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Seat 39F

An answered prayer for peace

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“Seat 39F? Oh, no, not again!” My sister, Barbara, looked with dismay at her ticket, knowing that, once again, she would be on the very last row of the airplane. I offered to switch seats with her. “No,” she said, “I did it once; I can do it again.”

As my sister walked back to row 39, she saw a man in a turban sitting in the middle seat. Surmising that he was a Muslim, her first thought was, Why didn’t I change seats with Julie? She knows how to talk to them—I don’t!

There was the usual awkwardness as the two men got out of the row so she could climb into the window seat. After they had re-buckled, she asked the turbaned traveler where he was from. He said he had homes in Canada and in Pakistan.

“When I saw your face, I saw a face of peace,” he exclaimed.

She said, “Do you know why I have a face of peace? It is because of Jesus Christ!”

Meanwhile, in row 20-something, I settled in with the book I had been reading all week, Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale, about the supernatural way God is reaching Muslims. As the plane began climbing, the Lord impressed me to focus my prayers on the Muslim world, once again praying for breakthroughs among the hardest to reach.

The particular focus of the chapter I happened to be reading was praying for encounters with persons of peace, individuals whom God has prepared beforehand for us to reach. I was sitting 10 rows ahead of my sister, not knowing what was happening, but praying intensely for the Muslim world.

For two hours they talked about Jesus and Mohammad, comparing what the Quran said with what the Bible said. He would agree with everything she said about Jesus but then would quote the Quran. During their conversation he revealed that he was a high-ranking Sufi (a mystical sect of Islam) who was seeking peace. A doctor, he had left his medical practice to dedicate his life to speaking peace in the Muslim world. On this particular weekend, he was preparing to lecture about Sufism to 4,000 people in Virginia. Also, he has a shrine in Pakistan where people can learn more about finding peace.

Although he has traveled all over the world, he told my sister that she was the first person who had ever interacted with him on an airplane. And he said that he would never forget their encounter. He gave her his e-mail address so they could stay in touch.

Through this encounter, I learned that God is eager to make His redemption known to the ends of the earth. “That your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.” (Psalm 67:2) Secondly, there is power in persevering prayer (Luke 18:1–8). And He sometimes answers immediately, in unexpected places, through people least expecting it—like sisters on airplanes talking with Sufis.

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