This was first posted on February 17, 2009 and I think it’s worth publishing again.
Susan May Warren is an acquaintance whom I hope to get to know better. After you read her story of finding strength in prayers, you’ll want to get to know her better too.
My husband Andrew and I served as missionaries in Russia for eight years with our four children. After eight years, Russia had begun to feel like home. I understood the language, and culture, I dressed like a Russian, ate Russian food, vacationed with my Russian friends, and felt at home in my adopted country.
But see, it’s when things are most comfortable that God asks us to step in faith. Because He wants us to need Him.
And on March 1, 2002, at 1:15pm, in the middle of Far East Russia, I did.
Probably I should have paid attention to the warning signs. About two days before, my husband, Andrew was outside walking the dog when an elderly man stumbled up to him. Smelling like a brewery, but with remarkably clear eyes, he said, “I don’t want anything from you. I’m not going to ask for money or anything. I just want to know one thing.”
Andrew stopped, his curiosity pricked, keeping a careful distance.
“Why are you here?” the man asked. “I mean, don’t you know it is dangerous? There are people here who hunt foreigners. You’re like prey.”
Prey. That word took on new meaning the afternoon in March. My youngest children, Peter, age seven and Noah, age five had just left to walk the dog just outside our flat. During the time they were outside, three men snuck into our home. Five minutes later, the boys and the dog returned. I locked the door, turned around…and the bandits attacked.
With the intent to frighten more than injure, one used force to push me into my office. Meanwhile, another black-hooded thug grabbed a knife and rounded up my four children in a bedroom, threatening them to keep them quiet.
Good Christian kids that they are, they huddled and prayed. The thieves demanded our money, my jewelry and began assembling our electronics for removal.
I closed my eyes and I prayed.
In Russia, with break-in occurring more often, it isn’t unheard of to find the victims slaughtered, the thieves reluctant to leave behind eyewitnesses. My only hope of defense was Heavenly.
Suddenly, as if shocked by some supernatural electrical force, the thieves jumped up, shouted…and ran out, leaving their weapon and our electronics behind.
I followed them, slammed the door behind them, my heart in my throat and ran for the children. We collapsed into a crying, grateful huddle.
The overwhelming theme of this event is that prayer matters. Without a doubt, God intervened and kept us alive.
Our mission board immediately sent our traumatized family to a counseling center in Taiwan. Our children were shaken, afraid to sleep at night, afraid to let us out of their sight. They clung to us at odd times. Instead of running stateside, however, our mission board wanted to see if we could stay, at least through the summer if not for another term.
God drew us close while we were in Taiwan, comforting and reminding us of His love. We spent much time in prayer, asking God for direction. He didn’t erase our nightmares, but assured us that we could hold on, tight, to His promises to carry us through the flames of fear, suffering and hardship.
We returned to Russia in the beginning of April, eyes fixed on the summer projects. We made adjustments – installed a security system, changed our dog-walking procedures. Most of all we strove to keep our eyes on the LORD Who had shown Himself sufficient, again and again in our lives.
Prey may be a term used for foreigners, but as we headed into out the last months of our ministry, our key word was – Pray.
Because prayer became my lifeline. My children refused to leave my side for four months, and every time we left our apartment (read: every day, since someone had to go buy food), we huddled at the door. The attackers hadn’t been caught. But we couldn’t stay prisoners. So, we prayed. We prayed our way out of the door, and down the stairs, and all the way to the market. We prayed through market, and all the way back home into our flat. No, maybe we didn’t actually breathe the words aloud every step of the way, but my heart was ever reaching for the sufficiency of the Lord.
We prayed our way through that summer. And into the furlough year, and even now, as I write novels for the glory of God. Because when I reach out to God, I discover that He’s already there, arms around me. Holding me up. If I’m to be known by one word, I’d like it not be Prey….but rather, the woman who Prays.”
Susan May Warren is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 24 books. She and her family make their home on the north shore of Lake Superior. You can find her online at www.susanmaywarren.com