Greetings, Reading Friends and New Subscribers! Today, we have another Christian short story for you. Moved by Kindness by D.I. Telbat features a refugee theme and characters from Distant Contact, Book One in The COIL Legacy. Enjoy!
Moved by Kindness
by D.I. Telbat
Too late, Joram realized the boat trip to Greece was a massive mistake. The forty people crammed onto the raft with two motors wasn’t the problem. The lack of drinking water or the cold wind weren’t the main problems, either. The problem was that the boat was full of Muslim refugees, and Joram and his family were Christians.
The whispers and pointing began midway through the eight-mile trek across the final stretch of the Aegean Sea. Joram had been an evangelist for years in Syria. After his eldest son had been murdered by ISIS loyalists in his town outside Abu Kamal, Joram knew it was time to take his wife and two remaining children to Europe. He would return to Syria as a missionary, once his family was safe.
But his family wasn’t safe now.
At the other end of the raft, a man whispered into the ear of a known Muslim cleric, and pointed at Joram. It was just a matter of time now, Joram realized, before he and his family were thrown into the sea. There’d been rumors of it happening before. It didn’t matter that they were fleeing ISIS violence together. All that mattered to the others was that Joram was a Christian, and the Koran gave license for Muslims to kill him. No one would stand against the cleric since some believed the man held the keys to their eternal future.
Joram strained his eyes to see the shore. Why couldn’t they have recognized him as a Christian when they were a little closer to land? He and his family couldn’t swim four miles in the cold waters that flowed from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean.
He studied the two other rafts in their refugee flotilla. They were packed with bodies as well. Even if Joram could guide his family to swim to another raft as it motored past, the other rafts couldn’t take on more passengers. Besides, a simple yell from the cleric’s men would warn the others that he was a Christian.
Looking away from the hateful stares of the people, Joram stared at the cold, dark water. Perhaps he and his family would die now, but it would be for Christ. He remembered his youngest son’s profession of faith just the previous year, and his daughters’ confession two years earlier.
“Papa,” his son had said, “I want to be with Jesus.”
“Why, Yacov?” Joram had named him after Isaac’s covenant son in the Bible.
“Because He died for me and He wants to be with me.”
The Muslim oppression of ISIS and the cold anger of their Syrian neighbors hadn’t caused the family to hate in return. Joram prayed they remain faithful to the end, even if the end was a watery death. God was still good, and He would welcome them home.
Two men, bodyguards of the cleric, moved carefully through the raft occupants. The cleric wore casual clothing, jeans and a jacket, rather than his traditional dress. He intended to enter Europe by subterfuge and deceit. But Joram was seeking asylum—safety he couldn’t even achieve on the raft.
Joram shifted his arm protectively in front of his daughter. His wife, Noor, who was Egyptian-born, shielded their son, as the aggressors made their way down the length of the boat. A struggle now would capsize or puncture one of the raft’s pontoons. If he fought for his life, Joram realized, others would die this far from shore. Even though those nearest him were Muslim and hated him, he decided he wouldn’t struggle, for the sake of his enemies’ lives. Perhaps, by some miracle, his mercy shown toward them would draw them to Christ.
“We will go gently,” he softly told Noor. His words seemed to sooth the fear on her face. “We are ambassadors of love even now. Pity them, children, but do not curse them.”
“Pity who, Papa?” his son asked.
But Joram couldn’t answer. He could only mumble prayers for himself, his family, and these men who had decided Christians were worthy of death by drowning.
Praying to God, Joram asked for His will to be done, whether that meant saving them from death, or helping them die bravely.
Titus Caspertein, COIL agent and undercover refugee on the raft, watched the scene unfold. His Russian partner, Oleg Saratov, sat in the opposite end of the raft. For a month now, they’d been buying passage on Mediterranean transports to Europe. Apparently, the smugglers that day weren’t aware of the others whom Titus had caught in the midst of atrocities.
