Last week a friend and I went to a Spanish-speaking country for a week of relaxation and Spanish practice. We hired a tutor there, Carlos, and enjoyed several hours a day with him; he was fun and open, a natural teacher, a lively and trust-inspiring personality. One day he offered to show us his village after class, a 20-minute bus ride away. Off we went.

As we arrived, we noticed a large fire burning in the not-so-far distance, like an oil tanker on fire or something. I was about to inquire about it when I realized there was no reason Carlos would know anything more than us.

He crossed a street at one point to have a long, fast-paced conversation with a woman. We figured he knew her, or was asking directions to somewhere. Minutes later, he urged us to come view the local church because it was a tourist highlight.

On arriving at the church, he immediately dropped to his knees and began praying. We sat quietly and respectfully, looking about. The church seemed quite full, and it was indeed very pretty. When Carlos stood, he encouraged us to take photos and we spent a bit more time there. Then he took us through the markets and put us on our bus, which delivered us back to our hotel twenty minutes later.

Only after we arrived did we learn that the hotel was advising no one to leave the premises that afternoon, because gangs with masks and machine guns were riding around in pickups bombing gas stations and businesses (including the bank across from our hotel, where we’d been using the cash machine). They also shot a military helicopter out of the sky, killing the police officers inside it.

Later, Carlos told us he had learned from the lady across the street what was occurring, and ushered us to the church for safety. Then he had prayed for us, his community and all nearby communities. But he had not wanted us to know or to worry, as the gangs were not targeting tourists.

I am not revealing the location because the district doesn’t need the negative publicity. But my friend and I found Carlos’s kindness heart-warming, and a story worth sharing.