On August 6th our family, along with Christina (our translator), and a team of three college students from Indiana were traveling home from doing ministry and seeing Lake Malawi.
The day had been a day of relaxation and rest. Our kids got to play in the sand and water at the beach, I was able to read my book (slightly), and we got to see zebras and a giraffe so close it felt like we could have touched them if we wanted.
We were very grateful that months before we had planned that day. There was a planned protest in Lilongwe, the city where we live, and over 1 million people had planned to protest in the capital. We had been in contact with several friends and they said that many areas in Lilongwe were not well during the day and that we should come back later in the day. We had received an email that the protesters were staying in the city. We felt it was fine to travel back home later that day, but we knew to avoid certain areas.
Since our vehicle only holds seven and there were nine of us, we had rented a large van for our trip.
We were about 20 minutes from Lilongwe and we were almost home. As we had traveled there were some fires on the side of the road and we could see that there had been fires burning on the road during the day as part of the demonstrations. It had only been dark for about 10 minutes and then as we were driving, someone hit our vehicle with a small rock. We saw a few larger rocks in the middle of the road up ahead, but assumed that they had done it earlier in the day and it would be safe to drive on.
(These were some of stones that were placed in the middle of the road. Picture taken at the actual location one week later)
There were cars still in front of us and no one had turned around, so we just continued. Then my side window had a brick thrown at it and it shattered. There was glass everywhere but I was fine. The kids started crying. Luke said, “There is police stop right here so it should be fine.” That is when we saw that the Police Station was on fire and we were in danger. The bricks and stones kept flying and breaking other windows and the rocks, fires, and other obstacles in the road became larger and more often in order to slow us down.
(The burn spots on the road one week later)
Just beyond the police stop there was an armored vehicle that was throwing tear gas at individuals to try to stop them. Luke stopped to see if they could protect us and then he saw a tear gas canister roll directly under our car, so we continued a little further. We were hit by more stones and then there was a slight break but we saw more up ahead and could not determine if it would end soon. At this time over 5 of our windows are broken and they are continuing to throw rocks at us. Luke and I knew there was a decision to be made. Do we continue to keep going? Is it safer to turn around and go back the ¾ of a mile we had already come? How long is this going to continue? What if our tires go flat from driving over the large stones in the road? The Holy Spirit told me to yell, “Luke drive as fast as you can and everyone pray”.
In the vehicle we borrowed the only seat belt was in the front. Aaron was beside me in his car seat. But it was the best place for him because he was protected by the thick tempered glass of the front windshield, I laid on top of him. Christina started praying loudly in Chichewa and everyone else also starting praying loudly and Miriam even stopped crying. The next ¾ mile my brave husband drove us through fires and large bricks on the road everywhere, there were bricks hitting all over our vehicle. But the peace of the Lord hovered all over us. And then just as quickly as it began it was over.
I looked up and said, “Is everyone okay”. And I got eight yes’s, followed by one of the college students stating that his hand was slightly cut. He happened to see a rock coming toward his window due to a fire being right there, so he blocked the rock with his hand so that it did not hit his head and he also said, “I am covered in something wet, but we are fine.” (More on the liquid later.) No one else was injured. In all, 8 of the windows were smashed. The back windows were broken but nothing fell out. As far as we could tell, there was not a rock that came through a window that had already been smashed or there could have been serious injuries. Luke’s window was not broken so he could still drive. Even though we had drove through fires and over bricks, the tires were fine and the engine wasn’t damaged. God was there.
Mark sat up and said “God was with us.” For a little boy who still struggles daily with being angry with God for having to live in Malawi, he knew God was within that vehicle.
About four years ago Miriam was learning about Jesus and she learned about when Jesus is going to come and take his believers to heaven. Now for someone that has attachment disorders and anxiety problems, this was scary. In her mind Jesus was someone that would snatch her in the middle of the night and take her somewhere without her parents. After this situation Miriam said “Jesus is sitting next to me.” For her to say that Jesus was with her was a miracle. In that moment she no longer was scared of Him but realized He was there protecting her and keeping her safe. Luke and I through this had stayed calm, I didn’t even shed a tear (and for me that was a miracle). God was with us.
As we were traveling home. Miriam said “Mom the windows are gone and it is night, we are going to get bitten.” For us, it doesn’t matter if we go outside for one minute, we put bug spray on after dark, for us this something that could save our lives. We do not want to get malaria and this is the best way of prevention. Miriam knows that she needs to put bug spray on, but there is no way I can find it right then so we just said a prayer and traveled on.
The rest of the way home we didn’t approach any danger. Somewhere in the mist of all of this, two shields on the bottom of the vehicle had come part way off and were dragging on the ground. All the way back to our house people were shouting “You are dragging something.” What a sight we must have been. Our vehicle had more windows broken than were in tack, it had dents in it everywhere and we were making so much noise because the pieces are just dragging on the ground. As soon Luke stopped and turned the car around in front of our house, one of the pieces just fell off.
When we got Aaron out of his car seat. There was a layer of glass under him. But not a scratch anywhere on his body. The rest of us were the same. God was protecting us.
The next day as we got home and I was shaking and picking glass out of our belongings. I noticed that a plastic bag had a hole it in and one bottle of bug spray was empty. God had a stone shatter that one bag so that bug spray would go all over the pants of the college student and permeate our vehicle to protect us from Malaria. God was in every detail of that situation.
We sent out an email newsletter with a few of these details the week after the event. From that newsletter we received donations that paid for the repair of the vehicle. The donations matched the amount that was needed. It came out to the exact amount in Malawi Kwacha! God is real!
In my next blog post. I will explain more about the safety of our situation here in Malawi and how we are processing all of this. But for now, we are safe there are no protests at this time. But if you take away anything from this story know that God is real. You might think that God doesn’t love you and that God is not real. Well I can 100% tell you that God is living and real. There is no way we could have come out of our situation without the hand of God being a part of it. I am personally struggling with the why in this situation, I daily struggle with fear and guilt, but I know God was there and He is real.
Since that day there has been one other demonstration day. We stayed home and we had heard that similar situations happened to others as what you have just read. The very next day after those demonstrations we were moving about the city freely as if nothing had happened and we are safe. Continue to pray for us and we will update you as the situation develops.
(Just before two of the college students left for the airport)