(Old) Big Guns and Big Snakes

(Originally posted on July 6, 2011)

Another part of an update about my trip.

Many people have asked me if I was afraid during the trip. As I mentioned earlier, I had a lot of nervousness coming into the country—but once I was there, I can think of only two or three times when I was afraid.

The first of these times, Mom and I were alone with our driver, going to meet my sister. A white pickup truck pulled across the street, as if to cut it off. I glanced up and saw that there were a few men in the back of the truck, their heads and mouths covered, huge guns in their hands. The man I saw was looking directly at me, so I covered my mouth with my veil and dropped my eyes, which in English means, “Don’t be a creeper, your gaze is not welcome.” But still—guns and a truck and a guy staring right at you is all a bit frightening. Our driver drove around the truck with no problem and we went off to my sister’s workplace.

Later, Mom brought up the incident with my sister. When we were going home that night, my sister asked our driver whether he had been worried about it. He started laughing. In his language, he told us, “You are only afraid because you do not know them, and because they have big guns! But here, everyone has guns!” He gestured out the left window as we passed a small group of men, all holding huge guns. “They have guns.” He gestured out the right window, where a similar group was also chilling with large weapons. “They have guns. Everyone has guns! It’s nothing to worry about.”

The second time I was afraid, we were on the road and a truck of police started pulling by with sirens blasting and a man’s voice saying authoritative things in the native language. The back of the truck was stuffed with men in uniform, all with their guns, and another man holding the truck’s gun, which I’m sure has a proper name but the impression it made on me was that it was about as long as the truck itself. I held my breath as they passed, ready for stuff to start exploding, but then my sister started to laugh. She translated the frightening-sounding things the man was saying over the speaker. “He’s saying, ‘Please move out of the way! Thank you so much! Great job moving! Thanks!’” Once again, my fears were based mainly in prejudice and ignorance.

I had moments of nervousness besides this, of course, and moments of discomfort or embarrassment. But I was never really terrified. In fact, I was surprised by how normal everyone seemed—how dads would play with their children, and kids would kick the soccer ball around, and girls would walk arm in arm.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things to fear, or that it is entirely safe. We took many security precautions—which has given me a new habit of bolting for a door as soon as I get out of a car—and did everything we could to avoid making stupid mistakes.

One of the minor afraid moments I had was on a hike in the mountains. I saw something long and black slither across a rock. I jumped and whirled around to our driver—who was with us as a sort of guarding uncle—and asked him in English, “Was that a snake?!” He just started laughing at me—the laugh I recognized because I’d heard my dad and my grandfather and other male relations laugh the same way many a time. I knew instantly that my panic was childish. I was well looked after, and no snake was going to attack me.

I feel like God was looking over our trip, with that same laughter. There were many moments when I knew without a doubt that I couldn’t protect myself from the lurking snakes. But when I saw something I perceived as a snake and started to freak out, that laughter always followed—and I normally joined in. And it was funny and childish, because in those moments not only did I doubt God’s provision but I picked the wrong things to fear.

God provided safety. But He also let us know that we weren’t protecting ourselves.


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