The previous ten days had felt like thirty. I, along with the rest of the mission team, was completely drained. As the Psalmist said, “… my strength was poured out like a potsherd.” I didn’t know what a potsherd was, but I sure as hell knew how one felt.
English is the international language of business. For this reason, many whose native language is not English yearn for the opportunity to converse in the language with native speakers. It’s potentially their ticket out.
Like God’s free gift of salvation, we were there to bring the free gift of English to these people, and in so doing, also hoped to tell them about God’s love for them. We had been specifically warned that there would probably be government agents who would infiltrate our English classes. I would learn, firsthand, that this was true.
In the Comunist country we had just left, Satan had done his best to defeat God’s plan; but Satan is no match for the grace of Christ. The contest is laughable. We had seen many come to a saving belief in Him in spite of the blatant persecution faced by all in that country who chose to place their faith in Christ. On the plane ride to Vienna I watched as God rewarded us with a spectacular sunrise. The symbolic passing from darkness to light was not lost on me.
Several hours later, I boarded the plane from Vienna to Chicago. By this time, I had been up for twenty-eight hours straight. The plane was wide enough that the seats were eight abreast. Mine, one of the cheap seats, was near the very back of the plane. There was very little legroom.
It was a blessing I had little legs.
As the plane filled up I prayed the same prayer that all international travelers pray, that no one sit in the seat next to me, enabling me to stretch out and sleep all the way home. When the plane began to move and no one had taken that seat, I prayed silently, “Thank you.”
I was completely exhausted, physically, emotionally, and spiritually…or so I thought. I had my plan for the flight back all mapped out. I would take one of my magical little sleeping pills and wake up in Chicago.
After taking my precious pill and getting comfortable, the plane’s steward came by serving the noonday meal. He asked if I wished to dine, and I declined, knowing that I would probably not be able to hold on to my fork once the combination of fatigue and medication took their effect. But then the Steward asked an unexpected question, “Wouldn’t you at least like some bread?”
“Yes, and I would also like a glass of red wine to go with it please.”
I chose three large hard-crusted rolls from the basket he held out to me, as he filled my glass to the brim.
As I raised the bread to my mouth, I said quietly, “Take. Eat. For this is my body which is given freely for you.” As I reached for the full glass of wine I recited, “Drink. For this is the blood of the New Covenant. Whenever you eat of the bread, or drink of the wine, do so in remembrance of me.”
This communion was unlike any I had ever experienced. The bread was not the tasteless, meager, paper-like portion that we received in church. Instead, it was heavy and rich. I ate heartily of it, symbolically filling myself with Christ. Likewise, the wine was not the thimble-sized cup of non-alcoholic grape juice. Instead, my cup overflowed and the wine was potent and strong, full of flavor and power.
As I ate the bread and drank my fill of the wine the tears of joy flowed freely down my face; as they do now as I write this.
You see, I had been mistaken in my assumption that the seat next to me was vacant. For more than an hour, God and I laughed and wept together. I expressed my feelings and emotions with Him, and listened to His calming words of peace and joy. Most of all I experienced His unbridled and unconditioned love. Finally, when the wine and bread were gone, and I was filled to overflowing with God’s presence, He blessed me with His precious gift of rest.