In the midst of a Maelstrom: the Holy Spirit and silence: an essay

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It is sometimes difficult to capture the workings of God except by the recounting of His deeds. The following is offered as a personal experience of the Holy Spirit's not fully understood working but real nevertheless, and is an indicator that the Kingdom of God can never be captured fully even by man's most strenous excercise of his mind and muscle. In these days of turbulence, He has not been quenched. It is said of the Spirit, as of the wind, that we "do not know from where it came, and where it has gone", but without a doubt, He leaves His trace.

In these days of such Middle East maelstrom fraught with both hope and violence, and incident occurred to me. We were the very first to have been invited since the peace between Israel and Eqypt about 15 years previous. The first Jewish "believer's" group of about 18-20 people, many of us from Jerusalem, to enter as such in Egypt, invited by a very brave Egyptian congregation in Alexandria to be featured speakers for a number of days conference. Leaving Israel at Taba on the southern border near Eilat, and crossing the Sinai by bus, we arrived in Alexandria to be immediately secreted and sequestered by the organizers to our temporary home, a Roman Catholic monastery. Once inside, we were met, to our shock and dismay, by the Egyptian Security Police who immediately, took away our passports. Such was our start. Very strange it was, in those days of Yasser Arafat, chief of all terrorists, to spend our days in Alexandria, passing the headquarters with flag unfurled, of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Arafat headed.

But that is only the setting, for what gives me hope, to look deeper then the outward steel, and sparks, and fang.

Exie and I had gone to Alexandria's city center and bazaar. With great weariness and discomfit I spied my particular oasis, the kind I look for wherever I am found, a coffee and pastry shop. I made for it while Exie departed to go shopping. As I reached it, I suddenly felt drained and sweating profusely, I propped myself against the wall of the coffee shop, but as as I did so, I felt myself losing strength, and began to sink down, and sat on the pavement leaning against the wall. I noticed to my right, at the corner of the intersection on my side, a turbaned and cloaked Muslim Egyptian vendor of playing pipes in front of his makeshift booth lined with pipes, just him alone. My head sunk down, and there I sat with my briefcase to my right on the ground. Hearing something to the left, and lifting my head, I saw a hand with outstretched palm passing before my eyes, taking in that a begging woman was attached to the hand, I again dropped my head, closing my eyes. But before doing so, I noticed the turbaned vendor peering at me.

Again, hearing something coming, but to my right, I saw the same hand and the same woman coming back, and soon the same palm to be outstretched before my eyes. I don't know why, but without thinking, I reached to my pocket, pulled out the coins, a mixture of American with Israeli, I am sure, and dropped it into the passing palm, and dropped my head once again to my chest. But before I did, I saw that the vendor was looking at me again. Then it happened. Eyes closed, I suddenly felt myself lifted off the pavement and being stood on my feet, and I need to tell you this, as somehow it tells you of the state of paralyzed comprehension this exhaustion had thrust me into, I saw my briefcase rising from the ground and suspended in the air, and only after realizing that it too was being lifted by the same person. The vendor was taking both of us to his little booth. He led me inside and sat me on a stool and there I sat regaining my strength in the shade of the booth. But I saw this, all of a sudden people began coming to his booth to try his pipes, and I was struck how many!. Not a word was exchanged between myself and the vendor, and after a while, I left to cross the street and find Exie. I do not remember if I even nodded to him or he to me, but I do remember, not a word.

The next day Exie and I returned to the corner, she again to shop, but if you have any doubts about what I have to say, you can ask her about it. Nearing the corner of the vendor, where again he stood, trying to sell, as he had the previous day, and again with no customers, I began to walk fast, and then almost in a wide stride, I made my way toward him almost at a run, and at the same time, he made his way toward me, in the same rush. And there we stood both of us in the middle of the sidewalk, and hugging each other - me, Israeli Jewish believer in Jesus, and he, a robed and turbaned Egyptian Muslim. After we parted, looked at each other, and went our ways, me back to the coffee shop front to wait for Exie, and he back to his booth, I saw, once again, the miracle of yesterday. Once again, the booth and corner just before empty of people except the vendor, and all of a sudden, now with people coming to him to look at and try his pipes. I tell you soberly, this is the way it was. Why I said nothing to him and he to me, I still don't know, but I do not feel there was anything amiss. And I know that the people from nowhere, a sign and a gift from God in heaven.

Bert Schlossberg

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