I wasn’t like the other kids. Some may attribute that to my being an only child, but looking back I realize now that it was more than that. It took decades for me to understand that God was creating the spiritual DNA of a wandering adrenaline junkie.
We had been climbing in Yosemite Valley for two weeks, camping on the valley floor at night. Jason and I began each day by looking above as the melting snow turned into a flowing stream that cascaded over the face of the climb known as Royal Arches. I badly wanted to do that climb because it went up to 1,100 feet, more than twice the height I had ever climbed before.
Everywhere we went, we saw people carrying guns. Some wore sidearms, some carried M-16 assault rifles, and there was the occasional Uzi. It was a sober reminder that the Israelis face powerful enemies on all sides and they never know when they'll have to fight for their lives against a terrorist attack.
My adventure began before I even left home. I made an appointment with a doctor who specialized in travel medicine. Never having needed this kind of doctor before, I made the appointment for two weeks before I left. I filled out all the forms explaining where I was headed and the date of my departure. He went over the paperwork, then set it aside and began telling me where the dangers lay for me.
Now I knew why God had ordained this trip for me. I had almost backed out of it because I didn’t see how He could use me outside of smuggling Bibles. Now I understood. I had thought it took talent to be able to give encouragement, but now I realized all I had to do was show up and reach out to these people. All they needed me to do was to care.
In 2012, there was an outburst of violence against Christians in Ethiopia. Fifty-eight churches were burned, as well as twenty-nine Christian homes. Within six weeks of the end of hostilities, a team from the company I volunteered with was there in person, comforting the believers who were traumatized. In this kind of situation, it’s crucial to follow up later with other teams, as well. I was on a team of nine people sent the next year to be part of that follow up.
I was given the assignment to “deliver” Bibles to a radical Muslim country where the level of violence was off the charts, against Christians, yes, but also between Muslims. I had to sign a confidentiality agreement before I left, requiring me to never tell where I had been on this trip, ever...
Central African Republic is, as you might expect, right in the middle of Africa. In 2014, 1,088 Christians were killed there in a flurry of attacks by Muslims. Almost a million survivors, both Muslims and Christians, fled the fighting and ended up in refugee camps across the country. In March, 2015, I was part of a small team sent to reach out to the believers.