Oleg lifted his head from under the hood of a windbreaker. The muscled Russian could pass for Middle Eastern, but Titus had applied a fake beard, contacts to hide his blue eyes, and dark brown dye to his blond hair. He couldn’t communicate verbally with Oleg, but they didn’t need to talk since they knew exactly what to do to guard the refugees, as well as each other.
The whispers that day had already passed through the passengers, including Titus. There were Christians on board. Nazarenes, as they were called. It was an ideal situation, Titus realized, to exercise COIL’s secondary objective: support God’s people. Their primary objective was to share the gospel message of Jesus Christ, which required no less boldness than their other objective.
When the two thugs started to move down the crowded raft toward the Christian family behind Titus, he shifted his semi-automatic nine-millimeter under his jean jacket. It was loaded with tranquilizer rounds that would put the assailants to sleep for an hour. Of course, having firearms on board didn’t make matters less complicated. Someone else could have a gun on board, too. Or the other passengers could rush him and knock him into the water.
“Switch places with me,” Titus said in Arabic to the young man next to him, a college student from Damascus he’d been visiting with.
It only took seconds for Titus to stand in the pathway of one of the aggressors, bend over, the student to slide over, and for him to sit down again. Now, Titus was nearest the water on the starboard side.
The first assailant was one row away, and his eyes met with Titus’, whom he’d clearly seen change seats. Titus was a sizeable man, raised in the wild woods of Arkansas. He wouldn’t be easy to move past unless he cooperated with the two men intent on harm. In his heart, Titus was ready to guard the Christian family with his life, even if it meant taking both assailants into the sea with him—if his gun jammed or was knocked from his hand before he could fire.
“Move aside, brother.” The man gestured with his hand. He was younger than Titus, but his eyes showed he had lived a dark life; there was no light in them. “I’m going to the back.”
“There are no seats back there,” Titus said. “Go back to where you were. The boat is too crowded to play children’s games at this point in the voyage.”
Several passengers snickered at the juvenile slight, but they quickly ducked their heads when the militant cast a glance in their direction.
“I’m going to open up four more seats,” the man said. His partner nudged him from behind. “Those are Nazarenes. They belong in the water.”
“They don’t look like fish to me.” Titus turned his head to look at the Christian family. The four remained silent, and Titus knew their calmness in such calamity was supernatural. The father of the family nodded at Titus, perhaps to tell him that he had his back, or perhaps to convey he was ready to die if Titus didn’t want to stand against the evil man, whom Titus faced again. “If you want to make more room on the boat, start with yourself.”
“Move! Or you go over with them!” The man pulled up his shirt to show a sheathed dagger made for assaulting. “Are you for or against Allah?”
“If you draw your weapon,” Titus wiggled his hand under his jacket, “then I’ll have to draw mine. And then my men will draw theirs, and it’ll be a mess. Why don’t you sit down and wait? You can kill the Nazarenes when we reach Greece.”
The killer thought about this for a moment as he rode a couple waves that rocked the boat.
“The authorities won’t let us kill them in Greece.”
“How uncivilized of them.”
“What do you have?” The man frowned at Titus’ hidden hand, then glanced about the boat. “And who’s with you?”
“It ain’t easy being out of control, is it?” Titus smiled confidently. He loved the thrill of serving God against all odds. “Sit. Down.”
A rogue wave slipped under the raft. It lifted the bow, then the port side. The standing thug braced himself, but when the crest reached their row, Titus was knocked off-balance toward the water. Since he was seated, he recovered against the pontoon at his elbow.
But the assailant had been standing, and with no railing along the sides of the raft, he was pitched overboard. Titus, already leaning over the water, grasped the man’s upper arm. With his left hand, Titus drew his gun from his waistband as the second thug moved toward him. Whatever the second man’s intentions, Titus wasn’t taking a chance. He shot a silenced tranquilizer round into his chest. The standing attacker collapsed backwards, and several passengers caught him and held him.
