The Middle Seat

Have you ever been the one in the middle seat on an international flight? If so, you know that it’s terrible. Nine hours cramped between two individuals. One will probably smell weird and the other will sleep on your shoulder. Today I had that opportunity. As we boarded our flight to Nairobi, I walked slowly down the aisle of the plane staring intently as I slowly approached my middle seat. One man on my right and one on my left. I squeezed in, sat down and introduced myself. On my left was Ben. He was from Kenya. On my right I met Jamil. He was from London. I’m not much of a small talker, but something in me told me not to put my headphones on and instead chat with these guys. And so I leaned over to Jamil and asked where he was headed. “I’m going to Uganda for a mission,” he said. “Mission,” I thought, that’s right up my alley. I pried a little more. “Are you a pastor?” I asked. “Yes,” said Jamil. “So how did you become a pastor?” I asked. He said, “Well, thats a good story.” “I got time.” I said. Jamil began to tell me that he was born into a muslim family. He had a medical issue where his stomach bowels didn’t work right, so he had a bag that he carried around through his childhood up into his late teen years. He had nine surgeries to try and fix the issue, but nothing worked. One day, when he was 18 a young lady was preaching the gospel of Jesus on the side of the road and noticed Jamil. He stood out because he carried a big patch on his side. She said to Jamil, “Jesus wants to heal you, and you should believe in Jesus as the Christ.” “Jesus,” he replied, “Jesus isn’t real.” “There is only Allah.” Shortly after this, he found himself in the hospital again with complications from his condition. His stomach was swollen so profusely that the doctors said they needed to operate or he was going to die. He was waiting in prep for surgery when the same young lady from the street came in to prep him for surgery. She was an employee of the hospital! She said to him again, “Jesus wants to heal your body, and you should give your life to Jesus.” Again, Jamil was quick to blow her off. “Jesus isn’t real,” he told her again. She asked, “Can I pray for you? Jesus wants to heal you.” Now, just wanting to get her out of his face, Jamil relented.

The young woman began to pray over him. She quoted Psalm 103 “Bless the Lord oh my soul! And all that is within me,bless his holy name! who forgives all our iniquity, and heals all your diseases.” Tears streaming down her face, she prayed, “God, I know you want to heal this boy. Heal him in the name of Jesus”. She finished praying and left the room. The doctors came in and wheeled him to surgery. On the way to the operating room his stomach’s swelling had gone down. The doctors were confused and told him to come back a week later to run some tests. He ran to the bathroom and “passed his waste” for the first time in his life! I know what you are thinking - ”gross.” But if you hadn’t been able to go to the bathroom normally for your entire life, that’s probably the first thing you would try, right? Jamil couldn’t believe it! He was healed! Jamil told the woman at the hospital about his stomach’s healing. She began to praise and shout up to God in the middle of the hospital! From that moment on, Jamil was healed. He never had to return to the hospital again.

After the hospital experience, he found a “born again” church in Uganda and started attending. For a short time, he still went to the mosque in the morning and then would run over to the Christian church after his prayer time. The day he left the muslim religion was the first time he heard from Jesus. He bowed to pray at the mosque, and while he was praying he said Jesus told him “to leave and never return or he would die today.” He left the muslim religion and gave his life completely to Jesus. His family rejected him and chased him out of his village. He would later return and share the gospel with his family. Some of them accepted Jesus. He went to live with the pastor of the Christian church. He said he never experienced love and care like that before. People in the church truly loved him. He surrendered to ministry and 10 years later is sitting on a plane next to me on his way back to the very place he grew up to share the gospel. I’m sitting there speechless. God is at work in our world. He is at work in Africa. The gospel is alive and active, healing minds, souls and bodies. Jamil told me that his life verse is “By his stripes we are healed.” Pretty good story.