I mentioned in this blog about Kaylee about a divine encounter we’ve had already on our Zimbabwe trip, before we even left the country. Well, the second one is perhaps a little less sensational, but still so beautiful to me.
I wanted to charge my ipad in Dulles airport, and all the plugs were full, so I walked around in search of an available outlet. This delightful man immediately starts up a conversation as I walk by – he too had struck out in search of power and ended up in this solitary(ish) corner by the only remaining free outlet and was waiting for it to charge. I plug in to other plug that shares his outlet and sit down to wait, planning to work on a few things while I have a last few minutes of cell service.
Now because it so frequently happens that I meet people, my friends generally assume that I must be the one to initiate these relationships, but I’m not. In fact, I am usually so focused on my tasks I don’t even see the people, much less think to engage them in conversation. And, to be terribly, terribly honest, the only thing that I’m generally intentional about is avoiding the people around me, so I can focus on my tasks at hand. This was one of those times. But it doesn’t matter. In fact, sometimes I wonder if God just giggles at me for being so clueless, and for trying to avoid his divine appointments when I’m not completely clueless – as if I could (avoid them that is)! No matter how innocently and completely I might miss the opportunity, or how badly I might WANT to avoid the interruption, God is relentless and He always gets His way. I suspect He just rolls his eyes and smiles and laughs…because it’s SO very me to miss the fact that He’s trying to give me something special (it’s kind of a trade mark of mine…in all my relationships!).
And so, as He so often does, He persistently, gently comes at it again, awakening me to the fact that something special is about to happen…again…that He has something else special to give me.
This time it was Jakob. My darling new friend. He’s Ethiopian but he has been in America teaching at a university for about 20 years. He is absolutely delightful!!! He started talking to me about our upcoming flights, and then we realized we were on the same flight… I knew I was meeting someone special when he kept talking about what a GREAT flight we were going to have. How we have this fantastic plane with lots of leg room (especially beneficial for someone like me with long legs…because Ethiopians are smaller people, they are 5’3″ on average as compared to our 5’8″ or more average; he tells me) and how quick the flight is… It’s a fourteen hour flight. But it’s nothing. It’s quick. It’s a great flight, a wonderful flight. He was SO refreshing, so positive, so appreciative, so absolutely alive and full of love and light.
Our talk turned to things to see in Ethiopia, which included beautiful orthodox churches. That naturally led to talks about faith and orthodox vs. evangelical, etc. He talked about never understanding the orthodox churches because the services were held in languages he didn’t know, but now, things are changing and services are in the native language. He loves the fact that he now understands the messages and that he’s learning more about his faith. It’s richer because it has meaning now.
Conversation turned to a book we are reading at Shepherd Project – You Lost Me, which talks about why the younger generations are leaving the church. It’s not that they just don’t care, but that they feel lost. We talked about how he sees that happening in the universities, too. Technology is changing the way millennials relate and learn…and the old ways aren’t working any more. He loves the youth though and he is passionate about understanding them and reaching them. And he gets frustrated with his colleagues who have a more cynical view. He wrote down the book title, so excited to read and see what he can learn about how to understand and reach these students of his.
Oh how I loved his beautiful heart and his fresh, optimistic, loving perspective. If he didn’t feel like someone I had known all my life, then he definitely felt like someone I’ve wanted to know all my life. I loved hearing his thoughts on things, having lived in America long enough to really know and understand it, but also having the perspective of an outsider, having come from a country so wholly different in every way. He was a more critical thinker, a more cautious consumer of our American culture and ideals than I am as a native who has known little else.
We could have talked for days, I have no doubt, but our plane was boarding. I went to my bags and grabbed a card and went back over and he gave me such a hug and said he wanted to keep in touch. In fact, maybe we could connect when he came through Colorado this fall… LOVE to! And we talked about the reconnecting about this book, You Lost Me, which is centered on the millennials and church, but which has some definite things to contribute to the discussion of millennials and education as well – and I’d sure like to hear his perspective on that discussion. As we parted, he promised to come by and visit with me more on the plane.
We ended up visiting on the plane by the bathrooms for a while – which I now know is not allowed… and talked about people and adoptions and dealing with people who have “baggage” that you cannot hope to understand or foresee… which led to a discussion about how I ended up in Colorado and how God miraculously provided for me and for my horses. I told him the story and he was just amazed. “It is clear God is looking out for you,” he said.
I watched his eyes just light up with excitement and life as I told my story. I don’t think that it’s that my story is so extraordinary – I mean, I think it is extraordinary, to be sure – but I don’t think that’s what lit him up so. I think it was hearing someone speak so openly about God. He believes in God, but doesn’t seem to have the theology that I have. I mentioned in this blog that when we find something that we are missing in someone else’s soul, it stirs our own and we feel at home with them. That is what I sensed in Jakob. His soul loves God, but knows little of Him and is hungry, so hungry for more of Him. When I started talking about God, Jakob came alive.
I don’t know what God has in store for the future, but I won’t be surprised to find that he and I stay in touch for ages to come. I won’t be surprised if I see him in Colorado at some point. If I am ever in his neighborhood, I wouldn’t hesitate to contact him, and I’d meet his family and spend time with them all. In an instant, he was that kind of friend. The kind that is forever, like family. The kind that always picks up just where it left off, no matter how much time has passed.
And to think, I would have missed it with my head buried in “work” of some sort if God hadn’t persisted. “I’m here. I have something to give you. Hey – don’t think you heard me…I want to give you something special… Don’t be shy or ignore it or refuse it…accept it! Accept that I love you and that I just really like giving you special things. It’s OK – you can just enjoy it! I picked this one out just for you…he’s special. You’ll enjoy this gift…for a long time to come! And as an added bonus, you’ll love knowing that I’m going to use you to bless Him too – because I know that just really jazzes you and makes you happy. I know how much you love to work alongside me – that ‘partnership’ is a big deal for you, that quality time is one of your love languages. So go ahead, check out this gift, and see how we’re going to build on this together! You and me, loving on him and pouring into his life and speaking truth into him… it’ll be fun!”
Two totally different types of crazy encounters, infused with meaning and tender, loving thought from the God who gave them to me.
It’s going to be a great trip.