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At Garissa Part I

It’s only in the testing of our personal faith that it becomes more solid.

 

 

A word from Curt
A word from Curt

A note from Curt

I’m in the last days of exile in Kenya.

Ready to get back to our Ugandan home.

Thanks to all who prayed for us during my illness.  I’m feeling better than ever and full of gratitude.

For the next three days, I’ll be sharing a post entitled “At Garissa.”

It’s as transparent as I’ve ever been.

As you read it, don’t think I’ve lost my faith.

My faith in the goodness and power of God is stronger than ever.

It’s only in the testing of our personal faith that it becomes more solid.

Africa will test your faith like nothing else.

We’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and everyday is a privilege to serve here.

map

At Garissa

Part 1

Statistics don’t move us like a story.

We glance at the headline.

“147 dead in terrorist attack in Kenyan school.”

But it’s easy to be callused to far away events.

A quick news cycle moves on to the next tragedy, scandal, or disaster.

But a personal story is different.

A story has the potential to bore into our heart.

That’s why I’m been troubled since last month’s event in Kenya.

As I’ve read about the Al Shabab attack on Garissa University in NE Kenya, one story has stood out.

A lone survivor told it.

All of the others who were present are dead.

Terrorists and students alike.

An armed gunman stood over three kneeling Kenyan students.

Three girls, among hundreds, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As they pled for their lives, one cried out, “Save me, Jesus.”

That was when the Islamist gunman killed her and the other two. Within a few hours, the terrorist was also dead

“Save me, Jesus.”

Her life ended in a plea. A prayer.

A prayer to the Jesus whom I love, serve, and believe is the all-powerful Son of God.

loving hands B and W

I’m going to be transparent. I’ve struggled with this since read about the killings.

I have a very creative imagination. It’s the source of all kinds of stories, tales, and illustrations. When I’m writing a novel, I can see it all happening.There’s a movie playing in my head as my fingers type.

That vivid imagination also can haunt me.

It was as if I was there at Garissa.  There watching the last moments of that girl’s life.

“Save me, Jesus.”

I’m working through a few deep things.

Because expression—through writing—is my therapy, I’m sharing them.They may never see the light of day. Only my closest family may see this.

Author’s note: after much revision and prayer, I feel led to share this.

There are questions I have.

1. Why didn’t Jesus answer her prayer?

 If Jesus is who He says he is, he has the power to stop or cause any situation. The student asked him to save her.If He could, why didn’t He?First of all, I believe he could have and can.

The Lord’s arm is not shortened.

He has no limitations.

I do not believe, like the Deists, in a God who wound up the universe like an alarm clock ,then stepped away.So I believe God/Jesus could’ve stopped the massacre.But he chose not to.

Back to the question, why didn’t he?

I have no simple answer to this.

I figure my answer might not come until I reach the other side of the curtain.I suspect when I get there, no explanations will be needed.But on this earthly side of the curtain, I’m troubled.So I search the scriptures.I pray to this same Jesus.

bible

 

Here’s what I feel the Bible reveals:

God does often choose to rescue. The Bible is chock full of “Save me, Jesus” prayers that were answered:

Peter    “Lord, save me.”   A sinking man on the sea.  Answered.

Blind Man Bart   “Lord, I want to see.”  Sight returned.

Midnight in the prison.  Singing. Praying. Earthquake. Release.

Act 16  Paul and Silas freed from prison.
Act 16 Paul and Silas freed from prison.

 

But, sometimes God chooses not to answer the heartfelt sincere prayer.

“Father, if possible, remove this cup from me.”

Could there have been a pregnant pause between this plea and “Your will be done”?

No answer.

It seems (to me) as if God didn’t answer.

A passionate prayer—so passionate Jesus sweated blood—that seemingly wasn’t answered.

There’s another Jesus prayer within the next twenty-four hours.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

It’s a prayer.

A plea.

Even a prophecy.

It’s a dark sky prayer.

Storm over Jebel Mtn  Juba, South Sudan
Storm over Jebel Mtn Juba, South Sudan

Prayed at the moment when the Father turns away from the Son.

And as far as we can see, it’s unanswered.

Thankfully, unanswered.

Due to that dark day, we can walk into Heaven cleansed in the blood of this same Jesus.

The story of the early church, the book of Acts, is replete with answered and unanswered “Save me, Jesus” prayers.

The church prays. Peter is delivered.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 12.57.15 PM

James is arrested. The church prays. Herod kills James the Son of Zebedee.

 

Stephen stands tall.   He dies in a hail of stones.

Praying that same kind of Jesus faith prayer. “Forgive them . . . they don’t know . . .”

Paul, a witness of Stephen’s death, converts, and then stands tall.

He faces death by mobs repeatedly.

Even gets the stone treatment, yet walks away.

That’s an answered prayer.

The protection of the hand of God.

Eventually, Paul, Peter, and most of the leading followers of Jesus meet a violent death. I’m sure they prayed for deliverance. Who wouldn’t?

Jesus, save me.

The ax falls.

The cross is lifted.

The sword strikes.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 12.57.50 PM

Where was their Jesus then?

I believe in my heart he was right there.

Like at the moment of Stephen’s death, the martyr looks up and proclaims, “Look, I see Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

No sitting.

But standing.

In a position of welcome.

Empathy.

Presence.

Stephen's martyrdom from the Acts Story Cloth
Stephen’s martyrdom from the Acts Story Cloth

I recall the story of Cassie Bernall.

She was part of another school massacre.

Columbine, Colorado. It shook our nation.  Like Garissa as shook Kenya.

There were two gunmen.

One or both confronted Cassie.

Evidently, they knew of her faith and asked, “Do you believe in God.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, you’re going to meet him right now.”

Another hail of bullets.

Save me, Jesus.

Seemingly unanswered.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 1.04.07 PM

 

Here’s why I believe:

Cassie Bernall, the Kenyan student, James the Disciple, Stephen the Martyr, the Apostles Peter, and Paul all faced their deaths with faith.

It doesn’t matter if it was faith mixed with fear.

It was still faith.

Because of their belief, they were carried across by the very presence of Jesus.

Where was Jesus last week when Islamists separated the students like animals?

“Muslims over there. You’re free.”

“Followers of Isa. Over here. You die.”

I believe Jesus was there.

The Man of Sorrow sharing a day of so much.

The One well acquainted with grief.

If you or I face the same types of deaths, we won’t be alone.

That’s our only assurance.

And really, it’s enough.

JesusHoldingtheWorldCamp

Part II    Tomorrow:

  • When our faith is shaken, we’re still in good company.
  • Where do we take out doubts?

phSunsetKideop

 

 

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About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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