Fred and Janet: Surviving a Terrorist Attack with God’s Help

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The painting Fred and Janet’s daughter made for them after the bombing (photo provided by Fred).

Compiled and edited by Ali and Elton Streyle

Fred and Janet asked that Psalm 23:4 serve as an outline for this testimony.

The Bombing: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4a)

Tuesday March 22, 2016 marked the second day of spring, “but it didn’t feel like springtime yet,” remembers Fred. That morning, he and his wife Janet were waiting in the Brussels Airport Delta check-in line for Fred’s morning flight to the United States.

Fred is the director of an organization that specializes in player development with basketball camps, summer leagues, and college scholarship trips. The events also share the good news of Jesus Christ and teach youth how to achieve life goals.

Authorities report that on March 22, 2016, at 7:58 a.m., a bomb exploded in the Brussels Airport, killing 12 people. Fred and Janet were a mere 15 feet away from the blast. They remember hearing a loud explosion and seeing a ball of fire flash between them. Before falling unconscious, Janet recalls thinking she was going to die. However, she had real peace because she knew where she would be going (Heaven) because of her belief in Jesus Christ as Savior. John 3:15That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

Several minutes after the explosion, Fred regained consciousness. He realized instantly that he had awakened in a terrorist attack. There was carnage all around him. “My soul quickly responded,” he said. “My bloody right hand reached confidently toward the ceiling and I yelled loudly, ‘God help us! Help us, God!’”

“Immediately after I called out to God, He gave me a list of objectives. These purposes replaced any panic that I felt: calling for Janet, finding Janet, and fleeing the building.” It was a scene he would never forget. “I called her name several times, but she didn’t respond. Then I recognized her silhouette in the haziness to my right. I crawled to her, put my hands on her shoulders and asked if it was her.” It was.

The Sidewalk: “I will fear no evil, for you oh Lord are with me” (Psalm 23:4a)

Once on their feet, Fred and Janet made their way through the rubble strewn across the floor out to the sidewalk in front of the airport. Another scene of horror and chaos awaited.

There were many people outside, injured worse than they were.

“God, we felt, gave us a level of composure. He helped us to the point that we could help others. The Lord is the Good Shepherd. God’s grace accompanied us in the valley of the shadow of death. We feared no evil. We just felt compelled to stay and comfort others until the professionals arrived,” Fred recalled.

Janet’s mind was also filled with objectives to obey that day: to comfort people and pray for people, but don’t physically move anyone. Together Fred and Janet prayed for these victims of the bombing and others who would appear minutes later.

As Fred and Janet continued to care for the people around them, a paramedic arrived and hurried to the group on the sidewalk.

Fred thought his face, height, and lean frame looked familiar. When he went to help him lift the medical equipment over a fence, he asked, “are you a basketball player?” The man replied without hesitation, “yes! You’re Fred! I played in your Summer League last year.”

After this unlikely meeting, Fred was encouraged, saying he “felt like a teammate just arrived on the scene.”

The Recovery: “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4b)

The Good Shepherd gives deliberate direction to His sheep during difficult times using His rod and staff. In a similar fashion, the Word of God gave direction and comfort to Fred and Janet.

Fred suffered from burns on his head and was peppered with shrapnel from the blast. Shrapnel also cut the back of Janet’s head. The pressure from the bomb caused both of their eardrums to shatter, and they have been prescribed hearing aids as they continue to suffer from hearing loss. Fred’s eardrums melted due to his proximity to the bomb’s severe heat and he has undergone 4 surgeries to repair them.

The Direction, Hope, and Impact of God’s Word

“In the first few days after the attack, we had a lot of really warm comments on Facebook. There’s a lot of kindness out there. Romans 15:13 was posted twice, and that verse has been super encouraging.”

Roman 15:13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (NIV).

