Ann Simon was defrosting chicken under running water in her kitchen sink when there was a knock at her door. Despite nine months of practice, it still took her several minutes to unbolt all the locks. That’s ordinary in Central Asia.
A single woman in her late thirties on her first global working term, Ann had just begun talking with her visitor when the phone rang. She excused herself, bolted the locks, and took the call. When she hung up, she returned to the kitchen to find an inch of water covering the floor. A short clothesline hung bare in her open window. The Ziploc bag that had been drying there now clogged the drain.
Ann had just begun reclaiming her kitchen when there was another knock at the door. Undoing all the locks a second time, the global worker found her neighbor who lived downstairs. “Your water is running down our walls! Don’t you know that we just hung new wallpaper?” cried Saulea. Ann had never seen her friend so angry. The wallpaper was one of the first home improvements Saulea and her husband, Batur, had been able to afford in nearly two decades of marriage.
None of Ann’s apologies were enough. Even paying for new paper and offering to help hang it seemed to do little to salvage the relationship. All the times she and her global working roommate, Karen, had reached out to them seemed to be a waste. So much for being a witness! Their testimony seemed as ruined as the wallpaper. Ann knew intellectually that God was in control—even of accidents—but this time she disagreed with her own theology. She took it out on Him.
God, how could you let me do something so stupid? Ann’s prayers pounded heaven. Saulea is so important to You. Our friendship seemed strong enough to show spiritual fruit. Batur is respected in this community; he’s one who could help build Your church here. I’ve blown it. How could You let this happen?
Fighting these thoughts, Ann continued in her full-time language and culture learning so she might eventually share Christ effectively in her new home. Roughly a month later, Ann and Karen were sitting at their kitchen table having tea one evening when there was a knock at the door. Ann let Karen deal with the locks this time—until she heard a scream.
Ann jumped up to see what was the matter, but before she could leave the kitchen, a man began punching her in the face. She remembers, “I was swatting at him, hoping to make him stop punching me when he took a hand gun out of his belt and began beating my head with it.” After a few minutes of this, Ann fell to the floor. There, the man kicked her three more times in the head.
Ann’s attacker began rummaging through the apartment and screaming at her in the local language. Hardly in a state to practice her second language, Ann struggled to her feet and screamed back in English, “What do you want? Do you want money?” Holding out a peace offering, she said, “Here take the money.” The attacker took it as he pushed her to the floor again.
Ann and Karen retreated into the living room and pushed the couch up against the door. With their backs pressed against a wall and their feet on the couch, they held the intruders at bay. Ann recalls, “It was the Lord’s legs—not my own—that were holding the door shut.”
Ann believes it was also God who gave them the idea of drawing attention to their dangerous situation. As Ann continued to press the door shut, she recalls, “Karen punched the screen out and dropped a flower pot out the window.” Together, they began pounding on the floor and screaming.
Ann remembers, “While we sat there, I looked down at my white T-shirt and realized it was red—completely covered neck to waist in my blood. We wondered what the men would do next.”
While Ann wondered, neighbors worked. Batur and Saulea called the police, and came upstairs to help. While the husband distracted the assailants with the threat of a large gun, Saulea alerted other neighbors. Two of her recruits, a second couple, waited in the stairwell armed with two-by-fours should the attackers try to escape before the authorities arrived. In the mean time, God brought Central Asian worship songs to Ann’s mind.
Later, an officer interviewed the first neighbors on the scene. When he learned that they usually work from 3 to 11 p.m., he asked, “Why were you home this evening?”
“We’d taken vacation days so we could put up new wallpaper,” Batur answered.
Ann was amazed, and even ashamed as she remembered her earlier accusations toward God. In His sovereignty, He had transformed her kitchen “mistake” into a miracle. The very incident that she thought had ruined both the wallpaper and her witness had actually saved her life. These Muslim friends later told Ann, “We really believe that Jesus is looking out for you. We shouldn’t have been home that evening.” They are now one step closer to following their neighbor in her faith.
When Ann went back later to clean up the mess in her apartment, her mind kept coming back to the cross. As she cleaned her blood off the refrigerator, cabinets, and even the underside of drawers, she realized in a new way what Christ had done for her. “The cross was violent, ruthless, and cruel,” Ann says. “Jesus’ blood was splattered all over Jerusalem. He knew we would beat Him and kill Him—and He came anyway. That’s how much He loves us.”
Stitches no longer cover Ann’s face and a swollen bottom lip no longer touches her nose. The greater healing, however, is that God has freed her from fear. In this region, it gets dark at 5 p.m. during many months of the year. This makes any last minute errands after work or school a challenge for women. One evening several months after the attack, Ann was expecting guests for dinner. With a sense of victory, she remembers, “I went out to get carrots and didn’t even think twice about it.”
But God hasn’t healed Ann just to show her his love: she also represented Him at her attackers’ trial. Throughout the proceedings, the perpetrators pleaded not guilty. According to the local law in this secular country, however, a criminal’s sentence is lessened if he or she will “confess, repent, and ask forgiveness.” Aware of this practice, one man turned to Ann during the final sentencing phase and said, “I want to ask for your forgiveness.”
“I can forgive you,” Ann answered, “because Jesus has forgiven me.”
And so Ann continues to spread that word in Central Asia. Now in her second global work term, this seasoned global worker knows in a deeper way that God works accidents and attacks–even all things together for good.