It was 1998 in a very turbulent South Africa.
As I opened the front door and shouted to our dog, Mandy, to keep quiet as she had been barking incessantly, a man grabbed me from behind and held a knife to my throat. As he swung me round I just remember pointing a finger in his face and saying “ Jesus Christ is Lord of this house!” which was greeted by quite a bit of aggression as he dragged me through the kitchen and threw me down in the scullery where Lena, the lady who worked for me, was already tied up. Then another man appeared and while he threatened me with a gun, the first guy tied me up.
Lena was hysterical at this point, as our captors proceeded to explain to her in Xhosa, her native language, just what they were going to do to me…including skinning the hair off my head, raping and ending me. What they didn’t realize was that I spoke and understood a bit of Xhosa too. Having no words to say, I simply prayed in tongues and as I got louder it seemed to invoke more anger. I heard a third man enter and two of them proceeded to strip the house of all our belongings. They shouted, “Where is the safe, where are the guns!” I said we had neither.
As I observed my body, now shaking uncontrollably, peace began to course through me and I heard these words, “You can go through trouble without trouble going through you.” I knew, I had a choice – do I let fear in or do I let love reign? I remembered how Viktor Frankl, while in the ‘hell’ of the Nazi concentration camps, pictured himself standing in front of a crowd, testifying of how he had survived – he visualized it.
I still had no plan of how I was going to get out of this situation alive, but through Lena’s wailing and the very present chaos, I sensed a more tangible presence. The nearness of the One who said – my life is mine to lay down of my own accord, no one takes it from me. Who stood up in the midst of the storm and declared peace, be still. Who faced the unjust abuse and hatred that led him to the most violent death and with His last breath said Father forgive them, they know not what they do.
Two of the men now came through and started dragging me through to the room. In that moment, the words were there. I said, “hold on, you know the guns you were asking for? My husband is on his way back now, as you can see, I was in the middle of cooking his lunch. He has the gun with him. He should actually be back by now”
It was as if the men had seen a ghost. In that instant, they turned around, threw me back in the scullery and proceeded out the back door.
I managed to untie myself and Lena and phoned Andre…all I was able to get out before bursting into tears of relief was, “They broke in, tied us up….”
So many amazing things happened during this traumatic event, including my children being taken out for ice cream by my friend who was bringing them home from school, with no permission from me and so, arriving an hour late and being spared the whole ordeal. The guys, who had evaded the police for 6 months were caught that night. All had recently served prison sentences, murder, attempted murder and robbery.
I am so grateful to have come through this unharmed – so many have not been so fortunate.
To stand in front of your perpetrator and forgive them, is not just the best thing to do, it is the only way that you can fully experience the Father’s forgiveness.
Fear would try and prolong the terror and carry it into your future, but that is when love comes in and apprehends fear and demonstrates a force greater than violence. There is no fear in love. Let us look for opportunities to love, to rid the world of violence as we let the Prince of Peace rise with healing in His wings.