No Matter the Place, It’s Always the People

Back by less than two weeks from my third trip to Israel, finally over the jet lag that dogged me longer than expected, I pondered the questions posed several times during the trip. “What is your favorite part of the trip so far?” “What is your takeaway?”

ancient olive trees in Garden of Gethsemane

Had I enjoyed exploring the grottoes near the Lebanon border on the Mediterranean? Spending unhurried time in a less visited part of the Garden of Gethsemane? Worshipping with previously unknown brothers and sisters outside of Jerusalem? Spending the night in a Bedouin camp? Absolutely! But favorite? Honestly, no matter when that question was asked, I could only remember the most immediate sight explored. Visiting so many places, several brand new to me, in such a short time, I couldn’t consider each one individually until I was home looking at my pictures and reliving the memories.Rosh HaNikra and grottoes (7)

mini-Beduoin Camp  (2)I wasn’t focused on finding that one most significant aspect of the trip, but Holy Spirit pointed out that the people we toured with made it extra special. My husband and I remarked several times while in Israel how much we were enjoying the entire group. We could interact with anyone at any time and feel none of the usual barriers found with groups.

I believe this was a specially chosen, God-picked group of just over 30 people, ranging in age from 12 to 73 and coming from the US, Canada, Scotland, Great Britain, France, Philippines (via Singapore,) and Israel. But, is that what made it special?

In part, I’m sure, but I suspect God saw so much more when He drew each of us to sign up and follow through. And I know He began something with the members of this group. Or He continued something. Or He completed something. Maybe some of all three. But something was affected in the spirit realm because we were all together on this particular trip at this particular time as believers in Christ who love Israel. Besides that, my heart gets happy each time I see the faces in pictures or memories.

12183691_463541337181015_5349280319832619147_oThere is a possibility I may never know what He did, and I’m not at all bothered by it. I’m totally thankful simply to have been included. Just being thankful is a really peaceful place to reside. I think I’ll dwell here going forward, no longer demanding to understand with my mind what Christ fully understands already.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Remembering and Rejoicing

Most of us on the tour bus were oblivious to the date on the calendar, though most knew it was Tuesday.  Placed together as part of a no-rest-for-the-weary visit to Israel almost a week before, we had become comfortably familiar with one another by this time.  On this particular morning, the bus left Jerusalem fairly early so we could explore many sights to the north before ending the day with the sun setting over the Mediterranean Sea at Caesarea while we worshipped the Lord with Joseph Prince and the musicians from Singapore.

The narration wasn’t as constant this morning as it usually was, leaving us to quiet conversation or contemplation.  Most of us knew today to be the last day of the official tour, and bittersweet emotions were just below the surface of most thoughts.  It had all come and gone so quickly.  Tomorrow, our group would be broken up and combined with others who were taking a side trip before flying out from Tel Aviv late in the evening.

Israel 2012 622Someone must have remembered what day it was.  They also knew Alex, one of our own, had a story to tell about this day, and urged him forward to share with the whole group.  It turns out this day was Tuesday, September 11.  Alex wasn’t just another tour member who had vivid memories of life before, during, and after that day, like the rest of us.  Alex was from New York . . . City, and he worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in 2001, in the World Trade Center.  His memories were up close and personal, and we really did need to hear them.

Though Alex told his story with obvious emotion, he did so without tears.  That was for the rest of us on the bus.  In the midst of the telling and the tears, however, we were greatly encouraged.  You see, though he couldn’t see it so clearly at the time, Alex now sees God’s grace in evidence in even the smallest of details of his life at that time, and he is full of joy and peace of Jesus.

He told of close friends and co-workers who died that day, in the very offices where he worked.  And he told, in specific details I can’t quite remember a year later, of a training course he was to have taken at another time – one that was either postponed or conflicted with his planned vacation.   But there was a last-minute opening in a different class that had him away from the office on that Tuesday morning.  Not only that, but it was out of the city, as well.   As if that weren’t enough, the name of the building where these classes was held was more evidence of God’s intervention – something like The Grace Building.

That day, Alex became the face of victory in Christ and His grace, not just in the sweet by and by, but in the sometimes not so sweet here and now.  Hearing his story of life through tragedy, and seeing the peace of Christ profoundly displayed even in the retelling, helped bring a present-day reminder that Jesus is alive and victorious.  He wasn’t just the Jesus of 2000 years ago in whose history we had been immersed all week.  He is Jesus Christ – the same yesterday, today, and forever!

Remembering today . . . and rejoicing!