[This story took place on Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 in Niamey, Niger]
What a joy it is to be alive (although to be with Christ would be more glorious) and share with you the wonders of His protection and guidance. Recently, my brothers and co-workers Johnson and Jonny Hayes and I were driving into Niamey when our vehicle was attacked by a mob intent on burning the vehicle while we were still in it. It was a complete miracle that we escaped! What encouraged our hearts so greatly was the beauty of the Holy Spirit and the way He worked.
It was like any other day in Kwara Tagi, Niger. It was 9:00 a.m., warm and sunny. We had just finished our morning prayer meeting and were headed into town to drop off a mattress and to renew some government documents. Johnson, Justin, Jonny and I jumped into my Honda CRV (otherwise known as “Camilla”) and off we went. Little did we know of the coming adventure.
To give you a brief preface, this region of West/North Africa has had its share of conflicts recently and consequently many students have been rioting over various issues. After dropping off the mattress, we continued on the Tillaberi Road toward the city center of Niamey. As we approached the Rond-Point Yantala (a main traffic circle), we noticed a car making an awkward wrong-way left turn (which is nothing new in a city with wild driving practices), but other cars kept going through the circle like nothing was wrong—until we pulled into the circle. After making it halfway around, we were all-of-a-sudden jumped by a mob of approximately 20 guys, though only three were really doing the job—the rest were yelling. One young man was pointing at my face through the windshield and screaming something. In seemingly a split second, they had thrown tires around the front half of our car (we were blocked in by cars on all the other sides), threw another tire up onto our car, and had one tire in flames ready to ignite the vehicle from underneath with the four of us still in it.
Knowing what was happening (that we were about to be burned alive in our car), I looked behind but there was a taxi on my bumper so I couldn’t back up, and I wouldn’t be able to go forward without injuring or killing one of the guys. After what seemed like an eternity of honking (probably about three seconds), the taxi managed to back up maybe five feet, all while the mob was preparing the car to be burned and waiting for it to ignite. Five feet was enough. Throwing “Camilla” into reverse, I backed up quickly into the taxi (yes, making contact, but not too much... that’s what a bumper’s for), pulled a quick three-point-turn into the jam of vehicles, managed to squeeze between two cars, and proceeded to tear around on the sidewalk, sending three people jumping out of the vehicle’s way. (Don’t forget, the horn was announcing our arrival.) Swerving between a couple of cars, we careened back onto the main road, heading the opposite direction and into oncoming traffic (which, praise God, was quite empty due to the spectacle of what was happening) before making it to our side of the road and veered off onto the first dirt road past the market. After making it about a kilometer down the back stretch,we pulled over and thanked God for the miracle He had performed.We prayed for the souls of these guys who were perpetuating the violence, that God would bring true peace to their lives. Then we called the embassy.
This is not a story about heroic guys, crazy driving, or the drama happening in this region. This is a story about God’s deliverance and protection. We know that if we had been burned alive this morning, we were ready to meet God because of what Jesus has done for our salvation, but we are thankful to be alive and sharing this story of His deliverance.
After the incident, I posted on Facebook, “Wondering who was praying for me and the boys this morning at 9:30 a.m. Niamey time (3:30 a.m. EST). A complete miracle we weren’t burned alive in our car (or at the very least injured with the car destroyed) this morning. Mob attack. Praising God for His protection.”
In the words of my co-worker Johnson, “The Holy Spirit was ‘gossiping’ again!” I want to give you a few examples of how the Spirit “gossiped.” Let the following responses I received be of great encouragement to you on the power of prayer and ministry of the Holy Spirit...
It didn’t stop there. Another friend wrote, “My dad woke up to pray for you that night. Like me, he had no idea what he was praying for, but he describes it as a pressing, terrible blackness—a sense of urgency .” I’ve never even met this man. One of my closest friends, an Irish brother, had a different prayer that day. He prayed for the team in Niger that God would “send us through the fire ” that we might be purified. God has a sense of humor. There are more letters, but I just wanted to share a few to encourage your hearts that we have a Holy Spirit who is active. Thank you to everyone who wrote, encouraged, and reminded us that you are praying.We feel so blessed to be surrounded by the greatest team of prayer warriors. May this be an encouragement for us to “pray without ceasing,” recognizing that His promptings are not in vain. When God brings a name to your heart, stop, pray, and do not cease praying until the Holy Spirit gives you peace to do so. As I write this, I say more than ever,
we are co-laborers. He is worthy.
This is the first time I’ve been involved in an incident that temporarily shut down a US embassy.We have finished the police reports and such, but pray that, more than ever, we would be burdened for the salvation of this nation. He is doing great things. Pray as well for the perpetrators of violence (these are chaotic days), that God would bless them with the knowledge of Himself. They need their eyes opened to His light. May He use us to minister that Good News.