Today, we met an angel. This is how it happened:

Yesterday, We had exhausted our list of contacts and decided to just get into our car and see what we could find.

Now, West Virginia is farmland. There are cities where the people have never seen a Jew. A day and a gas tank later, we still had not met a single Jew. We did not even meet anybody who had ever met a Jew.

Today, we started our day in Belington, WV. We pulled up at the post office and asked if they knew of any Jews. "We remember an old lady who was Jewish. She has a son nearby. His name is Joel." They told us where he lives.

We started down his road. The road is very narrow — as wide a single car and it's a two way street! We passed many houses, hoping to see someone and ask them where Joel lives. We finally saw someone. She told us to look out for a mailbox with his name on it. So we now looked at each mailbox, not realizing that his house was five miles up the road. The houses are more or less the same, houses of farmers with noisy watchdogs in front.

There was a car behind us. They seemed nervous since were driving slowly. We pulled into a driveway to let them pass. He pulled up right next to me and said, "Who are you looking for? I'll take you there."

We followed him about two miles, he pointed to a road, and I honked to thank him.

The road was a mixture of rocks and dirt. We started driving up, but our car couldn't make it. We parked the car and started walking. I remembered the watchdogs we saw along the way and was scared. We went back to the car, and I tried to drive forward. We drove a bit higher but realized once more that this ain't gonna work. I honked, hoping to attract someone's attention but we were alone.

I attempted to back out, but Chaim told me that we're heading into a ditch. He was right; we were stuck. We noticed a jeep heading toward us. We were petrified! Not only were we on his property uninvited, we were blocking his road! He came out of his car, and I hoped he didn't have a gun on him. I forced a smile on my face and bravely offered a "Shalom Aleichem!"

"Shalom!" he answered back with a bigger smile than mine.

"We came to meet you."

"Me!? But I think you're getting stuck."

He got in to our car and gave a try, only to confirm that this car wouldn't move. "Don't worry; I have equipment to get you out."

While we were standing there, he showed us a bush. "Do you see these berries? They are delicious," Joel told us. We recited a blessing and enjoyed the berries. Joel went back up to get his equipment.

Joel reappeared perched on top of a very loud 1960s-era tractor.

"Don't get on the ground; two people don't have to get dirty. It's gonna be one person and it's gonna be me."

I found it odd to see a 60-year-old man bending under a car, while the owners of the car, who are 22, are sitting and watching.

He finished undigging and insisted that I drive the tractor back to his property while he directed.

We drove around his 500 acre estate. He grows tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, and other vegetables.

"You see it – I built it," Joel said proudly.

He built a three story house with an elevator, revolving cabinets and a sewing machine on tracks. He dug a twelve foot deep pond, cleared fifteen acres for cattle, roads, and a massive storage house.

"By the way, do you have a gun?" I asked.

"Sure, do you want to shoot?"

"Of course," I answered. We missed every single shot!

"Eight years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors gave me a year and a half. I traveled to the Manhattan Cancer society they said I had a four percent chance of making it. They threw everything at me; chemo, pills – you name it."

"Now let me tell you something, I talked to G‑d a lot at that time. Me and G‑d are very close! So why should I put on Tefillin?

I felt bad that we would not be able to share this special mitzvah with such a nice man.

"I grew up in a religious family in New York. Our immediate family was not as observant as the extended family who were Chasidim. To them we were not Jewish enough. I don't know Yiddish too well, but I understood exactly what they ware saying. Or rather, I felt what they were saying. Deeply. Very deep. My mother wanted an Orthodox funeral. I gave it to her but I didn't invite them."

I saw pain in his eyes.

"There is a wall in between us. I don't know them now, and I don't want to know them. But you guys are different. I feel like I want to put on Tefillin!" He went ahead and put on Tefillin for the first time in forty-five years.

Every year, on top of his lonely mountain, Joel lights Chanukah candles and fasts on Yom Kippur. He never eats pork. "I don't know what it tastes like," he told us.

The hours flew by, and it was getting late. We left him a mezuzah and said our goodbyes. He promised to visit us next time he comes to New York.

I was deeply inspired by him. I never met such a kind person. He made us feel as if he loves driving his tractor and that shlepping us out of the ditch made his day.

We drove down the driveway very carefully. Suddenly we realized that a tire is flat. In middle of NOWHERE!!! Actually in middle of somewhere, right next to Joel - the professional engineer.

Fifteen minutes later, Joel had our tire replaced and we were back on the road. (Sorry there are no pictures; I wasn't in that kind of mood.)

I can still hear Joel crying, "Mendel, stay out of trouble!"

This was the most memorable day of my trip. Perhaps of my entire life.