Many of you have heard about the events in Liberia in the past couple of months – in fact, just a couple of days after my last post here. At 3am on July 23, four armed robbers entered the compound here in Dwazon and pulled the window bars from Rev. DiCanio’s kitchen window. He heard a noise in his kitchen and came out from the bedroom to investigate (thinking it was a mouse or something). The four men beat him with machetes and forced him back into the bedroom and forced him to open the double safe in the closet and give them $10,000 USD. They then shut him in the closet and ransacked his bedroom, taking his laptop, camera, phone, two backpacks containing some documents including his passport, and emptied his wallet. When things got quiet, Rev. DiCanio slipped out of the bedroom and (not knowing where the men were) quietly opened the front door and ran across the compound to my apartment. He got me up and we jumped into my car and went to our neighbour’s house, where we called the police.
That’s a very brief account of what happened. Some might have wondered why I haven’t written anything up to this point, but to be honest, at the time, I didn’t really feel like writing about it! And then in the weeks since, things have been SO busy! But I know many of you have been praying for us here, and we really do appreciate your prayers. So I thought it was time I wrote somethingJ
As Rev. DiCanio and I have discussed this incident, we know for a certainty that God’s hand was upon both of us during it all, and that He was in control. A few examples – the thieves took Rev. DiCanio’s old laptop, not his new one (which was sitting in plain sight in the bedroom). His old one had a lot of programs and data of course, but his new one has all the info for the running of the mission here – finances etc. It would have been a lot more difficult to carry on the work here if all that data had been stolen.
Also, I see God’s providence in the fact that I didn’t wake up until the moment when Rev. DiCanio knocked on my door – but I woke up right away then. I’m a pretty heavy sleeper, but I do sometimes waken in the night, and up to this point, if I had heard noises outside in the middle of the night, I would have had no problem going outside to see what was going on (I’ve been warned never to do that again!) We know for a fact that the robbers must have passed my door a few times at least, because they tied up two of our workers and dragged them right past my door to the generator house. But the Lord kept me sleeping until exactly when Rev. DiCanio knocked my door.
This was a very serious incident. We are so thankful that Rev. DiCanio’s life was spared, and that he only suffered some bruises from the machetes (they didn’t cut him, only beat him.) We’re also thankful that the robbers didn’t come anywhere near my place – there was no sign that they even attempted entry into my apartment. We’re thankful that although they manhandled and tied up two of our workers, they did not seriously injure them. According to those who saw the robbers, these were violent and dangerous men, and the outcome could have been much worse. But it was still a serious incident, and there have been and will continue to be repercussions. Please do continue to pray for us and for the work here.
A few specific points for prayer:
The building project has been put on hold since the robbery (as far as the second house is concerned). Major changes were necessary in the security on the compound – a lot of which we had planned to do in the future, but priorities have changed. Rev. DiCanio and I left the compound for about a month after the robbery and stayed at a guesthouse belonging to missionary friends. We were advised that we should not stay here at night until the window bars were all changed (this time welded into the steel structure of the house and apartment), steel doors installed on the buildings, and professional security guards placed on the property. This has all been done, and we were able to move back to Dwazon on August 24. Currently, the security wall is being raised and razor wire installed. Dog kennels are also being constructed for the guard dogs that we are planning to get (again, this had been in the plan for the future anyway). We are planning to build a guard tower with an alarm system and security cameras so that the number of guards on the property can be reduced (thus reducing the monthly costs). Obviously, all of these changes take money – a lot of money; therefore, please pray that the needed finances will come in. We do praise God for many gifts that have already come in.
Pray for wisdom in making these changes as well. We don’t want to go overboard and be living in a bunker, but this robbery has been a wake-up call to us. Since it happened we have heard so many stories of similar attacks and break-ins – even where there has been a loss of life. Since the regular police are not armed (and therefore usually don’t respond to calls in the middle of the night), and private residents/citizens in Liberians are not allowed to own firearms, the “rogues” as they’re called here don’t feel threatened. There is no 911 or 999 number to call, so if you don’t have special contacts with the UN or special forces in the police, then your security is based on whatever measures you have in place – and in God’s hands. (By the way, our neighbour does know someone high up in the police, so when we were robbed, the Special Forces arrived with AK-47s – but it took them an hour to get here.)
And then pray that the current building project will be able to continue. There are deadlines for the second house being built, and then of course Rev. DiCanio is looking forward to the time when he can resume the classes with the pastors. This building of safe missionary accommodation is foundational for the extension of the work here, as we pray for others to be called to come and help us.
Pray also that the robbers will be caught and brought to justice. We were in the police station and courts nearly every day for two or three weeks after the robbery. Because of stupid mistakes that the robbers made (in God’s providence), we were able to get some good leads, but we have as yet not heard of any arrests. We have heard before that the police and justice systems of Liberia are thoroughly corrupt, but we have been very careful to not pay any bribes or facilitating payments. But it is an undeniable fact that the police especially are labouring under a severe lack of resources and funding. (Or, if they’re getting the funding and the resources, it’s being mishandled and wasted or else siphoned off into someone’s private purse!) For example, the police at the local station phoned us a couple days after the robbery to ask us to transport some suspects to the central police station in our vehicles. They had no vehicle and no money to charter a taxi! Needless to say, we said no. (Can you imagine me driving a car-load of suspects for armed robbery through Monrovia – that is, possibly the very men who had just beaten Rev. DiCanio and robbed our compound?) Anyway, pray that the robbers will be caught. The police say they are still working on the leads and looking for suspects. We’re trying to keep in touch regularly so that they know we are still expecting results.
Do continue to pray for the children’s work. Obviously, everything was cancelled/postponed in the weeks immediately following the robbery – we didn’t have the Independence Day program or the VBS in Rivercess. I was able to have the VBS in Ballah Creek church August 26-30, and I’ve started a follow-up Bible Club every Thursday in that church. Pray for this new opening – we had 200+ in the VBS but to be honest that was too many kids since we only had three helpers, and none of those kids knew how to sit and be quiet! We had around 60 last Thursday; that was much more manageable, and they listened very well. Pray for the regular meetings in Paynesville. Consistency is very important with children, and since I wasn’t able to get to Bible Club and Reading Club for a few weeks, I have noticed a decrease in the number of children. Ironically, this robbery happened just the week after the Paynesville VBS, when a lot of new children had started to come to all of the meetings and activities. But while it may be ironic, I know that the timing was all within God’s will.
To conclude this very long post, my biggest prayer request right now is for more workers here. I was speaking with friends recently, and they said that perhaps people don’t realise that there is a need for more workers here – perhaps folks think that we have two missionaries in Liberia, and that is sufficient. Believe me, there is work here for many more! Yes, there are concerns with security, and yes, it is very expensive to maintain missionaries on this field, but if God calls people, He will protect and equip and provide the means. So please pray that the Lord would call some others to join us here.