I never dreamed how many sermons my husband would preach in a bullet-proof vest (36 in all). I never dreamed I would have to wear one myself. My missionary friends in the Middle East are always under siege, but I assumed that church was a safe place. But after my husband preached forty-five sermons in the itchy bullet-chaser, I have learned differently.
My most vivid memory was recalling the escapades of a looney husband of one of our members. He was probably schizophrenic and definitely delusional, but he made a hit list and Roger was on it. For two months, undercover policemen sat in the congregation and Roger sweated through his vest while he preached four services, looking over his shoulder and shaking in his boots. One spring morning before dawn, the mad man went on his spree. He jumped into his Dodge Ram, packed up his pistols, rifles and four hundred rounds of ammunition. Then he careened down I-10 to a nearby town and shot the first family on the list. Those of us on the “Tucson” list were next. The police cornered him on the highway after a high-speed chase and “Bob” shot himself in the head before they arrested him. I grieve for him. I really do. But I have to admit, I don’t miss looking at those cops in the service, or the stake-out on our cul-de-sac.
One guy typed a “death threat” e-mail to the church, naming all the terrible things he would do to me and to Roger. Most hate e-mails are overlooked, but this one was menacing because it gave specifics. It just so happened Roger and I were preaching a team sermon from Job that week called “When Fears Come True.” I had to borrow a bullet-proof vest from a lady cop who lived down the street. I am ashamed to admit that my first question to my pastor hubby was “Does this vest make me look fat?” The mysterious perp was subsequently arrested and is no longer a threat. Doesn’t that sound like spiritual warfare? Again we kept doing what we were called to do, and trusted God for His protection and care.
An ex-marine with a psych discharge tried to stop a Christian artist’s concert at our church one Sunday night. Roger had to pull him offstage when he tried to stop the service. The ex-marine turned off the lights in the room and pushed Roger into a corner. In the darkened room, he pulled a metal cylinder from behind his back, placed it under Roger’s chin and pulled the “trigger.” A flash of light convinced Roger he had been shot. The man turned on the light in the room revealing that the metal cylinder was not a gun barrel, but a flashlight. He flicked it on and said, “I only wanted to tell the congregation to walk in the light.” Oh, great. Couldn’t he have said that before they descended the stairs? Roger was admitted to the hospital with atrial fibrillation from the shock.
But don’t get me wrong. Every pastor and pastor’s wife need bullet-proof vests. Many missionary couples don’t have them, but they certainly need them. Every day. Some pastor’s wives feel like they are walking around with a target on their backs. They know their husband has one on his back. Zing! The head deacon blasts him for his stance on tithing. Zing! The budget lines don’t meet the finance committee’s expectations. Zing! The sermon wasn’t up to par. What does the pastor do all week? Golf and gamble? For you, dear servants of God, I am so sorry. God sees your pain and He weeps with you when you suffer. Find somebody safe to weep with you and comfort you when the going gets rough.
The arrows will always fly. I’ve been in ministry since I was eighteen years old, and of this I can be sure. The more God works, the madder Satan gets. I don’t welcome the arrows, but I have learned to trust in Psalm 91:3: “Surely He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge.”
I am not sure whether a “fowler” is a chicken hunter or a classy name for Colonel Sanders, but I sure like those protective wings of the Almighty. I have learned that bullet-proof vests don’t protect me and my family, God does. And when He has work for me to do, I’d better be prayed up and connected to some great prayer warriors!
Read “Upside Down” to learn more about mourning your pain and receiving comfort.
Take a listen to “When Fears Come True” (Fear Series) by Roger and Julie Barrier