Vacation Operation Part III — Qatar
by D.I. Telbat
Cliff Washburn pulled Anne close as they watched the state police of Doha, Qatar, drag a woman and her daughter to an SUV. The glass office building where Cliff and Anne had almost entered was now bustling with Sharia Law enforcers.
“We’re too late.” Cliff tugged on Anne’s loose sleeve, the one-piece pullover that covered her head. “Time for the backup plan.”
“I’m scared, Cliff!”
“Just don’t look back.” Qatar was ruled by the strict Wahhabi Muslims, making sure that nationals didn’t convert to any other religion. Walking quickly from the scene, the Washburns prayed that no one noticed their haste.
“What will happen to them?” Anne asked.
“Just pray. They’re in God’s hands.”
There were more foreigners in Qatar than nationals, so blending into Doha’s financial district wasn’t difficult.
The couple stopped at a deli and ordered a pita bread plate to share. As they sat at a table on the patio, Anne nervously studied the street.
“Relax. We’re just vacationers.” Cliff nodded at a European businessman, who appeared to be watching them a little too closely. “I know, hon. I was scared too.”
“If we’d have been five minutes sooner, that would’ve been us arrested for proselytizing Muslims!” She sat up straight with a new thought. “And in a few months, I’m going to be a grandmother!”
“And think of the stories of serving Christ you’ll be able to tell your grandkids.” Cliff checked his watch. “Okay, time for plan B. You remember the address?”
“I don’t know, Cliff. The police are obviously agitated. It’s just not safe today.”
“Is it ever safe to be a Christian in the Middle East? Come on, I have a tooth that needs pulling.”
Cliff and Anne walked down the street until they came to the market district. Locating a particular rundown office building, they climbed two flights of stairs. From two stories up, they could see and smell the Persian Gulf. There was a quarter-mile stretch of container ships moving to and from the oil-rich region.
Anne knocked on the door. No one answered.
“The windows are dark. Maybe they’re gone. We should go.”
“Let me try.” Cliff knocked a secret knock. A few seconds later, they heard a dead bolt slide on the door. He winked at his wife. “Just a little something I picked up in Egypt.”
Anne smiled and rolled her eyes.
“How will you ever be able to go back to being just a carpenter?”
The door opened and a man with sorrowful eyes drew them inside. After a few seconds, it was obvious he knew no English. Cliff reached into his mouth and retrieved the memory chip that had been his rear molar for three weeks. They followed the man to another room where he plugged the chip into his computer.
Cliff and Anne waited against the wall of the furniture import store as the Bible software was downloaded.
“Makes one wonder, huh?” Cliff sighed and took his wife’s hand.
“Wonder about what?” Anne’s hand trembled in his grip. “You’re enjoying this too much.”
“Makes me wonder what the Washburns will do for their next anniversary.”
“You mean if, by the grace of God, we live through this one?”
“Let’s just hope they don’t want to start removing your teeth for software transportation, as well!” Cliff said with a grin.
Outside on the street, Cliff was still adjusting his loose and awkward tooth when Anne stopped him. Cliff followed her stare. The European businessman from the deli was across the intersection, and he was pointing them out to two state police officers!
“This way!” Cliff drew Anne into a narrow gap between two buildings. They jogged through to the next street. The squeal of tires could be heard a block away; they were getting closer.
“We have to split up!” Cliff nudged Anne to go right. “I’ll draw them away and lose them, then I’ll meet you at the hotel. Go!”
Anne was about to protest, but Cliff darted into oncoming traffic, causing a minor accident. She knew Cliff could move faster than she could, so Anne concentrated on her own escape.
Avoiding the next busy intersection, Anne zigzagged to the south. Pedestrians paid her no attention as she tried to mingle.
A white minivan suddenly stopped beside her, and the side door opened just feet away.
“Christian!” a woman called from the back seat. She waved frantically at Anne. “Christian! Come!”
As Anne rushed into the van, she was pressed to the floor. The van sped away as an ear-piercing siren blasted nearby, and a police car zoomed past them.
“Christian, safe,” the woman assured Anne. “Christian, safe.”
Anne remained on the floor for several minutes, wondering if she was indeed safe.
“Just stay down,” the bearded driver said in fair English. “We heard the call over the radio. Whenever there is a raid on Christians in the city, we try to help whoever may scatter.”
“My husband. We split up. I think—”
“He is safe. I saw him running east. You are American?”
“Yes.” Anne rested her head on the floor and prayed her tearful thanks to God for His ongoing protection. God’s family was certainly diverse and she was thankful that His servants were busy doing His work, as was this couple.
“Christian, safe,” the woman comforted.
“Thank you so much. Can you drive me to our hotel?”
A minute later, the man told her it was safe to sit up, and she was able to meet and thank her rescuers face to face.
They soon arrived at the hotel where Cliff was pacing outside. He was visibly overwhelmed with relief to see Anne. Cliff accepted the couple’s offer to take them to the airport since safety was a concern for them now.
“I know it’s too soon to talk about what’s next,” Cliff said to Anne as they waited for their flight, “and it’ll take us some time to process all that’s happened, but I’m thankful that we could be used, even a little, for the Lord’s work.”
“Me too. I was really scared, but I saw how God amazingly took care of us. It just makes me want to do more for Him.”
Their work in the Middle East was nearly finished this time. Anne wondered what was in store for them next. A peaceful feeling swept over her, and she knew it was because they had helped take God’s Word to His people. It reminded her of the verse that spoke of the “peace that passes all understanding.” That was how she felt right now.
THE END of part III of Vacation Operation. (Inspired by themes in The COIL Series by D.I. Telbat.)
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