Up in Smoke

A church on Lombok Island, Indonesia, following the riots of January 2000.

As a way to deal with the 2020 pandemic, I am remembering God’s goodness and protection and telling of his works to the next generation. This is the first in a series on the Lombok riots of January 2000 — another time when life was upended, uncertain, and anxiety-ridden.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe.    

Proverbs 18:10

“Eva, are you willing to let me use you in new ways this year?” the Lord asked me. I was writing my goals for 2000 while on vacation in the land where we served as global workers.

“Yes,” I wrote (after all, what else does one say to the living God?), “but you must show me where to start and make it very plain. I confess my love of the safe, comfortable, known, and the haven of home. Lord, you will have to give the desire, the motivation, the guidance, the strength, and the results.”

One week later, back at home, we started homeschool with renewed vigor. It was time to get serious, even while we prepared for visitors from our mission agency. As the boys worked on their assignments, I started a letter to my mother:

Today is January 17th. There is a group of folks demonstrating in the governor’s field this morning. Recently reports of Christians killing Muslims in other parts of the country have incited them and they are protesting. We have been told to stay at home, but we are not alarmed.

We were accustomed to hearing reports of this kind of “tit-for-tat” unrest. While on paper Indonesia allows freedom for five religions, in practice typically the majority wins. And a story alone was enough to incite crowds to anger and retaliation.

Turning from my letter to greet our guests, I felt the first seeds of alarm forming. On the drive from the airport, they had seen several churches burning as well as smoke rising above other parts of the city. The demonstration had obviously become destructive.

Throughout the day, the violence continued to escalate from churches to include homes and businesses of Christians. We discovered later that this was not a haphazard mob, but rather about 20,000 clearly organized demonstrators given specific targets throughout the city, and later, the whole island.

At noon, our local co-worker and friend, Nella, called in a panic. A Muslim friend had warned her, “After they burn the churches, they will come find all the Christians and chase you out. Flee while you can.” Taking this threat seriously, she left the island in the first wave of eventually thousands who evacuated.

After an afternoon of phone calls, discussion, prayer, and growing anxiety, we quickly decided after supper to leave our home and seek safety in the tourist district. Grabbing a bag, I frantically threw in clothing, school books, and a few toys that had just arrived from Maw Maw that very day. Then because of the uncertainty of the situation, I filled a second bag with precious photo albums, important papers, credit cards, passports, and my address book.

Fifteen minutes later, we were on the road. During the thirty-minute ride to the hotel, my son asked to sing. So we sang the verse we had sung in Sunday worship just the day before: The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and they are saved. In answer to our cries for help, we arrived at our destination ahead of the riotous mob that crowded the same road later that evening.

The next day, a steady queue of helicopters airlifted tourists, expatriates, and locals to the safety of a neighboring island while we watched helplessly. When our team met that afternoon to assess our situation, I began to cry. I wept for the loss of my physical home, my stuff, my settled routine, the beautiful island, and the peaceful life my children enjoyed. As far as I knew, it was all going up in smoke.

I wanted to abandon it all, to just get on a plane and fly to the USA. Instead, I felt that God was asking me to surrender everything — my home, my life, my ministry, and the island we had come to know and love. Was this the new way God wanted to use me?

As I cried, perspective came and I did surrender. And as always happens, with surrender came peace*. Once again God reminded me not to hold too tightly to those things which seemingly provide security and safety. My security is in him alone. He truly is my strong tower.


What is “going up in smoke” around you?

What is God asking you to surrender?

Run into your high tower and be safe.


Precious Father, thank you that twenty years later, you are still my high tower. Whether the destruction around me is from physical danger or emotional onslaught, I am safe with you. While you might not remove the threat, you will enable me to walk through it.

*In Acceptance Lieth Peace by Hannah Hurnard

In acceptance lieth peace,
O my heart be still;
Let thy restless worries cease
And accept His will.
Though this test be not thy choice,
It is His—therefore rejoice.

In His plan there cannot be
Aught to make thee sad:
If this is His choice for thee,
Take it and be glad.
Make from it some lovely thing
To the glory of thy King.

Cease from sighs and murmuring,
Sing His loving grace,
This thing means thy furthering
To a wealthy place.
From thy fears He’ll give release,
In acceptance lieth peace.

Next in this series: Women and Children First

9 thoughts on “Up in Smoke

  1. Pingback: Women and Children First | Pondered Treasures

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