Finding peace during a coup
This devotion chronicles how I felt recently, during one of the most frightening experiences of my life. I was on my way home to Bethlehem from the LPNI study tour to Brazil last July after a wonderful week with very special friends. I arrived at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul, Turkey, on 15 July at 10:00 pm, after spending more than 32 hours in airports. My last flight was scheduled for next day at 2:00 am.
I was exhausted and emotionally drained, and decided to rest for a while. After an hour I decided to have a cup of coffee to refresh myself. At that time I saw something on the television about the Ataturk airport, and saw pictures of tanks and armed soldiers. At first I thought this was a repeat of news of the bombings that took place two weeks earlier. I walked down to my gate to check my flight; however, the screen was dark. Then I walked to the main screen and my flight wasn’t listed there, and I noticed that some flights were delayed. After half an hour people started to become very anxious and to wonder what was happening. All flights were CANCELLED … in big red letters!
At that moment I heard some loud screaming. We saw a large number of bearded men dressed in white gowns screaming and shooting in all directions and carrying green flags. Some in the airport shouted that these men were ISIS! Travelers panicked and started to run wildly, screaming and shouting. In the melee I was thrown to the floor. I had no clue what was going on, but I was frightened for my life. My left leg was twisted, and very painful. I couldn’t stand up until I approached the wall and started to ‘run’ on my right leg only. I was told that there was a coup, and the situation was very dangerous for all of us.
I can’t say exactly how I felt at that moment. Many fearful thoughts came to my mind, and I was certain that I would die there, never able to see my family again. Then I remembered how Jesus calmed the raging waves and performed many healing miracles. I felt that he was alive with us, and he would take care of me and of the thousands who were there also. I started praying in silence, for the travelers, their families, and even for those terrorists.
For 25 hours of fear and uncertainty, I heard sounds of explosions and bombing coming from everywhere. However, I got to know many people from a number of different nationalities with whom I never thought I would have a chance to speak. Gradually I forgot my painful leg, stopped worrying about my family waiting for me at home, and the whole situation around me. I firmly believed God wanted me to be in that place at that moment to share his peace and joy despite the fearful situation.
God asks us to love your neighbor as you love yourself. He didn’t say that this neighbor should be a Christian, a believer in Jesus, and only those from your nationality, background, etc. In Luke 6:32-33, Jesus said: If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. Jesus meant for us to love all people as they all are created by God, even those who are different from me. I should still love them and respect them,
Sometimes we don’t understand the extent of the evil that surrounds us, and we can’t understand why God allows us to experience such painful and horrible experiences! Now I can better understand the thoughts of the innocent people around the world who are killed on a daily basis, and how they must feel in the last minutes of their lives. I started to think: Who gives anyone the right to end the life of another person simply because he/she is different; does not believe in what another believe, lives a totally different life, and dresses differently. God created us as human beings, and some have turned into monsters who kill those they do not like and do not accept.
Every day since this experience I think on this verse from Romans: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (5:8). May God fill our hearts with love and acceptance of one another, so we can be living Bibles to all whom we meet!