We pulled out of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, right on schedule for our 3:30 p.m. meeting with a reporter from the Vicksburg Post, who was due to interview us at a local coffee shop. For no particular reason we’d chosen Highway 61 Café, a little shop with a hip touch, and the unofficial meeting place of local townsmen.

Strangely, the usually clear highway became cluttered with traffic due to an accident, and we realized we were inevitably going to be late for our appointment. We were able to minimize the delay to a mere 20 minutes, and at 3:50, after apologizing for our tardiness, we sat down with the journalist and her young assistant.

The café is owned by Daniel and his wife, Leslie. Daniel approached the table, greeted us cheerfully and chatted for a few minutes. We discovered that his wife was Jewish, but unfortunately she was out of the town for the day.

We settled in and began answering the reporter’s questions. She was interviewing two chassidic rabbis for the first time in her life, and we spoke very candidly. When the formal questions were finished, we continued talking, and the journalist told us that to the best of her knowledge, the man sitting at the table behind us was Jewish too.

Ellis, as we came to know him, spoke Yiddish fluently, just like in the old country. A jolly conversation ensued, and soon we had the whole shop looking on in pleasant surprise as an elderly and rather sad Ellis spoke Yiddish fluently, just like in the old countryman (his wife had passed just a month before) reconnected with his Jewish roots, speaking in his mother tongue, and sharing sweet memories of his childhood in a world so distant from our own.

If the story were to end here, it would already be more than enough for one day. But Ellis wasn’t sitting alone, and the man he was sipping coffee with became our next unexpected friend.

Bob, it turns out, is also Jewish. And Bob and Ellis meet consistently every Thursday at Highway 61 Café, where they chat over mugs of hot coffee. We sang a few traditional Jewish songs and old Yiddish melodies with our newfound friends, and listened as they shared tidbits of their lives with us.

Suddenly, we understood why the usually clear highways were clogged, making us 20 minutes later to our appointment. Had we been on time, we might never have met! Our interview was scheduled for 3:30 p.m., but Ellis and Bob meet up only at 4:30 p.m. We could have easily been finished and out the door before they ever entered the café.

Ellis shared with us that he hasn’t spoken Yiddish with anyone in over forty years, but thanks to our unexpected—but obviously divinely planned—meeting, his neshamah was reignited. We feel so fortunate to have been the messengers.