Perhaps it’s not what you would expect from a faith-based person who had entered Somalia for the sake of the kingdom of God but I was severely tempted to put my hands around the throat of my Chief of Staff and do him bodily harm. Why such behavior?
He almost got me killed.
Our small relief organization was now up and running. It was my job many days to survey parts of Mogadishu and the surrounding towns and villages to discover where we were most needed but also where there was enough security so that we could work. Early in this life-changing, destructive environment I asked my Chief of Staff concerning surveying a certain portion of Mogadishu. I had indirectly heard that it was still very dangerous and I wanted to double check with my Chief of Staff, Hassan, before traveling to that part of the city. He assured me that everything was okay and that I should go.
So this Kentucky boy, a product of a denominational based college and seminary training-a sometimes fumbling pastor, was now an overseas worker trying to apply faith in a mostly faithless and dangerous environment. I got in our pickup truck with the driver and four guards and went to the portion of Mogadishu were my Chief of Staff had assured us it was safe to visit that part of the city.
We almost were killed. Entering this embattled section of Mogadishu, outlaws tried to drag us from our vehicle, threw blocks of concrete at the truck, and sprayed bullets towards our pickup truck with their ancient AK-47s. It was a terrifying encounter and we were lucky to get back to our compound with my life intact and my pants dry!
I stormed up the stairs of our headquarters until I found my Chief of Staff. Working through my fear I grabbed him by the shirt front and demanded of him, “Why did you lie to me? You almost got me and the others killed!” He was very affronted and incredulously replied to me, “I don’t know you well enough to tell you the truth. Why would I waste the truth on someone like you?”
I was struck dumb and walked away. In what school or seminary was I supposed to learn how to serve Jesus in an environment that was dominated by barbarians with world views such as the Roman Empire? Oh yes, what I needed to know was in the Bible but I had never seen such godlessness lived out in present active tense. I realized, perhaps for the first time, that indeed I was a sheep among the wolves. But for the first time the wolves were in the majority.
Over the next seven years Hassan saved my life 4 or 5 times. We are close friends today. But he taught me a valuable lesson. Don’t expect the Fruit of the Spirit in places where few people know Jesus. Don’t expect nonbelievers to waste the truth on someone whom they do not know, who are not part of their clan, culture, or country. Do not transfer Christian attributes to people who do not know Jesus!
Yet bullets directed at you accelerate one’s learning and cultural adaptation.
Where was I supposed to learn what it was like to be a cross-bearer in a Roman environment? Who was supposed to have taught and modeled for me the Bible in present active tense. How was I to know that the Old Testament still defined globally many people groups and countries? Was it okay for me to heavily dislike being a sheep among the wolves where the wolves had the upper hand?