JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
A tale by Johny Noer
"And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook" (1.Kings 17:6)
I didn’t succeed to enter into the green of Saffron Walden. The land cruiser stopped a hundred meters before the entrance to the large beautiful field where the other vehicles had already arrived.
"Why do you stop?" Gisèle asked.
"No more petrol", I answered. "The others have made it," I nodded towards the camp, "but it has been on their last drops of diesel."
Gisèle was pregnant and sitting with the last, one-year-old Daniel on her lap. He was number eight in the flock. I turned to her… "and there is no more food and no more money", I added.
Gisèle’s brown eyes looked seriously at me. "I know", she said.
"… and no more milk for the children!" I went on.
"I know", she said.
A tractor arrived to tow us into the field. All the families gathered in the school-caravan for prayer. They also knew. No special information had to be given, and there was very little conversation. Everybody was aware that only some old-fashioned miracles could help us out of this situation.
All started to pray; … and then miracles began to happen!
While we were still praying, a man came and stood outside the caravan. He stood there for some time, as if wondering whether he should know at the door or simply enter. I went out to him.
"Can I help you, sir?" I asked.
"Well", he started, "I don’t know what is going on, but I am the owner of a food-store at the other side of the street, and I have just had a visit from a person who handed me some money and said something concerning you.
"What did this person say, sir?"
The man, who was a small black-haired, tough businessman, looked startled, "This person said, ‘Everything that these pilgrims over there buy in your shop, from today on and until they leave, is paid for’." The shop owner gave me his card. "You are welcome, all of you", he said and looked with satisfaction on all the vehicles. Then he greeted with the smile he would use when saying goodbye to good customers.
I returned to the families and told them what had happened. All worshipped and went out to their work.
Two days later the milkman arrived in camp. He deposited a box with twenty pints of milk and went back to his car.
"Wait a minute, sir," I said.
"Don’t worry", he said; "it’s all paid for. I had a visit from a person, who told me to do this every day. I’ll come again tomorrow!"
He jumped into his car and went on.
I looked up into the sky. I thought of the large black birds which were sometimes circling over the camp. Ravens probably. And I thought of the prophet of old, who, in a time of famine got the strange message from God, "Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to you."
"Raak! Raak! Raak! the black birds would cry.
Two days before leaving the site, where we had very good meetings, and several persons were deeply touched by the gospel, another black-haired stranger came into the camp. He had a letter in his hand.
"I have a message for you", he said. "I am the owner of the local petrol station, and I have received this letter telling me to be ready to fill all your vehicles with petrol and diesel."
"Who sent you the letter?" I asked.
"I don’t know", he said, "We have got the money, sir, that’s what matters to us."
On the same morning that we should leave Saffron Walden, as we were about to leave, a gentleman from the local town-council introduced himself.
"We had a council-meeting last night", he said, "and it was decided that you should pay 100 pounds for The Green, but," the council-member stumbled over his own words, "something very strange happened this morning… you see, I am not a ‘believer’ as you would call it… but when I woke up I heard a voice…"
"Did you hear a voice, sir," I said encouraging. "What did the voice say to you?"
"Well, you see, that’s the strange part of it all, because we decided last night in the council-meeting that I should go down to you with this bill before you left this morning."
"Yes, and then?"
"Well, then I heard this voice speaking to me."
"And the voice said, ‘Don’t go down to the pilgrims with that bill’!" The man shuddered. "I didn’t know what to do about it, because I am not very experienced in these sorts of things, so I called a local pastor, the Methodist pastor, you know?"
"Yes, and what did he say?"
"He said that it was God, who had spoken to me, and that I should not go down with the bill. The church will pay it."
I saw some ravens flying low over the camp. "Raak! Raak! Raak! they cried again.
I have never found out who that person is, who was helping us in Saffron Walden in England. Sometimes I have wondered if it was the same person I met a few months later, on a terribly hot day on the highways of Holland. That day, there were no crows or ravens in the air. In a very special way, however, we happened to hear the ‘Raak! Raak! of one of those strange ‘birds’, who in the right moment, brings provision from God.
It all started when the engines began to make trouble. As I saw one of the Dutch, yellow emergency-cars giving mechanical aid to another stranded family, I went in alongside and waited. We had little Michael with us, and I was more troubled for him than for the car. We had nothing to eat and nothing to drink, and there was no obvious place, where we could get anything. As far as we could see, there were miles and miles of motorway; it was getting late, and we didn’t know when we could continue our journey.
I didn’t pray, because before there was time, help was already there. A dark-skinned gentleman arrived. I don’t know from where he came; the motorway was deserted. Later however, I saw a little car parked in front of ours. The dark-skinned person passed me with a smile and went directly to Michael.
"Are you hungry?" he asked the boy. Michael nodded.
"And thirsty?" Michael nodded again.
"All right! Just wait a minute. I’ll get you something to eat and to drink." The stranger went back to the little car, which I had observed in front of ours. He returned with a bag of sandwiches, a bottle of orange drink and some plastic cups.
