First we want to thank you for your prayers and encouraging words. We are sorry we haven't been able to contact you but hope you were able to get a message from Heidi's mom this past week to let you know what has happened. Heidi's phone was stolen in the attack which was our primary form of internet so we've had a hard time finding access.
This past week has felt like a surreal dream for our family. It has turned our world upside down. We went from dancing with joy over the finalization of Nolan's adoption on Wednesday to overwhelming weeping over what happened to Heidi and the girls the following Friday. We are so thankful to have Heidi's parents are here and it has been so good for our family to process this with them here. Hannah and Hailey seem to be processing the attack in different but in healthy ways. They feel scared at times and with different catalysts than are normal for them. The nightmares for Hannah have not stopped or even decreased so we are praying she can get a good nights sleep soon. Also, this past week we changed our way of transport for Hannah to the school and now she is riding a bus with other kids from her school. This has proven to be a greater source of fear for Hannah now because she has to pass by the place this happened every day. We are unsure what to do now as Heidi is not ready to drive Hannah to school. Hailey seems to be doing okay but will suddenly start knocking on her head and asking me to please get that bad man out of her head. This has decreased, though, lately. This past week they were able to draw what happened that day as a family and once they started they couldn't stop. They remembered details Heidi doesn't even remember but make sense. We believe that is helping them process it a lot. Please just pray for their sweet hearts and their minds to slowly grieve what happened and move towards healing.
Heidi has good and bad days. It has been 9 days since she was held at gunpoint and still cannot close her eyes without seeing the gun on her head. Any loud noises make her jump and start shaking and remember the gun shots. Her appetite comes and goes and sleeping has not come easy to her. She hasn't ridden in the car yet. She has been making small goals for herself and been very successful in them. She moved from the bedroom to the dining room the first couple of days. Then to outside the front door for short periods the next couple of days. Since then she has made her way all the way to the edge of the compound. We will take a big step this Friday as we make our way out of Arusha for a couple of days. There is a little secluded guest house we are going to with Heidi's parents so we can get a little distance from Arusha for a bit. Please pray for us that this is an appropriate size step for Heidi and can be positive.
As far as the investigation is concerned, we've made little progress with the police officer. Three days after Heidi was attacked, a woman from church was robbed at gunpoint by the same men based on their description though their character was very different than Heidi's. In Heidi's case the men yelled and screamed at her and threatened her and the kids life. They were very aggressive with her. They shot the gun off three times. Heidi and the girls remember one of the men's faces being so incredibly angry that they were sure he would kill them just because of his anger. The other woman described the man as a very normal guy that asked for the stuff without yelling or really being angry in any way. He even told her he wouldn't kill her and never shot the gun even to scare her. He also didn't do it in public so we are unsure if these cases are the same. The police do believe though that there are many cases around Arusha that connect together and they are sure it is a gang of men. They started about two months ago shooting women drivers to make a stance for family values, i.e. women should not take the place of a man. They shot many others in the same that Heidi was followed from so they believe they are the same men. They changed when they followed Heidi to robbery (though they believe they intended to kill Heidi but changed their mind). With all of this news it makes Heidi very nervous to leave home. The men took a lot from her physically but they really took a lot more from her emotionally. She is talking with a very good Trauma Counselor from South Africa on the phone and trying to sort out the trauma that she incurred that day. She feels he is very helpful but over the weekend they weren't able to talk and Heidi had some really hard days/nights.
Please continue to pray for our family. It has been difficult as well to process this while in a foreign country. We have grown to feel like this is our home but in this time it is hard to feel at home here.
Also, Nick starts to lead a discipleship school that is scheduled to begin tomorrow (Monday morning). We are expecting 35 students from 8 different nations and are very excited, but at the same time feel a bit torn. This is a very big and important responsibility, but not nearly as important as the healthy processing of this even with our family. Pray for wisdom.
We are seeing God's faithfulness every day. Especially in the way that He is regularly encouraging us and providing for us through all of you. We love you guys and are so grateful for your words, prayers, thoughts, and support. If we have not replied to some of your messages please don't feel we haven't received them or appreciated them. They are priceless to us.
One piece that we wanted to share that has really carried us through is about when the girls were drawing their pictures of the event. As we looked over what they had drawn, there was just chaos. It was so dark and messy and difficult to make meaning from. But then, somehow, above it all there were several clouds and above the clouds was a figure of a person with a bubble coming from his mouth that said, "NO!" I asked them who this was and they said, very firmly, "that is where Jesus was during that time." They went on to tell me that they knew that Jesus was always there the whole time and that he was very clearly saying, "NO! Don't kill my children!" That small figure over all of the chaos has proven true in more than just that moment. Even today, as we continue to work through the rubble of broken confidence and fearfulness is Jesus continuing to speak into the fear, "NO!" It cannot consume us and will not have victory over us. We are in a place of mourning but he is turning it to gladness. He brings beauty from ashes and strength for fear. We leave you with these scripture that has been foundational for us in this time.
"This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it."
Ps 18:16-19 "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me."