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Coffee shop talk: Professor survives Gaza attack

It’s not unusual for people to meet at coffee shops and talk. It’s not even unusual for the occasional professor to meet his or her students to discuss academic issues or current events. The purpose of coffee shops is to serve as a gathering place, but when Lenore Mullican, assistant professor of the English and modern language department, meets with her students, the conversations are anything but usual.

They gather once a week at a coffee shop right off of campus. It seems normal. The group listens to stories about each other’s days, catches up on world-wide current events, sometimes reads passages from the Bible and Mullican will tell them exciting stories about her life. But what makes the meetings abnormal is everything is spoken in Hebrew. From the greeting to the conversation to the goodbye, no English is spoken.

Some students smile pleasantly and say, “She has the best stories to tell.” Others will affectionately call her “Morah,” meaning “teacher” in Hebrew. Then, just at the mention of her name, some exclaim “I love her.”

Student Matthew Delaney, however, thinks of her like a grandma.

“She gave me a love for Hebrew,” he said. “[She] encouraged me all the way through, gave me so much of her time, and continues to do so to this day. I have really enjoyed getting to talk to her, listen to her stories and hear the wisdom that she has.”

“Morah has many amazing stories,” said Delaney who heard her story at the coffee shop. “Stories of her vision and of a nurse that she worked with when Morah worked as a nurse in Gaza is just one example of many amazing stories.”

“If you stay with me till you graduate, you’re going to have so many stories,” laughed Mullican, as she begins one of her many stories.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bullets cut through the air. Bang. Bang. Bang. Windows shattered as people screamed, and the van swerved. Still the terrorists didn’t stop shooting their machine guns.

“They said they thought it was a Jewish vehicle,” Mullican remembers. “They didn’t know it was people working in the hospital—at least that’s what they said. We had several different stories, so we don’t know what really happened. There is another story that they were targeting them because they were Americans. We never really knew for sure what happened.”

A nurse, pastor and his three children were in the van headed toward Israel when terrorists attacked in the evening. The pastor and his children survived, but the head surgical nurse didn’t make it.

Mullican was working as a Baptist missionary nurse on the Gaza Strip at the time of the incident. Wars and violence weren’t unusual for her. She grew up in the Middle East and had lived through bombs and explosions. This time, however, the attack would change her life.

“When she died, there wasn’t another nurse to take her place,” she said.

“I was the only nurse, and so they asked me to take over the operating room — my experience had been in out-patient pediatrics. I had to get in there and do it and teach the scrub techs, and I had two little kids.”

Eight long months passed. Mullican was adjusting to being the head surgical nurse, thanks to the staff for being so well trained. But they still didn’t have a reason why their van had been “shot up.”

While the staff was managing the hospital, they were overworked, stressed and tensions grew between the doctors and nurses.

“One day there was this Arab evangelist, and he spoke at the church. It was very different than before,” she remembered. “People were raising their hands and speaking in the spirit— they’d never done that in our church.”

Mullican was suddenly no longer in a church service, but was standing in front of Jesus in a vision, and to his right stood the nurse. She was smiling down at her.

Unexplainable happiness filled Mullican. She saw the hospital staff laughing and hugging one another when she “forced” herself out of the vision. She believes the nurse was smiling because they were being filled with the Holy Spirit, something the nurse had prayed for every day.

Mullican ends her story abruptly, as though she’s relived enough of it, but her students are still hanging on her every word. They’ll have to stay there until the next time she takes them on an adventure into her past. Until then, she will continue to inspire them to love the Hebrew language as much as they do her.

Story by Emerald Dean, Courtesy Photo 

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