Thursday, August 18, 2011

To America We Go

We’re sitting in the airport now, waiting to check in (we got here very early to make sure we got through security in time, but we can’t even check in for another hour). Perfect opportunity to write the last (I suppose) blog post.

It usually takes me a long time to process things, whatever it even means to “process” something. This time, however, I’ve been forcing myself to try to make an attempt at this processing while I’m still here in Israel (all so that I can write a blog post!). 

This has been such an interesting trip, different from any I’ve ever been on before. On past trips, all my time was scheduled and planned, we had things to do and people to see/talk to every minute of every day. Opportunities for sharing were handed to us, and that, I believe, is the real reason why so many people like going on “mission trips.” It’s easy. You’re on a trip with a set-in-stone mission. 

It’s not real life.

 It’s just, “Here’s a person you can talk to and then never see again. Recite all the things you know about your faith.” I’m not saying everyone has this view, or that every mission trip is like this, or even that this is necessarily a bad thing. However, after truly living here (if only for a month and a half), I’ve realized how different going on a “mission trip” is from living a life of overseas missions. I worry that too many people think they are one and the same. “Oh, I loved going to China/Africa/Brazil for two weeks…It changed my life…I want to live there and be a missionary there someday…etc, etc, etc.”  

It’s really not the same.

I regret not realizing this earlier on. I regret not spending more time at the coffee shops (don’t laugh…), where I could have met more people and talked to them. In our efforts to save our own money, I think we passed up many an opportunity to simply live the Israeli life and, in the midst of that, share Christ. Instead, we spent the majority of our evenings watching movies. Not that this is a bad thing; fellowship with believers is good, and necessary. Time by myself was good, and necessary. But it still wasn’t the main reason we came, and I feel like I may have made it my main reason.

HOWEVER. Our time was most certainly not wasted here. We were able to greatly help a ministry that can reach locals so much better than I can. I kind of wish our “mission trips” did more of that, and less of us acting like we know the best way to reach a culture other than our own… just a thought. Even just in learning about what their ministry does, I learned that the Arab culture is SO much different from what I thought, and, if left to my own devices, I probably would have done a horrible job trying to reach them myself. So I’m very thankful for our sort of “behind the scenes” approach.

 I don’t always have to be the one planting/watering seeds. My attempts here would have fallen on rocks and thorny soil. But, if I can help a sower that knows where to throw the seeds so that they land in the fertile soil, let me please do that! 

I’m so glad we got to both see how this culture lives, and also help JEO reach this culture (their own culture). I know we can continue to help them even from America. And I know I want to come back and help in person (sooner rather than later)! 

We are both so grateful for everyone’s continued intercession for us. YOUR work was not in vain, and did not go unnoticed. 

We’re going to get in line to check in soon…we’re on our way! 


Wednesday, August 10, 2011


This past weekend, Alyssa, Nate (our fellow volunteer) and I borrowed a car and went on a roadtrip throughout Israel! Friday, Nate and I planned our excursion and figured out directions on how to get to each place. We planned to go first to Tiberius and see the Sea of Galilee, then head up to Capernaum, then across the country to Caesarea and the Mediterranean. Saturday morning I woke up around 7am, did my hair and got all our beach stuff together. I made hummus, turkey and cheese sandwiches for us to eat and packed them up in plastic grocery bags (since we don't have ziplocks or plastic wrap). I've discovered a very successful way of using them in place of those things, though! We set out on our journey around 9am, with our backpacks and snacks and headed to the parking lot a couple blocks over. 

We got in the car, then realized that one of the roads we were planning to take was closed because of I, with my excellent navigation skills, suggested another route, which ended up being much more straightforward than the original one! Shabbat ended up being the perfect day to go, because there was hardly any traffic. So we were off, headed to Tiberius. After about two hours, we saw signs for Nazareth, so we detoured and drove through there a bit; we didn't get out, but saw the city, and decided it seemed like a decent place for Jesus to spend His childhood. Then we headed to Tiberius, drove through the city a bit, which looked strikingly like downtown St. Pete (Beach Drive area)! We found a place to park close to the Sea of Galilee and then went down to the rocky shore. I love rocky shores.

