An elderly tourist asked Joel Meltzar to please hold the sightseeing excursion bus while she hurried back into the hotel to retrieve her camera. He was always glad to oblige these happy foreign visitors. Besides, it was the last day of their two-week Israeli tour. That was his last memory before the roaring explosion changed everything.
Two years ago, both parents and his sister were victims of deadly unrest in the Holy Land. They had been riding in the same train car with a madman who was trussed up with enough explosives to kill anything within blocks. It worked.
Joel slept for extended intervals, waking only long enough to realize he was seriously injured and that his eyes were bandaged. Each time he swam to the surface of consciousness his mind replayed that violent bombing sound. It chased him like an unrelenting stalker intent on finishing the job. The screams of terror he heard were coming from his own mouth. The words of comfort and prayer definitely were coming from someone else’s.
Mrs. Esther Jones was his only visitor. She sat by his bedside until late every evening and was right back to take up her vigil as soon as his early morning treatments were finished. She passed the time recalling all the wonderful places he had taken her group, and the engaging way he had of describing each attraction.
“These are the steps where Jesus entered the temple and taught,” he explained with nearly perfect English. “This afternoon, we will be going to Megiddo to see the excavations that unearthed twenty different civilizations.”
His deep, smooth voice and well-delivered monologue made Holy Scripture come alive. It was never boring.
Thirty-three strangers, soon to be friends, had begun the tour together. Because of a forgotten camera, she was the only survivor of Joel’s sightseeing group. She felt compelled to put aside her own grief and offer support to this kind young man who had no sign of a family. He reminded her of her grandson back home. Maybe that was why she could not leave him alone to face the agony of physical and emotional devastation.
“Maim, maim, bevakasha.”
Esther moved closer. “What are you saying, dear? I don’t understand Hebrew.”
“Water. Please, some water.”
His forced concentration and her reassuring assistance provided him the strength to swallow a small amount. The hospital staff had asked her to encourage him to drink. They assumed she was a relative.
Joel motioned with his uninjured hand that he had enough. Then, in barely a whisper, “ Toda,”
“Excuse me?” Esther needed her translation book.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he rasped,” that means thank you.”
He tried to turn on his side but the effort was not worth the grinding pain.
“Uh, who are you?”
“Remember? I am Esther Jones, the lady who forgot her camera.”
With no warning, Joel began to weep with great heaving sobs. The sympathetic and loving grandmother wanted to put her arms around him but she could not take a chance on increasing his discomfort.
He clung to her hand as if she were his last hope. The reality of cold-blooded vengeance defined his life in this land promised to his people by the very God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. She alternated between compassion and anger.
After a while, he became quiet. “The doctors do not know if I will see again. “
“I am praying for your total healing, my friend. “
“Do you think that is possible, Mrs. Jones?”
“ Oh, Joel, dear, with Christ, anything is possible.”
The once handsome sightseeing guide turned his bandaged eyes away in an obvious dismissal.
Esther could not stop now. She spoke quietly but with purpose.
“Day after day you have driven that bus to Holy places. You have enthralled hundreds of visitors with your knowledge of practically every step Jesus ever took. You are Jewish, just like He was, and know more about the events in His life than most Christians.”
He pulled his hand away.
“Listen to me, Joel. You and I were spared for a reason. I believe mine is to honor the Great Commission to spread the gospel of my Lord and Savior to the whole world.”
“And mine?” She could barely hear him.
“Perhaps it is to accept the truth about Y’Shua. “
As Joel surrendered to sleep he mumbled,” I still wait for my Messiah.”
Esther settled back into the familiar bedside chair. She planned to be there when he opened his eyes.
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