Easter Sunday

Experiencing God.

Hannele Ottschofski was born in Finland, grew up in Sweden and England, and married a German pastor with whom she has been actively involved in the ministry in Germany and in Central Africa. She has four daughters. She loves music and sewing, as well as reading and writing

Do not be afraid, for I am with you. --Genesis 26:24, NIV

It was a wonderful day, that Easter Sunday of the year 1981 in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic. Our Spanish friends from a distant mission station were visiting us. The children were playing together and we were able to enjoy the peace and quiet. Suddenly we heard gun shots somewhere in the neighbourhood. I followed the sound and saw the young people who were also living on the mission station in front of our chapel. I asked them if they knew what had happened. They were not quite sure but said that the shots had been heard from the other side of the street where a French businessman lived. There was a canal with a street on both of its sides between his house and our mission station. I observed how people gathered in front of the house until there was a crowd of people getting more and more noisy and upset. I was told that an African had been killed. Later on we heard that the Frenchman had shot a thief. The situation became more and more uncomfortable and I went back into our house.

Our friends came from the guest rooms after their siesta. We sat and waited. The crowd set a straw but on fire in our neighbours' garden and threw stones at the windows of the house. A few houses further away other expatriates were together at a garden party. They were hit by stones flying over the garden walls. A few cars were turned over and set on fire. The crowd became louder and more aggressive. Hours passed. Night set in. Finally the police came and evacuated the French family. The father was arrested. Only then did the crowd start moving. They went along the canal, crossed the bridge and came toward our gate. We had locked our house up and moved the cars out of sight. We were watching from our living room where we were sitting in the dark. Our telephone didn't work. Later the son of our African pastor told us that the crowd wanted to enter the mission compound but some people in the crowd stopped them by saying, "They are different." The crowd passed our gate and settled on the other side at the main street corner where the people returning to town from their Sunday outings had to pass by. They were angry at white people and so when they saw white people in the passing cars the first ones would shout, "Bunju, bunju!" (white men) and the next would strike the cars with big stones gathered from the roadside. About 50 cars were damaged and a lady was so severely injured that she could not continue on her way. We were praying that nobody would be lynched. It was a very dangerous situation. Finally soldiers came and dispersed the crowd with tear gas.

I have never before felt so helpless. We could neither have called for help or been able to escape on our own if the crowd had surrounded our house. But God protected us. Maybe it was angel who stopped the mob from entering the mission compound.

The situation calmed down and we returned to normal life. My husband left on a bush trip to hold meetings in a church at the distance of a two-day driving trip. Our missionary colleagues Francisco and Marie-Carmen returned to Eambari, about 380 kilometers away. Marie-Carmen was four months pregnant and due to the agitation she had had light contractions in the night after the unrest. But everything seemed to be all right when they left with their pick-up.

On Friday afternoon Francisco suddenly stood at my door with his two children. "What's happened, how come you are back here?" blurted out in my surprise. "Where is Marie-Carmen?" Little by little I got to hear the whole story:

The long drive on the bad roads had given Marie-Carmen a real shaking and when they arrived in Bambari she didn't feel well. The next day contractions set in and she miscarried. She was taken care of in the local hospital but they lacked practically everything, They had no water, no light, only kerosene lamps. A curetage would have to be done. The doctor found two persons who were prepared to give blood transfusions if necessary, but he said that if complications should develop she would he lost out there in the bush. She would have to be taken to Bangui as quickly as possible. But it would take too long by car.

Francisco decided to go to the Baptist Mission. The Southern Baptists had mission stations all over the country. They had their daily radio contacts from 10 to 11 a.m. Now it was half past eleven. When they finish their communications they turn the radio off until 5 p.m. when they again talked to each other. The Baptists had a small airplane somewhere but it could only fly during daylight. That would mean that it could only come the next day. Francisco was praying desperately while he drove the the Baptist mission station. And when he arrived the ladies were still talking with the other missionary ladies by radio! They immediately contacted the mission station where the plane was based. The pilot had gone to the market place but they promised to go and look for him. He would come and fetch Marie-Carmen. The pilot's wife was a nurse and she would accompany him so she could help nurse the patient, Francisco felt such a burden fall off his shoulders. It had worked. God had taken care that the ladies spent just a bit more time swopping recipes on that day.

After their arrival in Bangui Marie-Carmen was taken to a private clinic where she could be cared for. Francisco brought me their children and returned to the hospital. But I was worried what l should do if Marie-Carmen would have to he repatriated. My husband was on a bush trip and I would not even have been able to get them tickets for the airplane, not to think of all the papers that they would have to present in order be allowed to leave the country. !had to get my husband back home as soon as possible. Telegrams would arrive about two weeks later if ever. There was no telephone where he was. And then I remembered that we had our radio programme "Voix de l'Esperance" every Sabbath morning on the national broadcasting service and that the local pastor would be sure to tune in to hear it. And so I asked out African mission departmental leader to go to the radio station on that Friday night and to ask them to pass a message on to my husband before the programme was sent. That did work and my husband left right after the sermon to return home.

The operation was successful and Marie-Carmen did not have to return to Europe. But the doctor said that had she arrived 12 hours later it would probably have been too late. It took some time for her to recover completely but we were so thankful that God had helped even in this situation. And I was relieved when my husband came back home on Monday and I was able to turn over to him the responsibility for every­thing. God had helped me cope up to that point.

God says, "Be not afraid, for I am with you". In extreme situations it is often the only possibility we have to trust God and to turn over our fear and worries to him. But we often try to shoulder our fears by our­selves. Most of the time we are not in a situation where we have no other choice. Our daily worries—oh yes, we can cope with them on our own. And so we forget that God has promised to be with us every day and to bless us. He cares for the little things in my life as well as for the big problems. I don't have to confine God to the "big things" of my life. Sure, he has helped in difficult situations and I have learned from them. But I can also learn from small experiences. There is a give and take—who has learned to trust God in small things will be able to trust Him in big things—and the other way around. And so every experience we have with God, be it a matter of life and death or an everyday matter, is just as valuable, because we experienceGod.

Hannele Ottschofski was born in Finland, grew up in Sweden and England, and married a German pastor with whom she has been actively involved in the ministry in Germany and in Central Africa. She has four daughters. She loves music and sewing, as well as reading and writing