I've totally fallen down on the job. I haven't posted on either of my blogs in a month. Many apologies to my legion of followers. I know that you must have been heartbroken, left to hopelessly surf the web for some kind of inferior replacement for my amazing blog. I have just sat by and allowed important things to occur without my witty analysis - the Super Bowl's newest champion, the Oscars' newest mistakes, Charlie Sheen's newest implosion, Rob Bell's newest heretical comments. Books have been read and not critiqued. Movies have been seen and not reviewed. What in the world is going on?
It can really be summed up in one word: Libya.
I don't know if other writers struggle with this, but I know I do. If I have a strong idea of something I want to write about and then DON'T write about it, I find it hard to move on to something else. Call it mental constipation. There is a blockage and other ideas can't escape until that item is dislodged. (See, those are the insightful deep comments you've been missing so badly.) For me, the culprit was Libya. For anyone who has not been under a rock for the last few weeks, there has been must unrest over in North Africa and the Middle East recently. Regimes were toppled in Tunisia and Egypt. Protests were held in numerous other countries. And the movement spread to Libya. Protest began there, spurred on the by the success in the neighboring lands. But, that was when things began to go poorly.
Libya isn't run by a person who wants to keep the peace. Some would argue Libya is not run by a person at all, but rather by a terrifying creature. Many younger people forget (or have never learned) about Muammar Gaddafi. [We are going with that spelling, since that is what wikipedia used. And we all know that is always right. I remember his name had a Q in it when I was a kid.] Gaddafi has ruled Libya for over 40 years now. So he is kind of just a fixture over there. And in recent years, the country has seemed pretty mild. But, as a child of the 1980s, I remember a far different story.
I remember the days when President Reagan would rail against this "mad dog of the Middle East." He was one of the biggest villains in the world. He funded terrorist groups all over the world. These groups hijacked a TWA flight. They conducted attacks at airpots in Vienna and Rome, killing 19 people and wounding 140. They bombed a dance club in Berlin. His people shot at US fighter jets enforcing the "no fly zone" over Libya. There were numerous skirmishes with the US and Libyan forces. The US conducted an air strike on Libyan ground weapons. And then, even after that, Libyans were responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
But, as time has passed, Gaddafi seemed to mellow and we needed their oil. So the horrific history kind of was forgotten and we worried about other terrorists and threats. The US began trading with Libya and we just forgot about them. Now, though, no one is forgetting about them. The would-be revolution in Libya was not a peaceful process like in Egypt. Instead, it has been bloody and horrific. Thousands of people have died. Tens of thousands have fled their homes, trying to find some kind of safety somewhere - even if it means the desert. It has been horrible to read about these things. Soldiers randomly firing into crowds, robbing people fleeing the country. Helicopters and planes bombing protests. And then we begin to hear Gaddafi's speeches again - with his hatred of America and his paranoid rants about who is behind the unrest. Flashbacks to 1985.
I am not one to spend a lot of time watching the news. I keep up with things. But I am not a newshound. Part of the reason is that I just can only take so much negativity - which is what modern news is all about. To get viewers, readers, and subscribers our modern news outlets play up the sensational and gruesome. It isn't so much analysis they offer as hysterical overanalysis. To become a well-known journalist of any sort, you must take a wild position. You must be shocking. We see this on the sports outlets so much - where people make zany statements because they know that it will get picked up by the national media. Local news outlets do the same thing, playing up weird stories to get national web traffic. So I avoid the news. It isn't like me to get into stories like this. (And it has been very frustrating trying to find "real coverage" - I have had to resort to the BBC.)
The reason for my interest is also the reason that I haven't been able to write about it. I'm going to do my best to express myself while being careful to not say too much. A few months back, a gentleman came to us at Defender Ministries. He really believes in what we are doing and wants to help us to get to the next level with everything. And that doesn't mean he is going to give us $100 and pray. He is personally going to underwrite some very big projects. We are in the process of looking at opening a pastor/missionary retreat center in the NC/TN area. We are finishing up a new line of curriculum for grades 1-5 on technology safety. We need to update our current student and adult lines of lessons. And this person is going to make this happen - and more than that. It has been an answer to prayer. But we haven't been able to talk a lot about all of it because he wants to remain anonymous and because things are still in negotiations.
