Friday, 4 November 2016

A Stranger in Our Midst

As Joy entered the large Sunday school room where Bible Study would be held, a warm feeling stole into her heart. She looked at the cheerful, complacent faces of her brothers and sisters who had ended up in the same class as her and it increased the feeling of security.
               A visitor was in their midst, and although many smiled cordially at him, no one was bold enough to ask for introductions; that is until Clifford came in.  Clifford had them all introduce themselves and the stranger said his name also. Joy heard him say David Schmidt clear enough, but his accent was unfamiliar so she couldn’t catch where he was from.  
               Soon her husband, Nathan, started the discussion by reading the first verse of the text and they continued around the circle until done. The danger of being led astray by false teachers was a weighty topic and led to a lively discussion. It seemed like everyone in the room was deeply concerned that they follow Jesus as closely as possible so that they would not be deceived.  Mention was made of losses in their midst, because of choosing an ‘easier’ way.  Joy loved being in Bible study: it felt like the walls of the invisible church were so strong and secure when she sensed the Holy Spirit’s presence flowing from heart to heart. All too soon the second bell rang and they filed out. Nathan stopped to shake David’s hand, and Joy listened to what the two men had to say.
               “Why don’t you ask him if he has a place for the night?” Joy whispered to her husband, so he did.
               Soon the church service was over and David seemed reluctant to get into the car. Joy wondered how he had gotten to the meeting but didn’t think it was appropriate to appear too inquisitive. Since he seemed like such a quiet, yet likable fellow, Nathan and Joy soon found themselves chatting with each other while he listened intently.
               David seemed taken aback when he saw their house. It took a moment for him to find his voice.
               “Is this where you live,” he asked?

               “Yes.” Nathan looked surprised. Why did he ask?
David hesitated, swallowed then asked. “Do you live here all by yourself?”
               “Yes, well, with my wife. Come on in and we’ll make some coffee.”
               David seemed more hesitant and amazed than ever after they walked in the house. He stood and looked around for a full minute before it registered that Nathan had suggested that he sit down.
               Nathan settled into a comfy recliner and let it raise his legs. David tentatively drew up a kitchen chair and perched on the edge of it. As Joy bustled around in the kitchen preparing a dainty snack and three cups of fragrant steaming coffee her brow furrowed. What is wrong with him anyways? He dresses like us, speaks our language yet seems so uncomfortable in our home. Where does he come from that he wouldn’t know how Canadians live and act? India? Africa? He sure doesn’t have the complexion or appear to have the culture of those places. Besides, nowadays, with modern communication like it is, he should have at least a vague knowledge of what is normal in our country.
               As an afterthought, she placed some carrot sticks, a few slices of cucumber and a pile of grapes on a second platter. Maybe he will be more comfortable eating simpler foods. She reached into the fridge to remove her favorite dip and brought the tray over to the men.
               Nathan had been trying to discuss with their guest the ins and out of running an on-line business. It was obvious that he was trying to be politely attentive but they could easily read to confusion and bewilderment in his eyes.
               Joy tried to signal to Nathan; he doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about.  Nathan reached for a canapĂ© and pronounced it as good if not better than her usual recipe. Joy smiled with pleasure then caught David’s look of consternation.
               “Oh, um, Nathan, shouldn’t we, um pray first?”
               “Over a snack,” Nathan asked before he could catch himself. “David why don’t you lead in prayer, before we eat,” he suggested, ever the gracious host.
               “Do you read the Bible first?”
“ Ah, ya, sure.” Why didn’t I think of it, Nathan mentally berated himself? When the children were little we were far more diligent about having devotions but we have been slipping the last few years. His eyes shadowed. We’ve got to be more careful if we want to remain faithful until the end.
               Joy handed David the well-worn family Bible and was touched by the look of relief on his face. Why the only thing we have in common with him is our connection with Jesus: the only thing.
               David seemed well versed in the scriptures and found his way around in the big Book with relative ease. He read the entire twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew which is about the five wise and the five foolish virgins.
               Nathan thought briefly about his cooling coffee, and although he was fond of the drink, listening to David seemed more important. He lowered his feet and both he and his wife were impressed as David expounded the scriptures to them.
               “I fear you are falling asleep,” he warned as he gently laid the Bible on the highly polished coffee table. “When I first saw your church building, I became alarmed. Had I accidently been led into the jaws of the lion?
               When his hostess looked puzzled, he explained. “In my country where I came from big churches represent our persecutors. The rest of us meet in out of the way places like the woods and barn lofts.”
               “Are you from---China?”
               “China: never heard of the place. As we sat and fellowshipped together in that church building, I became more at ease.” He smiled. “I knew we were of one spirit,” but then his smile faded once again. “I came here to this, your large home, and you seemed so complacent. No one has any fear at all of being put to death for your faith. That is good and yet it is not good. “
               Nathan and Joy both nodded soberly.
               “We talked much of material things, and my soul hungers for real food. You will grow lean if you feast too much on what the world has to offer. “
               Once again Nathan and Joy nodded soberly.
               “These surely must be the last times ye are living in. Satan is trying desperately to lull you to sleep with many distractions. You spoke tonight of losses, far too many losses, and I weep with you. Where I come from it is the opposite. Our numbers are swelling in spite of, nay rather because of how many martyrs are willing to die for their faith. “
               “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Nathan looked grim.
               “Where do you come from,” Joy asked in a voice barely above a whisper. She thought she knew the answer.
               He didn’t answer directly. “They beat me, leaving me for dead. One laughingly said the wild dogs will have him cleaned up by morning.”
               Joy shuddered and put the grape she was about to bite back. For some reason, it had lost its appeal.
               “But then an angel touched me and said: ‘Arise I have a mission for you to do before you go to Heaven’. “ He sank back into his chair, and finished simply, “And so I am here to warn you to be faithful to the end and bring as many as possible with you into the kingdom of God.”  He seemed lost in thought for a while but the pealing of the Westminster chimes in their small mantel clock brought him out of his revere. He leaned forwards and clasped their hands into his own. There were tears in his eyes. “Love one another fervently and be clothed with humility.”

               Eventually, Joy got up to dump the cold coffee and cover the untouched food. When she looked up David was gone. Nathan held out his arms to her and she stepped in. Nathan led in a long heartfelt prayer and Joy tremulously added Amen.  
Mary'am's Memories of Jesus