A few weeks ago, I was in a bordering province to Syria, and shared some of my thoughts on living in a place where terrorist bombings are more or less a constant possibility. I want to expand a bit on those thoughts.
About three days after I sent out that post, I was walking back to the home of the family we were staying with near the Syrian border. It was about 6:45pm, the sun was mostly set, and the streets of the city were silent, except for the occasional group of boys yelling at each other while playing soccer. As we got to the street we were staying on, my phone pinged with the unmistakable notification ping of my team’s messenger app. The message was simple: “There’s been another bombing”.
About 10 seconds later, another message, same teammate: “I’m at my school near the city hub. We heard it here. Really loud.”
Now, I live in a city of roughly 5 million people. At the center of my city, there’s a hub where all forms of public transportation seem to pass through: All the subways, any of the buses I take on a normal basis, many of the minibuses – they all get routed through this few blocks of city. In a city where much of the traffic is public transportation, this chunk of city is a pretty important piece of metropolitan life.
As updates start rolling in from our team and as I check Twitter for live news updates, we start seeing pictures and videos emerging from the scene of the incident. Cars and buses were burning, bodies were bloodied and strewn across the ground. The trees in the park along the main road were ablaze.
One video surfaced on Twitter – security footage from where the bomb had gone off: a man and a woman were driving in a car through this section of city. The car approaches a crowded bus stop (one near where I and my friends wait for the bus on a daily basis). The car slows as it passes. Then, in an instant, a flash of blinding light floods the frame. As the camera adjusts to the change in light, white hot shrapnel can be seen raining out from the point the car had been a moment ago. As the cameras finish adjusting, the image becomes devastatingly clear: the bus stop is now gone, and the men and women who were standing there a moment ago, now are sprawled lifeless across the pavement.
Once the dust settled, the fires were put out, and the city brought back to as much of a calm as it could be after something like that, the final numbers rolled in: 37 people were dead, 125 injured, 19 with life threatening injuries.
What can you say after something like that…
As Facebook posts started pouring in over the following few days, we found out one of the students in our discipleship program lost a close friend. My roommate posted a blog entry in those following days. In it, he mentioned that their language class was canceled for several days after the explosion. While normally that would be nice, he explains, it was a cause for even more mourning for his peers – their teacher’s daughter, a beloved student at the language school, was one of the ones killed the bombing.
There’s no sense to be made to something like this. Sure, you can find out the things that will make it into the history books – who organized the bombing; why they say they did it; what the government here did in response to it; the political implications of such an action, both locally, nationally, and, in this case, even internationally; etc. – but that doesn’t help the hearts of the people who will never see their loved ones again.
A few weeks before this happened, my youngest cousin, Matthew, had gotten sick and was taken to the hospital. His health deteriorated quickly. I was in the middle of leading one of our refugee food distributions when I got a phone call telling me that my youngest cousin had passed away.
Devastating news. It destroyed me. There’s no logic, or reason, or argument to be made that can make something like that more comfortable or more easy to accept. He’s gone; we won’t see him again until we die and see him in heaven, or Christ returns and establishes the fullness of His kingdom here.
And… I think… maybe that might be one thing I did take from all this.
After the most recent bombing, variations of a certain drawing started surfacing on social media. See, in the local language, the name of my city looks like it has the word “darkness” written in it (in the same way that Winnipeg looks like it has “Win” or “Peg” as written in its name, my city looks like it has the local word for “Darkness” in it). So, in the week following the attack, images and drawings started surfacing of the name of my city with the “darkness” section written in red with drops like blood dripping from the letters, or the “darkness” stylized in a war-torn font. It was true. Darkness seemed to reign that day. The devil was happy because of what went on. It didn’t feel like light was anywhere to be seen.
If there was something I took from this, it’s that the darkness, however powerful it seems, must not win. Thirty-seven people are dead. Statistically, they were probably all Muslim, and didn’t know Jesus as their Lord. The majority of them probably had not even heard the gospel, or even met a Christian in their lives. If it’s true that they didn’t follow Jesus as Lord, the Bible tells us they’re in hell right now. I have an unfailing hope that I will see my cousin Matthew again, because He loved Jesus and followed Him as his Lord. The victims of this bombing were incredibly unlikely to have been in the same position spiritually.
Darkness reigns in this city and this nation.
BUT, Paul tells us that we’re supposed to be children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like stars in the sky, (Phil 2), and that we’re children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. (1 Thes.5:5)
Heck, Jesus Himself said, “You are the light of the world”.
Walk into a dark room. Turn on the light. Where does the darkness go?
It ceases to exist.
Where the Light shines, darkness can’t remain!
And we started to see the truth of that here! In the hours and days after the bombings, the local church started making huge pots of soup and taking them to the hospitals, feeding and praying for the wounded, for families of the victims, and for whoever they could. Light shone in the darkness, and the darkness could… NOT… stop It! (John 1:5)
Friends, we have a responsibility. This is a dark and dangerous world. Our job is to worship Jesus, be like Him, and shine. Everything else comes under that mandate. Whatever you do, you need to shine. Shine Jesus in your business. Shine Jesus when you eat out. Shine Jesus when you’re stuck in traffic. Shine Jesus at home with your family. Shine Jesus when you’re alone on the internet.
EVERYTHING comes under that mandate.
I know that some of you reading this are called to do that in the same way that I am. More than just praying for missionaries and supporting them financially (though that is vital to what God’s doing), you’re called to the nations! You’re called to bring the gospel to entire language groups and cultures who have never had that before, and to cities who have never had a Christian set foot in them before.
To you I say this: It will be hard. It will be one of the hardest things you’ll do in your life. The darkness where you’re going is tangible. It’s dangerous. It’s there to destroy you and the ones you’re sent to. You will encounter and experience loss and death.
But it’s worth it. It’s worth the cost you’ll pay. That moment when Holy Spirit invades that muslim man or woman’s heart, and you see in their eyes LIFE that wasn’t there 5 seconds ago – it’s worth all the pain, the danger, the threat, and the loss for that. It’s worth it, to risk your life to see the Bride of Christ raised up in a place where there was nothing but death before.
To you who are called to that, COME! The harvest is here. It’s plentiful. It’s waiting for you. You know what you’re meant for.
The nations are waiting. Come!