Denise glanced up at the clock on the office wall, again.
Her quarterly reports to the Missions Council were due by morning, and she was woefully behind on getting them done. Not helping matters was the machine she used to generate the reports, a pitiful tool. She willed the ancient word processor along, praying as it wheezed and whirred, hoping against hope that she could at least finish this section before the power went down. Total shutdown of electricity was not an unusual occurrence in the Asian nation she and Chuck had been assigned to only eight months ago.
Chuck was also feverishly at work at the desk right behind her in the jam-packed district office--he had a presentation to give the next day to a visiting denominational leader, and increased funding was a tantalizing possible outcome, if the presentation went well.
They were as committed to the Kingdom as they were to each other, and clung to that dedication even under pressure.
Denise reached high in the air and stretched her arms and torso, cautiously allowing a tiny hope to spark: she might actually get some sleep that night! Thoughts of curling up under the mosquito netting and drifting off threatened to lull her to sleep right there in the folding chair, but shouts in the outer offices snapped her to immediate attention.
One of their first converts and most faithful members burst in the office door. He was shouting rapid-fire in the local dialect, and Denise, who was slightly more proficient in the language than Chuck was, listened, with growing fear. She caught enough, here and there, to understand that there had been a political rally in the town center that night, and a group with a strong resentment against 'outsiders' had seized control of the meeting. They were making their way through the streets, burning and looting selected buildings, and probably killing any people unfortunate enough to be working at this late hour. Since most of their building held businesses run by locals, his recommendation was that they stay there, but to turn off the lights.
Denise was chilled by his final words, which translated to something like, "Don't go home, absolutely no. Not until daylight."
He left as suddenly as he had arrived, and she and Chuck wasted no time turning off all the lights and hunkering down on the floor.
They could hear shouting and gunfire in the distance, and strained to determine if it was moving closer or moving away.
Strange what goes through your mind at a time like this, Denise thought. I wish I could work on the reports here on the floor, in the dark. I should be worried about the important things, like my husband, and my life, and survival, but, no, I'm thinking about "Q3 Budget Analysis." What is wrong with me?
She let out a vague sound, which Chuck clearly took to be a sob. "Oh, Denny, we're gonna be all right, I'm sure of it. Let's pray together, right now." He prayed a quiet but fervent prayer, thanking God in advance for protecting them, and even sheltering the office itself, and ended with a resounding "Amen."
Denise said "Amen," too, then was briefly silent.
"Honey, Baby, Sweetie, Darling?"
Chuck smiled in the dark, as usually this particular combination of endearments meant the following comments were to be anything but dear. Usually, "Honey, Baby, Sweetie, Darling" meant that temporary marital disharmony was coming his way. Yet her tone of voice didn't seem to be leaning in the typical direction.
"Pookie! Now I KNOW I'm in trouble!"
"Shhh. Chuck, you know how we've been considering renewing our wedding vows while we're on furlough next year back in the States?"
"Well, I'm thinking about some new...uh, variations to the traditional vows. After the 'For richer, for poorer' part, I think we should add, 'For gunfire, for shrapnel...'"
He interrupted with "In danger, in disaster..."
And they dissolved into giggles. Yes, it made no sense, given their situation, but tiredness and stress can do funny things to the mind.
When the first rays of sunlight slanted in through the slats, they realized they hadn't heard a sound in hours, other than their own helpless laughter. They were both still alive, the office was untouched, and they learned later that the rioters had been arrested during the night.