I don’t know if it’s just me or if every frequent flyer gets to meet amazingly interesting people, but I never cease to wonder at the life stories of the people in the seats next to me. Last weekend, the eighty-something-year-old lady that I had to crawl over to get into my seat said to her younger friend across the aisle, “Oh good. She’s okay. See, she’s got a Bible.”
Well, of course, then I wanted to find out about her background, so I could talk about the scriptures with her. This sweet, immaculately-dressed woman with fiery red hair and really red lipstick on her smiling, but wrinkled lips, told me in a weakened and shaky voice that she and her husband were missionaries in Cuba before the Castro regime violently took over that country.
As I asked her questions, she revealed that it was her language translator that saved them from imprisonment. She said that, as time passed by, she and her husband spent so many hours with this young and strong English/Spanish translator that, inevitably, a warm and protective relationship developed between this sweet couple and the translator. As the months went by, the translator began to gently suggest that, for their safety, they should go back home to the United States. Perceiving no real threats, though, they continued to go about their business as usual, not heeding his ever more persistent urgings that they should leave Cuba. Finally, there was a particular day when the translator was acute in his pleadings. “You simply MUST leave and you must leave today!” he warned. “You must just trust me and gather your things and leave immediately.”
So they did. Upon their arrival that evening in Miami, they learned of the takeover of Castro’s communist regime. By the skin of their teeth and due to the pleadings of the translator, who was obviously a soldier in the communist regime, their lives had been spared. They never heard from the other missionaries who were left behind. As she put it, “There’s no way to ever know their fate.”
Reflecting on the conversation, I’m thankful for the encounter last Friday between Huntsville and Atlanta. A short thirty-minute flight that I do several times in the course of a few months, I’ve learned a lot of lessons in the air. From this lady I learned several.
1. We should constantly remember this passage:
Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that (James 4:13-15)
This woman had no clue at the beginning of that important day in Cuban history that she would be escaping for her life before nightfall. Whatever her plans might have been for that day, they were all abandoned for a very different course of action. We will all face days like that and there will be one final day when all living people will simultaneously face an abrupt change of plans and the new plan will be eternal and very final.
2. It was pretty apparent from some very strong statements from this sweet and wise woman that she is seeing many similarities in pre-Castro Cuba and the what could be pre-socialistic U.S. I pray that we, as a nation, will be able to avert the takeover of socialism. I believe the upcoming election is crucial.
3. The young soldier was able to influence the decisions of the missionary couple because of the development of a warm relationship in business. Isn’t this true of our business relationships? If we treat people with kindness and apply the golden rule in our dealings, will we not have opportunities to influence them to escape the wicked regime of Satan? I believe we will.
4. God is good to provide opportunities when we pray for them and look for them. As I continued speaking with this lady, I offered her a business card with the information about the West Huntsville church and our family website. She was pleasantly surprised to know I was a member of the church of Christ, for she has a “sweet little Hispanic girl who works for me in my home who is a devout member of the church of Christ.” As I went on to ask if her friend might be able to help me teach another Hispanic friend with whom I am studying, she said, “Well, I am sure she would be delighted. One of us will call you as soon as I get back into Huntsville and she will love this!” Who would have thought? I will let you know how it works out. At the very least, I hope to be able to put some materials in her aged hands that will interest her in the gospel of Christ.
5. The last thing I learned is that you can still go on a cruise when you are nearly 90 years old! I have never been on a cruise….Maybe when I am 90…