After processing the entire email, I realized we were being informed that there was a security threat against Americans. The US Embassy was advising all American citizens to stay home and avoid public areas for the weekend.
That would include church on Sunday.
Rewind back in time over five years ago, and this is where you would find us. Living in Central Asia, raising our baby daughter, and serving the Lord as He had called us, we had never struggled with any sort of fear up until this point.
It was Friday. Should we inform everyone that we would be staying home Sunday morning? We prayed, discussed, thought, processed, and didn't make a decision. It was Saturday afternoon and the calls and texts started coming in. Many people from church were going to be staying home Sunday and they wanted us to know so we could pass on their responsibilities. One by one all day long the list of people not coming grew and grew. We understood. We didn't judge. We felt the fear ourselves. But we were still grappling with what we should do as a family.
I was scheduled to lead nursery that Sunday. I would be in there with my tiny daughter and countless other precious children. My husband would be in the sanctuary helping run the service. My mind started reeling. I played it all out in my head. If the bombers came to our International Church, surely they would set the bomb off in the sanctuary, right? I couldn't imagine them setting off the bomb in the nursery area. What if my husband was killed and I was left alone to raise my daughter by myself? What if I was the only adult left alive that day and had the responsibility of herding and rescuing 20 plus babies and toddlers that morning? The struggle was real, my friends.
I started scheming. What if I convinced my husband to help me in the nursery that morning? Then he would most likely be safe if the bomb or shootings went off in the sanctuary. We would hear the blast or gunshots and have time to quickly escape out the back door with all of the children. Yes, that's what we would do...
Immediately I felt God's gentle touch in my heart. Like a stop sign for traffic, He was halting my thoughts.
"Casey. Casey. Why the fear? Did I not call you all the way across the ocean myself? Do you think I called your family here to cower in times like these? Stand strong. Do not fear."
That's all I heard. I broke down in tears.
"Forgive me, Lord! Forgive me! I will go wherever you call us! I trust you!"
I told my husband what I felt and he agreed. As pastors on staff at church we felt God calling us to stand strong in the face of opposition and fear and to be a beacon of light and hope. If, for some reason, a bomb or shootings went off that morning, we would ask that God use us. Even if there were only a few there at church, we would stand together with them. The thought even crossed my mind, "What would I say if I looked my killer in the eyes? Would I tell him Jesus loves him and I forgive him? Would I tell him that God has a plan for his life and that he was deeply loved by God?" I desperately wanted this to be the kind of reaction I would have in the face of adversity.
We did not judge anyone for their decisions to stay home that morning. We understood whole-heartledly. We did not think we were better than them or more "holy". We ourselves wanted to stay home with every ounce left in our bones. But God had spoken. So be it.
When we walked out of our apartment that morning and headed to church, I told myself, "This could be the day we die. I am ready, Lord. I am ready."
I can never explain to you in words how that morning changed me, my friends. Something died inside. A chip of selfishness died. A bit of arrogance died. Pried died. My plans for my life died. I died to my flesh. Fear melted. I felt only love.
That morning as I watched those precious babies playing with their toys and heard the kids praise music filling the room from my CD player, I was weeping inside. God forgive me for my lack of obedience. For that day, my calling was to watch over these gifts of life. My husband's calling was to stand strong with the believers in the sanctuary. No matter what happened that day, the safest place was to be in His will.
There was no bomb that day.
I have lived and traveled all over the world. I have come close to death. I have come close to being attacked. I have been grabbed by strange foreign men and had an attempted mugging. I have dealt with my fair share of fear, my friends. All I can say is Jesus has always protected me and given me healing and grace to forgive after these events. I have prayed fervently for these men that Jesus would convict them of what they did and turn their eyes to the truth of the gospel. I have no hate.
I sit here in my living room with tears welled up in my eyes thinking of the atrocities of this world. I lay awake at night bawling and weeping when I think of innocent women, children, and men being persecuted and attacked all over the world. My heart aches. My body aches. I am a broken mess.
Regardless of how we feel about the world today, about people of other religions and terrorists and refugees and politics... may we stop and ask God how we can align together with His ultimate plan for His people. Instead of fight and bicker over these issues, how can we stand together in unity to bring the gospel, to bring healing, to bring hope, to bring resources and love to a hurting world?
The day I thought we would die has forever changed me. Fear does not drive me. Only love.