We didn't swim there, just climbed on the rocks. Then we ate our sandwiches and some Doritos we had found at the market the day before, and, of course, Twizzlers! Then, we set out again on the road which supposedly leads around the sea of Galilee, to go to Capernaum. However, after driving on that road for about an hour, we assumed we missed it and turned around (I think it was actually just farther than we were expecting...). So we decided to go ahead to Caesarea. But, on the way, my "excellent navigation skills" turned sour, and I directed us in the wrong direction, which led us to Haifa (upon seeing signs for it throughout the whole trip, we determined that Haifa was "everywhere;" everywhere we went, Haifa was also that way). Eventually we decided we should just find somewhere that has internet so we can look up where we are and how to get where we're going. At one point, we said we should just go where the Spirit leads us, and immediately after that I noticed a sign pointing to Aroma (Israel's version of Starbucks) surprise there. But we also almost immediately saw signs for the road we had been looking for, so we followed those. Then I suggested a wrong turn again, and we found the Mediterranean, just in Haifa, not Casesarea. So we got out of the car and checked it out - it had really course, dark sand - so different from Florida beaches! Haifa seemed like a really cool had big huge mountains, but it was also right on the coast! So we backtracked back to where I misled us, and followed the signs again, finally heading in the right direction. When we got to Caesarea, we headed straight for the beach, and saw a huge Roman aqueduct. So, like the rocks in Galilee, we climbed it!

It runs parallel to the beach. The sand there was more like Florida sand. Then we went on the beach itself and swam in the sea, etc. The water had a lot more waves than the gulf, and it was really clear! Then we went back up on the aqueduct and jumped around in some sand dunes. Then we drove over to the main ruins of Caesarea and, again, climbed all over those! I took an art history class last semester on Greco-Roman art, so it was really interesting to see a lot of the things I had learned about. None of the ruins were off limits. There were people having picnics and little kids running around all over the ruins, and they still use the ampitheater for outdoor concerts! That would have been really cool to see. There were big columns, arches, marble baths, mosaic floors, all sorts of things. 

It was also right on the beach, so that's where we watched the sunset - it was right in front of us, and one of the most beautiful ever!

After that, we left (this is when I took over driving the car) and headed towards Tel Aviv (because that's how we would get to the road back to Jerusalem) and saw a McDonald's sign on the way, so we attempted to find it; instead we found a big mall, so we ate pizza in the food court instead of McDonald's. Olives and cheese on half, Pepperoni (real, thick pepperoni), onions and cheese on the other half. Then we got watermelon sherbert popsicles on the way out. These are Alyssa's and my new favorite treat. Then we started to head home - we went through Tel Aviv, which has things lit up everywhere. Buildings had lights all around them, even the overpasses had LED lights (like rope lights) on them! Finally, after about an hour, or hour and a half, we started seeing signs for Jerusalem, and made it back home without even looking at the directions I wrote. It felt great to have our own little car and just go wherever we wanted to. It was undoubtedly the best trip we've taken so far!

In other news, we leave a week from tomorrow and will arrive back in Tampa on Friday the 19th around 9am! We are both so excited to see everyone again, and we're so so so so so thankful for all your continued prayers. And don't worry, we'll still have at least one more post before we leave. ;)


Sunday, July 31, 2011

...Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

since I haven't yet written a post on my own, Olivia suggested I do so. I'm not sure i have much to say, at least maybe not directly pertaining to Israel and the time we've had here, but I think I do have much to say ( warned about the length of this post) about the TIMING of being here and the God Who wisely and sovereignly orchestrated it. as most of you know, my brother(-in-law) was called home a month and about 5 days ago, and we left a little over a week after it. i've mulled over this decision many times, wondering if this was right, if it really was the best decision, and the nights where i feel most grief I think maybe not. but its a very good thing that my feelings don't dictate truth and they don't always even indicate it. God dictates truth. so while I often feel maybe it would be nice to be home, I know that this was the will of God for me to be here, because it happened and God is sovereign, so nothing I do can happen unless He says it can happen (maybe you missed it, in Job 1:6-12, but God tells Satan to test Job and then He gives the permission for it to happen. if God has power even over the actions of His enemy, why would we think any differently about His sovereignty over ours?). now, in my room in israel, i'm thinking over the past few weeks so far. they've been filled with much exploring, cleaning, organizing, cd-making, book-selling...and falafel. we've had little opportunity (well, there's people everywhere so i don't know if i can really say that) to share the Gospel, though we have been aiding in the ministry's sharing of the Gospel.

