Turn Off the Flashlight
Three a.m. I was jumpy. I heard weird noises on the back porch. I gathered enough nerve to open the back door, where I met a big, old opossum. I grabbed him by his tail, carried him out, and whacked his head off with the machete. But the scary noises continued. Thunk! . . . Thunk! . . . Thunk! . . . It sounded like bats bouncing off the hog wire as they feasted on our ripe bananas.
Sleep was far away.
The robbers had hit Tim and Rosa. Here's what happened.
Shortly after dark, Tim closed the door and shutter of their rancho and they headed for bed. Moments later they heard feet shuffling outside. Tim opened the door and shined his flashlight into the faces of two men, one carrying an automatic rifle.
A quiet but firm voice spoke, "¡Venga! Apague el foco." (Come here! Turn off the flashlight.)
Rosa bolted for their little lean-to outhouse and shower combination and changed from her housecoat to her dress. There she knelt and prayed.
Tim stepped outside. He was trembling, but God kept him from falling apart. He noticed the robbers were much more nervous than he was.
"Give me your flashlight," a voice ordered.
Tim handed them his flashlight.
"Reales." (money) "We want $1,500."
"I don't have dollars," Tim kindly told them. "I don't carry much money. But I happen to have about 900 córdobas (about $100) in my billfold that I got from the bank today to pay for a truckload of block and sand that didn't come."
Tim's deep voice sounded calm, but he was afraid.
From the little outbuilding Rosa could feel the tenseness in Tim's voice, but couldn't make out his words.
"We don't believe you," answered the robber, in an unusually calm tone. "Go get your dollars."
"I don't lie because I'm a Christian." Tim replied. "Search the house if you like."
Amazingly, they believed him and didn't go into the house.
The robber ordered, "Then go get your billfold."
Tim fetched it. Handing it over, he asked, "Can I keep my license and other important documents?"
The robbers squatted down and emptied the contents onto the ground. They handed the papers back to Tim and kept the billfold and money. "Danos el radio," one of them said. (Give us the radio.)
Here Tim made a mistake. He should have just gotten the CB, but he asked "¿Cuál?" (Which one?). They didn't know how to answer such a generous question, so he explained, "I have a small one (the CB) and a big one (the ham)."
"Give me the small one."
Tim went in and tried to unhook the CB, but he was shaking too much to unplug the antenna.
"Hey! Hurry up!" one of them demanded.
"Ya casi." (I've almost got it.)
Finally Tim got it disconnected. Trembling, he handed him the radio.
"Now get inside." the robber ordered.
Tim went inside, closing the door behind him. The robbers walked a little ways off, then stopped. "Blow out those candles," the robber called. But Tim didn't catch on.
"BLOW OUT THOSE CANDLES!!" He barked again.
"Oh, sure. Sorry." Tim apologized, and blew out the candles. Then Tim felt inspired to invoke a blessing on them in genuine non-resistance, "Que Dios les bendiga." (May God bless you.)
This touched their hearts. The leader called back, "Don't worry. We won't hurt you people. We only need money." Then they faded into the night and headed for our house.
Unaware of all this, we drove up our lane, singing and happy, coming home from a day in Waslala. My two hired men were waiting to help. We unloaded the jeep, lit the candles and lamps, and laughed and talked. The robbers, lurking in the shadows, didn't want to approach us. The hired men left, and we went to bed.
Tim couldn't call me because they had stolen his radio. He didn't feel like leaving Rosa alone, coming over in the dark, and risking meeting the men again. Picture Tim and Rosa, lying with their heads against one wall in their little hut. The moonlight is streaming through large cracks in the bamboo walls, while they read Psalm 91 together, pray to their heavenly Father, and -- amazingly -- fall asleep.
But not me. Though I had no idea what had happened, I had one of those weird sensations that someone was around. I was awake until one or two o'clock. I heard noises. I'll never know how much I imagined and how much was real. But I suspected someone was prowling around outside, and I thought I heard them trying to open the downstairs doors and windows.
After Tim told us about the robbery, we were really shook up. But it could have been much worse. It appeared that the robbers were local people and not the Berlines (ex-convicts). Also, they were nice, as nice as robbers can be. They didn't once point the gun at Tim, and I don't believe those fellows wanted to hurt us. Also, praise God, that the Jesus way, non-resistance, is always the best. Had Tim resisted, perhaps Rosa would have been a widow.
I tried to rehearse mentally what I'd do if they came to our place. I'd give them all the money I had on me, which wouldn't be much. I'd offer them medicines and food. If those same fellows came back, I couldn't imagine them hurting us. I couldn't say that about some other groups.
You probably wonder how scared all of us were. For Rosa, the time alone, waiting, was torture. As she knelt in the shower and prayed, she wondered if Tim was about to be killed. She didn't know the robbers were fairly friendly. She wondered if she would even have a chance to say good-bye.
Tim and Rosa took it well, much better than our family would have. I mean, as far as fear. We are more high strung. That night they slept soundly and were not afraid, though life wasn't quite like it was before.
We were all surprised that they hit Tim's place first. I had more land and a bigger house. In the eyes of the community, I had the money. Perhaps God knew that Tim and Rosa could handle it better. Or perhaps they planned to hit us both but didn't because of the hired men. We may never know. But we knew they could hit us anytime. For example, as I was writing this account. I was sitting in our upstairs room at the little table writing by candlelight. The window was wide open. I knew good and well that any minute I could hear someone say, "¡Señor, salga!" (Sir, get out!) But I was not afraid.
The first night after the robbery I was scared, but not as bad as the night before, when I knew nothing. After that, though the family slept peacefully, we noticed the children were careful to close their windows at night. They didn't show it outwardly, but I could tell they were afraid. I was keenly aware that any time the robbers could hit. . . .
Yet I vividly could sense God's presence. As I lay there that second night, I could honestly say that in the midst of my fear I worshipped and praised God, and knew He was bathing us in His glorious grace.
So, why did this happen? I saw two things clearly. First, it was a tremendous testimony. Our neighbors couldn't believe Tim's response; it had them spellbound! Some of them would have fled to Waslala. While they shook their heads in wonder, Tim only grinned and cheerfully kept on serving God.
Second, and I'm sure you'll understand what I'm about to say, it's always a blessing when we need to exercise faith. No, it wasn't easy, but had this not happened, we would not have had those praise sessions in the dark, that feeling of closeness to Him, and the genuine soul-searching devotions with the family. And I'll never forget our sweet prayer meeting with all of us together the first night after the robbery.
By the way, the day before the robbers hit Tim and Rosa, our family had pitched in and made handmade mottoes of Psalm 91 from construction paper. They were pretty, with a verse or two on each sheet, and we stapled them on our shutters. At night, these verses were outside once we closed the shutters. Can you imagine thieves prowling on our porch, shining at the windows and reading Psalm 91? I can see angels standing by those shutters with gleaming swords. Maybe that's why they didn't hit us.
Chapter 20 of Angels Over Waslala
© Copyright 1998, Harbor Lights Publishing
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