It does not matter where in the world you ask people: almost all of them know what they did on that momentous day: 9/11. Whether I ask people in the United States or here in Germany: the events of that day have impacted our lives forever. That day changed our history and the shape of world mission. That day continues to define and shape our missionary efforts. On one single day not only the nation of America was attacked, but the free world was attacked and challenged to react.
We have just passed the anniversary of that date and I was thinking recently about my experiences during that time.
I remember that on 9/11 my sister called me – which she never does during working hours – and told me that America was being attacked and that I should turn on the TV. As I did, I could not believe my eyes. I guess that was probably also your experience. We all could not believe what we saw on that day. I was shocked. Germany was shocked. People were afraid and panicked, thinking that this was the beginning of a new world war.
My first thought was a prayer for all those who were buried under the Twin Towers, for their families and for the rescue workers. My second thought was a more selfish one: what will happen in the next days? More attacks? Where? By whom? And finally: will I still travel to the US on the 16th? I was scheduled to lead a group of German women to be part of the World Conference for Women in Houston, Texas. The organizations that sponsored this conference included the World Evangelical Alliance, AD 2000 and the Lausanne Movement, represented by Robyn Claydon from Australia, my predecessor as Lausanne Senior Associate for Women in Evangelism.
During the next days I talked to many people, trying to discern whether it would be safe enough and also wise to still go to Texas. I talked to someone in the Netherlands who said that she had cancelled her flight. She was certain that 9/11 would begin a new world war and that she wanted to be at home when it started. She warned me not to fly to the States and mentioned that we might end up in the States with a war raging in that country and our home country and that we would maybe never see our families again. That comment disturbed me a lot. I talked to my husband and because I became more and more frightened, we decided that I would stay home. But then, two days before departure I woke up in the night and I knew that I had to go, no matter what would happen. So I talked to many of the women of the German delegation on the phone. Only a very small group still wanted to go. We got on our flight to Houston and cried with the flight attendant, who welcomed us on board. She cried because she did not believe her eyes, that so many women wanted to travel to the US, her home-country, in this difficult time.
We arrived safely in Houston and the conference started with far less women then had been expected. The interesting thing was that the women from Africa and Asia had almost all come and those from the U.S. had stayed home. I met many women who told me: “Our lives as Christians are always at stake in our country. So why should we not go to Houston?” Some said: “We know what it is like to live in war zones. We know what America is going through. And we want to tell them that we stand with them.”
The conference itself was very blessed. Anne Graham Lotz, one of the speakers, gave a wonderful message. We women celebrated Jesus, we continued to praise him, we prayed for those who were bereaved and those who were mourning in the States. And we prayed for the missionaries – men and women – around the world, whose lives were also in danger at that point in history.
Robyn Claydon also was without fear. She was strong and encouraging, like she always is. All the leaders who were sitting on stage seemed to be a stronghold that no one was able to overcome.
At that conference, David Hamilton and Loren Cunningham gave everyone free copies of their excellent book “Why not women?” a book that makes a strong biblical and historical case for women in leadership in the kingdom of God. That was a very good investment into the future of evangelism and world mission. The women I met at that conference, at that day and time in history, were brave warriors for Christ, women without fear for their own lives, women who were ready to follow Jesus – whatever the cost may be.
I left that conference with a different look at this world – at His world! I had realized again that God is in control, no matter what. And that he calls and sends strong men and women to reach the ends of the earth. Women who are willing to give their lives for the cause of the Gospel. Women who understand that to follow Jesus we need courage to stand and to remember that we do not fight against flesh and blood human beings but against the spiritual forces of darkness. Yes we know that through Christ we will be more than conquerors – no matter what.
As we follow Christ in evangelism the world will hear the message that it needs so desperately – the message of reconciliation. The message it is longing for. And we need to proclaim it with our words and lives, no matter what!
Elke Werner serves as Lausanne Senior Associate for Women in Evangelism.