Thursday, October 24, 2019

Those who survived the bomb blast

August 4, 1976, Bogotá, Colombia: “A bomb exploded at the Summer Institute of Linguistics,* injuring five U.S. citizens who had just arrived from Peru. Several other bombs were detonated in Bogotá, including one at the Bank of America.” (Lethal Actions Against Americans

Will and Lee Kindberg and three of their children were the five mentioned above who had just arrived on a flight from Peru. They had completed their work as Bible translators there and had accepted a new assignment in Colombia. (Click on “We mean business. Get out, or you will hear from us again.”)

It was midnight when the Kindbergs arrived at the guest house with Bill Nyman. Here’s an excerpt from Called to Die: 

“A small parcel in the shadows on the step caught his [Will’s] attention. 
“Oh, look,” he chuckled, “somebody’s left us a bomb.” 
As [Bill Nyman] toyed with the lock, Will stooped to pick up the package. A tiny electrical component on top began sparkling. 
“It is a bomb!” [Bill Nyman] shouted. [He] dropped the key and raced to the car for shelter. 
Will froze. Should he throw it into the street? His family and friends were there. Leave it on the steps? People were inside; but at least a door protected them. 
Gently he set the package down, then sprinted behind the car and crouched, wondering what it would feel like to have his feet blown off. 
The explosion ripped the night. Will buried his face in his hands and listened as bits of glass rained on the pavement up and down the street. “Welcome to Colombia,” he muttered, ears ringing from the concussion. (from Called to Die,The Story of American Linguist Chet Bitterman, Slain by Terrorists, by Steve Estes)

Later, Will Kindberg wrote, “My daughter, Kathy, had run across the street at Bill's warning, and threw herself on the ground in front of the house there. She was slightly cut by falling glass. I scraped my elbow when I fell as I scrambled around the car, and my ears hurt for days. But we were all thankful to still be alive.”

He continued, “One woman, leaning out of a second-story window of a house across the street, screamed to her family: "Llama a la policía!"  (Call the police!)  A few drivers, attracted by the explosion, drove up and stopped. The occupants of one car offered a seat to my daughter, Virginia, who was sobbing, and asked, 'Why do they hate us so?'" 

By God’s grace, the bomb killed no one inside the guest house.

After reading of devastation on the first floor (see “We mean business. Get out, or you will hear from us again”), you might be asking, “How could it be that no one died?”

Here’s how: Everyone was upstairs, on the second and third floors, asleep. Damage up there wasn’t nearly as bad as that on the first floor. How wonderful is that?!?

Let me hurry to point out that the upper floors did suffer damage, and people did receive injuries, but no one died.

That night, Edna Lush was in bed upstairs, recovering from surgery. Up to that point, she had been getting into and out of bed very carefully but that night, during the split-second time lapse between the blast and its impact, Edna sprung out of bed—just before the window above her bed blew out and left her pillow covered with broken glass. Her husband, Jim, recalls, “It was truly amazing that she leaped out of bed so fast.” 

Young Danny Janssen had a similar experience but, unlike Edna, he didn’t escape from his bed in time. He tells the story of his dad watching the glass blow out of the window, whole, and then explode, landing on Danny (who now goes by Dan). Today, he still talks about the scar he has on his left hand.

And then there was Bobby Wheeler, who by that time had graduated from high school. His younger sibs, Jim and Linda, get a kick out of telling the story of Bobby sleeping through the bombing. They tell the story like this:

Bobby and their mom, Peggy, had brought a Siona man, Estanislao, from his tribal home to Bogotá for medical help. Estanislao and Bobby were sharing a room for the night and when the bomb exploded, Estanislao called, “Bobby! Wake up. I heard a big noise. I think it was a bomb.”

But Bobby mumbled, “No, it couldn’t have been a bomb. Bogotá is a big city with big noises. Go back to sleep.”

But Estanislao wasn’t convinced. “No, Bobby, I’m sure that was a big bomb.”

After some back and forth, Bobby said, “Let’s go downstairs. I’ll prove to you everything’s okay.” Imagine Bobby’s surprise when he saw the front door blown in and all the other damage—and the traumatized occupants of the guest house.

In Edges of His Ways, Amy Carmichael wrote of the times we ask God to show us what to do, where to go, what to do for a living. She likened us to children who ask a parent, “Please point us in the right direction.” We ask Him, believing He has good plans for us.

No doubt Bill Nyman and his family were serving God in Bogotá because they believed He had pointed them there. The five Kindbergs, too, had spent long months asking God to point them in the direction He thought would be best for them. Each person asleep in the guest house also had sensed God pointing them toward work in Colombia.

Amy Carmichael continues, “Then He points perhaps to something very unexpected,” —like working with an organization targeted by anti-American Marxist guerrillas—"and we are bewildered.”

Bewildered! I guess so! Why would God 
send people to work in such a dangerous place?

But then, Amy Carmichael draws our attention to Psalm 139:10, 

Even there your hand will guide me, 
your right hand will hold me fast."

