It was safe this time, but I felt a little nervous taking the road again.
For a few days I had been walking on a new path through the monastery instead of using the public alley to get to the outdoor market. A few of our friends who were monks said I should feel free to use it whenever I wanted. They were good neighbors who wanted me to be safe.
But that day I had chosen the alley again on purpose. Even though I had not been physically injured a few days before, it seemed a good idea to overcome any remaining fear. One more time to put the experience behind me.
It happened on Christmas Day.
Our friends would be moving away soon so we spent the holiday together. After a wonderful meal and gifts, lots of toys and wrapping paper covered the floor. The girls were arranging new furniture in our daughter’s doll house. The dads and boys were playing Nintendo Wii.
While my friend and I chatted over dessert and tea, I realized there was no soap for the dishes. A mile to the store wasn’t far to go and I liked the idea of a two mile walk in the winter air after Christmas lunch. It was a lovely day.
The alley was a shortcut to our neighborhood. Normally it was a heavy traffic area with lots of people I knew walking through and Christmas Day was no exception, so I figured it was okay. Especially in the early afternoon. At first everything seemed all right, but halfway through there was no one. Unusual. Already past all the hidden corners and turns, I was close to the exit. It looked clear so I picked up my pace in order to get out of there into a more open area.
Seconds before I stepped off the alley’s flagstone onto the muddy road, a group of men appeared and blocked the way. Nowhere to go. I certainly didn’t want to go back into the isolated curves of the alley. Staying near the road provided the chance for someone to come along and help. No service on my phone so I couldn’t speed dial the local police station. Great.
All of them dressed in dark clothing, they laughed and stared straight into my eyes, barely blinking. This was very uncommon in the culture. Not a good sign. The man in the center slid something from his coat pocket and pointed it straight at me, smirking.
“This is a knife”
I stared at the knife. I stared at him. Sudden moves didn’t seem like a wise idea so I remained absolutely still. But I stood tall, squared my shoulders, and met his eyes with confidence that said there would be no cowering from me.
We all stood in silence for a little while, interrupted by occasional attempts to get a reaction from me. I answered their efforts with the same unwavering stare. I would not give them the fear they wanted to see.
I had no purse or wallet with me. Just a few coins in my pocket and dish soap in my hand. I knew they were probably trying to figure out what to do since I obviously had no money to give them.
The thought occurred to me to put my hand over my abdomen and stroke it as if I were pregnant. I did this with a quick glance at my stomach and met their eyes again. I saw a flicker of hesitation.
Suddenly they moved on. I’m not sure of all the reasons why.
One thing I did know— the same Holy Spirit actively at work in me to convict, encourage, intercede, and communicate the word of God— is the same Spirit who put an idea in my mind that afternoon to rescue me from whatever would have happened. He kept my mind and body calm when it would have been easy to panic.
The men were gone so I traveled the last quarter mile home quickly, between a walk and jog, and locked the gate to our building. Calmly relaying the story to my friends, I was surprised to find I was not afraid. Actually the situation seemed to have little effect on me until later, but even then there was nothing dramatic.
My husband immediately phoned the local police so they could look for the men.
I put everything in the back of my mind until a few days passed. A group of ladies & I took the alley to the local market. I didn’t tell them how I felt, what happened, or make a big deal out of what I was doing. Just silently processed everything. There were police patrolling it after my husband reported my experience and a crowd of people were traveling through, so I knew there was no danger. I did experience a small level of anxiety as we made our way into the alley, but walked through and then let it go.
I want to be an overcomer even in small ways. God has given me the desire to live in faith and wisdom instead of fear. I don’t always get it right, but when I listen, He enables me to conquer what would otherwise hold me back in life. I never have or will ever wish for situations like the one in the alley, but if they happen I want to grow in strength and overcome.
Before and after this time there were more “opportunities” for me to grow. I’m considering which stories would be ok to tell.
God allowed another experience that left me with a good memory of the brick alley. It didn’t remove the bad one, but was a small redemption that restored some faith and perspective. I’ll share it soon.
Thanks for Reading!
©2017 Chrissy Winslow – All Rights Reserved
The second part of this post is called “Tea in a Mustard Green Field.” You can find it in the Cross Cultural Living Category.