Baptism of Desire vs. Baptism of Indifference

November 1996By Howard Curtis

The Rev. Howard Curtis writes from the Trappist Abbey in Lafayette, Oregon.

In 1981, I volunteered to assist at the small Monastery of Latroun in Israel. My duties there were determined in large part by the language barrier. As one of my jobs, where the language barrier was not a problem, I cooked on Fridays so the regular cook could attend to his spiritual duties on the Moslem holy day. Jihad, a Moslem high school boy who spoke English fairly well, was assigned to be my helper. Through this chance (or providential) work arrangement, I came to hear the story of Jihad’s father, Abu Nemer.

Abu Nemer was of a Druze family, but when he grew up he forsook his Druze background and became an orthodox Moslem. In the process he moved to a Palestinian village. At the time of his son’s birth, the Moslems were militant in proclaiming a Holy War against Israel, determined to drive the Jews into the sea. Abu Nemer expressed his Moslem enthusiasm by naming his son Jihad, the Arab word for “Holy War.”

Abu Nemer worked as a bus driver transporting Moslem workers from their homes on the West Bank to their jobs in Israel. His back was injured in a traffic accident, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. His condition seemed hopeless as he lay on his bed at home year after year.

Some Evangelical missionaries heard of him and came to pay him a visit. He permitted them to pray over him. After all, what did he have to lose? They gave him a Bible. Later they came again to pray over him and lay their hands on him, asking the Lord for a cure. Abu Nemer appreciated their visits, but his physical condition did not improve. Several months later when Abu Nemer was alone in his room, a beautiful lady appeared by his bed, smiled at him, and he was cured. He got out of bed, and was soon back to his bus driving. As he read his Bible over and over, he concluded that the lady who had stood by his bed and cured him was Mary, the mother of Jesus.

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