"Who is he?" Gisèle asked whispering.
"I don’t know."
Gisèle continued in Danish. He voice was troubled. "I have no confidence in him. What’s in the bottle? What is he giving the boy to drink?"
The dark-skinned gentleman was about to pass us. He had heard nothing and couldn’t possibly have understood anything. Suddenly he stopped and went back towards Gisèle. He poured the orange-drink into one of the plastic cups, lifted it in a greeting gesture to Gisèle and said, "Me first, Madame!" Then he drank the whole content of the cup, and thereafter handed a plastic cup to Gisèle. "Please, Madame", he said and poured the cup full of nice, cold orange juice. He also gave a cupful to me. We both drank. He watched us with a friendly smile. Then he lifted an eyebrow – questioning? – We nodded, and he went to the boy who swallowed two big cups of orange-drink. When the boy had finished drinking, he now unwrapped some paper and gave him a sandwich. "Peanut-butter", he said smiling. Michael looked at it with big eyes; peanut-butter is his favourite sandwich.
I looked at the dark skin of the stranger and thought of God’s black birds: The ravens! I also thought of what had happened to us in Saffron Walden. Then I put my first question.
"Why do you do this for us, sir?" I asked.
"Because I must do it", the man replied.
"Do you believe in God?" I asked.
The man looked at me with a serious regard. "Oh yes", he said quietly. "God is the creator and the master of the universe."
"Do you believe in Jesus, the Messiah?"
The man nodded with a great reverence. It was almost as if he bowed down. "Jesus is the Son of God", he said, "and He is the Saviour of all mankind." Then he turned to my wife. "We are living in a small word," he said gently. "We shall probably meet again, Madame!" He turned to leave us, but I took a firm step after him and asked:
"What is your name, sir?"
The man stopped as if he had been hit by something hard. Slowly he turned to me and said with a knowing smile, "Raak! he said. "My name is Mr. Raak!"
Then he went to his car and disappeared.
I think I have met Mr. Raak once more. A few months after, as the whole convoy was slowly moving towards the German border, we had to ship the equipment from shore to shore because with tractors we are not allowed to cross the bridges on the highways and over the canals everything went in slow-motion. Before we left Haarlem, the native city of Corrie Ten Boom, where we celebrated our ‘Feast of Tabernacles’, a Belgian and a French family furnished us with more than 500kg potatoes. When we loaded the many sacks of potatoes, we knew what was awaiting us; we were no doubt heading for a period of restrained economy. Everybody prepared for a time of potatoes. When we drove into Dieren near S’Herenberg at the frontier, the families had become so skilled in making all sorts of dishes with potatoes, that we would have been able to furnish any kitchen with ‘unknown recipes’ of potato-meals.
It was at this time, I believe I again met Mr.Raak. It was a very quick visit. A man in a car came rushing into the camp.
"Are you the children of the Most High God?" he asked.
"Yes", I answered, "we are the servants of the Most High God."
The man opened the back of his car, and I saw lots of wonderful loaves. Beautiful fresh bread! Enough for the whole camp!
"It’s all yours", the man said. We unloaded the bread, and as the car was disappearing, I thought of the scripture verse, "And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning and bread and flesh in the evening." God thinks of the variation of food. "And the ravens brought him bread…
In the night between 2nd and 3rd of July 1983, a Belgian lady in our camp heard a noise outside her caravan. She got out of bed and looked out of the window. Astonished she saw six or seven tall men dressed in white, standing around the camp. "They all stood with their faces turned towards the dark night", she told us the next morning; "they were like guards, and their white garments had a collar which made it look like a sort of uniform. The whole camp was flooded with peace…"
The ‘Pilgrim Convoy’ has now been on the roads for twenty years. With an increasing longing, they were seeking towards the Holy City. In mysterious ways they have been led to go through the nations. Every day has been a miracle! No organisation or group or church is supporting them. The stories of how they have been able to survive and continue moving from town to town is innumerable. Often their situation has been desperate, but help always reached them – and never too late! Slowly these travelling families have learned to rely on God and to take one day at a time, and slowly they have begun to understand that it is not by accident, that they have been brought into that sort of life. God is brining many of His children through similar experiences in these days; He is about to teach His church a great lesson. He is preparing His people to live a full life of faith: and He is calling them to give up the securities of modern society. The Bible says that days will come, where a worldwide boycott of all Christians will be introduced. No real believer will be able to buy or sell; they will all have to live by faith! All followers of Jesus will be dependent on daily miracles. In the mornings and the evenings they will be waiting upon the ravens from God, and they will come to hear the ‘Raak! Raak!’ in the right hour. But they will have to refuse to be ‘covered’ by a wicked system of the world. They will have to reject the final offer of security, which an Antichristian society will enforce upon them. They will have to say ‘No’ where the whole world is saying ‘Yes’ and thus be considered as utter fanatics. Nobody wants to experience that. I didn’t want it, and I had to be brought through something of a school before I accepted this way. The last thing I wanted to give up was my security. And that was the first thing God was after, and little did I know how much He was after it!