North Newton, KS: Reflections of a CPT Mom

January 21, 1998
by LaDeen Frey (North Newton, KS)

On Monday (1/19) as I was on my way out the door to go to work, the phone
was ringing. I answered, a bit impatiently. It was Gene Stoltzfus from the
Christian Peacemaker Teams headquarters in Chicago, calling to tell usthat
the office had received death threats against members of the Hebron team from
the KACH terrorist group and that the threats were being taken seriously.

Since our oldest son, Mark, is a member of that team, we were being notified
in advance of any official news release about the threats. I thanked Gene
for letting us know, with a calmness I didn't feel, and noted the panic
rising in my chest as I drove to work. There I found an e-mail message from
Mark, giving more details and "'permission' to get nervous but not to freak
out too much." (I thought, "This guy knows his mom!") Through anxious tears,
I read his reminder that he knew when he joined CPT that such things could be
"part of the landscape." He instructed, "Tell everyone you know, spread the
word, ask for prayers, let the light of truth shine in this darkness."

I thought back to a conversation I had with Mark before he left to begin
his 3-year commitment to the CPT program last February. I was anxious
about his physical safety in a part of the world where violence has seemed to
be a way of life for years, and I found myself thinking that it felt like I
was sending my son off to war--something I, as a Mennonite mom with pacifist
sons and daughter, had never expected to experience! Suddenly I had real
appreciation for the anxiety of thousands of mothers over the years who have
said goodbye to sons going off to confront "the enemy" in wartime.

Mark thought my anxiety about his safety would help me identify with lots of
people in our world who live with the daily threat of violence/oppression
against themselves or their loved ones, and that, in his opinion, was a
positive thing!! My motherly gut-level response was something like, "But do
YOU have to put yourself at risk in order for me to 'wise up' about violence
and injustice in our world?? There must be a
safer way to get the message across!"

Yet, I strongly believed in what the Christian Peacemaker Teams program was
all about--at least in theory. We had always tried to raise our children to
value peace and justice for all people. Some kind of Christian overseas
service had been almost expected in my family of origin. In fact, both Mark
and his younger brother had been born during the 5 years Rod and I spent with
Mennonite Central Committee in Zambia, Africa. But somehow I had never
allowed myself to think about the possibility that this legacy of Christian
service and cross-cultural experience might someday lead one of my children
to actually put his life on the line in obedience to God's call in some
foreign land!

Ironically, I caught myself thinking about Mark's high school years. For the
Extended Learning Program, parents were required each year to complete a
strengths/needs assessment regarding the gifted student to assist in setting
goals for participation in the program. We identified that Mark was the kind
of kid who tended to play it safe--he seldom got involved in anything he
might not excel in. We thought he needed encouragement to be more of a risk
taker!! Now, in light of his decision to put himself in the middle of a
highly volatile situation in the Middle East as a Christian peacemaker, it
seemed to me that perhaps we had overdone it a bit. . . .

So, how do I deal with my anxious gut when someone is threatening violence
against my son and it seems that there is no "safe place?" The dangers are
realistic, and the fears are strong! My desk calendar reminds me, "If I feed
my faith, my fears will starve to death." I pray that Mark and his teammates
are finding this to be true; I, too, am working on it, with the help and
encouragement of many, many caring people of faith. What I am slowly
learning as a CPT Mom is that whenever the forces of oppression and
domination and abuse are named and confronted, there is resistance from those
dark powers; we who desire to be instruments of peace and justice cannot
bring God's light of hope unless we are willing to
encounter the darkness. We must teach these truths to our children; we must
be willing to have our children remind us of them and be our teachers.

Encountering and engaging the darkness is risky business. At times it is
fearful business, and there is no earthly place of absolute physical safety.
But if we believe that the light of God's love does indeed shine in the
darkness, and that the darkness can never put it out, then we can indeed
carry that light in the Spirit of Christ, with courage, confidence, and
with ultimate SAFETY, whever God may lead.