; I wandered into our little cave-like bathroom and sat. Still no tears, no fear, no questioning. As my head rest in my hands, more out of exhaustion than any overwhelming emotional burden, a new revelation – so simple, so obvious – dawned upon my heart: Life is incredibly simple. There are two opposing forces: God, Father of life and Truth, the good king of the coming kingdom, and Satan, Father of lies and death, prince of this fallen world. As this very real battle rages on in this world, we are given the simple instruction to love: to love God with all that we have and all that we are, and to love one another as we love ourselves. We run around, worried about our jobs and reputations and connections and technology and travels and our own desires, complicating — and possibly losing altogether — what is actually shockingly simple. Life can be taken at any moment; there are two opposing forces; we are to love as long as we are alive. God takes care of the rest; through Jesus we triumph with God in the end.

So now, nine days later, Darwin’s physical body is almost completely healed and I am trying desperately to cling to that revelation that God granted me alone in our bathroom during that midnight hour. In the midst of 5:00am daily get-ups, no-sleep nights, beautiful and trying situations with our teenage girls, generally demanding days and the overwhelming emotional, spiritual and behavioral needs of our 8 kids and many students, we plead God for such clarity as was granted us on the day when Darwin’s life was nearly taken. In this world we will have trouble, but we must take heart, for Christ has overcome the world!