THE TELEPHONE RANG in my motel room in El Salvador. When I answered it, I heard the voice of the young man who just a couple of days before had abducted me and attempted to rape me. He had found out the number of my room because he worked at the motel. Now he was asking if he could take me to dinner at the restaurant in the motel.
My first response was, "You've got to be kidding!" After all, a few days earlier he had tried to attack me, and although God had saved me during that experience, I didn't want to knowingly put myself in danger again. Still, questions kept coming to my thought: Have you been healed of fear and anger toward this man or not? Did you see him as the image and likeness of God or not? Has he changed since the encounter? Is the healing complete? The answer came immediately, "Yes!" That's why I answered, "I will go to dinner with you."
The Psalmist assures us that God is "a very present help in trouble" (Ps. 46:1). God is always with us, and His presence is practical—the help we get from Him is tangible. Thinking of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness, the Psalmist sang, "Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses" (Ps. 107:6).
Both before and since those words were written down, individuals around the globe have experienced deliverance by God in one way or another. I know that He is always with us because He helped me when that young man was attacking me. I share this experience with you so that it may strengthen your trust in God.
It all began shortly after I graduated from college. A woman from my church invited me to join her on a trip to El Salvador. She was to be the guide for a tour group. I was thrilled to have such an opportunity and looked forward to an adventurous trip. When we first entered the country, I was struck by the poverty and civil unrest, and it was clear that war was brewing. I prayed to know how I might help.
It dawned on me that I needed to truly forgive this man.
One evening after dinner with a family from Nicaragua, the young man who had driven us back to our motel asked me to stay in the car for a moment as the others were getting out. I thought he was going to park the car in the nearby lot, but he proceeded to exit the lot and drive down a quiet country road.
He did not respond to my questions about where we were going or to my request that he take me back to my motel. Fear gripped me. I reached out to God in prayer, but the fear kept me from feeling His presence. When we got to a small country motel, the man dragged me out of the car into a room.
Once inside, I was able to separate myself from him and began talking with him about my religion. I briefly explained what Christian Science was. I explained how important it was to me and how I desired to live by its standards. I spoke to him about man's spirituality and goodness and about God's love for His creation. He probably thought my comments were unusual under the circumstances, but this was what came to my thought.
I tried to reason with him and to explain that what he had in mind was wrong. After talking for about fifteen minutes, I requested once more that he take me back to my motel.
Instead, he attacked me. I turned to God with all my heart. The first thought that came to me, as I wrestled to keep the man away, was the explanation of angels from Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy. Mrs. Eddy writes: "ANGELS. God's thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality" (p. 581).
I knew God's thoughts were not only passing to me but were also being communicated to this man in a way he could understand. This time, in the midst of fear, I felt God's presence.
As I continued to listen for spiritual insights, the idea came to pray the Lord's Prayer aloud (see Matt. 6:9-13). When I came to the line "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," it dawned on me that I needed to truly forgive this man and not be angry or resentful toward him.
It might seem impossible to do this under the circumstances, but this insight reminded me of man's actual spirituality and the importance of affirming this, regardless of what was happening at that moment. I realized that I needed to see this man as made in the image and likeness of God and that I needed to do this now, not at some later time. In reality he was good, pure, and innocent—the way God had created him.
The attack ended. God had helped me—and the man.
The next idea that came to thought was from a poem by Mrs. Eddy entitled "Mother's Evening Prayer." The line reads, "His arm encircles me, and mine, and all" (Poems, p. 4).
God's mothering love was encircling me as well as the man. God's protecting love was present, even though I still needed to fight off the aggression.
Then there came a moment when it felt as though there was no more physical strength left in me. So I spoke aloud to God: "Father, I can't fight anymore, You take over." I stopped resisting. You might say I yielded to God rather than to the man. At the very instant I quit wrestling, the man stopped his abuse. The attack ended. God had helped me—and the man. The man said, "You really are an angel." That's all he said, and he immediately took me back to my motel.
I didn't think I was an angel. But angels had been present. They were God's messages leading both of us to freedom.
Shortly thereafter, as I read, I came across the following from The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany by Mary Baker Eddy: "Remember, thou canst be brought into no condition, be it ever so severe, where Love has not been before thee and where its tender lesson is not awaiting thee. Therefore despair not nor murmur, for that which seeketh to save, to heal, and to deliver, will guide thee, if thou seekest this guidance" (pp. 149-150).
I understood that I need not despair or murmur over the experience. Even when human encounters such as this one appear to be threatening and fear-filled, we can trust God to help us. And there does not need to be any kind of lingering aftereffect. God is able to remove even the memory of such an experience. I saw so clearly that God had been present the whole time, keeping me safe.
My conviction of God's presence was what made me able to go to dinner with this young man after the attack. While we were eating, he told me of the tremendous challenges in his life and his country. He felt he would soon have to go to war. I spoke with him of a book that I was certain would help him: Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. I assured him that it would give him an understanding of God, of his relationship to God, and of his safety in God's presence. I didn't have an extra book with me, but I promised to send him a copy of the Spanish translation of this book when I returned to the United States. And I did. He promised he would read it.
After dinner he wanted me to meet his dad. I must admit that I hesitated a moment, but then I agreed to go with him. As I heard them speak with each other in Spanish, a language unknown to me, I felt the deep love between them. The dad was so sincere, kind, and humble. He had worked hard all his life for very little remuneration. But the love I felt in his presence was indescribable. I can still feel it today, many years later. This country had a richness I had been unable to see before meeting this man's father. And I now perceived how to better pray for this part of the world.
From his dad's house, the young man immediately took me back to my motel, and we parted ways with a handshake. That was twenty years ago.
This experience changed my life. It gave me a confident trust in God, because it provided rock-solid proof of His care. From the moment I discovered His power and presence, I knew I could trust anything to Him. If He was there for me when I most needed Him, He would always be there for me.
God is our help always, and in times of trouble, we and our loved ones can experience that help through our prayers. No matter how far we may be from home, family, or friends, God is with us. He will help us, guide our prayers, and deliver us, if we turn to Him. This I know.