Redefining Stupid

by Laura on May 19, 2013

india

This past week he told stories from his last trip overseas–around a table and over sandwiches– that still-fresh ink crawling out from under his shirt sleeve. I’d heard the story several times before, but there was something about this telling that felt different, scarier to me.

Maybe it was the natural responses from our friends. Maybe it was my mood. Maybe it was remnants of the tv show I’d seen the night before about killers and guns and heroes that still got dead.

He’s a good storyteller, that one. And this evening was no exception. He talked about doing covert investigations with the team in India and what the process was like to walk into a locked brothel there in Mumbai. He told of the long alley, littered with scurrying rats, dirty diapers, trash, and how they came to a dead end– surrounded by three sides, the only escape going back the way they walked in.

But then, like something out of a spy movie, the taxi driver moved a piece of corrugated tin that was resting against the dead-end wall. It revealed a makeshift door. The driver knocked a particular number of times, and the door opened to reveal a sliding gate, also locked. The Indian man from inside spoke in Hindi to the team of undercover investigators, toting along their white friend– a bizarre character in this common back-alley scene. The gate locks were turned, the cheap metal slid to the side. One more door after that, three more locks.

And the inside revealed a standard brothel, a grimy  entrance room with a couch and a bed.

And at a dinner table thousands of miles away, I heard this man I went to senior prom with talk about what it felt like in that moment to hear the locks turn again behind them, the rattle of the gate closing, the scraping of the tin as it covered again the entrance back in the alley.

Locked in. No easy escape.

And my friend, she turned to me, wide-eyed, “Aren’t you scared of this stuff, of what could happen? I mean, it’s giving me chills just hearing about it.”

And, honestly, I don’t remember what I answered her; it was a fair question, absolutely. But I do remember my mind rolling that night in the reality of possibilities– spinning out all the things that could go wrong in a back alley, behind locked doors, on foreign soil, in a place that sells flesh for cash.

Are we just really, really stupid?

*****

Three weeks ago, fear did grip me with strong fingers, walking my mind down trails of a funeral and single-motherhood. It was during that same trip of Matt’s to India, and I knew he was out for the evening with the investigators, testing some new covert gear. And our system when he travels, since typically he is about 12 hours ahead of me in time, is that he’ll call me when he gets back to his hotel at night (and I’m hustling kids out the door for school), and then he’ll call again when he wakes up to start his day (and I’m shushing children to bed). But for some reason, that morning a few weeks ago, he didn’t call.

I carried my phone with me like an appendage, but it didn’t ring. No texts, no emails, no Skype. The kids walked into their schools, nothing. I cleaned up breakfast, silence. I went to the gym for an hour, blank.

And that’s when I really started to worry. I knew it was late, late, late there in India. I checked the world clock on my phone, and then I looked back through emails to check that I hadn’t missed this as a travel day, putting him on a plane and out of reach. And like I said, I started running scenarios in my mind, and they all involved me wearing black and crying a lot.

And, then, a text flew across oceans and continents: So sorry, internet was down. I’ve been back at hotel for a while now. I’m fine. 

And again, the whispering voice, “Sending the father of your kids into danger? That’s a pretty dumb thing to be doing, isn’t it? Isn’t it?” 

*****

mustard seed

And maybe it is. Goodness knows, there’ve been plenty of people that have said that very thing to our faces over the last two years. And behind our backs I’d assume, as well. Maybe it is stupid to risk for the sake of another, a girl that I’ll probably never lay real-life eyes on. Maybe it is foolish to think that God could use someone extremely unqualified to help spark justice. Perhaps it’s stupid to believe that we’re in a Story, penned by a Divine hand, and that the path we’re walking, He is able to uniquely equip us for as we walk it. Maybe it’s just really dumb to think that fear shouldn’t have the last word.

Or maybe, maybe, it isn’t stupid at all.

What if in the Kingdom, this is exactly how it works? What if  the formula God uses most — the weak, the scared, the impossible, the under qualified, the mustard-seed-faith  – is the very one the world calls stupid?

And I went to bed that night after our sandwich dinner party, at peace. Because the wide-world doesn’t have to understand our story. The logical whispers aren’t always speaking truth, and fear of the “could happens” won’t dictate our next chapter.

And if that makes me stupid, well, maybe there are worse things I could be. 

