Even before we cross the border, there is this tension that battles within us. Although we have driven the length and breadth of Mexico for over 30 years, there is always this sense of being on alert while we are traveling. Who wouldn’t feel a bit uneasy with armed soldiers using their rifles to usher traffic past huge tanks stationed to protect people against the narco violence that has exploded within the country.
The bloodshed has hit too close to home for us as well. One winter night there was a terrifying “balacera” (shoot-out) that took place near our home. It was 11:47 pm when we heard the first few “pop pop pop” of guns and then an all out war took place just two blocks from where we were living. We called the police and they came quickly, however, they had to turn back because they were ill equipped to protect themselves from the murderous onslaught. The next morning we were told that they had recovered over 700 shell casings near our road, and that one of the hostages was able to get away.
Then there was the morning that my daughter and her best friend were walking home from a little tienda (corner market) on our street when again we heard the familiar sound of guns popping. The narcos, as they are called in our area, had blocked a car on our street and murdered the driver, a relative of a local official. Our dear girls were but 20 yards away from the vehicles during the incident and although they did not see any faces, they saw enough to terrify them for weeks to come. No one wants to get involved or notify police in these situations for fear of retaliation. I know a young man whose cousin was taken to work in a drug factory and the family will not say a word for fear she may be killed or that another family member may be taken hostage as well.
Together out-loud and within the quiet of our hearts we cried out to the Lord for protection and grace.
Many years ago, we were asked to go to Chetumal, Quintana Roo, along the Yucatan Peninsula to supervise and bring leadership to a mission team that was struggling for lack of leadership. We decided to drive the nearly 2900 miles because it would be much cheaper than flying the 6 of us there and back and we would need a vehicle as well.. It was to be one of the longest and most treacherous road trips we had ever planned up to that point in our career as missionaries. This was mainly because of the lack of “cuotas” or toll roads for the route we needed to take. Although this trip was years before President Felipe Calderón declared his 6 year long war on drugs, there was still the threat of drug lords, bandits and simply the most horrifying roads you could possibly imagine.
We have always believed that the call of God is for the whole of the family, so the 6 of us all packed into our little van and off we went. No sooner had we crossed the border than we were waved down and directed towards a closed off road by a gang of suspicious looking men. We both immediately felt that the Lord was telling us to swerve around them and get out of there- and quick! The Holy Spirit just seemed to lead John with precision driving around the men as they waved their arms and talked on what seemed to be some sort of hand held communication device.
Together out-loud and within the quiet of our hearts we cried out to the Lord for protection and grace. This was going to be several days driving and we had barely begun. We followed the signs along to Aduana, Customs, to have our papers and vehicle checked. After an $80 bribe, we were well on our way.
Just as the road stretched out before us and I was getting comfortable enough to catch a brief nap, the car began to slow down. A blockade of some sort was ahead of us, and although it did not look like a proper military stop, it was a stop all the same and we slowed down. We both became uncomfortable in our spirits and even more so when we noticed that there were only two men in what seemed to be military attire. There were no official military vehicles however, only several trucks parked around the blockade.
John and I looked at each other and mouthed at the same moment, “go around it”. Our little girls in the back of the van and we were trying not to alarm them. We told them stop playing, to be still, and pray for safety. They quickly obeyed as John pulled out of the line and onto the right side of the road.
We drove fast but not wreckless down the highway, and as we passed the blockade I could see men yelling, waving machine guns and getting into vehicles. I reached for Destiny, our 5 month old who was half asleep in her car seat. I bundled her up and held her close to me in the front seat. I have no idea why I did it, but I felt it was vitally important to do so. Taking two pillows I put them in between her and the dashboard. We drove on.
Two vehicles came up on either side of us. On John’s side, a fancy white pick up truck with three men in the front seat and three or more in the back of the truck. The passenger who was right next to John, held a rifle in his hands and a menacing look on his face. John looked straight ahead the whole time, smiling as if they were not even there. He whispered to me to do the same being sure not to look them in the eyes. I felt as if I was dealing with a pack of vicious dingoes and I tried to ignore them the best I could.
Whatever was to happen would not happen without God being completely involved in it and because of that singular fact, we had absolutely nothing to fear.
Another vehicle pulled up next to my side of the van and the driver kept trying to get my attention. At that moment I felt I was supposed to pick up my wee baby, kiss her and make her comfy on top of the pillows in front of me. All of this was in full view of the driver. He grabbed at something on the seat next to him and I felt myself stiffen just a bit.
I mouthed the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd…I shall not be afraid… I wont be afraid.. there is no need to be afraid…” The words were barely audible and yet I felt an incredible sense of grace fill our little red van as soon as they left my lips. Peace flooded our hearts and there was no fear. Whatever was to happen would not happen without God being completely involved in it and because of that singular fact, we had absolutely nothing to fear.
The windows were not tinted on the van and Chelsey, our friendly little 9 year old, waved at the men in the back of the white truck. Driving incredible close alongside of ours. Two of the men could not resist her contagious smile and returned the gesture.
As I tried to look out my window without being obvious I noticed the driver next to me was talking on a walkie talkie. Both vehicles immediately halted and turned away. And that was that, they were gone and we continued down the road. I reached to put Destiny back in her car seat and as I whirled around to fasten my seat belt, we all breathed a sigh of relief. We prayed and thanked the Lord for His protection yet again in our lives. He is so good.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord