Sunday, June 30, 2013

Expatriates - Part Seven: A Family Following in Christ’s Footsteps

Joseph Herrin (06-30-2013)

Some weeks back it was my privilege to receive a visit from a young family who exemplifies the life of the sojourner upon the earth. Tom and Rachel, along with their young daughter Sela, were returning home to the upper midwest after spending some time in Florida. Since I am in Georgia, it was not far out of their way to stop by and visit. We had an enjoyable, albeit brief, time of fellowship, and they were off to continue their journey following the Spirit of Yahshua.

Tom is trained as a chiropractor and could be pursuing a comfortable career path in the United States. Instead, he has surrendered to follow Christ wherever He would lead, and to do whatever his Abba Father asks him to do. Rachel is similarly committed to living a life of surrender to the Spirit. It is a blessing that they began their union together as man and wife with a firm commitment to walk according to the Spirit, rather than pursuing a course of material accumulation that is so typical among professing Christians today.

The path the Father has led this young family down has been much more humble than that which they could have elected to pursue. It has been fraught with many perils, trials, and experiences where they have depended upon Yahweh to guide, empower, provide, and deliver them. Though they have been walking together in this journey for a brief period of five years, their testimony of Yahweh’s faithfulness, and their examples of divine intervention, are already plentiful. I believe those who read their account will be both challenged and encouraged. I invited Tom to write up an account of his experiences. Here is the account he has set forth.

Five Years Ago

We are strangers and sojourners on this earth, but not traveling without a purpose. In the natural, the life that we have lived the past five years has been one that does not make full sense. We've been poor, yet rich; in sorrows, yet rejoicing; enduring trials while achieving triumphs. The world, and sadly, other Christians, often look at us and seek to correct us and the way of life we have been called to as if we somehow didn't understand and missed the obvious. The choice was there for us to go the way of worldly standards and expectations. Both my wife and I made a decision to walk the straight and narrow, not being mindful of what man thinks.

It wasn't easy and both of us have experienced great persecution and suffering from family and close friends. This fiery trial during our most formative years often left us standing alone upon our convictions. It was here that we discovered great solace in the outstretched arms of the One who knew us before the foundations of the world. He also knew the depth of isolation that testing can bring. There isn't any doubt in our minds that His hand was guiding our path and directing our steps, both as individuals, and now as a couple.

Shortly before we were married, the Spirit began to move in our hearts preparing us for great transition. Central America had been brought to each of our minds as a place that Yahweh was prompting us to go. It wasn't a prompting that we both had at the same time, but rather one that was gradual and without influence from others. This gave us the confidence and confirmation needed since we would soon be married and the usual questions of where to locate, what to do, etc., were being tossed about. It was important that we would be agreed upon this path prior to walking it together.

Soon after Yahweh confirmed our course, we were married. Due to the many life changes resulting from being newly married and anticipating moving to a new country, it was our desire to wait a year before having any children. We quickly found out that Yahweh deals in specifics not generalities. Three months into our marriage we discovered we were expecting and, almost as if to prove a point, our daughter was born the week of our anniversary.

We originally found out that we were expecting about seven weeks prior to leaving for Central America. We were caught off guard with the news and found ourselves scrambling to acquire items that would be needed for a newborn since they were not on our packing list. This wasn't a little deal at the time as we quickly realized that this would be the third major life changing event we would be facing in the upcoming year. A combination of marriage, first child, and adapting to life in a third world country appeared daunting at times, but Abba is good. Throughout these days He gave us the peace needed as we prepared.

Central America Part 1

Heading to Central America our minds were filled with many different thoughts and plans of what to expect and how we would benefit from our time there. We didn't realize it in the beginning, but our path was going to be changed from one of walking by our own understanding to one that is directed primarily by His purpose and intent. Our initial plan was to relocate for an indeterminate length of time, to establish ourselves in third world life, and to pursue opportunities for income. We also desired to serve, and anticipated getting involved with local ministry in some capacity. To us this seemed a rational and normal plan, since we would soon be a young family.

Through many circumstances Yahweh began to show us that He didn't want us getting comfortable with a routine life, nor did He want us to establish and focus on business. Culture shock, language barriers, and challenges with building honest relationships and business dealings, all began to bring stress to our lives. Yahweh had begun to draw His sharp knife across the strings of our hearts desires. Several attempts at business opportunities, and some potential investments going sour, quickly began to drain the little money we did have with us.

To further challenge us we were given a test in connection with a local family. We often found ourselves spending money to help them buy food, clothes and books for their kids schooling since they seemed to always be in a financial crisis. It didn't take too much wisdom to realize that this situation was an unending money pit and sure to drain us. Yet the Holy Spirit would often prick our hearts to continue giving them help as they had need. We were able to share with them spiritually during this time and in particular the wife really held onto what we were sharing. We could see her heart opening and being drawn closer to the Savior and she always watched in amazement as we would be there to help in times of need.

Time moved quickly and we soon found ourselves at the three month point. It is a time when many who live in a third world country will “make it or break it,” and head for home. We had faced a number of significant trials up to this point and now the added stresses of managing a pregnancy in third world conditions were beginning to increase the mental and emotional strain. We found ourselves in a quandary since we didn't feel led to pack up and move back to the States, but we also weren't being given a clear direction and understanding of where our path was leading. It was a difficult place to be in, and one that we weren't familiar with.

To increase the pressure, one of the couples that we were house sitting with decided to return to the States for good, and the house we were staying in was to be reoccupied by the original family that had asked us to house sit. In a nutshell this meant that our expenses would soon be going up as our finances and business opportunities continued down. Our finances were low. In fact we were down to less then $100 dollars in hand. Not a very peaceful position to be in, considering our situation.

We had been praying and crying out for some time. It was at this point that we were released to look for tickets back to the States. We were stirred in our hearts that this would be a time to regroup, help my family on their farm with the harvest, and then we would return back for the long haul, but in a new dwelling place. We searched and found a budget airline that had very cheap tickets back to the States and added them to the credit card total.

We were carrying a balance on our card prior to coming down and though we weren't specifically instructed to pay off the balance I would later wonder if we had used our cash to pay off the credit card prior to coming down whether this lesson would have to be learned so dramatically. Instead we found ourselves with enough money to buy bus tickets to the airport, pay for a taxi, and have roughly about forty dollars left. We figured we would use that for food on the trip home, but, since we didn't counsel with Yahweh about our idea, we didn't realize He had another plan.

A few days later, a friend of the local family that we had been helping stopped by and asked if we would be able to buy them a phone card since they were out of minutes. Of course our hearts and minds screamed out NO Way, but the Spirit prompted otherwise. We knew it was a test so we used twenty dollars to buy a phone card for this individual. We now had a week to go before heading back to the States and we were pretty much without any money at this point.

Because our faith hadn't reached the level necessary to trust Yah completely, I made a desperate move. This became the only time that I ever asked to borrow money from someone. We needed to find a new place to live upon returning and time was running out so I sent off the email. We then looked at several places. On our way back my wife wanted to show me one more place that she had previously seen without me. Upon seeing the house I knew it was the one. Though it was too big for just the two (soon to be three) of us, I had a Word given to me. “Rent this house and use it for gatherings to worship, and for housing others who would be coming down to look around for relocating here.

We told the landlady that we were very interested, but she was asking more than we wanted to pay. She told us she had several others looking at the house. We told her to please consider us and we would call her the next day. The next day didn't produce any response from my email and with time running out we decided to call the landlady and see if she would rent us the house and be willing to wait for payment until we returned. We went to visit her and felt that we should take her to lunch. She agreed. We used the time to tell her more about us, our reason for being down there, and possible future plans. She thanked us for the lunch and again mentioned another couple that was very interested in the house and that they were ready to give her the money for it. As we parted she said that she would think about it and let us know.

That night another check of email didn't reveal any response with regard to money. We did receive a call from the landlady though and she asked to meet us the next day. I felt at this point that I had to come clean on our financial situation. Again I asked her if she would be willing to wait for the money. She told us no and that she would need the money now and would most likely go ahead and rent to the other couple. We felt deflated and tried to encourage each other with the thought that we would find something when we returned. After all, we were leaving in two days. What more could we do?

Our prayers seemed to go unnoticed and we couldn't really understand the whole situation, but we were committed to wait upon His ways. Before going to bed again that night I did one more check on emails and this time there was a response. The way the day had gone for us I was expecting the worst. I was still looking at things using my own logic and understanding, however our faith was to receive a much needed boost that night. It became a turning point in our hearts with regard to the miracles of Yah. I read the email and was quite shocked and delighted to see that not only was my wonderful sister going to loan us money, but she had already found a way to deposit it into my account in the States. We rejoiced and gave thanks to the Almighty One that night as we lay in bed. We cried tears of joy, but also of repentance for our failing to trust in His Word, His promises, and His character.

All of this time He was grabbing at our hearts and prompting us to let go of everything and just trust. His knife was cutting deeper and deeper. His cross was beginning its work. His path was slowly being uncovered before us. Our eyes were being opened to His ways. The next day we were packing and getting ready to leave, having made arrangements to keep our stuff where we were staying until our return, when we received a phone call from the landlady. She told us that she really wanted to rent the house to us and not the other couple, but she would need half of the money and then she would hold the house for us until we returned. With great enthusiasm I told her that we would be able to do that and so the house became ours.

Central America Part 2

Coming back from the States began our second foray to Central America. We had less then two months to go with the pregnancy and getting a little nest ready was our focus. As usual Abba had other thoughts and plans for us. Upon moving into the house we had secured in Central America, we ended up renting two of the four bedrooms to people we knew that came down from the States on a semi-permanent basis. It was good to have the company, but also tense at times since we were a relatively newly married couple and preparing for our first baby. The trials and tests we were now facing seemed to deal mostly with interpersonal relationships and spiritual warfare.

It was quite a challenge at times but in the end our personal relationship with our Heavenly Father grew sweet and deep. The life of Christ was manifest as we saw how forgiveness and blessings need to fill our hearts rather then anger and irritation. We learned to deal with little idiosyncrasies, while discovering how judgmental we could be toward other believers and people in general. We found ourselves entering into protective mode. Instead of letting the knife continue to cut us deeper, we pushed it towards others. When we realized that the fruit of the Holy Spirit was not maturing and coming to fruition, we sought the Almighty to grant us wisdom in the matter.

It came to mind we had received a word of direction when we rented this particular house. Now it was time to uphold our promise, regardless of our circumstances. Several weeks before giving birth, we had received a request from a man who wanted to come down and look around to see what was available. He was going to come with a friend. This man knew a friend of ours and inquired if it would be possible to stay with us. “Well, we may be having a baby, but come on down,” we told him. It turned out that the baby came a little late, so their visit was uninterrupted by the cries of a newborn. We had much on our minds at this point, obviously, but we did begin to open the house to meetings and gatherings as requested. It was small in the beginning, but grew over the next six months.

A week after our guests had left we had a six hour home birth to a beautiful, healthy, alert little girl. What a blessing entered our lives, but we weren't prepared for the lack of sleep. I'm sure we looked like dead people walking for the first month as our daughter just didn't like to sleep. Too many things to experience, I guess. She quit napping altogether at two years, so we could have seen it coming. It is at the times of greatest stress, or testing, that Yahweh likes to push us beyond what we think we are able to bear.

Several more families had contacted us about coming down to look around for places to stay. We couldn't say no since we agreed with Abba to do this when we rented the house. So a few weeks later we had eighteen people staying at the house for two weeks. It was a beautiful sight to see these bodies sprawled on any couch, chair, bed or even spaces on the floor that they could find each night. They didn't seem to mind the cries of our daughter, and we all grew to know a closeness that can only come from close quarter living. To have eighteen people, two dogs, and a newborn all together praising Yahweh and living the lives of selfless servants was such an incredible reward to our hearts and a testimony of Yeshua. Once again the fruit of the Holy Spirit was manifesting its sweetness.

These families soon moved on and located nearby. Thus began the times of sweet fellowship. Over time we experienced many wonderful gatherings and seasons of early morning prayer. Other families came and went, but the closeness we experienced, as well as the inspiration and revelation of Yahweh, still live on today. Many of the lessons we learned during those times of spiritual intimacy continue to be brought forward in clarity and understanding. It was a wonderful time that we dearly miss.

We all know that our ways are often not the same as His. Yahweh used our initial reasons for going to Central America to get us up and moving on our wilderness journey. We can look back and see His hand in all of it, moving us from our purpose to His, with the result of our faith growing and our understanding of what is important being clarified. We had already been downsizing in our life, but now we were beginning to realize that we could get by without much of what is available to most. We had to learn to trust in Him for all things on a daily basis, including fellowship and growth in our spiritual walk. The depth of the words written in proverbs began to come to life in new ways.

Pro 3:5 Trust in YHWH with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
Pro 3:6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Our learning to make our requests known to Him, crying out to Him for all needs, has given our faith a much needed dimension. Living on necessities rather then luxuries taught us to live day by day and to never question His desire for our good. There were many challenges, but everyone was in the same boat and we all learned to deal with adversity as He directed. We also began to see that many people in the world do have it better than people in the United States for the simple fact that they aren't burdened by so many things. We had become sojourners in this present world and had to learn to live light and stay mobile.

The Call to Israel

Nearly two years of living in Central America stripped us down and taught us how to press in and seek His face while looking to the author and perfecter of our faith. We had learned many lessons and had much revealed to us with regard to how much we could take without breaking mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. As we learned to take our eyes off of us and look upward in prayer, and most importantly, in praise, we were able to endure and strengthen much in the way of our resolve to endure faithfully to the end.

It was at this point that we had our highest and lowest moments occur in the same day. As is often the case, when great victory is acquired, the adversary is quick to attempt to steal, kill or destroy. This was to be a pattern that we became familiar with over the next few years, yet we have learned how to defuse these attempts by the enemy of our souls, most of the time. I won't mention the low point, but the high point was getting an invitation to go to Israel for an extended period of time to serve alongside an established christian kibbutz. We were invited by some dear friends of ours, who had been bringing groups of people over to this kibbutz in Israel, to not only experience the Land of Israel, but also to learn about community living while blessing the people of the kibbutz and the people of Israel by serving wherever they needed help.

Our friends wanted to start a pilot project of having others come and stay longer than the normal allotted time for such groups in the past. If it could work out to be beneficial to all involved then perhaps this would develop into a more permanent position for us. Our friends wanted us to be there to see how the dynamics and logistics would work out since we were not going to be joined to the kibbutz, but rather helping them from the outside in. If successful, then it would be expanded for others to join us and we would oversee their interaction with the kibbutz. Our hearts jumped for joy at this opportunity since we both have loved our previous times in Israel and really desired to go back. If it worked out that we would be able to spend the rest of our lives in Israel, or at least until Messiah returned, it would be a dream come true for both of us.

By this time our finances were really dwindling again since we didn't have opportunities to make income. Prior to the phone call from our friends we were not sure what lay before us since it was soon going to be financially impossible for us to stay much longer in Central America. Our enthusiasm was dampened by the realization that, with our current financial situation, it would not be possible to buy tickets to Israel, let alone live there. We had to fly to the States first where we would then spend some brief time with family, but the costs of travel to the States would use up most of the cash we had left. On our knees we went. We lifted up our needs though we still didn't understand the ways of the All Sufficient One.

We did have a credit card, but it was still carrying a balance from the time of our wedding and it wouldn't have the credit limit available for buying tickets to Israel. We continued to pray. We also began to share our exciting opportunity with some of our close friends so they could pray with us though we never told them of our financial situation at the time. As we shared our opportunity with two of our dearest friends, one of them an older lady who doesn't have much in the material sense, but has much in the spiritual, who lives daily by faith, told us that she was led to pay our fee required by the group going to Israel. Another dear sister in the faith told us that she was led of the spirit to make it her priority to get us over to Israel. She told us that she was going to buy our tickets and wanted to know what dates to have the return on. I told her that the tickets should be one way only, as this was impressed in my spirit.

It is very unusual to purchase one way tickets when going to Israel since they are very strict about length of stay in that country and often check for return tickets upon arrival. We knew that we wouldn't have opportunities to make money while over there, so I wasn't sure how we would leave Israel when the time came. Nevertheless, we went ahead with purchasing one way tickets. Our friend that was so generous with us regarding tickets took us to the airport on the day we were to leave and handed us a handful of cash as we got out of the car, indicating to us that this was for our journey. It was a much needed boost to our finances at the most opportune time and we continue to pray bountiful blessings back upon her.

Our time in Israel was filled with wonderful examples of how faithful Yahweh is to provide even the smallest of items. With little money to buy our food, we kept our meals very basic. One day when the kibbutz moved us to an apartment that we were to occupy for the length of our stay, my wife was thinking that it would be nice to have some good butter. For some reason dairy is a very expensive item in Israel, so it was not an option for us. As we looked around our small apartment for the first time, my wife was taking inventory of what was there. To her great delight when she looked in the refrigerator she saw there was only one item in the entire refrigerator, a large square of sweet cream butter. We are embarrassed to say that it didn't last us very long.

The next day the couple who had invited us to be a part of this in the first place called us and said they were coming over and bringing dinner with them. Looking at the fresh Israeli food sitting on the table, a bottle of wine to share on the next Sabbath meal, some utensils for the kitchen, a few items for the cupboards and a new plastic tub to bathe our daughter in, we felt truly blessed. Our apartment was small and had only the very basic necessities since it was used occasionally by members of the kibbutz in case they had family staying at the hospital nearby. That night our friends shared more good news with us. They had decided that they were going to pay the rent of the apartment for us during our time there. This was a great relief to us since our finances weren't going to let us get past the first month considering the expense of buying food and paying utilities.

Abba began to open our eyes and we began to see many little miracles that in the past would have normally slipped past our eyes. One example was the time we began to teach our daughter potty training. There were stores nearby that offered small potty chairs, but they were cheaply made and rather expensive for what you would get. We really didn't have the luxury to just drop the money they wanted for it at the store, so we added it to our prayer request list. About a week later we decided to go for a walk after dinner and for some reason headed up a street that we had never walked on before. In Israel, people will set their trash out and if there is something that they don't want and it is still in working condition, they will often set it on the sidewalk beside the trash container. At the first house we came to we both glanced down and there staring up at us was a nice potty chair in rather good condition. It was a double blessing as the need for diapers decreased, which can be quite expensive as well.

Another example of Abba’s provision occurred later that week. As we were having an evening meal consisting of the usual lentils, vegetables, and rice, my wife mentioned that it sure would be nice to eat some pizza for a change. About 15 minutes later we had a knock on the door and my wife left to answer it. When she returned she was carrying something and had a funny grin on her face. I asked her what she had and she told me that the elderly German woman who occasionally stayed on the top floor, and who only spent one weekend a month in the building, decided to stop by to welcome us to the place. She told my wife that she wanted to bring us a housewarming gift, but all she had to give us was an extra pizza that she had made for dinner. It was a German style pizza with a strange combination of toppings. We laughed as we ate it and remembered to be very specific in our requests from now on.

After our first month of helping the kibbutz, I found myself mostly serving in the agricultural areas. It was hot, hard work, with long hours. I would often be gone from the apartment for twelve hours coming home exhausted. It was a test for me physically as well as learning how to serve under others who have a different language and culture. After a time I was called in to meet with the leaders. I didn't know what to expect and was very surprised at the outcome. Good reports had come in from those that I had been serving with, and the kibbutz wanted to reward me in some way. Since we weren't members of the community, they couldn't offer me the same as those who had sacrificed so much, but they decided to offer us a portion of the food that the community grew, plus the use of their vehicles, and a small monthly stipend to help buy things that they weren't able to provide us with. They also decided not to charge us for utilities and they were dropping the requirement of rent which our friends were paying.

It had been a challenge to serve anywhere, everywhere, and however people needed, so this was a blessing and great turn around in our situation. This wasn't going to allow us accumulate wealth, but it gave us some breathing room. Throughout this time we hadn't told anyone our financial situation including our close friends. Over the course of our stay there, we had numerous situations occur where people known and unknown to us gave us money. Some gave it to us directly as a result of a movement of the Spirit, others left it anonymously under our door mat or in an envelope. One gentleman offered us an extra Nokia cell phone to use while we were there. Another couple bought us some kitchen appliances.

When we had originally arrived at the Kibbutz we had made the commitment that if anybody needed help we would say yes and serve them with a cheerful heart. We found ourselves doing many things including washing windows, picking up trash, landscaping, sweeping the balconies, helping at the children’s school, picking and peeling fruit, helping out in many of the departments of the kibbutz businesses, as well as working in the fields. We really saw the hand of the Father blessing our decision to answer the call of “Will you go and serve no matter what? Will you lay down your life and be willing to sacrifice all for rewards that may not come until later?” Simply put, we were learning how to be servants of the Most High, and at times suffering servants of men.

Overall we loved our time in Israel, not realizing this was an advanced level of training for us as well. Everything is accentuated in Israel spiritually, both in the good and the bad. Ancient principalities still lurk in those corners of the world and are quite capable of challenging the strongest understandings of spiritual warfare. Scriptures teach that in our weakness, He is strong. It was a promise hard to understand until He alone was the One who brought us through the swirling, powerful spiritual attacks that came in the early morning hours. They were attacks designed to bring us to destruction in many ways and it was at this same time we were being called to do our greatest level of prayer and intercession. It wasn't unusual for us to be woken up at three or four A.M. to fight off an attack from the enemy, or to have Abba call us to prayer and intercession.

Worn out from lack of sleep, and physically exhausted, we would sometimes try to hit the “snooze” button on the Spirit’s wake up call. It never failed that if we didn't get up to answer the call, our daughter would wake up crying until we finally roused ourselves from bed. This was the beginning of our understanding of what would be required to fellowship in the sufferings of the Messiah. Time after time we were shown places in our hearts where self was still there standing erect as an idol. Though we would often take the ax to the root, it was becoming clear that this was not going to be an easy task.

To compound the situation we also saw and learned how difficult community living can be. We found our love and compassion for others challenged to the point of realizing how much ugliness we still allowed to fester within us. Grumbling, and complaining were often at our door wanting to take over, along with condemnation and accusation. We saw our eyes drifting to the natural rather then seeing the Spirit of Yahweh within others. We saw the challenges of having to serve man without limit, and yet not get consumed with the concerns of life which would pull our eyes off of the path of Christ and cause us to walk by sight rather then by faith.

It got so bad that at one point, both of us received a word from the Spirit telling us that we were close to leaving our First Love. Later as we read and reflected in the scriptures, the verse discussing the issue of “what began in the Spirit was now trying to be perfected in the flesh” came to our attention. We knew that there would have to be a circumcision of our hearts so that we would be willing to follow the Lamb wherever He went, trusting in Him rather then leaning on our own fleshly understandings.

Exit Out of Israel

The Spirit had been intensely dealing with us during this season of life. We were tested and tried in many ways, and found quite lacking in some. At this point our hearts were still desiring to stay in Israel, however that wasn't going to be possible for us in the long term without some miracles. A three month visa is all you get and then you have to leave for a time. We had now completed our first three months, so the Kibbutz paid for us to leave for a few weeks, and then we returned for three more, plus an extension. We were thrilled to be able to stay so long, however during our final three months we began to feel the Spirit prepare us for a time of transition.

Following the path of the Suffering Servant was a very difficult task and often required more than we thought we could give. Our time in Israel was one of great blessings, but also great challenge, introspection, questions, and being pushed to the limit. Towards the end we never seemed to have much time to catch up in our spiritual lives due to the high demands on us physically, mentally and emotionally. We both knew that it was very likely we wouldn't be coming back for any further time of service at the Kibbutz, though they offered to have our visas extended and eventually have them become permanent.

When presented with this option our hearts were torn. Even though there was much to challenge us in this situation, it was a dream come true for us to think that here we had a chance to live in Israel for the rest of our lives, with a community that would give us work, some income, housing, transportation and fellowship like a family. It was a challenge to make the decision against this, and even harder to notify those with whom we had gained great trust and respect. Yet we felt the call of Abba and He had shown us issues that He wanted us to correct in our lives during this next season we would be entering. We knew we must go and most likely wouldn't return, though we did remain hopeful.

We knew that it must be time to transition as we still didn't have much money since the stipend and gifts given to us were small and living in Israel is expensive. As we drew close to our final month of stay, once again I realized that we didn't have the money to buy tickets back to the States. My wife began to prompt me to check on tickets anyway, yet in my spirit I didn't have the release to do so. We continued to pray and seek direction with each passing day and grew more concerned over the timing of our departure. It wouldn't be good for us to overstay our visa, yet we weren't getting any clear answers other than to wait.

Each time I would think about checking on prices, the Spirit would again prompt me to wait, informing me that it wasn't time to look. Finally with about ten days to go on our visas, I was released to look for tickets. My wife had friends that knew someone whose family member worked for an airline. We didn't know her personally and at first I was hesitant to consider this option. Yet as I looked at tickets and their prices, I told my wife to email the contact and see what happened. I wasn't too hopeful and continued to ponder the ticket situation.

Before heading to bed that night we checked emails once more and, with the time difference, our contact had gotten a chance to see our email during her day’s work and responded quickly to us. She was about to go out of town for the weekend, but she would be willing to get us the passes we would need. If we would promptly send her the info requested, she would have them issued and emailed to us. She also had taken time to look at the flight loads and suggested a particular date that wasn't too full as of yet. The date she suggested would take us into our final week on the visas. We quickly sent off the info and began packing.

These tickets would be standby, without guarantee of getting on the flight. If the plane filled, we would have to try again the next night. We were told to get to the airport early as the standby seats would fill up in a first come, first go order. We arrived at the airport four hours ahead of time and quickly got into the line where we would be questioned by security and have our luggage screened. All of this takes place before getting to the ticket counter.

If one has flown into Israel, they will understand this procedure. This line seemed to take forever and we found out later that there was another line feeding into it from the other side. It took over two hours for us to clear this line. We went to the ticket area and waited only to be told that we were in the wrong line and that at the far end of the counter there was a little window and that was where we needed to be. We were told that after seeing that person they would put us on a list and we should return to a particular spot pointed out to us and wait until all counters are closed and they begin to hand out the standby seats.

We glanced at the “particular” spot and noticed that more people were beginning to hang out there. Our brains began to speak the lies of the adversary to get us thinking that we wouldn't get on the plane even though both of us had peace in our spirit that we would get on this plane. When we got to the window, we found out that our contact had pre-listed us from her work place the night before though we didn't know where we would fall on the list. We were about an hour and a half prior to when the plane should take off when we got to our little “spot” to wait, with the lines still quite long at the counters.

As we waited we heard others in our area tell of night after night of not getting on as the planes were full. Zingers to the brain from the father of lies began. Maybe we wouldn't get on after all, and what will we do? Our friends that dropped us off were now in bed and the train was shut down for the night. Would we have to sleep here in the airport with a little child? Would there be seats tomorrow? I have to admit that some of those thoughts did creep in and gain a little foothold. Deep down we still had peace but it was being challenged for the moment. I watched the clock tick to forty minutes prior to departure. The counters were still open for the last travelers with paid tickets who were having their baggage examined.

Finally with thirty minutes to go, a man stood up by the counters and stated that he had a list of those who would get on the plane. If your name wasn't called, then you wouldn't be getting on the plane. If your name was called, then quickly come up to the counter to get your ticket, and quickly get through security upstairs, and be at the gate by the time of departure or the plane would leave without you. At this point we had talked ourselves back into some faith with the knowledge that we had been pre-listed and most likely would be near the top. The man stood up between the counters and called the first name. A family stepped up. The same thing for the second name called. Name three still wasn't us and we glanced at each other with eyes a little larger. Name four was another family of five people.

At this point I knew that Yahweh was going to make us sweat it out, but I didn't realize how much so at the time. Name five was called and it was a couple. Name six was called and it was a single lady. Name seven was the sweetest sound as I heard my name called. We did as the man said and quickly went to the counter. There were now twenty minutes left before departure as I stood waiting for them to print out our boarding passes. Wouldn't you know that our printer ran out of ticket stock as they began to print our passes. Seems that they had a hard time finding more printing stock and the clock kept ticking. Eighteen minutes to go and finally the printer began again. Seems like an hour but it could have been the sweat dripping down my face that obscured the time on my watch. Finally with boarding passes in hand, we ran to the elevators.

We caught up with the lady who had been called before us. She held the elevator for us and we began our marathon together. Up and out we quickly proceeded toward the glass doors that would open into the final security section. I was pushing the stroller with my daughter, and half of the carry-on luggage while my wife was carrying the other half plus the car seat. We arrived at the glass doors and there were six people waiting for the security guard to check passports against tickets before allowing them to go through into the security zone.

The lady that was with us said something to another gal who was in charge of the handicap door. I don't know what she said, but the girl agreed to allow us to pass through her area after checking our information. At this point I had forgotten to look at my watch because as we passed through the glass doors, my heart sank. The room was completely full of people waiting to go through two metal detectors at the far end. It was wall to wall, front to back.

I quickly went over to the man who was examining those in wheelchairs to see if we could go through that line as it was much shorter, but I was refused. My heart sunk as we tried to find the shortest of the lines heading toward the far part of the room. For some reason I turned to look back toward the glass doors in the hopes of finding another security personnel. Coming toward me in my line of sight was a young lady that I recognized from downstairs at the counter. Her name was called after us and she was the last person that received a boarding pass that night. As I looked at her, there was an airline worker walking in front of her. They both happened to pass immediately to my right and as they did so, I heard the worker telling the gal to stay very close to her and keep moving. I quickly yelled out to the worker that we were on the same flight and she motioned us to get in line behind this gal.

Here we were about to witness a great miracle. I call it the parting of the Red Sea in reverse. Instead of water parting, it was people. I don't know what was said to the people as we moved forward, but everyone stepped to the side without question or challenge. People in Israel don't do that sort of thing. With me pushing the stroller, holding bags, etc... my wife was behind me and the other lady we had come up with was behind her. We moved forward like a snow plow from the back of the room all the way up to being the next in line for the x-ray machine and metal detector. In record time I pulled my daughter out of the stroller, gave her to my wife, put our bags on the belt, collapsed the stroller and placed it on the belt, told my wife to meet me on the other side of the machine and then emptied my pockets. Thankfully you can still wear your belt and shoes while going through the detector. The airline worker waited until we all made it through, then took us into the next room.

Again my heart sank as we entered the immigration part where our passports needed to be stamped out. Every window had at least ten people waiting. The worker told our little group to wait in the middle of the room for a few minutes. She disappeared out of the room and we all just looked at each other not knowing what to say. Finally after what seemed like a half hour, the worker returned with another woman. This lady collected our passports and went into an empty office. A few minutes later she returned with our passports and a paper both stamped. We were instructed to go around the corner and show the paper and the passports to a man at the door. She then smiled and said.....Good luck.

We didn't wait for the others at this point and took off. I put all of our passports together and open in one hand and the papers right behind them. The man was taking his time with each passenger going through the door and was carefully checking each item. I didn't know what to think at this point but we were next and as I approached him, I held everything up for him to see easily. He glanced at it and waved us through without even touching any of them. We were through the worst, but now it was off to the races.

We entered the passenger section and now it was only time and distance to our gate. We knew we would have to run and we took off. Thankfully the airport on this side was rather empty. We found out later that people had waited in the security line for over two hours to get through it and we had actually beat them to the plane. So as we drew near to the finish line which was our gate, the man who originally had called out our names at the ticket counter was there to encourage us on. He clapped his hands and shouted that it isn't much further and to go straight to the counter. I had a quick mental image of the great cloud of witnesses who must also be clapping and cheering the faithful and determined to finish the course as the end is getting closer.

Arriving at the counter, the girls working there had already figured out which passengers we were by the fact that there were three of us yet only two tickets. They had our seat assignments in hand and quickly exchanged them with us. We had to gate check the car seat and the stroller so that was our next stop, and only after that when we were walking up the ramp did I even think about our seats. One of us would have to hold our daughter the entire trip. Getting seats together was not even a consideration. We were just wondering how far apart we would be in case the other would need a break. My wife asked where we were sitting and I looked down and all I could do was shake my head, smile and say “sweetheart, Abba is so good.” He had given us two middle seats beside each other. Now our daughter could lay on our laps and stretch out, and hopefully sleep. On all of our overseas flights in the past she never slept until the final hour of the flight. Though elated with getting on the plane, we were exhausted so my wife uttered a simple prayer to have our little girl get some sleep so we could too. She slept most of the way back.

To be continued...

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