Rite of Passage: Danger zone
I have been held at gunpoint twice in my life. I pray you will never have to know what that feels like. I don’t recommend it.
The first experience took place in Mexico while I was on staff at Tulsa, First. Our congregation collected clothing to send to a group of homeless people who lived on a garbage dump. We shipped the clothes to Laredo, Texas. Our plan was that I would rent a van, load it with the clothes and take them across the border, where the church planters would distribute them.
Upon arrival in Laredo, I had a problem: no van. We had made a deposit, but the only vehicle the rental company had was a white Lincoln Continental Mark V. Only one English word describes this car: behemoth! I had no choice but to take it. I went to pick up the clothes and realized I would have to make multiple trips across the border. I stuffed clothes in the trunk, in the back window, on the floorboard, in the back seat and finally in the passenger’s seat. That left a space just large enough for me to sit. I must have looked more like a gangster than a Baptist minister. The only thing missing was the bling-bling.
I crossed the border and went to the garbage dump where the missionaries were waiting. I dropped off the first load and made my way back to the United States to pick up the second. I crossed the border again and had my first experience at gunpoint. As I pulled the Lincoln into the dump area, jeeps and federal soldiers surrounded the car. Every man had a gun pointed directly at my head. They yelled something in Spanish and motioned me to get out, hands in the air. I complied.
The officers wanted to know why I was making so many trips back and forth. My Spanish was poor, so I yelled the only thing I knew, “¡Yo soy pastor Bautista, yo soy pastor Bautista!” I hoped that meant “I am a Baptist pastor.”
The man in charge came up to me and said, “Prove it!”
All I could think of was the little New Testament I carried in my shirt pocket. I pulled it out and held it high in the air, shouting, “¡La Biblia, Nuevo Testamento!”
The leader snatched it away, saying, “Si, la Biblia,” as he passed it around for the others to see. As they thumbed through the New Testament, they lowered their rifles one by one. As quickly as the soldiers came, they left. To this day, I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t had my New Testament with me.
My next gunpoint experience happened while I was attending the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies. I had to park about half a mile away from the school and walk to class. One afternoon as a friend and I were returning to my car, we passed a strangely dressed young man. Suddenly, I felt something cold and hard shoved into the small of my back. A voice said, “Give me all your money or I’ll blow your brains out.”
I figured he wasn’t too intelligent if he thought my brains were in my back. I opened my wallet and gave him everything I had, a total of $2. My friend had only $1. The young man yelled, “Where’s the rest of the money?”
Calmly, I told him that my friend and I were attending Bible college. Between the two of us, we only had $3, but he was welcome to it.
“You two are preachers?”
He handed us back our money and walked away. When he was caught, my friend and I had to identify him. We had more money than any of the five people he robbed that morning—and he had returned it.
I believe that when you follow God, He provides supernatural protection. By the time you read this, I will be in the heart of Africa, a place where few Americans ever go. There is a risk of encountering rebels, malaria and a host of other hazards. People have asked me, “Isn’t this dangerous?”
”Dangerous” has nothing to do with the barrel of a rifle or a geographical location. The most dangerous place to be is out of God’s will. Mom and Dad, we need to teach our children they are safer with God in the lion’s den or the fiery furnace than outside His will. I would rather take my chances with African rebels than step out from under His protection and direction. Teach your children how to recognize what is truly dangerous. That’s the best way to keep them . . . safe.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827.