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 last in a series (#1 Up in Smoke, #2 Women and Children First, #3 The Riot Through a Child’s Eyes, #4 Y2K Provision, #5 Narrow Escape) on the Lombok riots of 2000 — another time when life was upended, uncertain, and anxiety-ridden.
Three weeks after we evacuated to Bali to escape the riots on Lombok Island, we returned to our home. On my desk I found my abandoned letter to my parents from January 17, the day the riots broke out. My last words on the unfinished page read, “We are not terribly alarmed, just being careful.”
I picked up where I had left off:
I was sorting school stuff and found this letter written on the first day of the riots. Funny, we weren’t alarmed — YET!
Coming home from the airport, everything looked pretty normal, even quieter. But we see destroyed buildings and gutted homes with their insides all black. How devastating especially to see churches burned and the homes of our dear friends. John-Mark said it made him sad to see the houses.
Things are not safe at night. Folks are fearful of robbery and rumors are flying of continued unrest. I am packing a few bags for emergency getaway if necessary. There is still the chance that the president will not be able to control his military and the country may go to war. So we need great wisdom to discern the times and know when we should leave, if at all.
Nella (our local co-worker) also returned. She is spending tonight with us as it is not safe for her to be alone in her house. Earlier she was frightened by a neighbor who told her not to open her curtains or let folks know she is here. And our other national co-workers are not yet ready to come back. One couple’s home was completely destroyed and all their belongings burned. Another’s was ransacked and damaged but can be repaired. Still others did not lose any material possessions. But all fled to safety on Bali and to their hometowns.
We are getting mixed reactions from the folks around us. The most callous seem to think it was no big deal, not much damage, a few people left etc. or that it was the fault of the believers or they deserved it. Others seem remorseful but not really embarrassed or repentant. Then there are those who have felt genuine concern for their Christian friends. One Muslim friend of Nella’s was in tears as she heard Nella was safe. Others called letting her know they were concerned, they looked for her, and they are ashamed about what their people did.
Much healing and restoration needs to take place and it would be such a testimony if believers could return with love and forgiveness and demonstrate that they will not fight back as is happening in other parts of the country.
I have been buoyed up by Jesus’s reminder to his twelve apostles that there are risks involved in my calling: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; do not worry about what to say or how to say it. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:16–17a, 19a, 28 NIV).
My friends on Lombok experienced these consequences of following Christ. Some left family behind. They trusted God for daily provisions. They were hated by their neighbors, chased from their homes, deprived of their belongings, forced to hide in forests, and now have to begin again from scratch.
We picked up our mail today. There were two letters from you, Mom. The one written on January 2 had a footnote: “I see you in the arms of Jesus Christ.” Do you remember writing that? Well, it was a very special message meant for today. We are in his arms here in Mataram and that is a very safe place. Please pray for peace and contentment to live in the midst of unrest and uncertainty.
What risks are you facing in the fulfillment of your calling?
How have you responded to those risks?
Which of Jesus’s reminders do you need to cling to today?
Precious Jesus, the task of sharing about your kingdom is tough, frightening, and certainly not safe. I have never experienced what your disciples faced nor what my local friends did but I want to be ready to face whatever is necessary as I serve you. Embolden my weak heart today, I pray. Give me peace and contentment to live in he midst of this current unrest and uncertainty.