I don't sleep on planes. I never have been able to sleep on planes. I don't care how long the flight is or how long I've been awake, I don't sleep unless I have some powerful medical assistance. But it's rare indeed when I take such prescriptions on a flight. So I stay awake while everyone else engages in fitful slumber. (No one really sleeps well on a plane)
Last night (local time), I sat staring into the darkness of the cabin, not awake enough to read but unable to sleep. Admitting defeat, I stumbled bleary-eyed to the back of the cabin where the flight attendants where relaxing. "How much do I have to beg to get a cup of coffee," I joked. One of the young women with a nice smile looked at me seriously and said, "You don't have to beg." I keep forgetting that American humor is lost on the rest of the world. At any rate, she opened and closed about 100 of those special cabinet doors and managed to make me some instant coffee, for which I was extremely grateful.
Me being me, I started a conversation about one of my favorite topics: language. I commented on the unusual (to me) glyphs in Ahmaric (the language of Ethiopia). This led one of the other attendants to fetch the airlines in-flight magazine, which, as she pointed out, had a helpful section on common phrases.
As she pointed out the phrase guide, she asked me where I was going. I told her of my mission to Burundi and Congo DR to teach pastors. Her eyes lit up as she told me she had a Bible with her and asked if I wanted to see it. "I'd love to," I said returning the smile.
She proudly brought back a Bible that was given to her as a gift. We looked that the table of contents and then turned to a familiar passage—Genesis 1. I quoted a few verses and asked how it compared with what she read. I asked her how old was the translation and found that it was reasonably modern.
The Ethiopian Orthodox church, like the Russian Orthodox church, has an ancient translation of the Bible that no modern can read. Their attitude (also found in Russia) is "if you want to know God's Word, you must learn his language." What a pity.
We continued to talk when suddenly she said, "Would you like this Bible? I'd like to give it to you." I protested (like a good American), but she insisted. She turned to the front of the Bible, creased the page that had a hand-written inscription to her, and carefully tore it from the Bible. Then she handed it to me. What a treasure!
We couldn't talk much longer as it was time to turn on the cabin lights and serve breakfast. But I'll always remember the kindness and generosity of a fellow believer who gave me her Bible somewhere over the Atlantic.