“I never wanted to write a book. I was asked several times, but I never wanted to.” As I heard these words, my pen hesitated over my note pad. This was not what I had expected to hear, after all, Ralph had asked me to come visit him and help him write a book. But as I would soon learn over the course of the next several hours, Ralph was an exceedingly humble person. He didn’t want to “toot his own horn,” even though, I urged him to toot away. After all, Ralph is something of a celebrity in Bible smuggling circles and elsewhere.
During the cold war, Ralph quietly oversaw underground operations in which food, medicine, even printed religious materials, were gathered and distributed in countries locked behind the Iron Curtain. And while Ralph would never take credit for impacting the hearts and minds high ranking Communist officials, his courage and commitment to help others very likely contributed to the miraculous turn of events that brought down the wall separating East and West in Germany. Ralph has arguably crammed four, maybe five lives into his ninety-three years and as I sat across from him, our tuna fish sandwiches before us, I thought, I am in the presence of a hybrid mix between a quiet saint and a spit fire Indiana Jones. And like some of the saints of old and the fictitious Indiana Jones, Ralph is a man of courage. That is to say he has struck a balance between wisdom and action. He isn’t complacent. Unwilling to sit on his hands and hope for the best, Ralph has made it a habit to start each day in prayer, study of God’s Word, and in doing something for others. Like so many of us, he doesn’t know for certain what the day will bring. But he greets each one with gratitude and a sense of purpose.
As I left Ralph’s modest apartment and headed back home I thought what courageous man he is. Being a half-Jew and persecuted by the Nazis, Ralph had witnessed first-hand what hatred looked like. During the hunger years in occupied Netherlands, he stood in a church service and watched people drop of starvation all around him. “I had a choice,” Ralph said. “I could let hatred burn inside of me—and for a while it did—or I could love. I chose to love.” And what a difference in this world that courageous decision has made.