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 second in a series (#1 Up in Smoke) on the Lombok riots of 2000 — another time when life was upended, uncertain, and anxiety-ridden.
“Wake up! Gather your belongings and meet in the hotel lobby!” Banging on the door aroused us from the beds we had just settled into. Frantically we followed orders and joined our teammates and other guests to await our fate. There we received the news we had feared — the mob that had burned churches and ransacked houses on Lombok Island for the last two days was headed up the road toward our hotel.
An hour later, word came that the mob had been stopped just three miles away. Although momentarily safe, the hotel manager realized he could not keep us protected. He decided to immediately evacuate and shuttle all guests up the coast to board a jet boat to the neighboring island of Bali.
“Women and children first,” the assistant manager called out when the first shuttle vans arrived.
“Are you serious?” I thought, “Have you just been watching Titanic?” But too nervous for melodrama, my two sons and I complied, stuffing ourselves into a large van with all the other women and children. My husband then joined the men in several smaller vans and the convoy headed out for the ten-minute ride.
As the old diesel engine of our over-loaded van grunted up the first hill, the smaller, faster vans quickly flew by. Thirty minutes later, after praying the vehicle over each hill, I knew the driver was lost.
When the men realized the women and children were no longer first (!), they sent out a search vehicle. We eventually joined the men — in last place — but in time to catch the boat. So much for that Titanic strategy!
The scene was surreal — escaping violence and destruction on a beautiful, starry night. Enjoying an “adventure” with friends while fleeing the anger of enemies. The large capacity jet-boat arrived around 1:30 AM and transported us to the safety and comfort of another hotel bed 5 hours later. (Due to high waves and lack of a real port, it took several hours to transport all 500 people with luggage via small motor boats out to the jet-boat).*
I still did not know when or if I’d ever be able to return to Lombok or in what condition we’d find our home and car. As it turned out, at the time we were settling into our interim lodgings, a mob came up our street and inquired about us (with the intent to burn homes owned by Christians). A local friend, who was guarding the house, told them truthfully that the home was owned by a Balinese (Hindu) family.
The following day, they heard rumors that the mob would return so they began to hide and pack up things they thought were precious to us. Fortunately, the mob never returned. God used our loyal friends to defend our home and our belongings. However, other families in our neighborhood were not so fortunate. All totaled, 14 churches were destroyed and at least 200 homes and businesses burned or ransacked throughout the city during four days of rioting**.
Once again, God had spared me and my loved ones from violence and provided a way of escape but I still had to manage the unknown. While I waited the outcome of this senseless destruction, God’s Word flooded comfort and promises into my anxious soul. They gave me strength to live in limbo, to explain hard things to my children, and to help those who had suffered far worse than we had. 2 Timothy 1:7 especially reminded me of God’s specific provisions:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.II Timothy 1:7 NKJV
God provided power to keep doing the tasks I had been called to, love to forgive those who had caused this upheaval, and a sound mind to discern the truth amidst daily rumors, hear God’s voice of direction, and keep fearful scenarios from my thoughts.
How can a spirit of power, of love, and a sound mind overcome your fear?
Unchangeable God, thank you that as you protected us and our home twenty years ago, you will continue to care for us during these troubling and uncertain times. Once again, I need love for those who cause my distress, a sound mind to filter all the voices around me, and power to do what you have asked of me.
*That same jet-boat headed back to Lombok, completing three trips that day and evacuating around 1200 people.
** The figures vary slightly according to different reports.