“Are you going with them?”
They were looking for eight men to be part of an outreach to a “closed” country in North Africa. The purpose was to distribute Bibles and medical supplies. With a clear conscience, I sat back and calmly explained that I unfortunately could not go. After all, it was a little short notice and furthermore, we were on our way to the Cape for a long-awaited holiday. Not to mention that the North African country was a war zone at that moment. I had good reasons not to go, however, God had different plans.
Soon afterwards seven of us from South Africa (and one man from another country) packed our bags, unaware of the fact that God was going to change our lives forever. One of our intercessors who prayed for us when we left, asked the Lord for a life-changing experience. We would never have imagined in what way God was going to answer this prayer!
We arrived in the country and one morning during my quiet time the Lord asked me: “Barney, do you serve Me to live, or do you live to serve Me?” My reaction was immediately: “Lord, you know, I live to serve You.” The rest of that day we were busy preparing for an outreach that evening. At about six o’clock that afternoon, we left in two groups of four to place some of the materials in strategic places. My group took the first street and afterwards met at a coffee shop for feedback. The next moment, a man in uniform rushed towards us and while waving an Arabic Bible, he confronted us. Almost immediately we were surrounded by 10 other men. In their broken English, they asked us many questions. The Lord guided us to stay peaceful and calm and He gave us all the correct answers. The men could have looked in our backpacks and would have found many more materials, but the Lord closed their eyes, and they did not look any further. During the entire interrogation, our interrogator clung to the Bible and later he put it in his pocket. What was strange was that afterwards, they treated us as if we were old friends and even enjoyed coffee with us. They also apologised many times.
At that stage, we decided to go back to our hotel and wait for the dust to settle. However, on the way back we received news that the other group were also caught. We were warned that the same people were looking for us. We then did three things, we found a safe place to store the materials, we prayed, and we called our team in South Africa to inform them about the developments.
In the meantime, two members of the other group arrived at our hotel, but we had no idea where the other two were. Later we were interrogated again, and we found out that all this was done by the rebel forces. They also put us under house arrest. We knew we had to tell the truth and we trusted that our interrogates would eventually realise that all our stories were true. During the entire interrogation, we kept on praying and tangibly experienced the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. It felt to me as if someone was standing behind me all that time. When we later talked about this experience, we realized we all have experienced God’s presence intensely.
During this time, we were extremely concerned about the whereabouts of our other two brothers. But God is faithful and soon the rebels brought them back to our hotel.
During all these events God asked me again: “Barney, do you really live to serve Me?” This question, which was so easy to answer earlier, had a completely different meaning to me at that moment. Our whole team were interrogated again at the hotel. During the interrogations the rebels took some Bible as “souvenirs” and afterwards we once again enjoyed coffee together. Something important for us was the realisation that we were dealing with some of the rebel force’s highest-ranking officials. Our undertaking to them was to leave the country the next day, and we did.
Looking back, we realised God’s purpose with that experience in our lives was for the rebel leaders to receive Bibles. For us, that was “Mission Accomplished!”
Two days later at our debriefing in a neighbouring country, God asked me again: “Barney, do you live to serve Me?” At that moment I truly understood the question, I got on my knees and asked God to help me to live my life serving Him!