Titus checked the front of the raft to see that Oleg was prepared to use his own tranquilizer gun if someone moved toward Titus. Sufficiently covered, Titus holstered his gun and focused on the assailant who clung desperately to his right arm. The man sputtered against waves that splashed into his face.
“Pull me up!” The man gasped before his head was submerged again.
Using his other hand, Titus grasped the man’s collar and lifted his head above the current.
“You’re welcome aboard, but your knife is not.” Titus didn’t flinch as the thug spit and coughed cold water into his face. “Don’t expect me to hold you here all the way to shore. Dump your blade!”
Unable to communicate further, the man reached down his body and drew his knife. For an instant, Titus wondered if he would slash the boat or him, but it would’ve meant the man’s own death, since no raft would turn back in that wild water.
The thug released the knife, and Titus hauled him into the boat. Though he’d been in the water only sixty seconds, the disarmed man shivered and gasped on the bottom of the raft between rows of refugees.
“That seems like a good place for you.” Titus drew his weapon once more and aimed it at the chilled man. “Anyone who would risk our lives to attack a defenseless family rides the rest of the way on the floor.”
“This guy was with those two!” Oleg shouted in Arabic, offering up the stunned cleric, who swiftly raised his hands. “Maybe he wants to join his two friends.”
“No, no!” The Muslim leader shriveled before Oleg, and Titus memorized the man’s face so he could identify him later for the Greek authorities. “I don’t know them. They’re not my friends!”
“We have an hour until we reach the beach,” Titus yelled to the passengers. “We can all make it safely if we remain still. Agreed?”
No one responded.
“It seems you have us under your spell, kind sir,” Oleg called to Titus, resuming his role of a stranger. “Perhaps you could tell us why you didn’t let that wicked man die, even though he threatened you and risked our lives.”
“That’s interesting you point that out, curious traveler!” Titus waved his free hand at the passengers. “Would a story help keep us all calm? Shall I tell you from where my kindness comes? Very well! I will tell you. It all begins with God’s plan to come Himself to live on the earth as a Man. His name, as we all know, is Isa . . .”
Titus used Jesus’ Arabic name, as Muslims knew Him, and smiled at his captive audience, especially at the children who’d been shivering from the cold wind beside their parents. He glanced back at the Christine family he’d saved. The father smiled, and that was enough for Titus to face front and continue. At the bow, Oleg winked, and waved his hand for more.
“Isa lived a perfect life of love and obedience to His Father. Isa was the perfect Son of God, but our ancestors turned against Him. They killed Him. But the true God is full of love, so He didn’t hate the people. Instead, He died for them, and since He was truly God, the grave couldn’t hold Him. He rose from the dead. This is who Isa truly is, and He lives today inside every believer who receives His gift of life. We need God’s forgiveness for our own sins . . .”
The people stared, especially the cleric near the front, but Titus only lifted his voice louder above the sound of the motors.
As a COIL agent, he would support the persecuted, and as a Christian, he would share the love of Christ with all who would listen, especially his enemies.
The End of Moved by Kindness by D.I. Telbat
NOTE: Thanks to Ctkaela, John, Jeani, Suzanne O’Neal and Monty Collier for leaving reviews on Distant Contact and/or Distant Boundary! David is very pleased that readers are enjoying his new series. 🙂
NOTE: We are trying out a new feature offered by Amazon. It’s similar to what you can see through their “Look Inside” program on their site. Now, on certain book pages on our own site, we can offer you a link to see a sample preview of that book right from that page! To try out the preview, visit our Dark Liaison page, our Distant Contact page, or the Called To Gobi page. You’ll find the “Read a SAMPLE HERE” link toward the bottom of those pages. Let us know if you like it.
COMING UP: Join us next time for David Telbat’s Author Reflection, “When Tragedy Opens Our Eyes.”