After the civil war in Gondor Minas Tirith was a dangerous place. We moved here in 1997 with two other families. Gandalf and his wife served faithfully and loved others well. Then things slowed down. Peace and some stability came. In 2000 we had some other folks join our team. One day our team went to a one year remembrance ceremony for a friend of ours husband who had committed suicide the year before. The men went in the morning and the women in the afternoon. Us guys had a good meal and talked and went home. The ladies were more spiritual. Since our friend was a follower of Jesus and all her relatives were not our ladies decided to worship by singing songs, reading scripture and praying. Half way through there was a loud explosion. A car bomb had gone off at the foot of the building. Gandalf's wife's first reaction was to run down 12 flights of stairs to the courtyard below to see if any of the children who had been playing down there were injured. I think that two had minor injuries- maybe one boy had a broken arm. After to seeing to the needs there everyone went home. Arwen, my wife, came in and told me about the beautiful time of worship they had. Then she said, 'Oh yeah, and a car bomb went off outside and the new ladies are pretty upset. They want to have a meeting this afternoon to process it all. I am not going- you know I hate that kind of thing- but of course, since your team leader you'll have to go.' Gee, Thanks Arwen.
I went to the meeting and it went as I thought it might. The old crew- Gimli and his wife, Gandalf and his wife, and I- listened impatiently as the new folks processed the event and became more and more hysterical. To be fair, just two of the women were quite upset. Then to my surprise Gandalf shared this story; a story I knew about but had never heard him tell the whole tale. I will share it with you now.
In May of 1998 there was a fierce battle on the edge of Minas Tirith. We didn't know if the country would plunge back into civil war or not and we were praying hard that it would not. Most foreigners lived in the north of the city- except of course, for Gandalf and his wife. They lived more in the middle. The skies were overcast and we told my young daughters that the booms they were hearing were thunder. On the second day a couple of shells were launched over the hill blindly into town- we think to try and hit the President's house- and blew up a home a few doors down from Gandalf's. He called me on the radio and told me what happened and that he and his wife were going to go and help. I told him to be careful. The next part of the story I didn't hear until that day in 2000. When they arrived at the house the scene was surreal. The walls were destroyed and there were neighbors and family scurrying around everywhere putting out small fires and helping people out. In the middle of a completely devastated room of the house a man stood crying and wailing uncontrollably. Gandalf approached him and noticed that his hand was covered in blood. He was concerned the man was injured. The man said he was not injured but showed Gandalf and his wife a piece of metal in his hand covered not with his blood but the blood of his daughter. She was dead, covered in a blanket in the corner of the room. The metal was shrapnel that had gone through her head. Gandalf and his wife tried to console him and get him out of the destroyed home. He went on and on about how this piece of metal had ended his own life. Gandalf in typical West Texas style said, 'Brother, if that thing is causing you pain get rid of it!' The man handed it to Gandalf and ask him to keep it for him. Last I heard he still has it.
Gandalf then radioed me. I told him to get out of that neighborhood and come to my house immediately. He said, 'OK.' and I was very surprised. I was not surprised when five minutes later he radioed back and said, 'How about plan 'B'.' He and his wife were going with all the neighbors to a basement in another neighbors home. The whole community was terrified and they wanted to stay and minister to them. I agreed but made them promise that at night they would come to my house and stay until the fighting was over. They did.
Now, it will probably shock you to know that this story was not too helpful to the new folks in the year 2000. They demanded to know what kind of place this was that they had come to. I lost patience at that point and said, 'Look, you can go home if you want to but the people of Gondor can't go anywhere. We came here to proclaim Jesus and they have never needed Him more.' And then I left the meeting. Gimli later said that in future the old guard should not be allowed to process with new people. Maybe he's right. All those new people stayed by the way and served God here in incredible ways.
I think about Gandalf and that bloody piece of metal sometimes. I hope that I will always have the fearless grace to stand and minister to people in the midst of chaos and tragedy. I think you get that by ministering to people in love everyday.