Because prayer is the theme of the story, I want to start off with something that I didn't learn until Tuesday night. I have been active on an online homeschooling forum for about 12 years. Although I hadn't visited the forum recently, I knew that the ladies there would have heard about our plight, and would be praying for us. Many hours after Ben had been released I logged on to the forum to thank them. As I was searching for all of the posts related to us, I found that a friend had posted a link to a news article about the increase of violent crimes in Honduras, and she'd suggested that the women there remember to pray for us as we faced these dangers . . . but she had posted this a week before Ben and I were kidnapped! Over the course of that week, several other women posted, saying that they had been thinking about me and feeling the need to pray for my safety recently. So, the prayers started before the incident! I really like how that feels, as I think back over how events unfolded!
Friday, August 9th was my daughter Rachel's wedding, here in Gracias Lempira Honduras. The weeks leading up to the wedding had been stressful. I know - trying to plan a wedding is always a crazy time, but this particular wedding had more than its share of snafus - including a point in time when the groom-to-be (a member of the Honduran military) was nearly sent to the US to attend a training session that would have had him away from here on the day of his own wedding! So, as delighted as we are with our new son-in-law, we were pleased and relieved to have the wedding behind us.
The weekend was spent visiting with family who had flown in for the wedding. We were all still pretty keyed up. Monday morning most of the guests were driving to San Pedro Sula for their flight back to the US. I decided, on the spur of the moment the night before, to drive in and visit them at their hotel in Gracias before they left in the morning. As I was getting ready to leave on Monday morning, I asked Ben, my 11 year old son, if he'd like to come along with me. Ben jumped at the chance - he loves to go to town!
We were gone from home longer than we'd planned, but by around 10:00 we were on our way back home. It was a lovely morning, and the newly graded dirt road was a pleasure to drive on.
Our home is situated on top of a very large foothill. The driveway is long and steep, and before starting up the hill I like to shift the vehicle into 4 wheel drive. This involves stopping the Land Cruiser. Monday morning, there was a young man standing in the road at the foot of our driveway. He didn't look threatening at all, in spite of wearing a bandana over his lower face - that's fairly common around here, to keep from breathing the dust from the dirt roads.
I had turned into the driveway, steering slowly around the young man (who I thought might be waiting to speak to us through the window), and slowed to shift gears, when Ben said, "He's pointing a gun at us!" Now guns are common tools around here, and we think nothing of seeing men walking down the road carrying a gun. But this man was holding his rifle pointed AT US!
At that moment, the only thing I could think about was a fairly recent incident in which an American driving a car was shot and killed as he tried to pull away from a man who was pointing a gun at him as part of an attempted robbery. The generally accepted rule for safety, when someone is pointing a gun directly at you, is to NOT give them a reason to shoot you. So I stopped the vehicle.
I was told to get out of the car, and I had some trouble, because that vehicle doesn't have a working parking brake, and I had to get things set right or it would have rolled backwards when I took my foot off the brake pedal. As I struggled to explain my problem in Spanish (I don't happen to know the word for "parking brake", or the phrase "rolling away backwards down the hill") and clumsily tried to put the car into the correct gear, the man pointed the gun at Ben, in a clear attempt to convince me to more quickly do as he had said.
Ben and I exited the vehicle. I left the keys in the ignition and my purse on the front seat. I wanted it to be easy for the man to take the car and go away! It hadn't occurred to me that the man was going to do anything other than steal the Land Cruiser, and I was sad about the fact that Rachel's wedding dress was still in the back of the vehicle. I hated the thought of having Rachel's wedding dress stolen! But then the man walked us to the back doors, gestured toward them, and told us to get in. I was dumbstruck. It seriously had not entered my mind that we were being kidnapped until that moment.
We got in, and sat facing one another as the man turned the car around and started back the way we had just come. This was a very bad situation, and we knew it. Ben and I sat in silence for a few moments. The back of an old, ambulance-style Land Cruiser like ours is very noisy, and the chance of the kidnapper understanding English was quite small, so we gradually began to speak softly to one another. I was surprised - very surprised - at my lack of any sort of fear response to the situation. My heart never raced, my breathing was normal, I wasn't trembling . . . I just didn't feel scared. I have no explanation for this - unless you consider the fact that people had already been praying for me for a week to be an explanation. :D
|This is Ben standing beside Land Cruiser I was driving when we were kidnapped. This photo was just taken this morning.|
Ben, on the other hand, was quite scared. Scared enough to tell me that he was scared, which is pretty scared for an 11 year old boy. He wanted to talk about "paying for his sins" and I reminded him that we cannot pay for our own sins, only Jesus could do that. Gradually Ben calmed down, secure in the knowledge that he was already right with God, and that this situation wasn't about God punishing him for anything. Scriptures that he had memorized came into his mind, and he was quoting them to me. He was wearing a necklace with 2 verses on it, and he read those to me (you can see the necklace in the photo below - this photo was also the one used for identification purposes at the road blocks).
It didn't occur to me at the time, but Ben was wearing an unusually large amount of scripture that day. He had on the necklace with two verses, and also a t-shirt from the annual camp for missionary kids in Honduras, which had a part of a verse on the back - "For I have overcome the world," John 16:33. Ironically, the t-shirt bore this message on the front: "Take the adventure that comes to you."
The driver turned onto the main road (the newly graded one that was such a pleasure to drive on), but was driving us away from the city of Gracias. Which meant going into more remote areas, with fewer villages and houses and people.
Ben, having had some time to calm down, started to talk about escaping. Vehicles can only go so fast on these roads (we were beyond the nicely graded part of the road now, and the going was rough and rocky) and Ben was considering opening the back door and jumping out, then running away from the car. I didn't think it was a good idea. I'm not athletic, plus I have asthma. A scenario involving me jumping from a moving car and then running from an armed man didn't seem likely to have a positive conclusion.
Ben was unconvinced. I explained to him that if either of us jumped from the car, we needed to do it in a place where there were people around who could help us. He was watching for a good place to make a getaway, and was telling me to get ready. I explained to him that I would NOT jump out of the car, but if he thought he could get away I was okay with him going for it. He's the scrappy, athletic type of kid who can pull off that kind of thing.
When Ben realized that I was serious about NOT leaving the car, he decided not to jump out himself. He said he was afraid that if he left, the man might hurt me. So we continued to sit, as the car traveled farther and farther from home.