When our family lived in Kansas City, my mother once asked me, “Aren’t you afraid?” Her farm seemed so different than our busy inner-city street. “It’s just so noisy. How can you sleep?” And I had to think in my mind, “How do you sleep, Mother, in the absolute silence of a star-lit country night?”
My first career was teaching secondary English. Once, now thirty years ago, I stopped a fist and knife fight in the high school hallway by charging through the gathering students and grabbing the arm—and knife—away from the boy about to stab another student. It was over in a flash. “Weren’t you scared?” was the most frequent question once the ruckus was over.
Our daughter, then a third grader, was riding her bike to her elementary school about eight blocks away. She became trapped by a car who maneuvered her over to the side of the street, opened his door, and told her to get in! She dropped her bike and ran to the school. I was called to the school by the principal and sat in his office holding a shaking and trembling child—safe but very scared. “I was so afraid and scared but I kept running. I’m never riding my bike that way again.” And she didn’t. I was afraid.
There is not a parent in the world that hasn’t felt afraid. Our children are our responsibility. We take that seriously—even though we all parent in different ways. Our children, raised in thousands of homes, countries, languages, and traditions, learn to thrive despite surroundings, opportunities, dangers, and experiences. Parents choose environments; children live everywhere. However, fear is also a part of life.
The Bible is clear with many stories of parents and children who live with complicated situations. Adam and Eve’s own children become rivals and Cain kills Abel! From the first book of the Bible we are immersed in stories of fear and violence. Then the patriarchs and matriarchs live in constant family tensions, it seems with multiple family squabbles, land grabs, and children struggling to survive. What is the message of hope?
Today, our news is filled with news of children separated from their families at our southern border. The horror of deportation is also the story of incredible suffering and treacherous journeys. What awful decisions parents must make in order to survive! What is our word when there are mass shootings in a Walmart? How can parents and children cope with fear?
I am reminded, and comforted, by the repeated biblical phrase, “Do not fear.” From the first book of the Bible, we hear a word from God, “Do not be afraid” (Genesis 15:1).
Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. Psalm 103:13
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 14:33
Prairie View is a place to experience peace. It’s a place to let go of fear and accept healing and hope. Prairie View offers sanctuary for weary parents and frightened children. Prairie View is one stop where there is safety and compassion. Do not fear.
Rev. Dorothy Nickel Friesen is a retired Mennonite pastor and former Prairie View Board member. She lives in Newton, Kan.