Tuesday, 11 September 2007

The Stalker

The last bus of the night ground to a stop on the slope under the only visible light in either direction. Stepping down as the door opened, she barely noticed the one person waiting in the shadows decline to board. She turned right and started up the hill. The still air was heavy. It was a quick left and up another hill to their rooms above the church. As she rounded the corner, there were no welcoming lights to cut the darkness and she was a little disappointed remembering that tonight, no one was waiting for her. Still, there was something very pleasant about it all, a peaceful feeling getting home after the long day. A few steps up the dark lane and the familiar fragrance of frangipanis met her. The crackle of twigs on the sidewalk and she knew she wasn’t alone. A glance revealed a shadow behind.

She darted toward the two-storey shophouse that served as a church and their residence. Fumbling with the padlock on the metal gate, the steps drew closer. That lock was challenging under the best conditions-tonight it seemed impenetrable. After what seemed an eternity it sprang open. The inner door, mercifully unlocked-yielded immediately as she pressed in bolting it behind her. Safe, she breathed a deep sigh as the steps passed, softened, and faded to silence. Yes, safe. Suddenly a cold chill swept over her and fear seemed to bite into her very being as she heard herself say- “… but what about the next time?”

December has always been one of my favorite months! The early years here in Singapore were no exception. Being the month of school holidays, we celebrated Christmas like a lot of churches with musicals and Christmas caroling outreaches. But my favorite part was the marathon of children’s camp and youth camp—back to back! These were fun and fruitful times. I particularly enjoyed the year we painted a map of Pilgrim’s Progress that was the full length and height of the church auditorium. The children journeyed from the City of Destruction all the way to the Celestial City—and not just allegorically!

A tradition the church had long before they called us was the Children’s Camp Caroling Night. During camp, all the children would get dressed up on Thursday night and go caroling on Orchard Road—the Rodeo Drive of Singapore! From Tang’s to Robinsons--off we’d go. Stopping on the steps of stores or along the wide sidewalks, the children would carol among the literally hundreds of thousands of shoppers who visit Orchard Road each December.

It’s difficult to imagine the press of the crowd or the logistics in keeping almost 100 5 to 12 year olds together as they move through it!

At each stop along the way, when the secret sign was given, they would rush into the crowd to make their deliveries-- bestowing the candy canes they held that were tied to the Christmas Story and the Gospel. You might imagine that this created quite a bit of stress in many a tiny heart! And you would be right. But it wasn’t because of the fear of men. And it wasn’t because of the message they were giving. And don’t misunderstand, they loved doing it! Their fear was fear of failure!

These children were on a mission - little secret agents dressed in white lace and bow ties- and they were determined! The children only had a single verse of Joy to the World to succeed and rejoin the others in the song! However, on more than one occasion, onlookers were surprised when forced to accept many tiny scrolls at once! They were being passed off as if they might self-destruct at the sound of “and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.” ---This part definitely needed work. ---Most of them knew what they were doing and why-(yes, most of them knew—but some of them were probably in it for the ice cream at the end.)

Two weeks before children’s camp the regular gang of teens and honorary teens were at church on Saturday—painting and preparing, cutting and pasting, and treasure hunt making-- when up in the office there arose such a clatter I sprang to the phone to see what was the matter! Said T with profundity, grace, and concern, Sis Lisa it’s Mr. Y—for your voice he doth yearn. Ok so he didn't say it exactly like that-but you get the spirit of the thing!

We were living upstairs in the church at the time--just above the pulpit! I loved living there! Mr. Y had been calling the church for several months and we had been praying for his salvation. At first he only wanted to talk to me. And in the beginning the calls were pretty normal— questions about the church—then about the Gospel—then the Bible—and finally the End Times-Armageddon, stuff like that. But then, it changed… “Did I like the yong tau foo (soup) I had for lunch yesterday?” “Who was the man with me on the train this morning?” “I was smart to take bus 25, it was faster.” He liked the blue dress best. And there was much more-somehow he sowed the seeds of secret fears. And recently, he had begun to talk to others who answered the phone. He knew their names too.

The police explained the church was a public organization and anyone could call anytime—and wasn’t that the point?

“Had he threatened me directly?”

No.

“Did he use vulgar language?”

No.

“Was he making anti-government statements or violating the Religious Harmonies Act?”

No.

I stopped answering the phone. I gave away the blue dress.

And then, in early December, just before Children’s Camp—I found myself alone in the church on a humid night... shivering behind a closed door.

I’m not sure when I first cried out to the LORD about Mr. Y. I think it must have been that night I stood behind the bolted door… listening. This was something very new to me. It was fear—and it brought paranoia. My dad says I never met a stranger in my life. And in many ways that is very true. Sadly, that was all changing. Walking out of the Ang Mo Kio MRT station I saw a guy taking a picture in my direction from across the street. Was that Mr. Y? Or was he my friendly neighbor in the shophouse on the corner? I wondered if he was the guy sitting opposite me on the train or the man two tables away at lunch, staring a bit too long. Yes, fear begets paranoia.