however, in this time, with the lack of speaking the Gospel to others, I think I have fallen into the habit of also lacking in speaking it to myself. i can't lie, my heart lately has felt burdened and tired, like maybe this faith in me is not true after all or maybe my initial joy and peace really was (as i've feared people thinking when they find out my hurting) just me not accepting the facts that one i love very very dearly and looked up to so much would no longer be available for conversation, advice, Bible-interpretation, laughs, brotherly love and companionship, or more importantly, headship for my sister. and yes, that does hurt...however! he has attained the goal for which he was running- the salvation of his soul- and those of us still here, though now for a little while are grieved by this and other various trials, which test the genuineness of our faith in order to bring praise, glory, and honor to God at the revelation of Jesus Christ, rejoice in the future hope of our departure to be with Christ as well. in this time and the many times to follow, may i never forget the atoning blood that flows out of even deeper pain, but equal sovereignty. This blood that redeemed my life, that bought Jacob his innocent verdict and a warm welcome as he stood before our Creator and Judge. May i never forget Your goodness and worth! There is much pain in the night, but joy comes in the LORD, not just the morning!

I was talking, well...typing, with my sister the other day (yes, she's as encouraging, or even more so, in private conversation as she is in public) and talking about how wise God is, how foolish we are...thinking so often that Jake's death disrupted our plans for our future, when they were just that- our plans. not God's. His plans remain firmly in place and have been since the beginning of time. and though we think now the future is so silly! for when did we ever know our future? we know as much now as we did before, its just that the plans of our heart had different circumstances to work with at the time. but these have been God's plans from the beginning, and they are GOOD! may our faith be found genuine, our trust be found in Christ! by grace alone can we continue to stand in our great weakness!

I feel much more acquainted with this weakness lately. much more than I'd like to...but i think that is a great lesson from this- my weakness, my utter helplessness without His power and grace and joy and peace. i've taken to forgetting recently that Philippians 4 says that while im making my prayer and supplication in everything, I am also commanded to come with thanksgiving! thanksgiving? you may ask. thanksgiving! for what?..for isaiah 55:8-9. for Philippians 2:13. for Ephesians 1:13-14. for genesis 1:1. for john 19:30. for everything God is, does, says, wills. there, in fact, is nothing that we shouldn't thank God for! romans 8:28, ALL things He works together for our good. just the good and happy things? nope. I don't see that anywhere in the Bible. in fact, I see "all things", which, im sure if you look in the greek, look at the context and cross-references, they will all come to one conclusion: ALL things. everything. happy and heart-wrenching alike. do you doubt this? sometimes my actions confirm that I doubt. then the Holy Spirit confirms that its sin with conviction. and in that time, i must seek His face and heart and will in repentance, submission, and rejoicing, thanking Him that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways and thoughts higher than mine and that, because He is perfect in wisdom and power, He doesn't allow my faulty plans to happen. when i doubt, i'm doubting not only the Holy Bible, but also the Holy God Who wrote it. Job 2:10- "shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" Job 1:21- "the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord." is that always a natural reaction? heck no. does that make it any less required? well, did "i'm only human" ever save someone from hell the day they stood before the Lord our Righteousness in judgement? assuredly, no! "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