******

Update: Thanks for your grace as this blog space has been quiet recently. Honestly, I’ve been swamped with managing working full-time with Exodus Road and mothering/wife-ing full-time. It’s been a lot. Another project that has proven a blog-distraction is that I’ve written a small book that will be out by summer’s end (!!!!). It’s the story of how The Exodus Road got started and walks through that first year of doing undercover investigations in SE Asia. Honestly, it’s been a cathartic thing for me to write. And Matt’s cried every time I’ve read it out loud to him, so I guess it’s been cathartic for him, too. I can’t promise when this blog space will be consistent again, but I can say that this break won’t last forever.

And for those who’d love a visual, here’s a clip of covert footage Matt took from a similar locked brothel in India, as the one described in this post. We were able to empower this team in India this past month to rescue 89 victims of trafficking. 32 of the girls were under the age of 18. Click here: Exodus Road Covert Footage. MUST WATCH.

*****

Tried anything stupid yourself lately?  How’d that work out? 

And, yes, for you literalists, we’re huge proponents of practical wisdom, too. For example, this: Everything is Spiritual, Except When It Isn’t  

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Deborah Allen May 19, 2013 at 10:48 am

So powerful, as always, Laura. I love the vulnerability you share.

~Debbie

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Laura Parker May 19, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Oh, thanks, Debbie . . . youre encouragement is . . . encouraging. :)

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Lana Hope May 19, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Wow, scary, but no, not stupid. Thank you for what you do.

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Laura Parker May 20, 2013 at 10:23 am

Thanks, Lana– you are always so encouraging! :)

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Rachel Pieh Jones May 20, 2013 at 1:45 am

Once Tom called from a plane headed to Somalia and he said: “The wing just caught on fire. Oh, we’re taking off, gotta go.” I spent the rest of the day checking CNN for plane crashes. Thank you for this post. And congrats on the book!

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Laura Parker May 20, 2013 at 10:25 am

Holy moly– talk about a situation where you pray like crazy, right? Sheesh. Glad he was okay. :)

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Lana Hope May 20, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Craaaaaaazy.

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robyn May 20, 2013 at 6:48 am

Maybe stupid is courageous. Beautiful post, Laura – thanks! Prayers for continuation of this “stupid-effective” work you all are doing, and for your family too. May Jesus protect you every step. Can’t wait to read the book!
You will not leave in a hurry,
running for your lives.
For the Lord will go ahead of you;
yes, the God of Israel will protect you from behind.
-Isaiah 52:12
Blessings!

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Laura Parker May 20, 2013 at 10:26 am

Thanks, Robyn, for your kind prayers and reminder of truth. LOVE that verse. Thanks for reminding me of it today. :)

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rhondaquaney May 20, 2013 at 11:58 am

I loved finding you through Elizabeth Stewart today. Your courage. Wow. It tares at my heart. Thank you for living it and sharing it.

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Laura Parker May 20, 2013 at 11:50 pm

Thanks so much for the encouragement . . . promise I don’t often feel very brave. :)

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Danielle Cevallos May 20, 2013 at 12:56 pm

My husband travels too, to India, and I understand the flood of fear that can take over! But God does call us to take risks….sometimes “stupid” ones. While God has really dealt with some of my fear issues, it is crazy how fast I can go from fine to funeral planning. He is greater than our fears, and His namesake in the work we do is worth the risk!!!

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Laura Parker May 20, 2013 at 11:51 pm

Yes, Danielle– He IS greater than our fears. YES.

What does your hubby do over there? Love hearing others stories!

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pastordt May 20, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Honey, if this is what you produce after taking ‘a break’ from blogging. . . then take more breaks. This is gorgeous, scary and true. Thank you. I look forward to that small book!!

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Laura Parker May 20, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Um, I think I just want you to comment so someone will call me “honey”. haha

Thanks, friend– you are always such the encouragement all around the web. You have a real ministry in the online space.

And I’m grateful to be a recipient of it.

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Sarah May 20, 2013 at 8:05 pm

There is a great quote from Emmanuel, Cardinal Suhard, a French priest who also spent time behind locked doors after standing up for what he believed–condemning the treatment of the Jews under the Nazis. “To be a witness does not consists in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.”
Missionaries do seem crazy and stupid in the eyes of the world. . . but thankfully we know the greater truth that makes all of it make sense: God does exist. Thank you for your work and your perseverance–and your writing.

