18. JORDON AND CYPRESS
The Holiday Inn in Amman, Jordan, was guarded by soldiers. As I walked into the hotel no one questioned me. The restaurant was full so I went downstairs to the disco to get a cold drink. It was very hot outside. As I got out money to pay for my drink, the waiter said, “Oh, your drink has already been paid for by he man over there.” I looked over at the man, but didn’t recognize him. I walked over to thank him. “Please sit down,” he softly asked.
He looked distinguished and was dressed in a long robe and head dress. “You are different,” he said. “You came in, sat down at the bar smiling. You did not dance or look anxious, but just seemed to glow. What makes you different?”
I laid my Bible on the table. “This is a Bible. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. He has forgiven my sins and His peace and presence is in my life. I am carrying a big cross around the world and am now carrying it through Jordan.”
The man was a Finance Minister of an OPEC oil country. We talked for hours and then we met the next day with other oil ministers, all eager to hear about my trip, the cross and the living Jesus.
Joel was fourteen years old and Joshua was nine when they flew from Los Angeles to Amman so they could walk with me and the cross.
We began in Jarash and walked along the southern edge of the Jordan Valley, and then to Amman, the capital. Jesus walked along the east side of the Jordan River on most of His trip. Moses got to the east side of the Jordan River before he died, but he could see across to the Promised Land. Two and one-half of the twelve tribes of Israel were on this side of the Jordan River.
It was a long, hot walk. I carried the cross, Joshua carried the water and Joel the backpacks. We were walking during much of Ramadan, the time of fasting in the world for those who follow the religion of Islam. Again, the only fearful people were the few Christians in the country. Following are a few excerpts from the diary I kept while we were in Jordan.
Up and down these hot, dry mountains. Car after car stopped. It’s difficult to make any progress walking because so many people want to talk with us. We passed a big wedding party where all the men were dancing in a large circle. They welcomed me to dance. I joined them as people clapped. We had our arms around each other but I couldn’t keep in step. But I tried. The people asked me to explain what we were doing and I shared about Jesus Christ with them. Glory!
Today we ate with a Jordanian army officer. As we left he gave me his head wrap, which was the most personal gift he could give. We both wept.
Today poor people brought us cold drinks and gave us food.
Shuna – A village near the Jordan River. Joshua, Joel and I were hungry when we arrived in Shuna. We hadn’t had food for breakfast or dinner, except a watermelon a man had given us. A man gave us cool water and a can of tuna fish. It was great!
This is a desert area with very few people. We were very hot – it must have been 125 degrees. The residents are Palestinian refuges from what is now Israel. They asked us to sit down and take off our shoes. The Muslim men knelt down and washed our feet then dressed us in white robes. Then we were taken to a patio covered with grapevines and treated like kings!
A man arrived who could speak English. I was asked what I’d like to do and I said, “I’d like to speak to the people about Jesus.” The men gathered around and for hours we sat sharing the good news of Jesus.
Let me share a few words about how wonderful most Arabs treat people. When you meet a true Arab family they treat you as royalty. When you are invited to their home to eat or sleep the family treats you like a king with all honor and reverence. When you leave, you are a poet, you are a trumpet – you will tell others that you meet what a wonderful village or family you visited. You don’t tell about how good or how bad the food was or how nice or how poor the house. You speak only about how fine the man or how good the village. You don’t enter an Arab village, stand in the street and begin to preach. Although I do just that in many other places, it is not done in an Arab village. When you enter an Arab village, the residents usually just look at you, then they offer a cup of coffee or tea and if you seem to be friendly, you will be offered an invitation to a home to eat or sleep. It is considered a great humiliation to be offered something and then to reject it. After you arrive at the home, you will be asked what you want to do or what you’d like. I always tell them I’d like to speak to the people of the town or village about Jesus. The people are gathered together and I address the gathering. I eat, drink and sleep in their homes, not as a stranger, but as a friend and as a follower of Jesus. I have been showered with love by the Arabs.
The Jordan Valley is from 800 to 1,200 feet below sea level and in July it is 120 to 130 degrees there. Today we ran out of water. Joshua and I almost fainted. We finally flagged down a passing car and Joel walked over to it and the people in the car began to scream. They had no food or water, but they had ice. Can you believe it? In the middle of summer in the Jordan Valley during Ramadan! We thought we were in heaven. Hallelujah!
Hot isn’t the word for it…it is fire. I know what it is to be baptized with fire…hot sun, hot water, hot sand, hot wind, hot road. Hot, hot, hot!
We stopped at a Christian book store today in Amman. Joshua and Joel stayed with the cross as I went inside.”Oh, please take the cross away from the front of the store. The Muslims will riot,” the Christian owner said.
“No, we can’t give you water. This is Ramadan and the Muslims will stone you and us.” “No, we can’t sell you a Bible to give to others. Whoever wants a must ask for it personally.”
When I told the boys what had happened, they asked, “But, aren’t they Christians?”
“Yes,” I said, “but, that is the problem. The only ones to turn us away on this entire trip have been Christians, not the Muslims.”
As we continued to walk down the street toward the end of the block a man waved us inside his store. “I see the cross and your two boys. Here, have some ice cream and cold water. We are Muslims, but we care.”
Cyprus – One day I arrived at a roadside store where a group of old people were standing and sitting around. I bought a cold drink and began to speak to the people about the love of God. One man could speak English. An old lady interrupted me, “Say a six-figure number.” I didn’t know what to say and I had no idea what was happening. Finally they handed me a piece of paper with a lot of numbers written on it. “Pick one,” they demanded.
I wanted to finish my sermon so I pointed to one. The lady ran over to a board and in a moment there was a scream and cheers. The woman rushed back with a handful of money. “Pick another, pick another!”
There was a big board and someone had a newspaper with lottery numbers. “You know God; ask Him to tell you which numbers. We’ll split the winnings with you!”
I wasn’t able to finish my sermon. This group could only see money from my friendship with God.