The Family of Christ
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29)
It was raining steadily as I drove my car from my husband’s hometown of Baqa along a remote winding country road in the area of Israel known as the Triangle, whose villages are mostly populated by Arab Muslims, with the occasional Israeli kibbutz interspersed between them. Each day my husband would leave to go to work near Tel Aviv and my children would head off to attend their American International School near Netanya. As a family we had left everything behind – country, American family, friends, neighbors, church and school, house, and possessions, in our sudden and unanticipated move to my husband’s homeland.
After my husband and children departed each day I was left alone in our new “home” to build a new life for myself. I felt very much as an alien in the country, not yet having found my place amongst the peoples of the land. I was feeling terribly lonely. I missed my prior life in America where I was totally “at home” with no language or cultural barriers and where I lived in full community – especially with my “family in Christ.” I knew my way around at home, had a happy, fulfilling daily routine and was fully connected with others. Every day I would attend Holy Mass at my local parish church where I prayed with my brothers and sisters of the “household of God,” and received the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion and was both spiritually and physically united with the Body of Christ.
Some days I would assist a close friend and Catholic priest from Tanzania in his ministry to the sick and dying of the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, serving as his lector for the Scripture readings at the Masses that he would say at the nursing homes. Often, I would “make rounds” with Father, or on my own, to the rooms of the nursing home residents, to console and encourage them through their illness and loneliness by reading passages from the Bible, praying for and with them, or simply sharing time with them, talking and listening, being present to them in body and one with them in spirit and heart.
As the cool rain poured onto my windshield, my own warm tears flowed down my face, and waves of homesickness washed across my lonely soul. How I yearned, in that moment, for the companionship with a brother or sister in Christ with whom I could talk and share my heart. The dreary grey sky, soggy wet road, and dank dampness of the car seemed to permeate my soul, and I felt a profound loneliness and sense of alienation.
As I was driving along I saw a middle-aged Arab Muslim woman in her traditional dress walking in the rain along the roadside carrying atop her head a plastic bag which was filled with something. She was carrying some items she had likely purchased in the nearby village, and she was walking home to her own village along the roadside and using the bag as a kind of umbrella. As I passed her I thought, “Oh! I should have stopped to offer her a ride!” The thought came too late and the cars behind me made it difficult to stop and turn around. I also considered that she might not feel at ease with a stranger or foreigner stopping to pick her up. I also did not know how to ask her in Arabic if she wanted a ride. I would never know if I had missed being a “good Samaritan” to her. I apologized to the Lord for thinking and acting too slowly, as I continued driving towards the intersection where the rural road intersected with the highway.
As I was stopped at the red light I saw another middle-aged woman standing in the rain. Sensitive to having missed the previous opportunity to be charitable, I rolled down my window and in English asked the lady if she would like a ride somewhere. She understood me and she quickly ducked out of the rain and got into my car. I asked her where she was going. “Yerushalayim,” she responded in Hebrew. Sensing her English was not so strong, I spoke slowly and clearly to her informing her that I could take her as far as the entrance to Even Yehuda along Highway 4, where I was heading. That would be approximately a half hour drive together and a third of the way to Jerusalem. It would take at least one hour from there to get to “Yerushalayim,” if someone else picked her up at that point, immediately after I dropped her off. She nodded in agreement.
We drove for a while in silence, except for the tapping of the raindrops on the windshield, and the whooshing of the tires from the wet road. Out of the side of my eyes I saw the Israeli passenger peering above my head. I glanced up to see what she was looking at and then I realized she was studying the Face on the holy card that was tucked into my sun visor. Her eyes caught mine, and clutching her hands to her heart, my Jewish passenger exclaimed with exuberance and love, “Yeshua!”
I reached up and took the prayer card with the holy Face of Jesus from my visor and handed it to her. Her face was radiant with joy. Jesus had connected me on that dark and dreary afternoon, which fully reflected the sadness in my soul, with a sister in faith. I was enthralled and astonished at the loving- kindness and goodness of the Lord. Tali, slowly shared with me, in her broken English, that she recently found her divine Lover and Savior, Yeshua, whom she had accepted as her Lord and Messiah. Tali had been visiting her grown son who lived in the Kibbutz near Nizzane Oz, the junction where I had picked her up at the red light. She had been sharing her newfound faith in Christ Jesus with him. She showed me a book that she had been reading and that she brought with her to share with her son, Heaven: Your Real Home by Joni Eareckson Tada, the quadriplegic Christian author, artist and evangelist.
I had read this same book of Joni’s many years before immediately after my own conversion. My sister in Christ, Tali and I, shared with each other how much Joni’s book about Heaven encouraged our new faith.
Tali also told me that she was attending an Arabic church in Jerusalem where she praises and worships the Lord Jesus, even though she can barely speak or understand Arabic. Her intense love for Jesus, the Savior of all men, brought her into full communion with Palestinian Christians whom she, as a Jewish Israeli, and believer in Messiah, loves as her own brothers and sisters.
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they told Him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for You.” Who are My mother and My brothers?” He asked.
Then He looked at those seated in a circle around Him and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does God’s will is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3: 31-35)
We arrived at our destination on Highway 4, and I pulled over to the shoulder of the road to let Tali out at a covered bus stop, so she might catch a late afternoon bus to Yerushalayim. It was still raining hard, but in my heart, the “Son” was shining. Tali and I embraced each other with an enormous bear hug, and held on to each other for a long time, considering that we may never see each other again until we would meet one day in Heaven. We kissed each other farewell on each cheek, then looked deeply at each other with beaming smiles, and sweetly bid one another, “Shalom.” We were total strangers, yet, in truth, we were sisters, bonded together in the Blood of Christ, and in unifying love that flows from the pierced Heart of the Savior.
For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. (Ephesians 2:14)
Less than 45 minutes later, my cell phone beeped. A text message from Tali informed me that she had already arrived in Yerushalayim. I deduced that she must have been picked up at the bus stop on Highway 4 by a “good Samaritan” who did not heed the speed limits. Perhaps angels are not bound by earthly driving rules? I never heard from Tali again, but I know I will see my sister in Heaven one day.