As Fred dug deeper into this passage, he began to see what he calls echoes, because of the prayer’s symmetrical structure. “Paul frames his prayer with the God of hope at the beginning and ends it with the Holy Spirit’s power. Hope is coupled at both ends too. The core of this prayer focuses on the primary task for those in need: trust in God to produce hope, joy, and peace.”

Romans 12:12 was very impactful for Fred, so much so that his daughter made a hand-painted sign for his office with the following words: “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (NIV).

More Answers to Prayer

After the attack, Fred and Janet prayed for and wondered what had become of the people they had cared for on the sidewalk. They soon had an answer about one of the people they had met that day.

Janet is good friends with an intensive care nurse in Brussels, and the nurse called to see how she and Fred were doing. Janet expressed her concern about a specific woman she had helped. The nurse recognized who she was talking about, and it turned out that he was the nurse caring for the woman Janet had helped.

The woman remembered Janet’s help, and she has since become close friends with both Fred and Janet. “She’s finding hope and healing. She followed a Journey from Creation to Christ study with us. These discovery Bible studies led her to faith in Christ” Fred shared.

Despite the evil and darkness Fred and Janet experienced that day, they have found hope and peace through their relationships with God. Their perspective and attitude about what happened that day can only be described as God-given. In a letter posted on Facebook just eight days after the bombing, Fred and Janet wrote the following:

“In the midst of the chaos, we feel it was helpful for us to understand the unthinkable. We are familiar with the first pages of the Bible that paint a picture of the predicament of our world: humans tend to turn away from God’s goodness and sometimes do terrible things. We humans so easily follow the evil one. His ways are evil, and he rules in this world. He does it daily in small ways, and at times in horrific ways. Tuesday in Brussels, we were reminded of this truth.

Nonetheless, we are convinced that God is love, peace, and the light in this dark world… More than ever before, we want to keep learning from Jesus Christ how to be peaceful, loving, and lights in our marriage, in our family, wherever we are, and whatever we do… In the coming days, we’ll need to hold on to what Jesus says to anyone who wants to learn from Him and receive His help: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraidJohn 14:27 [NIV].”

Christ’s Example of Service

After five months, Fred and Janet were still very fatigued. In a stressful situation, Fred said “I was at the end of my rope physically, emotionally, and maybe even spiritually. I went to a sidewalk café and began to pray. “God, show me how to serve, because I am at the end of my energy.”’

God showed him that Romans chapter 12-15 would be the best place to look for answers about serving God, so he read and reread those chapters. According to Fred, the pivotal segment is found in Romans 15:1-13. “During the days I was reading [these verses], I discovered afresh Jesus as our example of service. He lived to please others rather than himself. [Romans 15:3a “For even Christ did not please Himself…”] I needed to adopt His attitude with the measure of energy God gave me.”

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 15:5-6 (NIV).

As teens, Fred and Janet each put their trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. They praise God for the peace that comes with the promise of eternal salvation. Had they not survived the terrorist attack, they know they would have entered the place Jesus prepared for them. John 14:1&2b “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me… I go to prepare a place for you.

This experience has confirmed to Fred and Janet the urgency of sharing the Bible and the Good News of Jesus Christ as Savior to all people.

“God is good all the time, and He wants us to imitate Christ and keep serving. Some people don’t believe that because Satan blinds people and wants us to doubt God’s goodness. Don’t get caught in that trap. One day everything will be rectified,” Fred says.

He continues, “Janet and I haven’t felt bitter about the attack because God is the God of vengeance. He repays evil.” Romans 12:19b “’Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

“We have a new appreciation about the importance of forgiveness and praying for anyone who hurts people,” Fred says.

Fred and Janet are thanking and praising the Lord that in spite of the horror they went through, they have been experiencing Romans 12:12 through God’s protection and the absence of the anxiety and fear that normally comes with this kind of traumatic event. “Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.

Conclusion

Fred says that spending time in God’s Word, praying, “and trusting Him in whatever state you’re in leads to finding hope. That is His identity. He is the God of hope who wants us to overflow with His hope.” Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.

