They had just arrived back to Kona after serving in China for two months. She had a baby in her arms, a toddler tugging at her skirt and two others running around the room. Our leaders said, "These families have just returned from their outreach. I know some of you are nervous about going to China next month so we thought this might be a good chance to meet one another and ask questions you might have." I didn't hesitate to approach the young mom.
"Hi! I'm Kristin and my husband and I and our four kids will be headed to China next month. I'm nervous. I'm nervous my kids will say something they shouldn't. I'm nervous about going into a communist country. My kids are so little. Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for me?"
I was hoping this mom would be able to offer me comfort or some insight. She smiled at me and the words she said, not only gave me comfort in that moment, but (little did I know) would prepare me to return to Baltimore.
"I no longer have fear of the unknown," she said simply.
I don't think at that moment I fully comprehended what she meant, but when we returned from our time in China, they became my words as well.
You see, when we face something unknown and step in obedience towards an ask of God, it's so easy to be overwhelmed with the "what ifs" of the situation. For me when heading to China, "What if Nahum says the name Jesus and a communist guard hears it? What if we get detained at the border because Bibles are discovered in our bags? Or later in life, "What if a kid pulls a gun out at school? What if Zeb steps on a heroin needle playing in the playground?"
I remember when we were preparing to go into the interior of China, one of our school speakers gave me a scripture verse he felt was from God for me.
"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." 1 Peter 5:8-9
I remember him giving me this word, then feeling unsure that this would instill fear in me. He went on, in his own words to say, "Wait, but there's also this part..."
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. " 1 Peter 5:10
"So, you know God will keep you strong and firm!" He continued.
It's weird when someone gives you a verse and you know immediately God is speaking to your heart. I knew, that first verse was what God wanted me to hear. But, I also know Jesus and when Jesus has something to say, it's never delivered with fear, it's delivered in love. Jesus whispered in my heart, "Be alert, Kristin. Be on your guard." I felt like in that moment He was giving me insight and direction. Shortly after that day, a friend back in Maryland messaged me and said, "I had a vivid dream last night and I feel like it's a warning to watch over your kids."
Again, God whispered to my heart, "Just be aware, not fearful, but aware, especially of Tavi."
Tavi was two at this time and the youngest member of our team and family. Do you know, in the next couple of months, both in Kona and in China, that call to be alert saved Tavi's life?
She ran down the steps to head out to the playground, which she did daily. I watched her ponytails bobbing back and forth as I walked behind her. There was a service road between our apartment and the playground. I don't think I had ever seen a car on that road, just the occasional golf cart driven by the maintenance guys. Before I could reach the service road, I saw to my horror a big, gold vintage Cadillac backing up with Tavi right behind it. I began to yell, "Stop!!" Other moms heard my scream and began to pick up the chant, "Stop!!!" The driver, who happened to be Hispanic, didn't understand at first and glanced in the rearview mirror, wondering why everyone was yelling. He couldn't see my petite two year old behind the car. I kept running and yelling and praying for God to stop the car and do you know, just before the bumper met Tavi, the car stopped. I got to her right after that moment and scooped her up, thanking God for His protection.
Another day, I had arrived at the pool and my older kids were playing in the shallow end with some friends. Tavi was hanging out with me as I caught up with a friend. As quick as a toddler can do, she bolted from me and jumped right into the deep end of the pool. Without hesitation, I dove in, fully clothed to grab her at the bottom and pull her back up. I thanked God, yet again for making me fully aware and present to respond.
Then in China, we were in the living room of an apartment worshipping. The kids of the team were in a bedroom playing games. All of a sudden, I had a very strong impression to go check on Tavi. I got up immediately and found that an eleven year old girl was holding Tavi and innocently, leaning out of the second floor window, looking below. I calmly went over to her and took Tavi from her arms, thanking God again for his warning.
God protected her. Every single time, He protected her. Little did I know this was just the beginning of my learning the depths of this truth.
*Photo by Athena Lam