so...while I am still in mourning, I am being taught (in a more concentrated manner, as we are always being taught this) to be in a time of constant rejoicing and contentment in Christ. when Jake was born, Who ordained it? when Jake met and married my sister and became a part of my family, Who brought it together? when Jake died, Who ordered it to be so? God. He is always on the throne in Heaven, may He be always on the throne in my heart, soul, mind and strength! oh how i've been learning the dissatisfaction of this world and the value of Christ! though i've been feeling home-sick, i've been wanting to be with my family, my sister, my friends, my church...even more than that He's creating in me a Home-sickness that is centered around His Heaven, my true Home, His presence forever! oh how psalm 73:25 has become my cry! though perhaps I do not feel as close to my Creator, my Sustainer, my Salvation, my Comforter, my Joy and my Strength, as I would like to and as most people seem to in grief, I know His character, I know His Word, and I know that both of those confirm that He is here, He is working, He is healing and He is sanctifying- all of which are very very pleasant, but often painful...but still pleasant because we know the end result- 1 John 3:2-3, which tells us we shall be made like Him for we shall see Him as He is. so the end result? glorification, conformation to the image of the Son! no more sin. no more desire to sin. no more flesh. Christ. to die is gain!!! "my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better"!

"He can do all things and no purpose of His can be stopped. He is our God. And because He is our God even when we don't have our questions answered, even when we don't know the purpose, we can have hope and we can have rest and we can even have joy because He is Who He is and we belong to the heart of it is knowing Who God is and knowing Who is God. He is God and because He is God, that is enough."

my mind knows much truth, and I must continue to tell myself these Truths and "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Him" in order that my faulty flesh will follow my corrected thoughts and knowledge. please pray that I would not allow my feelings to dictate my feelings, but that truth would dictate my feelings!

anyways...back to the actual events of Israel....God is wise. He is moving. He will not yield His glory to another. He is sovereign over salvation. He will not yield His glory to another. His plans are right, good, exciting. He's perfect, atoning, alive. He is Messiah, His Word incorruptible, His body unable to be contained in the grave. His Kingdom advancing. His Gospel proclaiming. His plans succeeding. He will not yield His glory to another.

“Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!...Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."


Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Soul At Rest

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil.4:6-7)

The word for "peace" here describes "the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is," and also alludes to the Jewish way of "leavetaking," in which one wishes the other peace in departing; however, in this case, God does not simply "wish" peace for us, He GIVES peace through Christ. 
This peaces is what guards my heart and my mind. The word for "guard" describes a sense of protecting by holding one close. 

When I let my requests be made known to God with a still thankful heart, the promise of a soul at rest will wrap itself around my mind and guard it from conjuring up anxious thoughts.

I am so thankful for this because "there is no grace for your imagination (Elizabeth Elliot)." That is so evident in our anxious thoughts, worries, and fears.  Those thoughts are not covered in grace, and they are dangerous. Praise be to Him who is able to guard our minds!

Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you (Psa.116:7).

The word for "rest" here describes rest, or security, for a woman (also in Ruth 3:1, describing security in marriage). I can rest in His sovereign hand, by His peace that guards.

God is not a man, that He should lie (Num.23:19).

"Lie" = to break one's fidelity
The LORD is faithful and His promises are true. 


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Destruction and Restoration

Today, the 17th of Tammuz, marks the start of the Jewish fast/mourning period called Tisha B'Av. During the next three weeks, Jews will mourn the destruction of the temple yet look forward to its restoration. Today, the first day of Tisha B'Av, commemorates multiple tragic happenings in Israel. This is the day that Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments, and broke them into pieces when he saw the Israelites worshipping the golden calf. This event is found in Exodus 32:

1Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."... 7 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves8 They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’”...19 It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it.... 25 Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies— 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. 27 He said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’” 28 So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.”

Notice in verse 20, the scripture says Moses made the Israelites drink their golden calf. What a picture of the poison that is our sin and idolatry! Then, the sin was punished. In verse 28 we see that "about 3,000 men of the people fell that day." 

Today, on the 17th of Tammuz, let us be thankful for the Messiah's death and resurrection, which canceled our debt! Let us pray that the Jews would see Yeshua as the true Messiah, and know that their body is the temple of God! After reading Exodus 32, there is so much hope in Acts 2:

22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles andwonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands ofgodless men and put Him to death. 24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power....36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesuswhom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 

Three thousand souls. What was lost in Exodus 32 was redeemed through Christ in Acts 2! The Israelites drank the golden calf, and "only Christ's pure blood can flush the poison out!" 

