Their presence was too obvious to ignore. And too ominous. I saw them with my own eyes.
Men with machine guns. On every street corner. A little disconcerting, on the busy city streets. I asked our host who they were and why they were there. He said, “For protection. To help keep the peace.” Apparently, there had been unrest.
Four days later, 80 people were shot (and killed) there. Right where I had been just days before. Innocent people, going about their daily business. Caught in the crossfire. Armed insurgents had just attempted to overthrow the government.
Welcome to Venezuela. Back in the days when Hugo Chavez first came into the national spotlight. In the days before he was elected… and became a socialist dictator.
It wasn’t the first time I had witnessed such oppression.
I lived in Spain during my junior year in college, when another dictator was in power. Francisco Franco. There were two police forces there: The Greys (in the city) and The Greens (in the country). It was illegal to take photos of them. I was discouraged to even make eye contact.
I was there when the Greys rode through campus on horseback, wielding billy clubs three feet in length. A show of force to quell growing student unrest. I was there when they stormed our dorm and roughed us up in the lobby.
The newspapers were full of news from around the world. But my Spanish friends didn’t know what was going on in their own country. Complete censorship.
Those images bubbled up today… as I watched our own country’s peaceful transition of power. The exit of one president and the inauguration of another. The presence of supporters and protesters alike. Because we have the freedom to speak and assemble… and to vote.
Oh, Lord… We are so blessed in this nation! By Your Grace. Often, in spite of our ignorance about You. Sometimes, in spite of our rebellion against You.
Thank You for Your patience, Lord. For Your relentless passion to bring Light into our darkness. For Your unfailing love.
There have been hateful voices of late. Screaming obsenities and threats at a level of violence and vitriol that are… disturbing. Are these voices from those who have never lived outside this country? Who have never seen real oppression from their government? Who take for granted the amazing freedoms we have?
I was blessed to hear Your Name, Lord, lifted up so boldly today… as people prayed over our new leaders and our nation. You are our only Hope, after all. The future awaits, Lord. May we truly become — once again, or perhaps for the very first time — one nation under God.
The One True God.
“For troubles without number surround [us]; [our] sins have overtaken [us], and [we] cannot see… Be pleased to save [us], Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help [us]… You are [our] help and [our] deliverer; You are [our] God, do not delay.” (Psalm 40:12,17)