An Encounter in Jerusalem
In 2009 I was in Jerusalem, Israel for my sixth trip to the holy land. I was helping to host a trip to Israel for a number of people who had always dreamed of walking where Jesus walked and seeing many of the places and sites relating to Him and the history of Israel in general. Of all the times I have been to Israel, this trip was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding. By the time I had been to the Holy Land for the sixth time, I was able to pay more attention to things that really meant the most to me. It takes several trips to learn which are the more important sites; the ones with special Biblical emphasis.
As usual, we were staying at a five-star hotel that was extremely nice. We had used it several times over the years and found it to be very comfortable. Located at the North end of the Mount of Olives, it was perched on the side of the mount in such a way that a panoramic view of Jerusalem was easily had from the hotel balconies. It was a unique place to stay because it is the only hotel I ever stayed in that the elevator went down instead of up due to the way the hotel was situated on the side of the Mount of Olives.
It is always a treat to meet and get to know the people who are unique to each and every trip to Israel. Part of the hotel complex included a group of storefronts which were adjacent to the entrance. They were mostly shops which dealt in things that a tourist might find interesting and want to take home to a family member or add to their own collection of Israeli memorabilia. One of those shops was an antique business which dealt with things that had been unearthed at various sites. All of the things for sale had been authenticated by the Antiquities department of the Israeli government. So, one was sure they were buying actual pottery or glass that was thousands of years old. None of those things are cheap. Oil lamps, bowls, tear bottles and many other items were all very interesting but neither were they economical to buy. One's desire to own such a piece was what made them desire to depart with a lot of money for the privilege of doing so.
I went to that shop several times to simply gaze upon all that those interesting and historic articles. My daughter, Mandy, was with me on this particular trip and she decided that she just had to have one of the tear bottles. These are small and delicately formed little bottles of Roman glass. They are spoken of in the Bible. Ain't cheap!! I think I remember paying about $125 for the one she wanted. She still treasures it, and knowing her, she always will. I guess it was worth the cost.
But, the most important part of visiting that little antique shop was in meeting the young man who was the operator and part owner. For the sake of this article, I will not reveal his true name. But, as I talked with him, it became obvious that he was very interested in Christianity. He knew a lot about our Faith and asked many questions of me. The Lord had prompted me to ask him about his spiritual life and he was ready to talk! This young man told me that he was confused and conflicted by the religious situation in Israel. He referred to the hostility between the various religions which are so much a part of that culture. His mother was a Jewish lady and his father was a Muslim. Now, I call that a conflicted family! But, this young man had been studying Christianity because, as he told me, it was the only religion which brought him peace. He asked me if I could come back to the shop and spend some time with him explaining some things which were unclear to him. Of course, I was back there the next morning as he requested. It's amazing how the Lord prepares the way for people to be saved! When I walked in the next morning, he was ready to talk. I answered his questions and then said: "John (not his real name) wouldn't you like to give your heart to Jesus Christ right now?" His answer came immediately and positively. "Yes, I want to be a Christian!" I took his hand and led him in a prayer to receive Christ as his Lord and Savior. He was one of the most relieved and happy people I have ever seen. I later saw him up at the Sea of Galilee. We were about to baptize about 40 people at the traditional baptism site where the Jordan River exits the Sea of Galilee. I was walking from the tour bus to the site and passed through a souvenir shop on the way. Lo, and behold, as I approached the store, I looked up at the same time he did and we saw each other at the same moment. He rushed over to me, hugged me and thanked me for telling him about Christianity and leading him to the Lord. I enquired as to how his family had reacted to the news of his conversion and he said that they thought it was fine. I was totally surprised at this news but I was also happy for him.
This experience confirmed that when the Lord has prepared someone to be saved, all he wants is for a Christian to be bold enough to speak up and then He takes over and the salvation of a soul is the result. Who would ever have thought that a Baptist preacher from Augusta, GA would be visiting the Holy Land at just the right time for this young man to be saved? The Lord had ordered my steps and his to bring us together under just the right conditions for his salvation to occur. Divine encounters such as this simply require a person who will speak up and then let the Lord do his Will.
William F. Harrell