I’m not sure what August the 5th means to you, perhaps nothing, but for me, there are three key things that happened on this day.
First, a long long time ago (!) my Granny was born. It’s not far off a century ago, in fact. (When Mum asked the congregation in church once who the song ‘Ancient of Days’ was referring to, I piped up ‘Granny’!) My Mum’s parents are a key part of my spiritual heritage. Mum and her brother grew up in a Christian home, Grandad worked in missions and evangelism for much of his working life, and made a number of trips to India as well as working here in England. Granny stayed at home with the kids. Between them, they probably clocked up about a zillion hours of praying, especially for those of us in their family! Granny died a couple of years ago and Grandad still lives near my parents. Both of them passed the age of 90, and they celebrated their Diamond Wedding as well. They have provided a foundation of prayer on which my life rests.
Ten years ago, the second significant event took place. This one far less happy. My old school in Pakistan was attacked by terrorists. Although none of the students were harmed, and none of the expatriate teaching staff were killed, 6 people died in the attack. One was a bystander, two were security guards, and three were Pakistani staff who worked at the school, including people I knew from my time there.
It’s difficult to describe the emotions I went through in the following days. One thing was that I felt violated. Although I hadn’t been at the school for ten years, it was still such an important part of my life. We’d been back to visit twice, and many of the staff who worked there in my time at the school were still there at the time of the attack. School had been my home (it’s a boarding school!) and really key in my upbringing. It was a place of security, and the attacks took that security away. That was a weird feeling, given that I’d left ten years previously. As it happened, I didn’t even find out about the attack on the day it happened. I was taking a minibus driving test at a Boarding School in Sussex, and even ten years ago, wasn’t really into reading the news online. I found out from my parents at supper at my brother’s house. It was a fairly horrendous time, even being so far removed from it geographically. It felt like I’d been pretty badly let down by God. I still can’t fully imagine what it felt like, and probably still feels like, for those who were caught up in it.
And yet, the more the story of the attacks unfolded over the next days and weeks and the more I learned of both the events and the future of my school, the more it seemed that God had been working incredibly through the whole event. Stories came out of protection by angels. I’m not talking about the namby-pamby pretend ones that are on a par with a garden fairy. We’re talking about real angels – messengers of God doing His will and His work. Here’s what one of my old teachers wrote a few weeks after the attack, about the experiences of some of the staff that day:
That part of the story is pretty spine-tingling to be honest – real angels doing real stuff. A little book was written about the attacks, called ‘Angels in the Rafters’. The name came from the stories of students who were in the school hearing the sound of voices singing above them. To this day, I can’t read the book without crying.
The school closed down pretty much straight away, but the next remarkable chapter was that it moved to Thailand for a year. The School Board made the decision to relocate the school, and within about a fortnight, 106 people had been given permission to move to Thailand, accommodation had been secured for boarders, places for classes to take place had been found, and 25 staff moved along with children and some parents to maintain the community in another country.
The event was a terrible tragedy and yet was also a reminder of how God works in and through tragedies. It reminds me again of the phrase in the Psalms where the Psalmist tells God how tough life is, but finishes the Psalm by saying, ‘And yet I will praise you’, or something along those lines. We can turn to God at the hardest times, and praise Him for His faithfulness to us.
And finally, August 5th is significant because tomorrow will mark Little Boy’s first birthday. He’s been a great addition to the family 🙂
He had a much more straightforward entrance into the world than Big Boy did, and has been a pretty chilled out lad ever since. We’re not doing anything particularly grand tomorrow – we’ll just have a cake and a sing, and maybe the odd cocktail sausage and party ring… But still, we’re immensely grateful for God’s faithfulness to us, both in the good times and the bad.
What about you?
Do you have any significant dates?
Have you had any experiences of God’s faithfulness in and through struggles?
Which people are significant in your spiritual history and heritage?