“For the Lord Your God is with you Wherever You Go”, From L.Willows (Be & Courageous,Challenging Times, Love Walking Forward)


For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9 -“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

A long time ago, I traveled very far away and volunteered in a humanitarian initiative in Bosnia during the Balkan war for more than a year. The times asked for prayer and the need to go to God for strength. When I remember those times, my heart is touched by the courage and determination of the people that I met, often in the most unthinkable and challenging circumstances. Every part of the journey reminded me that to trust in God. I could not take one step forward without relying on His Spirit, the mercy of His Love and the blessing of His own strength and courage pouring into moments that far exceeded my own abilities.

On this particular evening, it was the middle of winter in Sarajevo. There was constant shelling from the nearby mountain range. Snipers targets civilians crossing the streets, in open spaces, even through open windows. With a weariness of hiding and bombing including land mines, civilians, after a great while tend to desire to live without fear and cross their own streets without running like targets.

The state of the city was complete devastation. There was no food, no electricity, no wood for fires (the trees, books, even storefronts had been burned for firewood the year before). There was no running water. These were desperate times. Most had already fled the city. It took months to even access Sarajevo with road closures, blocks, and other conditions set by the war. At that time, only the press was there (at one hotel near the airport), and a limited amount of humanitarian agencies including the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees. Most did not venture out to the city itself without armored vehicles or protection.

In my particular mission there, I moved in and out of many parts of Bosnia visiting refugees, families, hospitals, orphanages, local organizations and community centers in villages and cities through region. Sarajevo was a unique destination because agencies from around the world desired to assist. In addition, the city had suffered massive destruction in the first year and ethnic cleansing so many of the residents were gone, had lost family, homes and were in grievous states in their hearts. There were gravesites everywhere. All of the trees had been cut down for firewood for heat the winter before. There was no food, not even books- they had also been used for firewood- for heat. Everything stopped, the schools, administration, life. Now it was a small military struggling to survive and citizens who were also determined to live, to live with courage.

This is the story of one winter evening in a Sarajevo that I shared with my neighbors. The Theater Group continued to gather and perform during the war. They had strong hearts and it encouraged the community.

I aTTend The Theater in Sarajevo one evening during the War

It was 1993. I gathered with many others in the majestic old, cushioned seats of the historic Sarajevo National Theater, an awesome that had been constructed in 1899. It was during the second year of the Balkan war. Though there was shelling from the nearby mountains and snipers lined an unseen circumference in the ridges, there was nothing that stopped the people of the city from attending a performance at their cherished Theater. The local performing artists worked to continue performing during the war. I remember that a small orchestra group also played regularly outside for all to enjoy each day. These were bold people.

Gathered Together in the Theater

That evening, I remember the feeling of being together with several hundred others in the cathedral-like opera house gathered together gazing towards the stage. It smelled a little bit musty, maybe of a perfume that I was not familiar with. It was semi-dark because it was only lit by an old generator. It felt wonderful to enjoy laughter at the comedy that was presented. There was joy even during the war. It was a relief to be together in the Theater.

There was no heat. I remember huddling in my jacket and being grateful to be near the others. We kept one another warm! Just being in the audience was a victory. Crossing the streets to arrive meant that you had risked the snipers. No one ran across the streets. Everyone learned to walk with their heads held high.

They reasoned that there would be an appointed time to live and a time to die.  This was the time to cherish life!

A Time to Live and a Time to Die

The actors on the stage were immersed in the play. I was far enough forward that I could see their expressions. It helped me to understand and be swept into the joy of the moment. Laughter rippled through the Theater. It felt so good to laugh with everyone. The play was in Bosnian but somehow- with the actors on the stage, I felt it all on in inside of my heart. I remember looking at all of the faces in the audience; families with children and thinking how much I cared for them all, especially how brave I thought that they were. I knew that they had suffered through so much.

Then, suddenly, there was a loud thunderous sound. Then it happened again. It wasn’t us clapping. It was an interruption that everyone knew well. It was shelling from the mountains that landed next to the Theater if not upon an adjacent wall. My ears rang. My heart shook. No one moved. The play stopped. Everything became completely dark and still.

Someone said that the generator had been struck by shelling. No one moved towards an exit or left their seat. I sat in my seat and waited. We all sat together in the dark. I could feel the breath of the people around me. It was very cold in there. We realized that another shell could come and strike the Theater with us in it. 

I learned to be still and wait with Trust in God. Everyone sat together and waited in the darkness without moving for some moments, I don’t know for how long. Because of the thunderous shelling outside, the decision to stay may have meant living or dying. It seemed that the Theater was the target. It was a landmark. The next shell could have hit us all. It was the same as deciding when or how to cross the street.

We are struck by Thunderous Shelling

God really does have your life in His Hands. We live and die for Him. This was one of those moments. There were many in that war. It felt like a collective decision to be together in the Theater with the expectancy of faith.

Suddenly a small light appeared on the stage. It was a candle. One of the actors was placing candles on the perimeter of the wide half-circle of the stage’s edge where the stage-lights had been. The actors were lighting the candles. One by one they were lit. In moments the lights revealed a wondrous view, one that was more spectacular than before.

Then, in the glow of a very special evening, with the pop-pop of shelling in the background and the occasional thunder of larger threats, the play continued in candlelight. The play was wonderful. I am not certain that I ever really knew what it was about but I laughed and was filled with joy.  It was a night to remember forever. Though it was very cold, I felt warm.

We join together in faith by Candlelight

Later, walking to the room that I stayed in on those icy and snow-filled streets, I felt like I was in a neighborhood regardless of the threats that appeared to still be all around. Though I was not carrying one of the candles from the stage with me, I felt the glow of the room. The sense of faith and expectancy stayed with me. I did not have fear later that night when I was alone and the night war thunder.

We all seemed to be together, still in one larger room – not scattered individually throughout a city divided. God protects each of us, like a Light with and within every heart. No one is alone when walking with God.

And now, (2019) if I hear thunder I am comforted. I remember that God is with each of us everywhere. I know that in some places and in some lives, we face times that feel dangerous or isolating but I know that He is always with us and never apart from anyone. I know that even when things happen that seem to cause moments that looks like a temporary “disconnect” – if we wait with hope, faith, and expectancy, especially with and for one another, and in fellowship – our Lord God responds bountifully and generously.

God is with each of us everywhere

His Love and Light and His Spirit shine into our lives and hearts vividly. They warm us in ways that are transformative. We enter into bold new ways to tell His story, of how His Love has altered our lives and the landscape of our hearts.

He has mine. My story is one of the ongoing triumph of the Love of Christ in my heart and how it brings peace to me.

Joshua 1:9 -“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

He is with us all the time. He gives us strength and courage. I pray that we are each given the gift of many chances to step forward as bold Christians that walk fearlessly and lovingly towards the Life that we are given with generous and loving hearts.

© 2019 Linda Willows

Your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.