God gives us many assurances of His protection, verses like this: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).

Those at the guest house that night 
witnessed God do just that for them.

* “In the early years of what would later become, in part, Wycliffe Bible Translators, linguists trained during summer breaks from college at a school named Summer Institute of Linguistics, SIL. . . . In later years, SIL and Wycliffe became partner organizations. SIL worked on foreign fields doing linguistic and anthropological research and work, including Bible translation, while Wycliffe worked in home countries to recruit personnel and provide support services for those working overseas.” (Chapter 3, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir.)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

“Terrorism was to affect our lives very significantly for the next several years.”

A week later, just before our family’s arrival in Bogotá, Colombia, Will Kindberg answered the phone and a woman said she’d overheard people saying they planned another attack. (If you missed last week’s post, click on “We mean business. Get out, or you will hear from us again.”)

Will Kindberg
Around midnight, Will spotted a man on the sidewalk. After that day’s threat, he was wary, but the man identified himself as a plainclothes policeman assigned to the guest house because of the new danger.

Guerrillas have already carried out five attacks tonight,” he told Will. “They killed five.”

“The terrorists are using bombs much larger than they did last weekenough to blow up this whole building.”

A Land Rover turned onto the road, streetlights shining on three men inside. It crept along, the men watching Will and the plainclothesman. That was the third time it had driven by.

The vehicle stopped next door, drove away, and soon returned, parking down the street, lights off but engine running. Five men—three in the Land Rover, and Will and the policemen on the sidewalk—again locked eyes.

Jonathan Smoak photo of the Guest House (on the left)
The officer had stepped inside to use the phone when the vehicle, headlights still off, began driving toward Will.

“My mind quickly evaluated my options,” he said. “Run into the house? To do this would eliminate any witness, and then they might stop and drop their bomb. . . . No, the best option is to stare them down.”

So that’s what he did, and it worked. The men kept driving, inching toward the corner, where they turned and accelerated, filling the neighborhood with a roar.

The policeman returned and told Will he’d requested reinforcements. “We will be ready for the terrorists if they come back,” he said. They didn’t come back—not that night, anyway—but our people remained in guerrillas’ cross-hairs for decades to come.

Later, Will summed it up:

“It was obvious that some who opposed us ideologically 
were willing and able to kill to remove us from the scene. . . . 
Terrorism was to affect our lives very significantly 
for the next several years.”

Can you imagine Will’s courage? And the instant wisdom God gave him—the wisdom to stare down the terrorists?

A few weeks later, once settled in our remote mission center, Lomalinda, I would work with Will Kindberg for almost three years, but I didn’t know that then, not when we first arrived in Colombia. Can you imagine working alongside such a brave, heroic man?

Chuck Swindoll wrote of “something C. S. Lewis said about the importance of being loyal to a cause that is greater than ourselves.

“He likened that quality to a person’s chest. ‘What we need are people with chests.’ The old American word for this is ‘guts.’

“We need people with guts who will say [like Esther],
 ‘I will stand for this, and if I must die for it, then I die.’”
(Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives)

Will Kindberg was one of those people.

God had put him in that place for just such a time. (See Esther 4:12-16.)

(From Chapter 3, 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

“We mean business. Get out, or you will hear from us again.”

Our family climbed out of a taxi in front of our mission agency’s guest house in Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia.

A line of our new colleagues filed out to the sidewalk and gave us a warm welcome. Perhaps they’d been looking forward to meeting Dave, new teacher for their kids, and Matt and Karen, new friends and classmates for their kids.

Motioning us toward the entrance, one of them said, “Excuse the porch and the mess on the first floor. You heard about the bomb, didn’t you?

(If you missed last week’s post, click on Who would bomb missionaries? And why?)

On the night of August 4, 1976, twelve days before our family arrived, Bill Nyman and his daughter, Melodie, picked up Will and Lee Kindberg and three of their kids at the airport. It was about midnight when they pulled up in front of the guest house. 

While Bill searched for the key, Will noticed a package next to the door. Assuming it was for someone inside, he picked it up and said, only joking, “What’s this? A bomb?” At that moment, Will saw an electrical device on the package. And it flickered. It was a bomb! “Everyone take cover!”

Seconds later a blast shattered windows throughout the neighborhood and mutilated the Nymans’ cars but, by God’s grace, the Kindbergs and Nymans received only minor wounds.

The explosion left the cement porch cratered and the heavy iron door disfigured. It blew the door’s window into shreds, lodging shards into walls and stairs leading to the second floor.

The blast ripped the steel kickplate into shrapnel, which, Will Kindberg wrote later, “cut through steel banister uprights, leaving the top and bottom pieces reaching out to each other.”

Throughout the first floor, shrapnel “had gone through walls, two by fours, suitcases, and trunks full of clothing,” Will said later.

“Splintered wall paneling was lying here and there. Glass littered the floors. At the end of the hall, the telephone had been ripped from the wall and the wires severed by one of the steel shards. . . . Murderous intent was plainly evident.”