That night my eyes were filled with angry tears. “Lord, I belong to You. It’s not right for me to live in fear. You have gone before me. You’ve numbered my days. You control all things and do what is for my good and your glory. I know you watch over me and protect me. But I am afraid to go out, afraid to witness, afraid. I’m begging You."

I was surely sinking and I cried out like Peter saying, "LORD, save me." But at that very moment it was as if I was on the boat with the disciples and Jesus was saying to me, "Why are you so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?" (Mark 4:38-40) The LORD had been so faithful all my life, how was it I couldn't trust him through the Mr Y experience?

We hadn’t heard from Mr. Y in several days, I thought maybe the LORD had answered my prayer . . . but I was still looking over my shoulder. Children’s Camp was well under way. Thursday came around and we headed for Orchard Road. Several of the teens were playing guitars and singing with the children and I must say this year’s group was exceptional in their zeal to pass out the Gospel Candy Canes. D and I were bringing up the rear of the column as we were heading for the steps in front of Robinisons-- the last stop before the ice cream. The crowds were thick and it was difficult to stay together. Mike and Pastor C were in the front and we had actually lost site of them completely.

Drawing near to the corner, we found ourselves forcing our way through a crowd that had gathered to listen to a man proclaiming doom and the end of time. He was passing out literature and it sounded like he was claiming to be the messiah. The light turned red and we were forced to wait and inadvertently listen to a barrage of blasphemies. Suddenly I grabbed D’s arm and whispered excitedly, “That’s him. That’s Mr. Y.” I had recognized his voice.

She knew who I was talking about… they had all been praying for that man who called the church almost every day. But I don't think she believed me. How could it possibley be him? I pressed back through the crowd and stood right in front of him. He was a small, middle-aged man, hunched a bit in the shoulders. Misguided and deceived, someone to be pitied. As he looked up into my eyes, he seemed to shudder and shrink.

My voice was shaking as I whispered, “Do you know who I am?”

“Yes,” was his cool reply. “You’re Mrs. Redick.”

D let go of my arm and ran through the crowd to find Mike.

“I know you. You’re Mr. Y. I want you to look at me and I want you to understand. I’m not afraid of you. Please don’t call the church anymore.”

I was frozen there, slowly realizing what the LORD had done. Mike and Pastor C came very quickly with D and she pulled me away. They talked to Mr. Y for a little while and then had to leave him there on the street-a sad, disturbed person--clearly without Christ. That was the last time we saw him.

He only called the church once more… the morning after our meeting. I answered the phone for the first time in many months to the sound of “Mrs. Redick, I’m Mr. Y.” I was overcome with an amazing joy and I laughed out loud with awe at what the LORD had done for me, just because he loved me. I was delivered. He never called again.

I’m thinking the most debilitating fears are the ones we imagine for ourselves. The fear of what’s behind the curtain of tomorrow. Fear of the great and powerful OZ—most often just another counterfeit attempting to exert power over us that it doesn’t have. Mr. Y probably would have never hurt me, but the enemy was using him to destroy the Lord’s plan for my life. I was robbed of peace, power, and potential--all in one fell swoop.

People don’t always understand why this was so wonderful. They say, “You were in no real danger.” But I was. I was in the greatest danger. I was being robbed of everything that is important in the Christian life—the victory that Christ won for me on the cross. The fact that it all happened was truly wonder-full. The LORD did it just for me, because He loves me. Because I am important to Him and working His will in my life is important to Him too and He will do it.

By His grace, I won’t forget that the battle is the LORD’s. I never have to be afraid—and if you are His child…neither do you. When you call out to Him, He will answer with what is best for you and for His glory!

That’s how I know God still answers prayer. I pray you know too.

6 comments:

  1. What a blessing and challenge to read! John and I just finished reading it. Love you guys!

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  2. Just got your prayer letter from John and Mary Lynn today. Enjoyed
    "The Stalker"...good writing. Nice website...I will visit often.
    Donna

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  3. Thanks for sharing that story, Lisa. Boy it sure is true that fear can take more from us than a real-life robber.

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  4. Actually, learnt alot from the posts, cos it showed me how the battle is lost and won in the mind. Very applicable for me cos I tend to dwell on things sometimes!

    Yup, the post also taught me how the devil robs us of our victory, never quite understood it till i read your blog. - the devil fires a fiery dart, we dwell on it, we fear, get angry etc and we lose our peace.

    And when i thought about it, instead of getting frus about a certain issue and letting the devil have victory (eg I'm quick tempered... so I kind of get angry at a certain situation or a person but now i realise the devil is having a good laugh, so instead of getting frus at the situation or the person, I get angry at the devil cos it's ultimately the enemy's work and i turn my eyes back to God and ask him to deal with the situation), by faith appropriate the grace of God and step back on victory ground. Does it make sense?

    Well, thank God for that, I've always had a real struggle with giving ground and not realising it!

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  5. Thank you for this story. I have struggled with fear for the last two years and am finally getting victory. This was just the encouragement I needed.

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  6. Hey Mrs Redick!I heard about this site and just got to check it out!What I've already read has been great and very challenging!I look forward to reading more!Thankyou for testifying that God still answers prayer!
    In Christ,
    Bethany O'Gorman

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Thanks for your encouraging comment or question!