Olive Groves in Israel (courtesy of 123RF/Noam Armonn)
The lanky, young Yitzhak scanned faces in the courtyard until his eyes locked on hers. The joy of life exploded from within the returning Israelite’s breast at the sight of Hayalah’s smile. He had been away such a long time.
“Hayalah, my beautiful gazelle! How empty my heart has been without you!” In four long strides, the joyful youth covered the distance, eager arms raised to envelop his beloved.
Instead of the warmth Yitzhak had so long anticipated, Hayalah’s outstretched palms resisted his embrace. “Yitzhak, oh my dear Yitzhak. You’ve not heard. Come! We must talk.”
After consuming spicy meals twice-daily in Ethiopia, I began to pop my favorite Jalapeño peppers into my mouth, much like one might devour dill pickles on a hot, summer day. The intense spiciness of the East African peppers had peeled twelve layers of skin off my upper lip in just three months, so how much worse could the peppers of West Africa be? At least, that’s what I reasoned when accepting the kindly, African pastor’s challenge around our dinner table.
“You might want to re-consider,” his Swiss wife said. “Even the crushed version of those peppers is fiery hot.”
“It’ll be okay,” I said. “I’m used to eating spicy foods; I think I can handle it.”
Pastor Omar exploded in raucous guffawing. Startled, I dropped my fork, which poured fuel on his laughter. “You’ve never tasted the peppers from my country,” he said. “Most white men can’t eat them.”
“We’ll see tomorrow,” I said smiling, confidence rising up from deep within my being. I’d put myself on the line for my race and gender. I looked forward to his defeat.
When asked what they wanted to learn in fifth grade catechism, one petite ten-year-old girl said, “We want to learn how to pray, Teacher.”
Jimmy sneered. “Everyone knows how to pray. You just memorize a bunch of words.”
“That’s one kind of prayer, Jimmy,” I said smiling. Eager to share what I’d been learning, I continued. “Conversational Prayer is another kind.”
Thus began an incredible experience for two newly-saved university students and Sister Mary Margaret’s thirty hand-picked “Hot Dogs.” The class, made up of kids seasoned-teachers refused to accept, lived up to the nun’s label–until God touched them.
Each week Liz recorded and dated the children’s prayer requests on our special chart. As the Tuesdays passed, the answers and dates completed the line. We had only one hold-out. Prayer disgusted Jimmy, until one late-November day.
“Where’s the chart? Where’s the chart?” Jimmy ran into the classroom, shouting. “God’s gotta help me!”