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April 3, 2014 / danaemckee

A Good and Perfect Love Story, Chapter 17 – Roger’s Backstory, part c

Roger red plaid2
Roger met Celine at a hostel in Rome.  They were two among many young people hitching rides around Europe at the time.  But Celine found hitch-hiking scary in that country, as Italian men were wildly forward.  She asked Roger to travel with her.  Since they both were headed the same direction, he did accompany Celine.  Thus, he kept her safe from men who assumed she was a loose woman (which we was not), and she kept him safe in that she, being fluent in French, could communicate.  It so happens, I was not the first person he introduced as his wife, but men still propositioned Celine in spite of his claiming that intimate role with her.  Roger witnessed multiple guys pulling over, fighting each other to get her into their car.  The duo enjoyed a platonic relationship, made each other laugh, and traveled together to Sicily and Tunisia.  She thought Roger sounded exactly like Elvis when he sang.  In Tunis on Christmas Day, Celine celebrated by dragging a small tree inside, decorating it, and then being sad that she was not home.  Roger encouraged his usually vivacious friend to go back home early to her parents and siblings.

When in Rome, Italy, Roger met some cult people, the “Children of God.”  He did not know they were a cult; they were sharing what sounded like the Gospel on the street.  They invited him to dinner and he went with them.  Inside they showed Scripture passages to Roger from Matthew and Luke.*  They twisted the Scripture with their impassioned commentary,

“We hate our parents; we have taken new names!  We have given everything up.”

When they wanted Roger to surrender all his stuff to them, he asked if he could think about it.  He found his plate of food immediately whisked away from the table in front of him and himself thrown out onto the street!  As he walked away, one of the women followed him repeating,

“You will never go anywhere without Jesus Christ in your life.”

Roger had gone to church when he was a kid, but he had not heard the gospel yet.  It may have been preached, but his ears, his heart had not heard.  Those words of hers stuck with him and echoed in Roger’s mind in the coming months and years.

Riding a cattle train one night in Algeria, Roger fell into an exhausted sleep.  During that slumber he was robbed.  Most of his cash, all his film, almost everything was gone.  His prized Nikon camera was not taken, but the leather strap to its case had been cut part way through.  Thankfully, most of Roger’s money was in Traveler’s Cheques, but he had no way to get to Paris to get his money replaced.  Not speaking anything but English, he was nearly prey again.  Some crooks, uniformed as travel and customs agents, seemed helpful.  Roger somehow realized he was being tricked – there was no reduced fare ticket – and escaped the crooked “agent” who was about to take his last little bit of cash.

Ruby Specko, the blackest man ever, hailing from the Ivory Coast, befriended vulnerable Roger in that travel depot.  They struck up a conversation over an advertised celebrity – this time it was not Elvis, but Mohammed Ali.  Ruby’s white smile broadened as he praised Ali, the Heavyweight Champion of the world.  Roger was also a great fan, and that’s how they met.  Ruby was also going to Paris and, unbelievably, paid Roger’s boat fare to cross the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain.  They journeyed on to France, becoming friends long before they parted.  Finally in Paris, Roger went to the American embassy, replaced the stolen money, and somehow got on a flight without his passport.  So thankful to be headed back home, Roger was now suffering some uncomfortable symptoms from drinking the water while overseas.

Back from Africa, he arrived in Montreal on a cold, winter day.  It immediately became clear that his girlfriend was not expecting him as she had other company there.  Roger was sick and sad. He made his way to Athens, Georgia, riding a train part way, hitch-hiking the rest.  There he cut his wrists one night, went bleeding into a Catholic church, looked up at the life-size crucifix, and cried out to God.  The Lord answered him, disclosing Himself to Roger, whispering to his heart – he must start at the foot of the cross.

 

* Scriptures used by the “Children of God” that day in Rome – Luke 14:25-30, “ Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish…”
Matthew 10: 37 – “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
(Taking all of what Jesus says throughout Scripture, He would not be advocating mistreatment of parents.  The Matthew passage explains the Luke passage as being a comparison. Compared for one’s love for the Lord, our love for mom and dad resembles hatred.  When we are grown, we love and follow Christ before we follow our parents’ wishes.)

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