As part of the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, more than 200 local vigils were organized around the U.S. – plus Canada and the U.K. – to coincide with the D.C. service, march, and vigil at the White House. This is an account of one of those local vigils:
I, along with four others from our congregation, attended the Christian Peace Witness Vigil in a northwest suburb of Chicago. It was hosted by Don R., who felt he needed to do more than gripe about the war in Iraq.
Don and I, strangers before the vigil event, worked together via e-mail to prepare an order of worship for Friday evening. I spent more time than I had planned working on the service and making signs.
When the time came to drive to the event, I felt a tremendous sense of trepidation and anxiety. I was worried about the logistics of the vigil, but my real concern was the possibility of police interference or hecklers. I am brave and vocal about peace in the confines of my home or my peace church. Once I leave these places of sanctuary, I’m more like Peter before the cock crows.
When I got to the parking lot where I’d leave my car before I took the short walk bearing large peace signs down the sidewalks of a well-to-do suburb, I prayed yet again. In all my nervousness, I closed and locked the door of my car – with my keys tucked away in my backpack, which was resting on the passenger seat.
I never do things like this.
I thought I was going to pass out, peering into my car window, seeing the copies of the order of worship and freshly-made signs trapped on the other side. I did panic for a while, until I accepted the reality that I needed to seek help – of all people, I needed to call the police.
I went into a family-run movie theater around the corner and they called the police for me. The young officer worked incredibly hard to jimmy the lock, all the while apologizing for scratching up my 95′ Dodge Caravan. All I could think was, “I need to be at a vigil in five minutes, and please, officer, don’t look in the back seat and read my signs.” He left after I showed some I.D., and I grabbed my things and rushed to vigil for the rest of the evening with my fellow Christian peace witnesses.
I wanted to share this story because of all nights, of all people, I had to call for the presence of the police when I was so dreading this specific possibility on this specific night. I was humbled by the lesson I was taught; I was the man lying beside the road and a Samaritan helped me. I didn’t want him to be my neighbor, but God made him one. And in that epiphany, my anxiety over the evening was replaced with humility. I prayed for peace with others huddled against the cold, warmed by the complete confidence that God was near.
Christine Mihevc is a member of Christ Community Mennonite Church in Schaumburg, Illinois.