Last Thursday evening (Sept.19), I returned from a ten day trip into S Sudan. My family wanted to celebrate. Because of a school break on Friday, we took the kids to a movie and lunch at Village Market mall. Since Isaac’s birthday party was Saturday evening, Mark and I decided that on Saturday(21st) we would visit another mall (Westgate) to try and find the elusive toy we failed to find at Village Market. Saturday morning, we slept in and finally headed out at about 10:30am. As we headed down the road, Mark asked me again where we should go and I said “I think we should try that big Nakumatt at Westgate”. He paused for a few seconds and said “You know the traffic will be bad. Maybe lets just go to the Yaya center and try that toy store upstairs?”. All for avoiding traffic, I agreed. Later we came home and heard the news about the terrorist attack underway at Westgate Mall.
Now that the actual siege is over and we are hearing the stories of those who lived, those who barely escaped, and those who died, we wrestle both individually and as a family with the hard questions and the stomach-churning emotions. We live about ten miles from the area, so daily during the siege we could hear gunshots and explosions coming from the Mall and a constant stream of police helicopters flew overhead. At school this week, our children were faced with the awful reality that fellow students had been shot, a parent killed, and others held hostage or had hidden and been rescued at Westgate. There has been a dark pall of trauma and grief over the school. By God’s grace, most high school students were away on Saturday for a spiritual retreat, which effectively kept them away from the popular hang-out. On the other hand, an 8th grade girls birthday party and a children’s cooking class were both being held at the mall that day…Stories of persecution and torture abound. How do we reconcile these things? How do we find the courage to stay the task in a place that feels increasingly scary and hostile?
On Sunday morning, I read Acts 12:1-17 for a bible study I just started about James, the brother of Jesus. The passage relays the story of Peter’s dramatic rescue from prison by an angel. The question in my study was “What instruction did Peter give concerning James and the brothers?” The answer is that Peter wanted James and his brother to be told about the rescue. Why was that so important? I went back and re-read the chapter from the beginning…And then it dawned on me why they NEEDED to hear about Peter’s supernatural rescue. In the first few verses, we learn that the other James had just been imprisoned and then brutally beheaded by King Herod. THEN Peter was imprisoned….The Scriptures assure us “…the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” (verse 5). Did they pray for the other James? I feel pretty confident they did. Though their prayers for Peter may have been even more intense once they heard what happened.
So why was Peter so adamant that the believers tell James and the other brothers about the details of his rescue? Because they needed to know the whole story. They needed to hear that God saves, that He would be with them in prison, in suffering…that sometimes He would take them home, but sometimes He would send angels to rescue them. James needed to hear this and so do we.
“Now imagine James getting the news from all angles. Maybe his thoughts went something like this: This thing we’re doing is deadly. Terrifying. I feel sick. I feel exhilarated. He said not to fear those who can only kill the body. Think past the pain. What about our families? What does all this mean? I feel like hoards of demons have been unleashed on us. There are angels. Real, live angels -some of them appear in beams of brilliant light. We may be captured, but we may be rescued. We may see horrors, but we may see wonders. We may lose our heads, but we cannot lose our souls. The stakes are up. The fire is lit. It’s time to live like those who cannot die.
Welcome to the life of those called Christians.”
from James, Mercy Triumphs by Beth Moore