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Laura Parker May 20, 2013 at 11:53 pm

I adore this. Seriously– shared it with our overseas community at http://www.alifeoverseas.com. It was such a great quote and sharing of story . . . love that idea of living a mystery. Beautiful.

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Teri Miller May 21, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Oh. My. Gosh. What frightening, vulnerable, powerful words.
So glad to be praying for you both, interceding for those girls – playing my own teeny part in this mustard-seed-faith, awesome-stupid adventure.

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Laura Parker May 22, 2013 at 10:08 am

Thanks for your prayers, Teri- for them, for us. Such an important part of God working . . . . you are such a treasure. Love you guys.

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Isabelle May 24, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I think we are safest when we are in the centre of God’s will trying to be obedient. True – you may die even there in the middle of doing what God calls you to do but you are still safe in an ultimate way – he is still holding you in the palm of his hand.

Doesn’t make it easy but it does bring a peace that passes understanding.

Half of our (extended) family lives comfortable lives in the suburbs of N. America and the other half are living in various remote, hard places in Africa. Anything could happen to any of us – there is no way to really protect our lives. I still love Jim Elliot’s words at times like this: He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

I do think it is (generally) harder for the loved ones staying home – wondering, worrying, praying – than the one having the exotic – albeit hard – adventure on the frontlines of injustice.

Thank you for your gracious words and vulnerability. Peace to you and yours.

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Laura Parker June 3, 2013 at 9:01 am

Yes, I totally agree that oftentimes the hardest place of trust is for those who stay home and have to send. That is a tough, tough place b/c you feel completely out of control . . .

Thanks for your encouraging comment. :)

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Marilyn Gardner June 1, 2013 at 9:00 am

Oh Laura – I love this post. It hit me in a way I didn’t expect. When those feelings come on, words on being safe in the ‘center of God’s will’ have never helped me – I just feel terror and I’ve never done what you all are doing. Going to Pakistan is nothing compared to a calling to walk into brothels and ultimately the mafias that control them. What has helped is knowing that God doesn’t give us grace for our imagination, but for the real deal. I’ve gone to my husband’s funeral many times …. in my mind…..and so for me it’s the bringing all thoughts under the grace and captivity of God. So easier said than done. Thank you thank you for this post.

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Laura Parker June 3, 2013 at 9:00 am

Thanks, Marilyn . .. it’s funny but Pakistan actually scares ME more than brothels! Isn’t it funny that what you said is so true– God gives grace for our unique journeys. He equips us perfectly and individually. Love that about Him.

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Alberta June 3, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I don’t know what brought tears to my eyes quicker … reading about your raw emotions in not hearing from your husband or knowing there are places that exist all over the world where women and children are locked behind bars (be it real, or in their hearts). You have a way with words that pierces to the soul, and i’m so grateful I came across your blog (through A Life Overseas). I work in the field of Member Care (coming alongside those who serve cross-culturally), and the insights I have gained have been invaluable. Thank you for taking time to express yourselves. You are helping more people than you know.

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Laura Parker July 10, 2013 at 9:11 am

Oh, wow, Alberta– thanks for your comment, and I am so glad this blog and A Life Overseas has been helpful to you! Member care is such an important field!

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Ericka Jackson June 26, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Oh sister… we do “stupid” stuff all the time. Walking to a village in Thailand (that uses their bomb shelter multiple times a week) and hearing a mortar go off right across the river in Burma. Going inside a brothel to visit the women on GB road in Delhi at night. Eating with lepers and prostitutes (not terribly sanitary, is it?). Tromping through fields of trash and human feces to play with slum kids (good thing I’d had a tetanus and typhoid shot!) Returning to the city in Africa where my husband was held at gunpoint. Most of the time I don’t think about the danger until we’re knee deep in it, or after we look back on the day. These are the things my momma doesn’t want to hear about! But when God leads, we go. In a lot of ways I think you are WAY braver than me, the way you trust God with your husband while you are home with the kids. I am usually with my husband (in the midst of the danger myself) but somehow that feels less scary to me than if I had to wait at home for the call. (I have been in that place before though… before we were married. I got the phone call the day my “husband-to-be” was held at gunpoint. Whew. That was a ROUGH day.) I respect you SO much Laura (and Matt too). I don’t think you’re stupid, I think you’re BRAVE. You know who is sending you and leading you and who holds your life in His hands. You are rockstars in my book!

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Laura Parker July 10, 2013 at 9:11 am

Wow, thanks, Ericka– humbled and encouraged by this comment. :)

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