Bandits In The Night

 

      Aunt Jessica‚Äôs tense whisper penetrated through the darkness as I slept on the narrow top bunk. "I think one of them has a gun!"

     Instantly I was wide awake. I quickly sat up under my mosquito netting.

     The soft glow of my watch illuminated the time: 1:34 a.m. on January 23.

     My older brother, Jonathan, and I had come to the jungles of Peru with our cousin Naomi. We had been on a launch on the muddy brown Ucayali River for 10 days helping Uncle Guillermo, who is a doctor. He had us counting out pills, taking blood pressures, and helping with children's programs in the hot, humid weather. We had visited eight isolated villages, and this village, Caridad, was our last one.

     Now, in the middle of the night, six masked bandits with machetes and guns had taken over the launch, which was tied up to the riverbank. They had taken the radio, making it impossible to call for help. Crew members, with guns to their backs, scrambled to obey the robbers' wishes.

     With hearts pounding we begged God to drive off the robbers. Please protect us, dear Jesus, I silently prayed as the bandits entered and forced Uncle Guillermo and Manuel, the Bible worker, into the main room.

     A short man with a bandanna around his face shone his flashlight into Aunt Jessica's eyes. "Who is in your room?"

     "Just the children and I," she answered. He shone his flashlight over my three younger cousins, who were on the lower bunk beds.

     "All the adults need to go out," he ordered. Reluctantly Aunt Jessica and Jonathan left the room with him. What are the robbers going to do to them? Please be with them, Jesus, I pleaded.

     I saw flashlights coming down the short hall. It was the same man again, but this time he had a taller man with him, and my uncle, too. "Where is your money?" the bandits demanded.

     Uncle Guillermo quickly pointed to the closet before they sent him out. In the dim light from their flashlights I could see them pulling everything out of the closet. A pile of our belongings quickly grew in the middle of the floor.

     Sitting in the dark on my bunk bed, with the robbers ransacking the room, I prayed, Dear Jesus, please keep everyone safe, and give me Your peace.

     As I prayed, a great peace came over me. I didn't know what was going to happen. I knew that someone could get kidnapped or even killed. But I knew that no matter what happened, God was in control. Instantly a picture flashed through my mind of angels all around us, stretching their wings to cover us. It was a great comfort!

     Soon the bandits called for the "doctor americano." Putting a gun to Uncle Guillermo's head, they asked where the money was. "My money is right here," he said, pointing to a folder.

     "We didn't get enough from there," they growled.

Calmly Uncle Guillermo answered, "I use my money to buy medicine, which I give to your people at no cost. If you want medicine, you can take it all."

     "Well," said the leader, "because I know you are a religious man, I will let you go." He slowly lowered his gun.

     It seemed as if hours had passed since the armed bandits had taken over the launch. Romans 8:28 ran through my mind: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (NASB).

     Wow! I thought. We have been called according to His purpose here to the jungles of Peru. Whatever happens, He is with us.

     The robbers finally moved on, searching through the hall for anything valuable. One man came within eight inches of the place where our passports and some more valuables were hidden, but God covered these things with His hand!

Finally after about an hour the bandits left, taking about $5,000 worth of our valuables plus some cash. We were a little shaken but relieved that we were alive, with no one kidnapped or seriously hurt.

     "Thank You, dear Jesus!" I prayed as I heard the men's motorized canoe sputter upriver.

     Jesus does not promise to save us from all dangers. But He is with us no matter what situations confront us. If given the chance, I would definitely go again and share the love of Jesus with the people of Peru.

     I hope that someday in heaven I will be able to meet the bandits who robbed us! 

Joanna Cowles