Today I met a man born in Qatar. He is a Palestinian Christian whose family was moved out of Israel in 1948. His grandfather set up shop in Qatar, and his father decided to move the family to Niger when he was young. (talk about multi-cultural)
While living in Niger, His father was going to work one day and saw a man slumped over on the side of the road. He rushed his car to the side of the road and drove to the hospital as fast as he could. The man was in minutes of passing away of some sort of heart attack or something. So as is custom in Niger, He paid the emergency room bill to get the man admitted, and continued to check up on him until he was well enough to talk.
One day he was visiting the ER and the sick man was alert and well. He asked him, "Is there anyone I can call? Your family? Your friends? I need to let them know you are ok."
The man responded, "Call the Israeli embassy."
The father shook his head in disbelief. "Who??"
"Please call the Israeli embassy." the man in the hospital bed asked politely.
The father called the Israeli embassy in Niger, and come to find out the man in need, was actually working as a diplomat in the Israeli embassy.
Talk about a strange course of events!! Here a Palestinian Christian unknowingly helped an Israeli diplomat from dying in the middle of a lonely African Road.
He could have justified his day and just kept on driving by.
He could have gone deep into the well of pain and hurt the man's heritage caused his own.
He might have even wished this man to die, but instead; he reached out to save his life.
My friend continued the story for almost thirty minutes, full of unbelieving details. But at the heart of the story the Israeli diplomat kept asking the man why he helped. And the father replied, "Because Jesus asked me to love my neighbor..."
CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?
After his family is unable to return to certain parts of their homeland, he reaches out to help the very man who had the power to let him back in. And after saving the man's life, they formed a bond of friendship exchanging meals with their families, playing with their kids, and even allowing them to return to Israel to set up a new life in their previous homeland.
After nearly a decade, the man called the Father and told him he was in the late stage of cancer. "I just wanted to call you and tell you how meaningful our relationship has been, and because of Jesus, I'm here to be grateful to you for your kindness."
I nearly started crying at the dinner table tonight. I've never heard a story with such compassion and full of love where two people who come from the most distant of backgrounds could share life with such love and care.
So on this night, sitting here finishing up our work in the Holy Land, I'm moved to remind my friends, To Love God is To Love Our Neighbor, no matter who they are. And to experience the great reconciliation we all need to know, He calls us to even love our enemy. Jesus called us to show love and compassion in every circumstance, and TONIGHT, I'm more committed to that concept than ever.
Here in the Holy Land it takes shape when I smile at my Palestinian friends, break bread with my Israeli friends, and spend time with my Muslim friends. Loving People because they live life, and share the same air we both breathe on this planet, seems to be a monumental force in the face of all our fears, especially our fears of "the other."
I've had an incredible evening and my heart is full of hope even in one of the most hopeless places on earth.