The blessing of feeling secure

man attending September 11 memorial in Seattle
A man sits amidst flowers at memorial at the Seattle Center fountain on Sept. 16, 2001. REUTERS/Anthony P. Bolante/Files

Watching in horror as the events of the morning of September 11, 2001 unfolded, we all experienced a myriad of emotions: shock, grief, fear, anger, confusion.

What I recall feeling most vividly was fear. My sense of security had been stripped away. Never in my lifetime had our homeland been attacked. My kids were young at the time – 9, 5 and 3 – and I remember feeling scared to send them to school.

A few nights after the attacks, while the skies were still silent from all flights being grounded, I was jolted awake from a sound sleep by a loud sound outside. It could have been something as benign as a car door slamming, but in my dream-state, it sounded like an explosion. My heart was racing. Had a plane hit a skyscraper in downtown Seattle?

I opened the blinds and looked out at the calm night sky.

It was my first experience with feeling unsafe from the threat of war and violence. I had taken peace and security for granted.

There are some people who know no life other than one of insecurity and danger. Those who are leaving their homes in Somalia because of drought and famine, are also fleeing terrorism and oppression. They’ve learned to sleep through the sound of gunfire. But many making the journey from Somalia to refugee camps in Kenya have told us they are seeking safety as much as food and water.

“A place that is secure – that’s all I need,” said one frail woman who had been walking for weeks.

The government of Somalia collapsed in the 1990s. Since then, militant groups have controlled parts of the country, and citizens have lived with lawlessness and chaos. Although a transitional government now controls parts of Somalia, there is little or no protection or government aid for citizens.

World Concern and its supporters are bringing hope in the form of food, water and medical attention to those who have fled their homes with nothing. In doing so, we’re also helping restore a sense of security – even if it’s simply knowing where the next meal will come from.

As we remember those who lost their lives 10 years ago on that dreadful day, let’s reflect on the blessing of security – knowing now what it’s like to have it taken away. And join me in praying for the heroes who protect us and provide us with security every day.

Disaster Relief Journal – High Security During Travel

World Concern travels to hard-to-reach places to provide disaster relief. This often means many hours on difficult roads to reach people in great need.
World Concern travels to hard-to-reach places to provide disaster relief. This often means many hours on difficult roads to reach people in great need.

The most common element in all our program fields is the difficulty in just getting there.

This past week we ventured into a new area, just north of our current program area in eastern Chad.

Although it is only about 150 miles, it took us about 12 hours and a couple of days to prepare.

In the whole country of Chad, there are only 2 paved roads outside the capital, N’Djamena, neither of them terribly long.  Around here, we mostly follow tracks in the sand.

The short 3-month rainy season is intense, creating many wide sandy river beds called wadis.  These fill quickly with water during the rainy season.

In the dry season, you can easily get bogged in the deep soft sand of the wadi.  In the dry season, the main problem isn’t the wadis, though, it is the militia.  They find NGO vehicles soft targets.

Not long ago in an area not far from our destination the director of another NGO was killed in an ambush while attempting to provide disaster relief.

We take security very seriously, traveling in as large convoys as possible, carrying radios and satellite phones, checking with locals along the way about the road ahead.

We were supposed to meet up with a convoy of 4 vehicles at a town part-way there, but the government had declared that day a national holiday the night before.  So we arrived at the meeting point only to find that the other group wasn’t traveling due to the holiday.  We had 2 vehicles of our own, the minimum required for that road to avoid an ambush and plowed on anyway.

The drivers are used to sand, so were able to slip into and out of 4-wheel drive as we would fourth gear on a highway.  They were great and never let us bog down in any of the wadis, though it was touch and go a couple of times.

Our lead drier was from that region and hadn’t been there for a year or more, so every now and again we’d suddenly stop while Isaaka ran out into some seemingly random field, falling into an embrace with someone out harvesting their millet.  Then we’d be on our way again.

Although we arrived at our destination at around 2pm, we were sent onwards to meet the Chef de Canton (like the Mayor) and Sous-Prefet (like the Governor) in Hadjer Hadid, another 30km (18 miles) up the road.

It took about an hour to get there, then another 3 hours to find the Sous-Prefet, wait for him to decide to meet with us, then meet with him, then repeat the process with the Chef de Canton, all the while drinking sticky-sweet, scalding hot tea in 90+ degree weather.

All the formalities done, we were able to trundle back to Arkoum, our final destination, arriving much later than we really should have been on the road.  Within 15 minutes of arriving, we were setting up camp in the dark under a thankfully bright moon, eating a meal of rice and canned sardines.

It took us about 12 hours to get 150 miles, and that was without any problems at all with the vehicles or the road.