It is hard to believe my days and nights in the Middle East are almost up and 28 short days have come and gone. Each moment spent has been filled with exotic food and aromas, the meaningful work of plumbing, building and settling my family into a new domicile, as well as many new experiences such as taking an authentic Turkish bath in a cave in the same manner as the ancients long, long before, and accompanied every step of the way by my new life-long friend, my brother-son, Massoud.It is almost beyond imagining… He and I were inseparable companions. He taught me much about culture and courtesy and in like kind, I taught him about Isa al masih. Massoud and I, father and son are now forever bonded. I will miss Massoud most of all.
As I prepare for my return, there is one task left to complete. Ironically, it is the task for which, I believed I was sent to perform and yet on this eve of departure, I still have possession of the power tools brought for orphan boys who attend a technical school in this city. Too, Ishmael is planning to meet with us in just a few hours. From the moment we meet on the airplane in Dubai over 3 weeks ago just starting out on this journey, I felt a strong urgency that Ishmael and Hamoud should meet. Ishmael, a seasoned and very wealthy business man with connections throughout the Middle East could provide much opportunity for underprivileged, disenfranchised young men of this country. Teaching technical skills and giving hope for a solid occupation was the work that Hamoud had begun and most would agree, is much more desired than alternate livelihoods that young, aimless men are attracted to in that region of the world. But, there had been no word… where was Hamoud?
Joseph, my son-in-law and I had tried and tried to contact Hamoud and the many messages left, had gone unanswered. I almost had given up upon the idea, thinking that I may have misinterpreted the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but we decided we must give it one more try. For the last attempt we needed a new, bold, and powerful strategy. There was one and only one solution; we must ask others to pray. So after a quick text to my prayer partners, the prayer team urgently went to their knees for battle.
While we were waiting, I could not help but notice an uncanny similarity in situations; with one text, people all around the world were engaged in fervent and unyielding intercession for untold heavenly gains while simultaneously, with blazing light saber’s in hand, there were my grandchildren, embolden in like battle… It staggers the imagination! Mark 9:29
In the stillness of that moment, Massoud offered, “Let me leave a message…. I can explain it from one Arab man to another”. So after several minutes of intense dialog left on an answering machine, the phone rang back immediately; it was Hamoud!
Hamoud had been visiting another city, missed the messages given to his family and was delighted, excited to meet. Ishmael had invited us to eat Tex-Mex; yes, one can eat fajitas and quesadillas in the Middle East, at a restaurant across town in an hour. I must say, there is nothing like the adrenalin rush of being down to the wire with a deadline and your hope is waning… And yet, this is when God most often decisively acts. Psalms 89:13 tells us of God, “Thou hast a mighty arm; Strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand”. Why do we despair? I believe I/we, refuse to continually look at every situation through the eyes of faith. Despite being a new creation, born anew in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5: 17; Galatians 6:15; John 3: 3-8), we continue to look at situations through the lens of the world. Oh, that we would pluck out our eyes once for all and determine to see as God sees. For it says, “…and if your eye makes you lose your faith, take it out! It is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell” (Mark 9:47). God knows it is far superior to live broken, than live whole and rely on self, live for self and miss eternity with Him. God loves too much for that (John 3: 15-17). Being a shepherd, Jesus Christ, Isa al masih will take that broken and lost lamb onto His strong and able shoulders and carry us until we are sure to know and rely and believe His voice (Luke 15: 4-7).
At the restaurant, after warm greetings of hugs and kisses, it wasn’t long before the men began discussing the prophet Muhammad, his affect on the world and how to emulate like goals. As they discussed, it became clear even though the language was Arabic, that their philosophies and doctrine were very different. And their discourse soon turned argumentative, loud and demonstrative. As I watched in horror, not knowing how to intervene, I imaged a completely disastrous end to the evening with both men turning their backs on one another and forever living in enmity. How could this happen? How could things go so very wrong, so very fast! What had we been trying to do? Had God really been in this? Moreover, what kind of danger had I brought to my son-in-law and to my grandchildren who live so far from their homeland? Definitely, beyond any shadow of doubt, I was over my head! But in that instant, in the blink of an eye, Hamoud said, “This is an unsolvable argument and one that does not focus on Allah”. There was my chance. Quickly I chimed in, “Yes, Hamoud is right, Allah is our focus. Allah has brought us together. Allah has a purpose for us and we must not let our attention turn to lesser things. We must not disappoint Allah. Allah has moved heaven and earth and stars to bring us together at this moment, at this time so that we can build a bridge to work for the good of other people. Allah has a path for each one of us and our paths have converged. We are here to obey Him and to do His will. That is what we are here for”. A pin drop could have been heard as the silence in the room became deafening. Ishmael and Hamoud just sat there for a minute, but then after many beats of my heart, started nodding, agreeing and everyone relaxed. I couldn’t believe it. Whewwff!
A door had opened and Joseph took the lead, to share why he is a Follower of Isa. While Isa was here on earth, He taught us many things. He taught us to take care of the poor, to feed the hungry, and to take care of the sick. And he taught us the ultimate message of forgiveness.
As it turns out, the technical school was closed due to the lack of local governmental support. However, as the men now spoke in much quieter tones and in mutual cooperation, collaboration, they agreed to begin seeking more support for the temporarily closed school, and open another school in Ishmaels’ city where support would be guaranteed.
During the course of the evening, Ishmael and Hamoud presented me with gifts as is the custom of their people. One of which was very expensive and extravagant. However, it was not a material gift that brought me to tears as we were saying our goodbyes. It was when Hamoud turned to Ishmael and said, “You know, I believe this man has come to show us how to live out the words of Allah. He is more of a completed Muslim than we are”. Ishmael readily agreed. Priceless! This was the moment that I had dared to hope for and when it came, it was utterly and absolutely priceless.
Thank you holy and almighty God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for allowing me, an unworthy vessel to see with your eyes, if only for just one second.
Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see