By Dr. John E. Morgan
Pastor–Collinsville Baptist Church
We were traveling with Mohammed. We had met him when we checked into our very old hotel in the Old City in Jerusalem. He was the hotel engineer, handy man, greeter, do everything guy.
First he smiled and gave us a cup of Mohammed coffee. Then he invited us to go with him to Jericho, his home town, the next day. I am quite sure our parents and sisters would have told us not to go with a man we had known for only a day in a country where we did not know anyone.
But we went. We met him in the lobby and walked the half mile to get a taxi. We drove over the Mount of Olives to Bethany, home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. We changed cabs and rode down the mountain into the Dead Sea Valley, the lowest place on earth. We changed cabs again and drove into Jericho. Mohammed took care of everything. There are lots of Mohammeds in the Middle East. We refer to this one as our first Mohammed.
We went to the Mount of Temptation. Looking up at the rocks on the mountain we were able to imagine Jesus doing battle there with Satan. Elisha’s Stream comes out of the mountain there and makes crops and life possible in Jericho. Next were the ruins of the original Jericho where the “walls came tumbling down”. Then on to Hashimi’s Palace, home to a man who ruled a third of the earth. Now it is ruins. Columns and mosaics. On this day, we were the only non-Palestinians almost everywhere we went. Without Mohammed, we would not have seen many of the places.
We drove past Yasser Arafat’s home to the center of town to the Jericho open air market. Mohammed wanted to buy some Jericho bananas. He assured us they were the sweetest in the world.
Gloria and I walked around looking at foods, clothes and trinkets. We got lots of confused looks. What were these two doing in Jericho? Tourists don’t come here. Palestinians often expect Americans to be against them and look down on them. Or be afraid of them.
A booth owner asked us why we were there. Not rudely, but not nicely. You could see the resentment in his eyes. This man did not have a high opinion of us.
I told him that we were there with a friend. Mohammed. And that he was from Jericho and was buying bananas. I pointed up the market to where Mohammed was.
The owner’s attitude changed immediately. We knew a Palestinian from Jericho. And he was our friend. The owner could not have been nicer. He introduced us to others – “hey, these are Americans and they have a Palestinian friend.” We had shattered his prejudices about Americans. By having a Palestinian friend. Soon we were laughing and kidding each other.
The trip back to Jerusalem was three more taxis and a walk back to the hotel. Because we took a chance with Mohammed, we had an adventure and made new friends.
If you do not go to church much because you think we Christians are all sticks in the mud, come give us a chance. You might make a new friend. And you might find Jesus. If you do go to church and wonder why people won’t come with you, you may need to get beyond their misconceptions about Christians. Try being their friend. Not their judge.
As we drove back to Jerusalem, Mohammed gave us some Jericho bananas. He was right. The sweetest in the world. Like friendship. Sweet.
A friend loves at all times…there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 17:17 and 18:24