Lori Doutrich is an international woman; she's also a teacher, a mom, and a wife who supports her husband, a Foreign Service Officer, who has served in US embassies around the world – Argentina, Uruguay, Eritrea, Jordan, and twice in Tunis, Tunisia. Lori also lived in Mexico while her husband served a tour in Iraq. Lori talks about how she prayed to heal and to forgive those who attacked the US embassy in Tunis, which separated their family, and impelled her to reevaluate life and home from a spiritual outlook.
Your family was caught up in the violent demonstration in Tunis last fall. Can you describe what happened?
It was September, and we had recently arrived in Tunis. It was our second time there. I had gotten a job as a teacher at the American school. The US Embassy knows when there's going to be a demonstration. A small one was predicted for a Wednesday, so school got out early to be on the safe side.
Then we learned that there was going to be a bigger demonstration on Friday, September 14. The school decided to close at noon. The school is right near the embassy, so I passed by the embassy when I went home. I talked with my husband, and everything seemed fine in the beginning. Later, he called and told me the demonstration was larger than expected – totaling 3000 instead of 300 protestors. "I want you to take the kids across the street to the hotel," he told me, "in case people come to our house." They knew we were an embassy family.
Jack was stuck at the embassy along with 99 others. The angry mob had gotten past the guards and over the wall. They burnt all the cars and some of the outside buildings. The walls, doors, and windows are all bulletproof, but people were trying to get inside and start a fire. Jack was texting and calling whenever he could. I was crying and praying. I was also watching the news in the hotel, which showed that part of the school had been burned and vandalized, too. The attack calmed down by 7:00 p.m., but Jack didn't get home until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.
My husband is one of the essential individuals who stayed in Tunis to work things out. The kids and I were evacuated back to the United States. Jack finally got home mid April to be reassigned to another place where he could be with his family. I've had to do a lot of praying to heal from the situation.
How have you been praying to heal?
During the whole time I was there, I was praying with others to feel the floodtides of Love. I would look at the ocean and just think of how Love is constantly coming in, protecting our family. I clung to the truth that God had made man in his "image and likeness" (Gen 1:26), and that God had written a law in man's hearts: "The law of his God is in his heart" (Ps 37:31). I prayed to see that these men were the men God made; they were not sinful, violent men. I pictured these men who were attacking the embassy wearing costumes. The anger, hatred, and violence were just costumes. I refused to accept that they, as God's children, could innately have so much hatred. I knew Love was there the whole time, and I was never separate from Love. Psalm 139 was very pertinent:
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. (7-10)
Understanding better how God created us all and knowing that we can never be separate from God has helped me forgive and let go of what happened.
How have you managed while living back in the States apart from your husband?
That's been the hardest part – being away from Jack after going through such an ordeal. Though he was able to come to Virginia for three weeks during the holidays, essentially we've been apart since September. We've also been living in a hotel apartment. We have renters in our house, and we didn't want to kick them out because we're unexpectedly in limbo. I've had to deal with feelings of loneliness and to develop a new, different sense of home and family. God has really met our needs. We actually live in a perfect location – it's close to my church, the kids' activities, our house.
I've also had to be humble. I've realized that I do have something to offer when other children come over. We don't have the usual home and garden, but there is an indoor pool, a park, and some of our toys. My children haven't been deprived of anything. Friends and church members have invited them to their houses more often than usual, and we've found a sense of family at church. We are so grateful.
I've also been impelled to reevaluate what life is really about. After six months, the government decided we would not go back to Tunis. Even though our time was so short, we had a wonderful life there, so I've been learning to give it up. I was catching myself saying, "I'm so tired of this life – living in this hotel and being without my husband." So I decided to see what a spiritual life looks like, and I realized God is Life. It helped me let go of the past life in Tunis, and to take one day at a time here.
Do you feel at peace now about the whole experience in Tunis?
I think so. It's been interesting to think about the phrase, "Come out from them and be separate" (2 Cor 6:17 NIV), as not being separate from people but from worldly concerns. I've been trying not to turn to the material world for ideas or solutions. The world can seem like an awful place sometimes, with a lot of opinions. I don't necessarily want to go with the flow of that thinking. I'm trying to think from a spiritual level because that's the only way to find peace.