One Word Blog Carnival: Peace

p4010182It was more than 100 degrees in the room we were in. A room smaller than my living room. With no furniture save four or five cheap plastic chairs for our patients to sit in. The five of us were practically standing on top of each other. And with no electricity, no lights, and no air-conditioning, we were almost desperate to keep the mob from pressing too tightly against the two small windows that allowed a bit of light and an almost non-existent breeze to wisp through on occasion.

When we had arrived a couple of hours earlier, it had been blatantly obvious that we were going to be dealing with a loud, demanding, desperate, and vocal crowd that day. It was really no surprise when we saw armed soldiers in navy blue uniforms and black berets begin to move through the crowd, grumpily trying to keep the peace, but really creating more discontent than they were alleviating. But as Americans in the midst of a war-torn Sub-Saharan African country, we had no right to ask the soldiers to leave. We did our best to ignore them and continue our work while they continued to stir up our patients.

I tried to focus solely on my patients—there were so many of them and the need was so great. As hot as it was and as much as I was sweating, I hesitated to stop and take a drink of the hot water in the plastic bottle that I kept hidden (so my patients wouldn’t steal it) because I knew that a break for me would be one less patient that could be helped. So I ignored the heat and the thirst, calling patient after patient. Virtie and Sandra, my two partners, worked at least as feverishly as I did. But as we glanced out the window we saw the line growing instead of shrinking. And as loud as the patients had been all morning, they were now speaking at a deafening volume. It was all we could do to hear our patients answer us as we asked questions.

p4010177I guess it was because of the noise that I never heard the gunshots, but Tommy—the American police officer traveling with us—must have heard them. I watched him jump a chair and leap over a five foot wall to get to the commotion. When I saw Tommy start running, I glanced out the window and watched the crowd surging.

We didn’t know until later what had really happened. There had been an attempted coup of the government, downtown at the Parliament building. When that happened, a riot had broken out there. As word began to spread, the people just became hysterical. Their lives were so empty and broken already—these people who eat an average of three times a week and who subsist on dirty sugar water—most of whom had never seen a doctor and knew that once we left, they probably never would. The people were pushing at the gates and crying out, until in a misguided attempt to calm the crowd, one of the blue-uniformed guards had begun firing shots in the air.

p4010192That was all it took for the crowd to riot. They became a human battering ram, bursting through the high, metal gate and nearly taking down a cement block wall. Tommy jumped the chair, hurdled the wall, and with the help of some of the local pastors and translators, Tommy was able to get the gate secured, and the bus loaded. Instead of finishing out the day’s clinic, we slipped onto the bus to leave. We were warned that the mob would probably try to turn the bus over as we left, but when we opened the gate to leave, the mob had suddenly disappeared. There were only a handful of people left standing there and they were calmly waving to us as we left.

Later, as the team sat back at the guest house comparing notes, I began to completely realize the lessons of that day. First of all, almost none of our team members felt any fear at all. In the midst of that very dangerous situation, only one girl—Jenny—had panicked. Sensing Jenny’s panic, the pharmacist sitting next to her leaned over and whispered, “Don’t you see them, Jenny?” Jenny looked at the pharmacist in utter confusion. “Don’t you see then, Jenny? They are nine feet tall and all around us!”The sweet Kentucky pharmacist was seeing angels standing around the walls.

Secondly, when the crowd rioted and everyone—medical team and patients alike—had rushed to the windows to see what was going on, I looked back inside and noticed a little old lady that was sitting inside, seemingly oblivious to what was going on. She was merely sitting in a cheap, flimsy, plastic chair, wearing her new reading glasses and reading her little pocket Bible.

Today as I was driving the winding country roads of North Carolina on my way home from work, I started listening to the Lord about “peace.” And the picture I saw in my mind was that dangerous Congolese clinic in January of 2005. I saw the face of the pharmacist who had seen angels in the midst of a riot. And I saw the bowed head of the grandmother who sought God in spite of the clamor.

And then, I heard the still small voice of God speaking, “Peace isn’t about what’s going on around you. It’s about what’s going on in you.”

That’s the truth—and the truth sets us free.

This is part of The One Word Blog Carnival at my friend Bridget Chumbley’s place. To read the rest of the entries, go to her website!

About Sarah Salter

Comments

  1. You had me hooked from the first paragraph. You told a great story — and told it well.

  2. Me too. Peace wrapped around suspense.

  3. I couldn’t wait to see where the story would end up… and I sure wasn’t disappointed! What an amazing experience… and wonderful lesson.
    Thank you, Sarah.

  4. Finding peace in the middle of violence …

  5. Great narrative! You made us feel like we were there with you. And then concluded with a powerful message.

  6. Oh my. I breathed a sigh filled with peace as my heart resonated with your words — “Peace isn’t about what’s going on around you. It’s about what’s going on in you.”

    Thank you for this beautiful story.

  7. “And then, I heard the still small voice of God speaking, “Peace isn’t about what’s going on around you. It’s about what’s going on in you.”

    Amen!! This was a great story…and I love the pictures to go along with it. Thank you for sharing this.

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank you all for your sweet words! It is always hard for me to find peace in the midst of noise and chaos. But it’s easier when the Holy Spirit gives me reminders like this!

  9. What a great story and lesson for all of us. Thanks Sarah!

  10. Beautifully written and moving post, Sarah.

  11. Some powerful thoughts, here, Sarah … and yes, it is the truth that sets us free. {appreciate the comment you left for me – thanks}

  12. Your thought-provoking message really grabbed me. What I kept thinking about is when you feel very scared, like hiding under the bed afraid :), to repeat the words “Peace isn’t about what’s going on around you. It’s about what’s going on in you.” Thanks for sharing Sarah!

  13. Great post. God bless that woman, and that Pharmacist.

  14. Incredible story. Strange, isn’t it, that we have to travel thousands of miles to find that peace within.

    Blessings,
    Jean Hall
    TWV2

  15. Sarah Salter says:

    Maureen, Susan, JoAnne, & Jean- Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad the story touched you. Each time I tell it, I learn the lesson a bit more. :-)

    Helen & Jason- Thanks for continuing to come by and read my little stories! Your support and friendship means more than I can say. (The song “We Are Family” is playing in my head… That’s exactly how I feel about y’all! Love you both!)

  16. Elizabeth says:

    This is a wonderful story thank you for sharing. How wonderful God is in through all situations God is in control, Praise God!

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