Regardless of the details of what happened in the story of “Mrs. Grace” and many similar stories, I wondered: Is it a story with Mrs. Grace, or the story of Christ with me? And perhaps you wonder what has Abouna Agathon to do with the story?
On a difficult night, it was of relieving time when Mrs. Grace and me went together, having her heavy luggage, and the heavier concerns, and so from the home of a loved one in “Bayonne” city, to another loving family in “Old Bridge”. Doing so, was with hoping for finding a place of rest for the tired head of Mrs. Grace, and getting financial support to meet the needs of her family, left behind in Egypt.
On the highway between the two cities, I remembered a story I had learned in Sunday school, when I was a kid. It was about the monks who found and elderly paralyzed man on their way to church. He asked them to carry him to church. None of them agreed to carry him so as not to delay him from the Mass. When Abouna Agathon passed by him, he carried him on his shoulder. Upon the arrival to the church, the elder man disappeared from Abouna Aghathon’s shoulders. He realized that he was carrying Lord Jesus. Knowing what happened, the other monks regretted the missing of the opportunity to see “the Lord Jesus” and carrying him on their shoulders. The same story is also told about St Bishoy and St Chistophorus.
In continuing with the thoughts of childhood, I said to myself: What if Mrs. Grace and her heavy luggage disappeared from my car suddenly now, as happened with Abouna Aghathon? Would not I, as a kid, run to my father of confession, my teacher of the Sunday school and my friends and tell them that I saw the Lord Jesus? I did not expect at all that the story – which I heard in my childhood – will be repeated with me later in many other ways.
The beginning of knowing Mrs. Grace – as I mentioned in a previous article – was when an American woman found her wandering with her luggage in one of the streets of “Monroe”, crying for help. She brought her to the church in “Jersey City”, many miles away from “Monroe”. I was told later that this lady – which has played role of the Good Samaritan – is a good Jewish woman. Since then, through four intensive days, “St Abraam Ministry” had been with Mrs. Grace in four houses and in four different cities.
Perhaps you will be astonished by knowing that all those who hosted Mrs. Grace are pious people and provided her a lot of love. Also, many of the church young people, the English speaker, extended her much love and great concern. Moreover, the reverend priests of our church gave her much love and concern. Then, despite all of this, Mrs. Grace could not feel comfortable in any of the places. She refused to give herself a chance to live in that strange world, who speak a different language and away from her family and her children. She decided to go back to Egypt.
In spite of all the efforts to help and comfort her, in everywhere Mrs. Grace went, she was not the only a river of tears, but was also integrated Choir of screaming, wailing and lamentation on the case of her needy family in Egypt as well as her case in US. In reality, Mrs. Grace did not realize that she came to US as being in a divine mission. She came as an ambassador, to plea and cry on behalf of the poor who are starving and miserable in Egypt. Moreover, her mission was to plea and cry on behalf of thousands who come to the land of immigration without being qualified nor having the resources to begin a new life, in such strange world.
In the last night of Mrs. Grace’s mission to US, I was surprised that the Good Samaritan tonight is the polis city, “Monroe”, again. The police contacted the church in “Jersey City”, having found her wandering in the streets “Monroe” city. We had to arrange for her return trip to Egypt the next day, to be with her family and her children. She and her family as well as many other families in Egypt are to be considered for God’s care through St Abraam Ministry.
In my childhood I had been dreaming of meeting the Lord Jesus, miraculously such as Abouna Agathon and other saints. I did not know that I would have real encounter with the Lord Jesus in the heavy burdens of the needy people. Also, it has become my duty to tell the many people that every opportunity to serve those needy people is the opportunity to serve Christ himself. He said, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me” (Matthew 25: 34-36).
In each encounter with Mrs. Grace and others, the Spirit of the Lord has been whispering within me and telling me what the Lord Jesus said: ” inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25: 40). In this story, I saw Christ as a wandering stranger, sorrowful, needy person. What do you think I would do to Him?
This is not only my story with Mrs. Grace and others. It is also the story of Christ with me, and with everyone loving His least brothers. The story in history and time might be the story of St Abraam Ministry with Mrs. Grace or others. In reality, and in the spirit, Mrs. Grace and her heavy luggage disappear behind the revelation of Jesus Christ and His glory. Thanks are to the heavenly Father who gives us the chances to serve needy people. I still love the story of Abouna Agathon. Do you love it too?
Fr. Abraam Sleman
PO Box 6909 East Brunswick, NJ 08816, USA