10:15PM Tuesday 16 February: I answered the phone and was quickly told about a gang of men who just robbed our friends at the orphanage and that at least one person sustained injuries. “Can I borrow your gun?” That part is tricky because a gun in Zambia is legally tied to its owner. Big trouble can follow if a firearm is used by someone other than its owner. There was only one easy solution. I go with my gun. So at 10:30PM we were hastily bumping along the potholed roads of Kitwe to Central police to see if we could get an armed escort. I bowed my head and prayed out loud while Phil kept pressing the accelerator and banking into the roundabouts. The roads were empty, the city quiet, but our souls were disturbed and we knew it would be a long night and we asked God for wisdom and protection. Phil and I walked in to the police station where other people were obviously having problems with drunkenness and spousal abuse. There was a man inside arrogantly arguing with police while a lady was hunkered down on the ground outside crying. We entered the dimly lit office to the sounds of weeping and anger. The policeman on duty, who was quite intoxicated, tried to call a patrol unit by radio to help us. No answer. The woman outside was now crying louder as if in great pain. Phil and I looked at each other and knew we were wasting our time. With little said we both ran for the van and took off for the orphanage. On our way out we made one last stop at the Wusakili police station where we met with a few helpful men with machine guns (police of course). They climbed into the van and without much delay we continued our trip to Kakolo hoping to find the thieves on the way in (now don’t jump to conclusions : ). When your friends are in trouble and you know there are injuries the forty minute ride on difficult muddy roads can seem like a climb up Kilimanjaro. Though the officers in our van were sober they certainly had not abstained that evening as the evidence of their drinking was betrayed by the dank sweet odor filling the cabin. The road seemed to stretch endlessly into the wet Central African night. Little was said between our crew. At times the mud holes were so big that the water completely enveloped the windshield and all we could see was the muddy water illuminated by the halogen lamps on the Toyota Hiace. The small four cylinder groaned as we moved forward, silently and prayerfully, to the scene of the crime.
Africa is a different world. Urbanization continues to happen at a rapid pace. Almost everyone, even in the rural areas, owns a cell phone. Organized crime is a reality. Not until police shoot to kill is this nasty cycle hindered. The streets are congested with more car owners than ever before. For five years we lived in a city consistently ranked as one of the top ten most corrupt countries in the world. It was affectionately nicknamed “Nairobbery.” Most of our friends living in Africa have had security problems. We have had gangs surround our house when we lived in Kenya. A man jumped up on the back of our van and ripped off a part he apparently needed. He did this while I was driving at a fairly good clip! He waved to me as I looked through my rear view mirror as if to say thank you and jumped off only to disappear into the sea of brown faces of that highly congested market area. In Kenya many houses were equipped with a “safe-haven.” This was a place the family could run and lock down so that thieves and armed thugs could take what they wanted without bringing harm to the occupants of the house. Shortly after we arrived to Kenya for our first term we were told by our veterinarian that ten Rottweilers were not enough discourage an attack from these gangs. That was comforting. Add to this I was not allowed to own a gun in Kenya. The thugs has no problems getting access to firearms. A good friend was threatened to have his face smeared with human feces unless he gave money. Thankfully he managed to get out of that one unscathed. Friends of ours living on the fringe of a notorious community in Nairobi were surprised one night by a gang who was let in by their night guard. They were harassed, stepped on while laying prostrate on the floor, and insulted. The house was ransacked. The man was abducted and the thieves used his truck to do it! The family thought for sure that was the last time they would see him. Off they rode into the night. Thankfully, unlike other stories that could be told, he was unharmed and was able to return to his family – shaken, traumatized, and now more distrustful of the local than ever. Another friend of ours was run off the road by another vehicle. She was then car-jacked at gunpoint. A few weeks ago the single lady working as the secretary at the college was attacked by a similar gang (maybe the same one who just hit Kakolo). Before she knew it they had broken into a small window and turned the light on in her room. In the middle of the night she had three unwelcome men in her room. Though they were not gentle they certainly were not as evil as they could have been. God’s grace was again evident. We work with great people. They evidence a resolve like steel to remain and continue serving God not in the absence of difficulty, but in the midst of it! Even the missionaries who were not called that night would have dropped everything to help. I don’t even have to think about that one for a moment. No hesitation! That is the team we have in Kitwe. People who operate by the unwritten code of immediate assistance when needed.
11:20PM Tuesday 16 February: We turned one last bend and finally saw the lights of the orphanage. As we approached the gate the security guard was hesitant. No one blamed him. We drove to the back side of the compound where the thieves made their hit. Phil ran to the first house where three people were the first to be surprised by the five man gang. As Phil checked on the first house I ran into Helen’s house to find here doing much better than expected. I entered her house looking like someone out of a Louis L’amour novel with a handgun in a holster on my right hip. In the first house the men stole money and clothes. They made the two workers lay down on the ground while they advanced on Helen’s house. They broke the lock and forced their entry. When all was said and done Helen lay there in excruciating pain with a broken arm. They kept asking for “dollars!” Truly, this situation could have been much worse and we all thanked the Lord for His goodness. As the police gathered details and interviewed those attacked in the other house Helen kept saying feistily, “I can’t believe they broke my arm.” She held her arm in a makeshift splint. She is a trooper and was a living testimony to the grace of God. She was actually in very good spirits and offered me a muffin. Hospitality at midnight in the midst of a traumatic situation! Yup, that’s Helen. Toni and the other wives in Kitwe were on the phone and unable to sleep. Everyone was concerned and prayerful. It was a long night for everyone. After the situation in Kakolo had settled down and the police were content with the information gathered we began the long ride out. Helen sat in the front seat with her arm propped up on a pillow rarely making a noise as the van crawled back through the rain battered mud roads.
1:30AM Wednesday 17 February: We arrived at a volunteer nurses’ house where she looked at Helen’s arm and dressed it properly. It was set and casted today. Pray for Helen. We have much to thank the Lord for. Are we surprised at trials, at the depravity of man, at the spiritual resistance we often face? Are we children somehow taken by surprise that life is difficult – especially as foreigners in a strange country working amidst satanic strongholds? We are not ignorant of Satan’s devices and we know our struggle is with spiritual forces. God’s word is not silent in regards to these situations. “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 1:17-21). “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
And from our supporters we ask, “…pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored… and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:1-3). Continue to pray for Helen and the others involved.
Your missionaries to Zambia,
Steve and Toni, Emilee, Stephanie, Joshua, Annabelle, Micah, and Isaiah