I have this memory of a time when I was doing a 6 week trip to Brazil as a 20yr old, away from all I knew and experiencing life in a whole new way. I was nervous to go, it was with a team lead by a Pastor who had planted a church and had organized a trip to broaden our horizons.
One early morning the sun was only just making an appearance but it was already hotter than I had expected, and I found myself in a busy fish market town with traders getting going. We had set out early to find a group of children sleeping rough and we found them already high on glue and huddled together.
The woman we were with began singing and engaging with the kids whilst I just watched, unsure of how to connect and feeling like a rich tourist visiting poverty for the day.
Out of nowhere this lad of about 16 appeared with blood down his arms and a vacant look in his eyes. He began to stalk around behind me, with fishing knives lying around I began rattling through my contingency plans, there was one, run.
As I was working all this out he lurched forward and grabbed a cap I was wearing, put it on his head and carried on stalking. I was frozen to the spot, I had been in a few ugly exchanges before growing up in Essex but this was all outside of what I knew and I wasn’t sure what the right reaction should be. Many of these young men are armed and I have seen the impact of a wrong move and it was not good.
The woman we were with snatched the hat back and threw it to me, it wasn’t about the hat, but this was quickly getting out of control. She called us all together and said ‘lets hold hands in a circle, shut our eyes and pray.’ WHAT! ‘No offence love’ I thought, I was moving into red alert mode, defcon 5!
Against all the voices inside my head at that point and with this young guy lurking behind me I found my place in the circle, held hands with eyes shut started praying.
She prayed for peace, calm and the presence of God, that’s all I can remember, I had switched my hearing into survival mode and wasn’t really caught up in the moment of prayer.
When I opened my eyes this young guy was asleep, fast asleep just steps away from where we had been standing. The situation had ended and we cared for the other children, gave out food and affection but my heart was still racing and chewing this all over.
When I look back, this experience pushed me to trust outside of what I could see, control and handle. In my life now I make plans that have gaps in, why? Because I want to think so big that unless God gets involved it just wont get resolved. My strength vs. what God can do, doesn’t even come close!