Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.—Psalm 76:10. Many of you have heard about recent events in Liberia– 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. David DiCanio’s kitchen window.
He heard a noise in his kitchen and came out from the bedroom to investigate, thinking it was a mouse. Four men beat him with machetes and forced him back into the bedroom to open a 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, Mr. 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, we jumped into my car, and we went to our neighbor’s house where we called the police.
That is 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! 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 to write.
As Mr. DiCanio and I have discussed this incident, we know with certainty that God’s hand was upon us during it all; and that He was in control.
For example, the thieves took Mr. DiCanio’s old laptop, not his new one (which was sitting in plain sight in the bedroom). He had just transferred all the data to the new laptop. It would have been a lot more difficult to carry on the work here had data been stolen since Mr. DiCanio’s computer contains all information for running the mission – finances, etc.
Also, I see God’s providence in the fact that I didn’t wake up until the moment when Mr. DiCanio quietly knocked on my door, but I woke up right away then. I am a pretty heavy sleeper, but I do sometimes awaken 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 the exact moment Mr. DiCanio knocked on my door.
This was a very serious incident. We are so thankful that Mr. DiCanio’s life was spared and that he suffered only some bruises from the machetes (they didn’t cut him, only beat him).
We are also thankful that the robbers didn’t come near my place – there was no sign that they even attempted entry into my apartment. We are 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 extremely serious, 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, the house where I will live, has been put on hold since the robbery. Major changes were necessary in the compound security, some 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 on the compound at night until 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 plan 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 monthly costs).
Obviously, all 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 live 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 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 Liberia 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 Emergency Response Unit (ERU) in the police, then your security is based on whatever measures you have in place – and in God’s hands, of course.
Incidentally, our neighbor does know someone high up in the police, and so when we were robbed, the ERU arrived with AK-47 assault rifles. However, it took them an hour to arrive.
Pray that the current building project will be able to continue.
There are deadlines for the second house being built, and then, of course, Mr. DiCanio is looking forward to the time when he can resume the classes with the pastors. This building project, of (safe missionary accommodation), is foundational to the extension of the work here, especially 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 the robbers’ stupid mistakes (in God’s providence), we were able to get some good leads. However, we have not yet heard of any arrests.
Some have suggested to us that the police and justice systems of Liberia are corrupt, but we have been very careful not to pay any financial tips (facilitating payments), to put any paperwork through the courts, only if we get an official, government receipt.
But, it is an undeniable fact that the police especially are laboring under a severe lack of resources and funding. Again, some have suggested they get funding and resources, but it is being mishandled.
For example, the police at the local station phoned us a couple days after the robbery and asked 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 carload of suspects for armed robbery through Monrovia, especially those who were possibly the very men who had just beaten Mr. DiCanio and robbed our compound?
Pray that the robbers will be caught. The police say they are still working on leads and looking for suspects. We are trying to keep in touch regularly so they know we are still hoping for 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 Vacation Bible School (VBS) in Rivercess.
I was, however, able to have the VBS in the Ballah Creek church from August 26-30, and I have started a follow-up Bible Club every Thursday in that church.
Pray for this new opening. We had 200 plus in the VBS, but there were too many kids for only three helpers to manage, and none of those kids knew how to sit quietly.
We had around 60 children last Thursday; that was much more manageable, and they listened very well.
Pray for the regular meetings in the Paynesville congregation.
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 immediately after the Paynesville VBS, when a lot of new children had started to come to all meetings and activities. But, despite the irony, I know the timing was all within God’s will.
To conclude this very long report, my biggest prayer request right now is for more workers here.
I was speaking with friends recently, and they said perhaps people don’t realize that there is a need for more workers in Liberia. Perhaps people think 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, equip, and provide the means. So, please pray that the Lord would call some others to join us here.