Life

One New Man

Saturday, March 10, 2012
Haifa, Israel

Greetings from Haifa, Israel! I arrived little over twelve hours ago and if my first half day is anything to go by, this trip has the potential to blow my mind…into a completely new dimension.

I am safe. I had no complications with my travels. No issues with customs. Though some pre-trip instruction I received made me nervous, I realized last night at dinner that I take my safety, freedom of speech and freedom to practice my choice of religion for granted. I’m not clear on how much I attribute to both my faith that God will provide for all my needs and my clear understanding of my constitutional rights in the United States. But last night it was made clear that some people don’t even have the comfort of STATING that they were “going to Israel,” let alone sharing that they were “going to study the Bible in Israel.”

One man from Malaysia shared with the group last night that this was his second “illegal” trip to Israel. Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country that allows its’ citizens to travel to any country in the world…EXCEPT Israel. He used to work for his government and said a whisper of him even being “friendly” towards Israel would ruin any hopes of returning to governmental office.

A nineteen year old boy shared with the group that he is a fourth generation Christian of a family that went against Imperialist Japanese government in the 1920’s to follow the teachings of Juji Nakada, organizer of the Oriental Missionary Society. Nakada’s evangelistic church was divided a number of years after he started it, when he announced a new revelation from the Lord: Jesus would come again only after Israel was restored. {Note this was before Israel became a recognized nation-state.} Many of his followers felt Nakada was tying their own individual salvation to the Jews and branched off into another denomination. The young man’s great-grandfather followed the teachings of Nakada. This young man said that his family has been praying for Israel for four generations…and now he was in Israel to pray for it in person.

What power there is in sharing one’s testimony!

Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “May you have peace.”  For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem.  ~ Psalm 122:6-9

I was already familiar with this story, but it doesn’t diminish the strength of it. The husband of a couple from New York City was the first to stand and share a portion of his story. I was awed when I first heard it over coffee after church a few weeks ago, but hearing it in the context of the other stories made it part of a world tapestry of faith for me. The husband is from Germany and his wife is a Polish Jew whose grandparents were survivors of the holocaust. They met one another in New York City and married four years ago. They attended church together and came to Christ together. He said their combined histories and their story is one of restoration. It spoke clearly to him of us all being one new man in Christ.

Yes, I’ve taken a lot for granted simply due to the time and location of my birth. Though I know I too have a powerful story – one of overcoming by faith – I am both awed and humbled by the evidence of faith exhibited by people from all over the world who have chosen to actively believe the same God I believe. Who he chosen to actively follow the same Jesus I follow. Yet their daily cross appears far more burdensome than mine. I wondered last night, “What do I stand to lose for my belief?”

Perhaps, I’ve already lost everything and count it as nothing for all that God has blessed me with in knowledge, joy, peace and understanding. He is with me and though I stand, walk, sleep and wake up alone every day, there is no one and nothing I would trade my Lord for.

Safe for Now

The native Israeli guide who collected us from the airport in Tel Aviv shared on the ride to Haifa that “you are safe – for now. There is no war in Israel – today. But from my experience, seeing all that is going on,
Israel will be at war within the next two to three months.”

I replied, “So, we came at a good time.” He nodded.

One of the founders of the program I am participating in said at dinner last night that he and his wife (he’s Caucasian American and she’s Jewish) came to Haifa during the Gulf War. At the start of their ministry-building they were walking around in gas masks daily. He too expressed a view of impending war and said, “What must God have in store for you all to bring you to Israel at such a time as this!”

Indeed!

The other founder (he and his wife are both American-born Israeli citizens, he of Japanese ancestry and she is Jewish) shared that our group of 92 eager to learn Christians arrived from about eight countries and that didn’t include transnationals. For example, in my small New York City group of four we have two Americans (me, black by ethnicity and the other of Polish Jewish ancestry), a German and a Brazilian. Other American groups came from Washington state and California. I sat with a group from Singapore at dinner. My roommate came from Indonesia. The Brazilian New Yorker’s roommate came from Australia. And I’ve already mentioned delegates from Japan and Malaysia.

I’m not impressed by much in life, but I am impressed by this eager desire to know more about Jesus Christ’s Israel and to learn about the people God set apart for His purposes before time began. Being part of a contingent of people from all over the world who chose to journey to Israel – was a true journey for many (flights ranging from 10-15 hours, plus half day delays – my roommates’ group flew into Ammon, Jordan and had to drive two hours to get to Israel by land; the Australian traveled for so long she lost count of the hours.  All this to say that some people endured hardship to get here. Many risk persecution when they return home. But we all feel extremely blessed to have taken the opportunity to show up for Israel… and whatever God has in store for us.

This is that secret: that through the Good News those who are not Jews will share with the Jews in God’s blessing. They belong to the same body, and they share together in the promise that God made in Christ Jesus.  ~ Ephesians 3:6

Blessings to all! Remember to do all you can in faith and God will take you the rest of the way on your journey with Him.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.  ~ 128:26

Give thanks to the Lord for His mercies endure forever!

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