In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Daily Evangelism
  • James D. Houston (bio)

I have been trying to remember the name of this fellow I knew in college. I think it was Ferad. I have looked through the yearbook. His picture isn’t there. He didn’t belong to any clubs. He was an exchange student, a few years older than me. I will call him Ferad. He came from Iran but preferred his country’s older name. If you asked him where he lived he’d say, with pride, “I am a Jew from Persia.”

I once came upon him sitting alone in the sunlight, reading, on the steps outside our dormitory. In the moment before he noticed me behind him, I stood gazing at his cap, a small bowl of cloth held in place by coils of thick black hair that reached up around its edges. From above, you could see the pattern of intricate circles, some made of tiny squares, some made of triangles, rings of interwoven reds and blues and golds, all layered around a central wheel with eight spokes. Nowadays I would recognize its mandala pattern. Back then it held me for reasons I couldn’t fathom. The yarmulke had once belonged to his father, a devout man who lived in the city of Shiraz. His cap had the same beguiling design you see in Persian rugs.

The college was a small, private Christian school on the outskirts of Los Angeles, and I have often wondered what Ferad was doing there, having to contend with people like me, or the way I was in those days. They had a generous budget for foreign students. For a bright fellow like Ferad I suppose it meant a tuition stipend along with a chance to taste a bit of the wider world. I see now that he may well have felt safer in our midst than in the Moslem land he’d left behind. I’m just guessing. Though we talked about many things, we never talked about that.

For pocket money he worked two afternoons a week on the campus grounds crew. That’s how we got acquainted. Ordinarily I would not have chosen such a fellow for companionship. Not back then. But you learn things, working side by side. You can end up despising a person, or liking him more, for what his habits show you. Ferad was easy to be with. He knew how to move furniture and how to handle a hoe. He was comfortable with tools and knew something about plants. Whatever the job, he pitched right in, ready to do his share, though never compulsive about the tasks Shorty the supervisor would set before us. If Shorty had recently [End Page 127] walked away, Ferad might drop his rake and fall back onto the grass with his hands behind his head. On the job, by the way, he didn’t wear his yarmulke. He wore an aging fedora. Underneath its brim, his eyes would glow with merriment.

“Isn’t this the life?” he would say. “Isn’t this the America we all have dreamed about?”

He’d make it funny and we’d laugh together, though I scarcely knew what he meant. I had no idea how America looked to him, or what it meant to be from Persia or from Iran or to be from anywhere. I had not traveled beyond the borders of the United States, nor had I strayed very far beyond the borders of my family’s way of seeing. Most of my relatives were guided by the words of the New Testament. Or said they were. Most everyone on that campus believed in Jesus. Or claimed to. I was among the believers. Or thought I was. Or thought I was supposed to be. There seemed no way around it. In the world of my youth you accepted the New Testament as the literal word of God and believed in Jesus as the one and only path to salvation.

That semester I had enrolled in four courses—Journalism 2, Psychology 2, Music Appreciation, and Daily Evangelism, taught by Brother Carvel Simkins, a working minister who had preached the gospel all across Oklahoma, Texas, and New...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-943x
Print ISSN
1045-7909
Pages
pp. 127-140
Launched on MUSE
2012-03-16
Open Access
No
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