On Wednesday morning I was online checking Facebook and a few friends’ blogs, and mainly just passing the time on another cold Georgia morning. I clicked over to my email account and had just received an urgent message from one of my blog buddies (I have readers who occasionally, instead of commenting on the blog, will contact me directly by email).
Barb, who regularly sends me pics she has captured off the island webcams, was emailing her contact group with a prayer request for her nephew. David serves in the Peace Corps half-way around the world, and Wednesday morning he had awakened his mom here in the States at 4 a.m. with a frantic call that he and his group of Peace Corps volunteers were being pulled out of their country immediately. He had no idea where they were going or how – he was just letting his family know that something very bad was happening, and they might not hear from him for a few days. During the conversation David’s mom, in her shock and horror at the situation, thought she heard the sounds of gunfire and fighting in the background (this later turned out to be the result of a bad phone connection and the terror of that middle of the night call).
David’s mom was asking Barb to pray for the safety of David and his friends, and when I received the email from Barb, I too sent out a prayer chain email to many of my contacts. The Peace Corps volunteers were being removed from an area where last week two young men had been kidnapped from a restaurant and then executed by al-Qaeda militants. The restaurant was one that David and his friends frequented often – in fact they had been there on Christmas Day. Peace Corps officials were concerned that their volunteers might be targeted next.
Late Wednesday afternoon I received this wonderful email from Barb: “My nephew’s mother talked to him a short time ago and sent this e-mail: He sounded fine. You were right, the Peace Corps is really careful and taking all precautions. When I called, all the Peace Corps workers were together. Tomorrow they all go back to their villages to say goodbye and grab their stuff and will be flown elsewhere to decide what they are going to do. David has his heart set on getting another country. He said his French is excellent now, so he wants to get a French-speaking country. He is so sad to leave the friends he has made, and his kittens, and his life. The Peace Corps will be providing counselors to help everyone. I am just so relieved, he sounded really good. David’s dad talked to him a short time later, and David told him his group was rounded up by the Peace Corps and taken to a youth hostel. They’re under tight security and have a curfew. The youth hostel is two blocks from where the two 25-year-old Frenchmen were kidnapped last Friday. Thank you for keeping my nephew and the other Peace Corps workers in your thoughts and prayers. Please continue to do so as they transition out of that country and into their new lives.”
I happily sent out another email to those on the prayer chain with the information above, and last night received an email from Marianne, a friend here at the lake. She spoke of how she could never have imagined something like this that happened on the other side of the world being “brought home” to us here at the river.
I knew exactly what she meant. When I hear of bad things happening in the Middle East, or Africa, or India, I sometimes find myself whispering little “hurry-up” prayers for the people there. Sometimes, I’m ashamed to admit, I don’t even take the time to do that. But when one of those incidents is dropped directly into our laps, and we can identify with the heartbreak and terror of a mother and dad about the safety of a child – even a child we don’t know in any way – we drop to our knees and pray in earnest. That’s what I did yesterday – I didn’t get on my knees, but I did seek out a quiet place, bowed my head, and prayed for David and his friends – earnestly prayed.
In the world we live in today, news travels at unbelievable speeds – via the internet and news satellites. Something horrific can happen in Russia or Egypt – or Tucson, AZ – and two minutes later the entire world knows about it. But in the same way, news can be received and then sent instantly to prayer chains all over the world. And we all know the fastest wifi available anywhere is from our lips to God’s ears.
I know little about the Peace Corps except that it is staffed by young men and women who are the symbols of everything that is good about our country. With young people like David, who is already asking “where else can I serve”, acting as ambassadors for the United States all over the world, we have much to be proud of and thankful for. John F. Kennedy said it like this:
“Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary, and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed—doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language.
But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”
I asked permission to write David’s story and share his picture. In giving it, David’s mom and dad asked that I thank all those who prayed yesterday and ask those who would read this today to pray also as David’s transition continues. I said I would.
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend with your families. I hope it’s filled with good friends, good weather, good rest . . . and peace. God bless.