The Accidental Fisherman
When he invited me to lunch, I thought he just wanted to say "thank you." I had no idea I was going fishing.
The first time I noticed Atik, he stood leaning against a pillar on the veranda during class break. His uniform told me he was one of the allied foreign nationals taking the course. But, it wasn't his clothing that caught my eye. He looked sick, his color was pallid, almost jaundiced. He also looked absolutely lost. My heart went out to this lonely soul, so far from home.
"How are you doing with these lectures?" I joined him at the pillar. "I'm having all I can do to keep up, and I've known English all my life."
He smiled. "I am only seven-five percent fluent in English, so I am not sleeping very much."
No wonder he had such a devastated appearance. After classes ended for the day, he had another day's work trying to translate his class notes for his own comprehension. An idea popped into my head.
"Maybe we need a study group!"
During the next break, I found my friend, Mary, and together we recruited a veterinarian she knew in the class. Our project began. Before we were finished, besides Atik from Turkey, we added a frail doctor from Indonesia, a jolly giant of a doctor from Venezuela, a nurse from the Philippines, and more.
A laboratory technologist from Thailand became something of a mascot for our group. Short, with a round continually smiling face, he definitely resembled a little Buddha. The name we all used for him was Boonyen. It just so happened, he was crazy about Daniel Boone. So, at one of our dinner socials (a reward for all the studying), some of us in the group pooled resources and presented him with his own coonskin cap. He loved it! Forever after, we called him "Daniel Boonyen." We had so much fun together, others from the class begged to join our study group. As I recall we ended up with around 20 members on our team.
Always on the back-burner of my mind hovered Jesus' reminder, "I will make you fishers of men." In my family we had been well instructed from childhood on up that this is our primary objective as Christians. I realized that helping to meet a need in the study group was only part of my responsibility. But, I had no idea how to do more to "preach the Gospel." I had to leave it in God's hands, and pray I had my eyes open to see an opportunity when it presented itself.
We neared the end of the course when Atik invited me to have lunch with him. I felt a bit awkward, but I couldn't refuse his offer of thanks. So, we took the bus from the fort to downtown San Antonio for lunch on a quiet Sunday. Over our meal we talked about his wife and two little girls, whose photos he had shared with the group early on. And then, we headed back to the bus stop.
As we waited, a car pulled to the curb and dropped off two young men carrying guitar cases. They proceeded to open the cases and remove their guitars, exposing stacks of Gospel tracts. Then they strummed up a tune and began to sing. Atik turned to me and he had a hint of irritation in his voice.
"Why do you need this propaganda?" He obviously linked their faith with mine.
"Atik, we both know about health care. What if you or I found a cure for a deadly disease?" I paused. "Would it be right for us to keep it to ourselves? Or, would we want the whole world to know about it?"
"What is this disease?"
Atik had nothing more to ask. He picked up one of the tracts from the guitar case and spent the entire bus trip back to the fort reading with intensity.
The Lord knows whatever has become of Atik. But, on a Sunday afternoon, when I didn't realize I had gone fishing, God baited His hook right in front of my Muslim friend.
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