Our trip to Piura and Trujillo was really long--20 hours of driving north, then 20 hours back to Lima. One friend said it sounded "crazy long." It was crazy, but not because of the length,...rather, because of the fear! For a large part of the driving, I was very afraid. Early on in the trip, we were stopped by a cop who wanted a bribe. He had an accent that was unbelievably thick. So, I was nervous, not knowing what my rights were or what the proper response was. He was applying pressure for me to pay him off. At the same time, I had to keep asking him to repeat himself. That frustrated him. When Lena told him that we were Christians who do not pay bribes, he backed off of his extortion attempt, but was still agitated. He told us about bandits attacking cars on the highway at night. He did this to frighten us, but it is nonetheless a legitimate warning. The bandits wait until the dark of night, then put logs or rocks in the highway to force you to stop. If they can blow out a tire, they wait until you get out of the car to change the tire. I have a friend who was attacked in this way. He and his wife lost $800, all their jewelry and nearly their lives. When the cop stopped us, we were still many hours from our
destination, meaning that we had to drive on a deserted highway in the dark. Once the sun set, I was filled with fear. I’m not accustomed to being afraid and it was an unpleasant experience. It left my body full of nervous chemicals that clouded my brain when I needed to think clearly. The good news is that we made it to our hotel safely and were not stopped by bandits or extortionists. (Praise the Lord!) After a few more days, with more time on the highway (during daylight), I eventually got to the point where my fears lessened. At that point, I started to enjoy the trip and felt more capable of handling the challenges ahead.
The kids asked, "What are bandits?" The kids had never even thought of the possibility of being robbed on the highway. It made Lena and I aware of how blessed people are in the US. We've driven all over the US where, apart from the inner city, I never feared of being robbed. But, now we’re not in the US anymore and are much more able to empathize with the Apostle Paul. He traveled all over the middle east and Europe—on foot! In 2 Corinthians 11:26-30, Paul wrote, “I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the
country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
Becoming a missionary definitely reveals your weaknesses. So, I’m going to take this opportunity to proudly boast, “I was afraid!”
(The pictures are of the road. That's me driving. The first picture shows desert brush; the second, desert sand that goes on for miles and, finally, a fort left over from an ancient civilization.)