It was the eve of Christmas Eve 2007, or "December 23rd" as we say in the country.
I had just attended my first GYC with our oldest son, Dylan. Along with thousands of other travelers I was stranded in the Minneapolis airport, in the teeth of a winter storm.
Six hours of waiting in the airport combined into a mixture of weariness and restlessness. I had already placed the matter in God's capable hands, but my human side was getting bored.
I finally got up off of the floor and walked around the terminal, coming to a stop against the floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the corner. Alone there, I could see the snow swirling outside in the darkness and the heavy Caterpillar equipment working hard to keep the airplane runways clean. In the distance, a group of grounded Boeing 737's huddled like cold birds in the winter wind.
After a moment a TSA lady came and stood beside me and we exchanged small talk about the weather, Christmass and the cots on second floor--cots that we might need if the night got any later. She moved away.
Another person moved up to the glass beside me and we watched the elements outside together. I remarked to him, "Kind of bleak out there isn't isn’t it..?" He agreed, in an accent I wasn’t familiar with. About thirty years old, he was from Tel Aviv and trying to get home to Israel. An engineer, he had been in Minneapolis on business.
We talked freely about the weather, Iraq and family. He was very intelligent and good to talk with. I kept sensing that God wanted me to talk to this man about Him so I asked the Lord for an opportunity. It soon came when he spoke to me about life in Israel. He said he thought Judaism was dumb with all of its rules, and how mankind was basically good anyway. Now I like optimism as much as anyone, but know the difference between positive thinking and humanistic confusion.
I asked Levi if he believed that God existed. Well...he wasn't sure but he allowed that it might be possible. He asked if I believed.
"Yes I do" I replied. "But I don't waste time arguing about it."
I told him that some people believe that we evolved from lower-life forms, and some (like me) believe that we are created by God. I told him that since I believed that I am created by God, that gives me a sense of purpose. I am here for a reason. It also opens the door for hope that there is life beyond this life. That gives me an edge and a sense of fulfillment.
On the other hand if I believe that I evolved from lower-life forms, there is no purpose for me being here. All I can do is gather as much stuff as I can in the short time that I am here and soon I will die and be buried and someone else gets all my stuff. He fell silent, thinking...
"I don't know..." he countered. "The greatest argument against God is all of these bad things that happen in the world."
"A lot of people wonder why evil exists" I said. “Did you ever wonder why God didn't call Satan into His office back when sin began--and kill him?" He knew that if He did that the whole universe would have served him out of fear. One supreme question would have lingered in the minds of each of us... "Who's next?" God knew that he had to allow sin to exist for a while, so all of us could have a good look at it and see that it isn't a good thing."
"I've never met anyone quite like you" he said. I have a lot of friends in Israel but I don't know anyone like yourself."
"Well I'm just a country boy from Ohio who believes in God. Nothing special."
The second reason I believe in God is the changes I have seen in people's lives. I shared some of these experiences with Levi who by now was keenly interested in what I was saying. I told him of a couple experiences we have had in the counseling ministry over the last six years. Dramatic changes have occurred in people's lives. Levi said "That's a miracle." I agreed.
I said that he & I had something in common - -we were both looking for God. And I had found Him. Everyone is looking for God, and often we look for Him in wrong things,...drugs, money, sex, fame, fortune etc.
"But none of those things satisfy, and they leave a person feeling empty, sad and lonely. And that feeling catches us when life slows down and we lay our head on the pillow at night. Our hearts are lonely for God, if we don’t have Him." And He is not far from each of us."
He stared at me for a long moment. The Spirit of God had touched him inside in this brief conversation. We turned and looked at the winter storm outside quietly. I prayed silently that God would reach this man with truth.
Then we heard cheering from the American Airlines gate E16. They were going to load a plane for Dallas. My name was called. I said I had to go. We shook hands and I wished him well.
As I turned to leave I heard him say these simple words. "God bless you Gerry." That was almost a miracle. "The same to you Levi."
Last night, my wife and I walked around Orlando, Florida. After walking around a beautiful upscale resort for an hour, we went inside to get a drink from the small gift shop. As I placed our two bottles of orange juice (of course) on the counter, the two girls working there asked how we were doing. "Better than I deserve" was my reply.
Girl #1 stared at us, "That's not true. You don't deserve anything bad." I replied, "It's absolutely true. We are all doing better than we deserve. It's in the Good Book."
Her face took on that "What-book-are-you-talking-about?" blank stare. I quoted Psalms 103:10:
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him.
She walked away, apparently not yet a fan of that Book. Girl #2 began ringing up our purchase. "That is one of my favorite verses" she said to us. Are you Christians? "We are" Nancy & I replied. I noticed her name tag, it said she was from Brazil. I took a chance.
"Stephanie, do you know any Seventh-day Adventists in Brazil?" She froze for a brief second, then turned to us and said "I AM A SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST !" She was elated.
She said, "I was hoping that I would meet some fellow believers here in America. I think you are an answer to my prayers. I said "We prayed this morning that God would bring someone across our path that we could encourage. You are an answer to our prayers as well."
Nancy & I spoke with her for a while, very glad to know her. We then wished her a great new year in Christ and left.
There are many potential "Levi's" and Stephanie's in your life. Ask God to bring them across your path. Almost nine years later, I remembered Levi last night, and prayed for him. Perhaps we will meet again. I hope so. Three things:
- Let's be available for these people.
- Let's pray for them occasionally after we have met them.
- Have a blessed new year.