But, thank God, everyone was upstairs asleep, and although some received injuries, none was serious. Some people still have scars that remind them they lived through it.

Upon arriving in Colombia,
I still did not know that for some time,
Marxist anti-American guerrillas
had been targeting our organization and others like it.

At that time, I did not know
that our director, Forrest Zander, had said,
We were aware that our enemies wanted
our mission out of the country,
but we didn’t know they would
resort to such deadly tactics.”

At that time, I did not know that
the day after the bombing,
the guest house phone rang,
and a voice on the other end said,
We mean business.
Get out, or you will hear from us again.”

(from Chapter 3, Please, God, 

So, my ignorance—all that I did not know—led me to embrace optimism, believing the guest house bombing was a one-time event and we’d seen the end of such violence.

God had sent us to this dangerous nation, Colombia,
but He had arrived ahead of us
to prepare the way.

He does that for us nowadays as much as He did in Old Testament times:

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you;
He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged.”
(Deuteronomy 3:18)

“No matter what path we walk down, God is one step ahead,” writes Kelly Balarie. “No matter what mountain we come up against, He is already climbing it. No matter what journey of uncertainty we encounter, God is 100 steps further. He’s laying out our path and preparing our steps.”

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Who would bomb missionaries? And why?

In those days, all flights to Colombia left from Miami so, on July 19, 1976, our little family set out driving from Seattle, stopping in Dallas for pre-field orientation. 
Between Dallas and Miami, the Wycliffe office contacted us: The Bogotá guest house had been bombed. 
Bombed? Who would blow up missionaries? And why? 
A lot of people depended on the Bogotá guest house. While most Wycliffe personnel in Colombia lived in Lomalinda, the remote center of operations, sometimes people spent a few days in the capital city for doctor appointments, vacations, shopping, as well as paperwork for those arriving in or leaving Colombia. 
The three-story building had a few small apartments our colleagues used for those visits, and that’s where our family planned to stay—assuming it was repaired by the time we arrived—and do paperwork before traveling to Lomalinda. 
And so, on Monday, August 16, 1976, at five in the morning, the Aerocondor lifted off the Miami tarmac. . . .

After landing in Bogotá and going through customs and immigration, we loaded our baggage into and on top of a dilapidated microbus and set out toward the guest house. I continued in Chapter 3:

In traffic—erratic, aggressive, even dare-devilish—we soon learned to hang on, swaying as the van darted around cars and came to quick stops to avoid collisions. 
After countless dizzying turns, our driver pulled to a stop on a city block lined with adjoining brick or block buildings, two or three stories tall, with bars on every window and door. A uniformed guard stood in a booth in front of the guest house. I’d never seen such safety precautions in Seattle. 
Guest house on left; Jonathan Smoak photo
 The front door burst open and grinning strangers poured out in a line, their greetings so warm that I thought they’d mistaken us for someone they already knew. But I was wrong—they knew our names, and they were expecting us. When I realized their sincerity, I fought tears. 
Motioning us toward the entrance, someone said, “Excuse the porch and the mess on the first floor. You heard about the bomb, didn’t you? 
Twelve days before our family arrived, Bill Nyman and his daughter, Melodie, had met Will and Lee Kindberg and three of their kids at the airport and set out for the guest house, part of the family riding with Bill and the others with Melodie in the family’s orange Volkswagen Beetle. 
She arrived before her father and, in what had to be divine intervention, she suggested they wait in the car for the others. 
Minutes later, around midnight, Bill pulled up next to Melodie. He, Will, and Will’s son Doug climbed out. 
While Bill searched for the key, Will noticed a package next to the door. Assuming it was for someone inside, he picked it up and said, only joking, “What’s this? A bomb?” 
At that moment, Will saw an electrical device on the package. And it flickered. It was a bomb! “Everyone take cover!” (from Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir,  Chapter 3)

Before we left the States, when we’d first heard about the bombing, I was troubled, puzzled over why someone would bomb missionaries. As I processed it, I remembered our nation’s turbulent 1960s and ‘70s when many people demonstrated against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. It was a time of widespread violence, including bombing—a kid I’d known in college was one of those bombers and spent time in prison.

So, I wondered if perhaps Colombia was going through a similar time of unrest and that young idealists had randomly targeted our guest house.

But what I didn’t know at the time, 
and would soon learn, was this:

The bombing of our guest house
was a deliberate act of terrorism
aimed at our mission organization.

God knew about the bomb,
He knew the names and faces and hearts
of those who bombed
and would continue to bomb

yet He sent our family there anyway.

For months and months, I’d given God lots of opportunities to impress upon me that moving to Colombia was not a good idea, but instead He gave our family only open doors and green lights.

How true it is that 
“God’s ways are as mysterious as 
the pathway of the wind.” 
(Ecclesiastes 11:5, TLB)

Noticing the good stuff, finding the joy

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