The ringing of the phone jolted me out of a sound sleep. My heart sank as I reached for the phone in the dimly-lit room. I've always known that there is something almost ominous about a phone ringing in the middle of the night. I caught my breath and hoped against hope that the caller at the other end had dialed the wrong number. However, I knew that it could be the right number and that someone in the family had died or gotten sick, or something terrible had happened.

My eyes focused on the digital clock on the dresser. It was 12:30 a.m. and my son had not come home from the Fair. Instinctively, I sent a silent prayer to the throne of grace for his safety. The Agricultural Fair was being held for four days in downtown Jacksonville. This was a special event that was highly publicized. A lot of people were expected to attend. Mike and three of his friends, Mark, Joey, and Luis, decided to go and just mosey around--meet people, meet girls, do things young people do. I picked up the phone and braced myself for bad news.

"Mom", came the faint voice of my son over the phone, "We were robbed, and they shot Luis!"

The first thought that came to my still half-asleep brain was that Luis, my son's friend, was killed, and that my son was hurt. My mind started screaming Please, God, don't let him be hurt!  Don't let him be hurt!

With tears in my eyes and almost choking out the words, I frantically asked "Are you okay, Mike? Are you okay?"

"I'm okay, Mom. Please don't worry."  I heard him say. How can I not be worried in such a time as this?  I found myself asking. My mind was going 90 miles thinking of the worst things that could happen. We never had anything tragic like this happened before.  "We're in the Emergency Room at University Hospital,"  my son continued, "and we're waiting to find out from the doctor if Luis is going to be okay."

Furious and upset that anyone could do something like this to an innocent person, I started bombarding Mike with questions:  "Who's 'they'? Who shot Luis? Is anyone else hurt? Where were you guys robbed? Were there people around?"  By this time my husband John woke up and knew that something tragic had happened.

I thought how sad that their night out had to end like this! Mike had thought that Luis was going to be okay because he was conscious the whole time although he appeared very weak and might lapse into unconsciousness. I let out a sigh of relief that Luis was not dead and whispered a prayer that he would be okay, that he would hang on and make it somehow.

Mike told me that no one else was hurt and that he would tell me the details later. Luis's parents had been notified and were on their way to the hospital. Mark's mom would drop him off at the house later.

When I hung up the phone, my hands were shaking uncontrollably as the information started to sink in to my now fully awakened brain. I sat on the bed realizing more than ever how fragile life is. I thought, In the hands of madmen, we could be here today and gone tomorrow.

Seeking comfort and calmness of spirit, I reached for the Bible on the night stand. In the stillness of the night, leafing through my Bible, I realized more than ever the existence of good and evil in the world. Though evil may triumph for a time, it would be good that will prevail. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me..." Psalm 23:4.

I knew that we are living in the last days and that a Bible prophecy is being fulfilled. Matthew 24:12 says that "...because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."  Mercilessly gunning down another human being is indicative of the times we are living in--that love indeed has waxed cold.

Turning to 2 Timothy 3:1-4, I found more prophecies: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God."

Reading these prophecies confirmed in my heart more than ever the certainty of the soon return of Jesus Christ to take His people home. I turned to Revelation to read about heaven. Reading about heaven always brings joy and gladness to my heart. Tonight, with a heart heavy with sorrow and sadness, I needed joy and gladness.

Joining me in the quest for solace and comfort, my husband listened as I read about Heaven. Heaven is a wonderful place where "...there be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there by any more pain; for the former things are passed away"--a place where there's a "pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb."  and "In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." Rev 21:4; Rev 22:1,2.

I continued to read. "...there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever."  " thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore." Rev 22:5; Ps. 16:11.

Comforted, we knelt by our bed and thanked our Heavenly Father that Mike, Joey, and Mark were all right. We prayed that His comforting presence would be felt by Luis and his family.

Death came too close to home that night. Mike couldn't find parking close to where the Fair was being held, and he had to park several blocks away in a more secluded area of town. In the darkness, they were ambushed by three black men who sprang upon them demanding money. Mike was grabbed and a gun was held to his head the whole time the men were collecting money from them.

When Mike felt the barrel of the gun on his head, he thought for sure that any minute his head would be blown off. His friends, too, feared that Mike would be a goner. The kids had never experienced anything like this before, and they were scared that they would all be killed. In the cover of darkness, unbeknownst to the attackers, Joey quietly slipped away and called for help.

After what seemed like eternity, the robbers collected all the money the kids had--$7, mind you, just $7 total; then they started to leave. However, before leaving, the gunman fired a shot, not at Mike but at Luis. He was shot in the groin area missing his private parts by a mere quarter of an inch.

My husband John, Mike, and I went to the scene of the crime the next day. Mike's car was left behind when the kids boarded the ambulance to the hospital. It was awful what we saw. The area was blocked off by the Police with yellow crime-scene tape. Mike's yellow Toyota was covered with blood where Luis had tried to get up and lean on the car. A large pool of blood was on the ground. We wept for our hearts were heavy with grief and sorrow.

Why was the gun pointed at Mike the whole time and not shot? Mike said that it was because he was a minority--he was brown. Luis was white so they shot him. I knew better. It was because an angel of the Lord protected them that night. It could have been worse. They could all have been killed, but the Lord intervened, and I am forever grateful. What a wonderful Heavenly Father we have!

It took nearly a year for Luis to recover fully. He missed a year of school, and his family decided to move away from Jacksonville.

I prayed that this incident would make Mike realize the fragileness of life and his need for God at all times. One day shortly after the robbery, I asked Mike: What were you thinking the whole time the gun was being held to your head? He said he was really afraid. He expected to die and that he would wake up on the Resurrection Morning.

Dear Heavenly Father, Please help us to realize our need of you. Help us to be prepared at all times to meet you for we do not know when our lives would be cut short. We want to be ready to meet you, a loving and a merciful God; yet holy and just--One who hates evil and will put an end to it someday soon. Please be with the three black men. You know who they are, and you love them. Help them to come to know you and accept you as their Lord and Saviour and put away their lives of crime.

"What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me." Ps 56:3,4.

Be Not Afraid Midi