If you would like to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ like Fred and Janet have, and experience the hope that He brings, visit the Salvation tab on our blog.

**Fred has produced a New Testament study Bible titled, The Parchment Project. Its unique format and summary charts help readers see the big picture of each of the 27 New Testament books. Learn more about it at parchmentproject.com **

 

 

 

 

Clive: Choosing Joy

Clive

Clive plays drums in worship bands and played with the CCU band. Photo provided by Clive.

Anyone who knows Clive will tell you that they have never met someone whose relationship with God is so evident and whose positive attitude is so genuine. He has such a close relationship  with God that he even calls Him Dad. His faith is an inspiration to many, including me.

Clive grew up in a Christian home in the Cayman Islands, and has since journeyed across the globe in pursuit of God’s will for his life. He left home at age 18 to study medicine in Jamaica, and after a year of college, he traveled to Costa Rica to continue his studies. He then came to Colorado, where he attended Colorado Christian University studying worship arts.

While in Colorado, he felt God leading him to leave school and get involved in Youth With a Mission (YWAM), a Christian missions organization. Trusting God to provide the funds he needed, he bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii to participate in the music track of  YWAM’s 21 Project. The experience left him feeling “disappointed and discouraged,” unsure if becoming “a musician that spread the gospel” was really his calling. He then decided to attend YWAM’s 6-month Discipleship Training School (DTS), where he finally found his purpose: he would become a missionary.

Clive started our interview with a prayer. “Thank you that Ali saw something in me that made her want to do this interview, but whatever she saw, she is seeing You,” he said. He grinned widely and laughed out of pure joy and gratitude at being able to talk to God, the Maker of the universe, his Dad. 

Q: How did your relationship with God change your life?

A: “In my mid-teens I was a really angry kid. I took to heart all the things that happened to me and I became bitter. I visited some friends of mine in Colorado and they explained things about God to me, like that He actually is a great Father, and that changed my life. Finding out that God is my Father, and not just the God who created the universe from dust, kickstarted the kind of relationship I have with Him now. I grew to love Him because He is a great Dad, the lover of my soul, the One I can be most intimate with.”

Q: You have done a lot of different things trying to find God’s will for your life. How did you deal with God completely changing the plans you had?

A: “I wanna tell you that I was like, “Yep, Jesus, I’m gonna follow You,” the first time [He changed my plans], but that was not the case. My reaction at first was not happy. I wasn’t blaming Dad, but I was trying to figure out why things weren’t happening the way I wanted them to. But now I realize that [all the changes in my life] were exactly what needed to happen. Now I have so much peace, joy, and fulfillment. Everywhere I go, I’m in Dad’s hands.”

Q: How did you start to develop a strong prayer life and vibrant relationship with God?

A: “I became serious in my relationship with Jesus [when I told Him], “I want to be like You.” I started focusing more on Him in my day. I started doing more worship stuff and started singing things to Him. [I thought,] “wow! I can say these things to Him too,” and started doing that [through prayer].”

“The main thing He taught me [as I grew in my relationship with Him] is how to have joy and be who He made me to be- a joy bomb so to speak. There is nothing in this world more important to me than Him. My biggest aim is to be just like Jesus and concentrate on heavenly things instead of worldly things.”

Q: How does prayer impact your life?

A: “Prayer is literally everything. Every single day I pray. I talk to God about everything- money, food, girls- everything! There’s nothing too insignificant to bring to Dad. He wants to be our best friend. A big part of my prayer [life] is bringing Him everything.”

“I get to talk to Jesus. He makes time to talk to me because He created time. He wants to talk to me and He’s making Himself available to me, so why would I turn Him down?”

Q: What is your prayer life like?

A: “I just start talking and He’ll respond. [For me, prayer can be] having a question, asking God that question, getting His answer and being grateful to Him for it. I talk to Him like He’s my dad. You can call on Him anywhere and everywhere, He loves talking to His kids.”

