Interesting Airport Encounter

About eleven weeks ago, I got a call to say that my Dad was on the brink of death. While not unexpected, this was still shocking news and I rushed to Vienna airport in Austria where I was based at the time, wondering if I would see him alive again.

As I made my way to the airport gate, fighting tears and hoping quite honestly that nobody would approach me, I heard a man’s voice behind me say, “Where is God?”

(On a side note, I am always intrigued by the fact that wherever in the world I travel, regardless of the language of the country I’m in, people will unfailingly address me in English! Maybe it’s got something to do with my red hair and pale skin!)

I turned around thinking that maybe I had misheard and that he was actually looking for directions to the bathroom. But no, he was serious, and he repeated his question, “Where is God?”

I was taken aback by his question and responded somewhat haltingly at first, “Well, he’s present around us and within us, within our hearts”.

The man said: “So he’s not in heaven?”

I responded and said, “Yes, yes, he is in heaven, but he’s also right here, right among us, alive within our hearts”.

The man, who later told me that he was from Iraq, was stunned. He turned to his friend and said, “Can you believe this? She is saying that God is alive! That he’s within us!”

I turned to him again and said, “Yes, and not only is he alive, but we can talk to him. In fact, he loves when we talk with him and share what’s on our heart with him”.

The man again exclaimed with great surprise and excitement that he had never heard this before. He seemed to be really moved.

He then asked me where I was going.

I told him about my situation and he was so kind. He didn’t say a lot but what he did say communicated a genuine warmth and compassion.

I left our encounter feeling consoled and grateful for that short time capsule of human interaction. It also challenged me to stay open to even the “bite-sized” opportunities for sharing the Gospel that come our way, though we may be at our weakest and most “out of it”.

When I got to my Dad’s bedside, I was overjoyed that he was still with us. I smiled as I thought about how he had influenced me so much in the area of evangelization. Post-retirement he led more than thirty-five separate mission trips outside of our home country of Ireland, trips that were based on the New Evangelization. Even in the last months of his life, as he travelled over and back to a London hospital for treatment for his leukemia, he would regularly engage the London taxi drivers in discussions about faith, experiencing great joy in these encounters and discussions as he shared and listened.

We had two more weeks with my Dad before he passed away. Thanks, Dad, for all that you taught me!

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