• Ludwig Bemelmans, author/illustrator of the Madeline series of children’s books, had an Uncle Joseph who was a priest. Very few things upset him, but late arrivals to church services did. At the end of services, when Uncle Joseph walked down the aisle and blessed worshippers with holy water, he used to take a big dip of water and douse anyone who had come to services late.
• For a long time Russian ice skater Ekaterina Gordeeva was afraid of churches, even while visiting Western countries, because while she was growing up, to believe in God was illegal. (Despite the law, many families hung a religious icon on a wall at home — but in a room where ordinary visitors were not admitted.)
• According to the Quakers, speaking in unprogrammed meeting is not something that can be planned; instead, it is a matter of divine inspiration. At least once, remaining silent resulted in a convert. Richard Jordan was a renowned Quaker preacher. Living near him was William Williams, who wanted to hear Mr. Jordan speak. He attended several First-day meetings, but Mr. Jordan remained silent. Thinking that perhaps Mr. Jordan spoke only during weekday meetings, Mr. Williams attended several weekday meetings, but again Mr. Jordan remained silent. However, the meetings — even though Mr. Jordan remained silent — had an effect on Mr. Williams, and he became a Quaker. Only then did the Holy Spirit again move Mr. Jordan to speak during meetings.
• In 18th-century Germany, Suss Oppenheimer, the finance minister of the Duke of Württemberg, was sentenced to death after false accusations were made against him. He was told that he could save his life if he converted to Christianity, but although he was not an observant Jew, he replied, “I am a Jew and I will remain a Jew. I would not become a Christian even if I could become an emperor. Changing one’s religion is a matter for consideration by a free man; it is an evil thing for a prisoner.” He died while speaking the words of the Sh’ma.
• The first three Muslims honored by Israel for risking their lives to save the lives of Jews during the Holocaust were Mustafa Hardaga; his wife, Zayneda; and his father-in-law, Ahmed Sadik. In 1941, the Nazi army attacked Yugoslavia. Mr. Hardaga was a merchant in Sarajevo, and one of his friends was a Jewish factory owner named Yosef Kabilio. The Germans destroyed the apartment building where Mr. Kabilio and his family lived, so Mr. Hardaga invited the Kabilios to move into his house with him and his family. He kept them there, safe from the Nazis, until they were able to move into the Italian-controlled part of Yugoslavia, which was safer. Meanwhile, Mr. Sadik was doing the same thing for the Papo family, who were friends of the Kabilios. This kind of heroism was dangerous, for the Nazis killed people who helped the Jews. Mr. Sadik himself died in a concentration camp because he had been found guilty of helping Jews. When Sarajevo was torn apart by war in 1994, the Muslims were endangered, and the Israeli government brought Mrs. Hardaga, by then a widow, to safety in Israel.
• Muhammad Ali had courage out of the ring as well as in. After Mr. Ali converted to Islam, a fight promoter said that Mr. Ali would have to publicly renounce his faith or he would not be allowed to fight. Mr. Ali absolutely refused to do this, and the promoter was forced to back down.
• The Englishman Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), a Baptist preacher, was a wit. Once, an irate woman cornered him and gave him a tongue-lashing, but he merely smiled and said, “Yes, thank you; I am quite well. I hope you are the same.” The woman continued to tongue-lash him, and this time Mr. Spurgeon said, “Yes, it does look rather as if it is going to rain; I think I had better be getting on.” Deceived by Mr. Spurgeon’s pretending to be deaf, the woman finally gave up and left him in peace, saying, “Bless the man! He’s as deaf as a post; what’s the use storming at him?”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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