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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Conversation (face to face) (10/07/10)

TITLE: A Meeting with Abraham
By Noel Mitaxa


Dawn’s dullness was smudging the eastern horizon as the ferry continued to plough northward through Bass Strait’s darkened swell.
Docking in Melbourne was still hours away; well before the icy breeze would ever consider blowing around me, instead of through me, during my stroll along the outer deck.
Stepping back inside for warmth, I noticed someone paying token attention to the flat-screen’s overnight news.
He glanced up, a smile suddenly creasing his apparently Middle-eastern features. He motioned for me to sit down, and his husky-accented reply to my greeting verified my guess about his origins: “My name is Abraham. I am from Iraq, and I’ve been in Australia for ten years.”
We started to talk; moving with that openness among strangers which travel sometimes induces. True, you may unearth a con“talk”tionist – whose chatter can tie you up in knots - but people’s closest friends may rarely hear the ideas or hurts that they reveal in these moments. And from a lifetime of working with people, I’m always interested – without seeking salacious details or nursing any fantasies of replacing Oprah or Letterman.
Abraham continued by opening up the pain option: “My family was Christian, and I was pressured into studying for the priesthood when I was only twelve years old.
“I studied so hard, but I saw the ancient scrolls from other religions, about Creation and the Flood. Their details were so similar, but their beliefs were so different to what church dogma demanded me to support.”
I felt honoured to be listening to a man who had actually seen scrolls that my studies had only referred to. But disappointment darkened his face …
“I don’t believe in God now,” he continued, “I’ve seen too many gaps between doctrine and practice. And I had too many questions for my lecturers, because they just parroted their dogma back to me!”
“Abraham,” I replied, “you and Jesus would get on so well!”
“What do you mean?” he asked, edging forward ever so slightly, with his eyes widening.
“Well, God is far less religious than most people think. In fact Jesus’ greatest opponents were religious leaders who tried to keep religion safe. But Jesus opened his heart to everyone; especially to those who were being shut out by rituals and regulations.
“Your heartache for consistency is just like his challenge to them; because he taught consistency and he lived it. And knowing him is the key - like they say in business – ‘it’s not what you know; but who you know that matters.’ Which is just as well,” I was forced to admit with a smile, “because there’s so much I still don’t know!”
We started to discuss our families, and the highs and lows of leading them into a world that’s full of threats and opportunities. I invited him to consider the possibility that God may be behind the disarming trust that our children and grandchildren reveal as they look into our eyes; in the light of Jesus’ warning: “unless you become like a child you will not enter my kingdom.” (Matt 18:2)
There were no background angelic choirs, but the refreshed glimmer of warmth in Abraham’s eyes indicated that God might be dissolving some of those objections that had broken his youthful trust. I felt no need for arguments, for his memories of a time best left behind needed no reawakening.
Our meeting was completely unplanned, but I’m sure it was no surprise to God.
What Abraham and I discussed often arises in my preaching. But this conversation – admittedly between two tired minds – ushered in vital factors like feeding openness, interest and credibility with courtesy and respect. Or for me to simply listen to Abraham’s story instead of checking my progress through my notes!
For unlike at church, he couldn’t come back next week. And taking up an offering was totally out of the question!
Here was an unexpected opportunity to help Abraham to reconnect with a big God whose love was still all around him; a God worth believing in rather than a small one that needed to retreat into rituals or to be protected by tight-minded bullies. It was also another reminder for this preacher to keep his ears open.
Was Abraham convinced by my questions or my approach? I don’t know; but I know that God was feeding his search for truth that will integrate his whole life; and that he used - and stretched - me in the process.

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This article has been read 598 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Theresa Santy 10/21/10
I loved this!

This piece spoke to me in a way that was intimate and honest, and made my eyes water and my heart swell.

So few words spoken in the conversation, but so much affect (or is it effect, I can never tell).

It was conversations exactly like this, which led me to Christ after four decades of roaming lost on this earth.

(ps. The only suggestion I have is, adding spaces between paragraphs for easier reading)
Jeanne E Webster 10/21/10
You presented an excellent story of God's involvement in the lives of believers anywhere. Great article and well written. (Regarding the lines not being spaced, maybe you didn't know you can space them after the "copy-paste" action and before you click on "submit.") Good read.
Blessings. :)
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/22/10
I really enjoyed how you witnessed to Abraham. It was a delightful story and I could easily picture it as it unfolded. The world needs more people willing to reach out to their fellow weary man. Nicely done!
Shellie Bailey10/24/10
Wonderful story! I agree with the above comment on the spacing for an easier read. Overall the message was great and hopeful. :)
Lollie Hofer10/25/10
Sweet story...and seeing the possibility of someone's faith beginning to ignite once again. I like how your mc detected a glimmer of change in Abraham's eyes.
Dolores Stohler10/27/10
You certainly picked the right encounter to write about. I've been searching for something like this among the entries. I, too, have found that travel presents marvelous opportunities for Christian witness. God arranges these meetings with strangers for His own wonderful purposes and we should all be on the lookout for them. Great story well told.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/28/10
Congratulations for placing 11th in level 3 and 23rd overall!
Gregory Kane10/29/10
A heart warming story. Having read your title, I had one thing in mind so your opening paragraph took me in quite a different direction. The one thing that struck me as a bit off was the name Abraham. Wouldn't there be an Iraqi version of this? Nevertheless well done on placing. You did better than me this week!
Heidi Wallenborn10/31/10
I loved this. The imagery stayed with me. Well done!