Labib was running late. He was meeting a friend in the Old City, just on the other side of the Damascus Gate. “May I see your identification?” An Israeli soldier barred his way, and Labib silently rebuked himself for not allowing time for this inevitable intrusion.
“Of course,” Labib answered, pulling out his Jordanian passport and Israeli visa.
“Stand against the wall,” the soldier ordered, indicating with a nod of his head that he should line up with several other Palestinians and wait. The message was clear—the soldiers were in control.
Or were they? Labib laughed silently at the situation. Sure he would be late for his meeting, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a higher calling. “May I say something to you?” he said in passable Hebrew to the soldier who was poring over several sets of papers. “I am a Christian.”
Several of the other Palestinians, also being checked, looked at him in surprise, but Labib spoke loudly enough so that the soldier trying to ignore him couldn’t help but hear the words. “What I mean is that I am a believer in Jesus Christ, not just a Christian by religion only. Do you know about Jesus Christ? I will tell you about Him!” And so Labib began to tell the story of his Lord.
Suddenly the soldier snapped Labib’s passport shut and turned to face the preacher. Labib stared into the man’s eyes as he received his papers. “I will pray for you,” he said with sincerity. “I know you are away from home. I pray that when you are finished with your service that God will take you back safely to your family.”
“You may go!” the soldier spoke, turning to intercept another Palestinian headed through the gate.
Labib grinned as he passed through the gate and into the souk, the marketplace of the Arab quarter. The soldiers think they’re in control, he thought. But when I start preaching Christ, I am in control. While most Palestinians dreaded these inevitable checkpoints that severely restricted their mobility, Labib had come to enjoy the encounters. And he knew the freedom he experienced at these moments was something worth sharing with fellow Palestinians.
Excerpt from Light Force: A Stirring Account of the Church Caught in the Middle East Crossfire by Brother Andrew and Al Janssen, pp. 176 – 177. (See review here.)
This photo of Jerusalem is used by permission from Wikimedia Commons. The building in the foreground is the Dome of the Rock (Arabic: مسجد قبة الصخرة, translit.: Masjid Qubbat As-Sakhrah, Hebrew: כיפת הסלע, translit.: Kipat Hasela).