Someone once said, “Where you lead me I will follow. What you fead me I will swallow.” Today’s dinner was Wendy’s, my guess is that tomorrow’s will be a nice bowl of pasta with my sweet brothers in Italy. Maybe one day the Lord will have me try some bizzare foods in another country, perhaps a bit harder to swallow. But for now, I will have to bear with Italian pasta and pizza. (I hope my sarcasm is understood!)
I am always amazed by the doors the Lord opens for me to meet people when flying. Plane rides really used to scare me. Not necessarily a fear of flying, but a fear of sitting beside strangers for hours on end… fearing that the Lord would ask me to share the gospel with them or something awkward like that. But the Lord seems to give me the gifts I need for each task. He supplies me with the Spirit, the Spirit supplies me with the powerful gifts and in His way and time I then supply others with my good news of Jesus. I always expect God to give me the gift of evangelism when I am speaking to a stranger. But as I have now sat beside a few Christians on flights, I realize sometimes He gives to me exortation and encouragement for these brothers and sisters. I assumed they needed the gospel. But sometimes thats not the case. This helps to remove some fears of speaking to others. You just never know who you are talking to.
On my flight from Dulles International Airport to Paris Airport, the first leg of the journey, I had a young man named Gary on my right and a woman named Sue on my left. We exchanged names and basic information, making small talk as the passengers and stewards situated their luggage. Sue and I talked for a while and then went into our own screens watching movies. After about an hour dinner came. We talked over dinner and continued to talk into the late hours of the morning. We had great heartfelt conversation about real life topics and issues. She told me all about her career in the marines. Explained to me what she would be doing on her nine month long deployment to a country in West Africa working with the U.N. Then the conversation turned to spiritual things. We talked about our personal experiences in Christianity. Hers in the catholic side, mine in the protesant. But we found we had the unity of love in the Spirit. Knowing we have the same Lord. I saw a genuiness in her faith. I pray she saw something of the same in me. We talked about grieving the loss of loved ones. We found deep understanding there with one another. We both shared stories of our loved one with teary eyes. But with thankfulness. Taking this opportunity to remember the gift of good memories with we enjoyed with them. Sharing the joy of deep human relationships. Sharing the pain of losing those friendships. Finding that God fills the holes that appear when they are gone.
As the plane landed and we grabbed our luggage; we said a quick goodbye that came all too soon.
As I came into the Paris airport, I realized I was feeling very exhausted, because I had not gotten much sleep at all on the plane. Feeling weak in every way. And after the Lord uses me, Satan usually abuses me. So the temptations and lies were flowing strong in my mind. So as I sat down with a brioche and cappichino at a cafe near my gate; the Word of God met me in my time of need. I closed my eyes in a prayer that was more like a sigh. Saying, “God I need help, I am not strong enough to…” It’s as if God stopped me mid sentence and quoted scripture to me, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as what is common to man.” (1 Corinthians 10:13). What a word of strength and clarity that was. He met me in my need. Speaking the truth that I had no strength to search for or find. The Spirit of Truth doing what He does best. Helping, reminding, serving me in such miraculous ways. I wish I was always willing to listen to His whispers of peace and strength in the middle of temptation.
As I was writing this all down in a little journal of mine; one of the two men at the table beside me sneezed, and I said “God bless you!”, not knowing the weight that statement holds. They were intrigued by that statement and a conversation about God began as easy as sneezing. Wow Lord, you are just crazy good at this divine appointment stuff. I did not know you filled up my calendar today. Lord knows I needed something to keep my bad self busy! Ha ha… Oh my goodness… Im a mess guys. (Maybe I should say, “Oh my badness!”)
Anyway! The two men, ages 30 and 31, were kind muslims from Jordan which borders the West Bank of Israel. They are surrounded by civil wars. They always can hear bombs going off around them. Crazy stuff. They told me that my life in rural Virginia is a beautiful life. They said it with a touch of question in their voice. But they seem to have been loyal to their country despite spiritual and political unrest that surrounds their region.
[Typing this up as my plane is touching down in Italy once again. Praise God for safe traveling!]
After a long conversation about their names, the 99 names of their God(only talked about a couple of those names!), the Quran and the Bible; we hugged each other warmly and they left to catch their flight to Polland.