This is one of my favorite songs, and it fits so perfectly with today's fast. 

For more information about Tisha B'Av and the three weeks of fasting/mourning, click HERE.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Shabbat Shalom, Everybody!

     Every week, from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown, is Shabbat (Sabbath). Everything shuts down here; no stores, no buses, no cars on the road, no food unless you think ahead and buy groceries (we've already learned that lesson!). 
This past Saturday, however, the streets were not empty. Rather, they were filled with people. Ultra-Orthodox Jews crowded the street on which we live and the intersection next to us. Alyssa and I had gone out to take advantage of the empty streets and take pictures without looking like tourists...we turned a corner to head back home and heard shouting and saw a huge mass of people, right where we were going! It turns out the Ultra-Orthodox Jews were upset that a certain parking lot was open on Shabbat (apparently they've protested it before, but yesterday marked the second year it had been open), and they were attempting to block the streets surrounding it. 

     Of course, we got as close to the action as we could. Police herded people while on horses, IDF soldiers patrolled the area,

 children watched the scene,

 one man blew bubbles, and an old man came walking up the road saying, "Well, Shabbat Shalom, everybody! Shabbat Shalom!" 
Yes, shalom, indeed. 

Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." Mark 2:27 

In other news, we painted faces at a school day camp this week. We painted a lot of hearts and flowers, some spidermen and robots, many of the girls wanted "makeup" to look like Alyssa's famous eyeliner, one boy wanted to look like Spongebob, and another boy came up to me wearing a Fez and said, "Give me a mustache to match my hat! And a unibrow!" Although it was a simple design, it was probably my favorite of the day: 

Later on, we saw him riding away on his bike, still sporting the hat and 'stache. :)

I'm loving it here. Tomorrow we will be working in a bookstore in the Old City and Tuesday we'll start running it by ourselves for the rest of the week while the other workers are at a conference...please continue to keep us in prayer!! :) Thank you so much for your continued intercession. We greatly greatly greatly appreciate it!

Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints. Romans 15:30-31


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hello from Israel!

As we're finishing up our hummus and bread in our kitchen, we don't really know what to here are just a few updates so far!

On Friday we took a trip outside of Israel, to help with one of the ministries of JEO that brings food to needy people (they have a list of people they regularly visit). 

At each house, we were invited inside to enjoy some (lava hot) Arabic tea and coffee. It was difficult to really have conversations with them, because of the language barrier, but we did have a little translation. From what almost everyone said, I'm sure there are many, many more people there that could have greatly benefited from one of the bags of food we brought. We learned that it is very hard for these people to find jobs, because they are not allowed to work in Israel. This is just one of many problems, especially for the believers there. We met a believer there whose husband, when he found out she was a Christian, stopped bringing food home to his family, among other acts of disapproval.  Let us not become so politically tied up in the way things are in this area, that we become emotionally and spiritually detached and desensitized to the individual people who are living there! 

Friday night, we attempted to meet up with Alyssa's friend who happens to be in Jerusalem. We were supposed to meet in the Old City, but instead of meeting our friend, we simply walked in circles in the Old City for about an hour (keep in mind, the Old City is only a third of a square mile; and we were supposed to meet at a main landmark...). When we finally got there, our friend was already gone...but we at least got a nice little walking tour of the city...

Saturday, we finally did meet up, and proceeded to spend about 6 hours non-stop and from the Old City, and then within it. That night, we looked up bus routes and how to acquire bus passes!

Today, while walking to the bus station to buy our passes, we passed a big street market. Of course, we went there on the way back! The market was filled with fruits, vegetables, spices (such a cool thing to see!), nuts, olives, meats, breads, and one of Olivia's new favorite sweets: HALVA. She got very confused later at the frozen yogurt shop, and ended up with halva and mango frozen yogurt....  We've decided we need to learn Hebrew and/or Arabic...

I can now confidently say that we pretty much know our way least around the places we'll go most often. And, because of our (frequent) wrong turns, we've figured out a few shortcuts! We're going to start our work officially tomorrow, so I'm sure we'll have more stories soon! Thank you for your continued prayers :)

- Olivia and Alyssa