One element of this person's business involves contracts with . . . Libya. He is - or should I say was - in the middle of some new work over there when the trouble in Egypt started. That put them into a "wait and see" mode. They wanted to make sure that nothing spread into Libya. And then it did. Some of the company's negotiators were in Tripoli when things started to go crazy. They got out okay, but it was scary for everyone involved. So, now, everything is on hold until things get worked out. And, as the news is showing, it doesn't look like things are going to get worked out any time soon.
I've never been shy to paint myself in a bad light on this blog. I try to be transparent and that means that I voice my weaknesses too. Well, I have been wrestling for a while now on how to handle this whole situation. At first, I found myself actually hoping Gaddafi was able to fix the problem quickly and move on - so the contracts could be signed. Then I started thinking about what I was doing. I was rooting for a mad man? The more I read, the more I realized that the whole time we thought Libya had calmed down, it hadn't. He was always oppressing his people. He was always a maniac. We just didn't care because it didn't hurt us. He stopped blowing up European airports, stopped shooting at our planes, didn't cut off the oil supply. So we turned our back. Like so many things in Africa, we didn't care. It isn't until someone shined a spotlight on the situation that we realized how bad it was.
This isn't the first time this has happened. There were the famines in Ethiopia and Somalia in the 80s, which we then forgot about until the military incursions into Somalia in the 1990s. There were the atrocities in the Darfur region that we didn't even know about until George Clooney made us look. And we still don't think about the fact that there are millions there without drinkable water, unless Matt Damon has a new movie coming out and is able to work that into an interview. I know I'm guilty of this. I'm more worried about arguing if Firefly was cancelled too early (it was) or if Hallie Stanfield should be cast as Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games (she should) or who is right and wrong in the NFL labor dispute (both sides). I don't think about starving and thirsty people in Africa. I don't think about mistreated citizens in Libya.
And when I first was confronted with it, my first thought was, "I hope this gets fixed so the contracts get signed and we get our money." I know that makes me sound horrible - and it made me feel worse. Over the subsequent weeks, I have really had to think about my heart and pray about how I should even pray. I feel I have gotten to the point where I have mostly put my own desires on hold so I can focus on the people there. I force myself to read news stories so that I can remember what they are dealing with. If too many days go by without reading something, I start to drift back to my own stuff again. But it is hard.
On one hand, I think about the people over there. I think about this maniac in charge, who seems hell bent on staying in power until, as his son said, "the last bullet it fired." And that breaks my heart. But then on the other hand, I think about the number of people here who we could help. I think about the kids that are getting caught up into the trap of pornography. I think about the marriages that are falling apart, the ministers who are getting fired, the missionaries who are losing their funding. And, yes, I think about my own bills and needs and how our move to Orlando in June gets closer and closer. And there is this constant wrestling. We are told in the Bible numerous times to put others before ourselves, to love others. I want to do that. But I am here, and they are far away.
I don't know the answer. I know that sometimes writing things down helps me to get a handle on them. I have also found over the years that if I am wrestling with something, there is a good chance a lot of other people are as well. So I finally felt I had to write this. It is my biggest struggle right now - warring over my heart and my emotions, fighting in prayer for the people of Libya, desperately longing to develop the right mindset that sees people the way God sees them, and hoping that financial and personal and ministry and expansion issues work out as well. I truly don't want to just see myself and my needs. I don't want to have a view of the world that only sees people out of our borders when they interfere with my life or make my gas prices go up. It is uncomfortable, taking on the weight of problems of people you don't know. We have enough to worry about with people we DO know. I have friends and family who don't have jobs and who have severe health issues. And it is easy to just hide my head in the sand, watch the Food Network, and ignore all the cries around me. But I know that isn't right. I'm still trying to figure it all out.