“God wants relationship, not religion. In my relationship with God, I see Him as a Father who is worth being respected, and I speak with Him candidly. When I remember that He is God of the universe, the transcendent Being over everything, and I remember just how big he really is, [to know] that He lives inside of me… What an honor! He could have chosen to live anywhere else. It’s so humbling to think [of the fact that] I’m not a servant, I’m a son.”

Q: How do you approach praying for others?

A: “[I love praying for others] because I get to talk to Jesus. I get to see Heaven come to earth in that situation and I get to become more like Him. The more I communicate with Dad, the more I become like Him. I get to talk to Jesus on others’ behalf.”

Q: Do you pray Scripture back to God, and if so, how do you do it?

A: “[Praying Scripture back to God] is a great thing to do. In the Bible, people like Moses and Abraham would say to God, “remember, You said You were going to do this.” They were quoting Scripture to God even before the Bible was written. [When I pray Scripture], I say, “Dad, You said this, so I claim this. You said You would take me there.” And when God does take me [where He promised], I tell Him thank you for taking me there.”

Q: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

A: “One that hit me hard recently was the last part of 1 Corinthians 13:5, which says that love holds no record of wrongs. [This verse reminds me of] the power of forgiveness and why God wants us to forgive. [This verse also] means that once we accept Christ, everything we did is forgotten and we now have the ability to become sons and daughters of God. It qualifies us to receive the inheritance of Christ.”

Q: How are you able to love people so well?

A: “You have to receive love from God, not just give love to others. When you receive love from the Father, you won’t be giving love from a place of “I have to,” but rather “I want to.” When you realize how loved you are and how everything you have has been given to you by God through grace, the devil can’t touch you. The Bible says that we love because He first loved us [1 John 4:19], and that’s the only way we can love others: receiving love from the Father. You are loved by God. Nothing you can do will make Him stop loving You. His love for You was there since the beginning, it will be there in the end, and it’s there now. His love for You can’t stop because it would contradict His infinite nature. If God loves you, I love you.”

“I speak truth [to others] because I am free to do so. The verse that says life and death are in the power of the tongue [Proverbs 18:21] is so true. What you say about a situation or a person shapes them.”

Q: How are you able to be joyful no matter the circumstances?

A: “I believe that joy is a gift that I’ve been given. I wasn’t walking in joy [when I was younger], but the chains of anger were broken off of me through the power of Jesus Christ. Be wary of what the enemy will do; he’ll take something that you’re meant to do and make you afraid of it. You can change the world [when you are doing what God made you to do].”

“Joy is more than happiness, joy depends on Jesus. If God is joy, I will be joy. I ask God to give me joy. I choose to be consistently positive. I don’t always get it right,  but I choose to speak life and truth.”

“People quote Romans 5:8 a lot, which says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. But they sometimes ignore the first part, which says that this is the love of God for us that He died for us. I have no excuse to see anything in a negative way because God sees the positive in every single thing He made [even us, when we were still sinners]. I don’t have it all right, and that’s okay. Whenever I fail, I get to learn more about Jesus.”

 

Written by Ali

 

Living With the Joy of the Lord

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Photo taken in Kansas.

“‘These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.‘” John 15:11

Heavenly Father, thank you that the Word of God has within it the power to produce joy.

Thank you that when my life is closely in touch with You, You will walk with me through my difficult times so that I do not have to endure them alone.

In times of great prosperity, I thank You for keeping me from becoming prideful and complacent.

I praise you that when I walk with Jesus daily,  You give me the joy of being level-headed no matter what the circumstances are.

Nehemiah 8:10 says “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Father, since the joy You give far exceeds any human joy, I ask for an abundance of it. Please guide me in the choices I make and the actions I take so that I can experience all the joy You desire for me.

Direct me to understand that Your deep joy comes only to those who value You more than anything else.

Even in times of distress, You are the unchanging basis for joy.

I ask for the blessing Paul expressed in Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.