Now… despite giving into the call of caffeine(a long missed Illy Cafe cappuccino)… I was very tired. Barely awake. Feeling the exhaustion travel brings. Thinking that I may go catch a nap before boarding began, I discovered the Lord had scheduled another meeting for me in this time frame of a 3 hr layover. I yeild to these, because I made that decision this morning when I prayed “Lord I commit my day to you. Do what you want to in it, when you want to.” Now the rubber hits the road. My meeting was with a friendly 30 year old man from Iran named Yahid. He is currently a student at a university in Portugal on his way to Vienna to meet up with his sister. He introduced himself first, to my surprise. And then it went from there! What a great time of sharing we enjoyed. We were friends 5 minutes in. It’s great when that happens! Thank you God. I was surprised by the beauty of his home country. He showed me many photos. The news rarely(okay never) shows the beautiful side of these countries that have so much unrest and conflict in them. They magnify the wars and violence by only reporting the violence and “big news”. Which is needed. And maybe not a intended focus or slant. But nonetheless, it is. Which is sad. Because most people don’t have the time to do the research behind these stories to get the whole picture of these countries and their citizens. It was so great to hear of the things he loves and enjoys about his home country of Iran. He warmly welcomed and invited me to visit him there. And I returned the offer and invited him to my home country. I had to grab an espresso to keep alert during this great coversation. Thankful for caffiene in these moments when I have no other option!!
Our conversation came to a wonderful, extended close as we talked about our spiritual journeys. He is on a journey to find out what he believes. He was raised in Isalm but is undecided for himself. He doesnt know what beliefs or religious teachings he will decide to believe. I advised him on a first step in the decision process, saying,”You must decide how you will decide.” Then I explained. “For me I have come to decide that after everything is said and done, I have decided to love the truth.” And all my decisions must have their final say stem from that decision. This in essence is a decision that I know leads to loving and obeying Jesus, if followed through. But he doesnt know that yet. I shared with him that my search has lead me to trust and have peace with the teachings of the Bible as being truth. I encouraged him to not be lazy in his search, but to work hard at testing what is true.
I was pleasantly surprised by his reaction. He said that I made a very good point. That it makes sense to him. Then he referred back to something he mentioned earlier…questions he has. I asked him what some of them were. He shared his main and foremost question. “How do I know what comes after I die?” Well that hit me like a ton of bricks in my stomach. My heart identified with him. This was my question. My fear that plagued me until about 14 years old. We talked a little bit about this…still focusing on the fact that he needs to know the truth about this. Then, we realized his plane began boarding 10mins earlier! Eeeek! He said a quick good bye and was off. Thankfully we had already conected on Facebook and are staying in touch. We hope to reconnect in Milan in May. Lord willing!
Well this left me with about 20 mins until my flight boarded. All I needed to make a restroom stop and hop in line.
On my last flight I met a wonderful couple from Pari. A well traveled couple! He told me of all their wonderful vacations to America! They have seem probably 95% more than I have. Blew my mind! What an awesome thing that is for them. They love America. In their visits they have done three separate, two week long, road trips of the east coast, west coast and middle areas of the states. Hitting all of the major cities and national park highlights along the way. Makes me want to see more of my great homeland one day!
Landed safely in Venice, Italy at 2:45pm Saturday afternoon. Waited for my baggage with my friends from Paris and then met up with Donovan a CCBC staff member, and Erin a returning student from Minnesota. Great to be reunited with them! Waited for three more new students. Found them all. Tolsen, Evan, and Kali. From Canada, California, and Florida. Then we were off to Montebelluna!
It was a sweet reunion with my good friends as I saw them at each of the appartments we dropped students off. My heart feeling at home again in Italy…second home I should add!
This time I will be living in a nice small apartemnt in the town center. Love that! Sharing it with Adam a CCBC staff memeber, and Italian students Mario and Domineco! Excited to enjoy all the Lord has planned this semester. Tests, trials and all.
Please say a prayer for the people I planted seeds of truth and love with during this trip. Pray that they will be led by the Spirit of Truth to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life… Jesus.
“This God-his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”
Psalm 18:30 ESV(empasis added)