The rip of machinegun fire caused Jake’s heart to skip a beat and forced him to emit a gasp as he huddled beneath the window, his rifle clutched against his chest. He turned his helmeted head to peer at the crouching forms of Iraqi policemen behind him. In the gloomy shadows of the small room he could see the whites of their terrified eyes and smell the putrid odor of fear lingering in the air.
Another burst of machinegun fire jolted Jake back to the situation at hand. On shaky legs, he dared to peek over the window base. In the courtyard not even 30 yards in front of him the insurgents pranced and gloated as they looted the police headquarters near the fractured front gate. A battered white Toyota pickup was parked in the center of the courtyard with two men clad in black hoods standing in the back. One manned a large machinegun mounted in the bed, the other held a bullhorn. He was shouting in Arabic and enticing the crowd that had formed just inside the gate while a dozen or so more masked bandits ransacked the battered headquarters building.
Jake’s throat tightened as he suppressed a sob while looking at the fallen police commander, Colonel Al Sahem, who lay dead near the front door of the headquarters. He fought off the intruders just long enough for Jake and a handful of other police officers to flee into the barracks at the rear of the courtyard. Some had fled out the back, many being cut down in an ambush, and the rest crowded into the room with Jake.
Jake lowered himself below the window and sucked in a deep breath. An overwhelming, spirit crushing fear lay upon him. He reached up and felt the pockets of his flack vest, knowing that his satellite phone was gone, lost in the mad dash to the barracks, but still hoping against hope it would suddenly be there. That phone was his only link to the outside world and help from an U.S. Army strike force at their base five miles away. Despair flooded through him and he fought back the urge to cry just as a he would as a little boy many years ago.
“Oh God,” He prayed within himself, “Please, make them go away. Please hide us and protect us.”
His prayer was answered with another long rip from the heavy machinegun followed by haughty laughter. He heard a shuffling noise from behind and turned to see his interpreter Ali crawling towards him. “Jake, what are we to do now?” He asked, gulping back his fear.
Jake could only give him a blank stare and then looked away. How did I get myself into this mess? Nine months ago, safe and secure in his home in rural Minnesota, the thought of going to Iraq as a police advisor made more sense. He was bored with his job as a deputy sheriff and longed for the days he remembered as a Marine grunt 20 years before. With his wife’s reluctant approval, he filed the papers and took a plane to Iraq. Now he wondered if he would ever see her again.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust…” You will not fear the terror of night nor the arrow that flies by day… A thousand my fall at your side and ten thousand at your hand, but it will not come near you.
From out of the depths of his mind excerpts from Psalms 91 filled his heart, and an overwhelming peace rested over him. God was there and God was in control. He said a quick, wordless prayer and turned to face the bedraggled policemen. They knew he was a Christian and he had come to regard many of them as friends over the past months. Now they looked to him for leadership in this dire time.
“Men,” he shouted in perfect Arabic, rising to his feet and readying his rifle. “God is with us and we must take a stand against evil. Follow me!”
He could feel the Lord’s hand upon him as he stepped through the door to face the bullies who had come to wreak havoc. He was assured that no matter what happened, he would live and maybe die a warrior and an example of a true follower of Christ.
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