Question #1, “Why Israel”?
We will finish the second of two, 3 month stays in Jerusalem on December 24th. Adding in our original one month visit to “scout out the land” last December/January, and we will have been here a total of 7 out of the last 12 months. We came the first time as tourists/pilgrims/students. It’s complex, but a large part of our coming was to explore and try to understand our spiritual roots as Christian believers. It was gradually dawning on us that the Western church was largely sick and largely ineffective, and definitely lacking unity and too often lacking in love. In short, ineffective and lacking when it comes to representing Jesus Christ (exceptions to that exist, including our home church Freedom River Outreach in Tacoma)! The early Christian church was not perfect, but it was vibrant, moving in power, and growing by leaps and bounds. And the earliest Christian church was Jewish! Jesus was Jewish. The apostles and writers of the bible were Jewish! We had a desire to try and step out of ourselves and our western biases and attempt to gain a more global, multi-cultural, multi-millenial perspective (not easy!). The Bible has just come alive for us here: walking where Jesus walked; learning about Hebrew words that just don’t translate into English well, like “Shalom” (peace, but more than that: inner well-being, rest, understanding, letting out a big sigh…) Recent archaeological discoveries that confirm 3000 year old biblical accounts. Understanding Islam better, and the roots of Islam. Understanding the place of Israel as a nation and a people in these times and in the times to come (I had a religious Jewish female guide say to me “we Jews think we are something special as God’s chosen people, but God could have chosen anyone. It just happened to be Abraham. And God chose us for the benefit of the rest of the world, to be a light, to show the world what relationship and friendship with the living God looked like”. (My paraphrase from memory).
Question 2: “What exactly do you do in Israel”?
When we came the first time, as previously noted, we were largely wide-eyed tourists. But one of the things we did in January was to visit a “house of prayer”, a prayer room where people come from all over the world, largely to worship God and pray for the nations of the world; particularly Israel, as friends of Israel. We visited, and then were asked back for Julee to lead one of the two hour “watches” or prayer times. Julee did what comes very naturally to her, playing the piano and singing spontaneously as she felt led. We did this on one of the last days of our month long visit; at the end of the watch, the leaders asked us to consider and pray about returning to be a part of their team that mans and maintains the prayer room.
So we actually are in the prayer room for several watches per week. Sometimes for two hours, occasionally for as long as 6 hours at a time. I never would have believed I could slow myself down enough to do something like that! But it is amazing, peaceful, and often powerful. Prayer rooms are springing up all over the world, even throughout the entire middle east. The model for the 24/7 prayer room is taken from the Old Testament when King David 3000 years ago erected the tabernacle in Jerusalem and brought up the ark of the covenant and said “this will be a place of worship and prayer to the Lord, night and day without ceasing”.
We host teams of people from all over the world who come to the prayer room. Many from Asia: Korea, China, Japan, Thailand, etc. (today a mother and daughter from Mongolia). This photo is of an international group from YW@M Kona who have been regulars for the past few weeks, and whom we have grown to know and love!
Erin from Texas in the U.S. has interned at one of the larger 24/7 houses of prayer here. Julee and I had the pleasure of getting to know and spend time with Erin a bit while she was here; her intention is to return at some point soon.
Yours truly leading a small tour group through the City of David. Here we are standing on the steps that lead into the pool of Siloam after making our way through Hezekiah’s tunnel. I have had the privilege of leading prayer tours here and on the Temple Mount from time to time.
Besides the prayer watches, the tour leading, the group hosting, the friend making, we spend our time much like you: cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping at various places depending on what we need. We also read and study a great deal. Books I am reading currently are “Why care about Israel”? and Josephus Flavius “History of the Jewish Wars” written around 80 AD. Recent reads include historical fiction books “The Dovekeepers” about Masada in the first century and “The Last Ember” by David Levin, a rollicking DaVinci code type of book about the Jews and the Romans and the lost Menorah. Next up on the list is “King David’s Lost Tombs and Treasure”… And of course reading and studying the bible daily in light of insights gained while we have been here in context and language.
Question 3: “What’s next after you leave in December?”
We don’t know! We are looking forward to getting home to see our amazing children and grandchildren, as well as family and friends. We have an opportunity to return to Spain in the spring to volunteer once again at the hostel on the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James). That has great appeal to me in particular since I had so much fun doing so last spring. A return soon to Israel is also a distinct possibility. We are fully aware of how blessed we are to be able to do the things we have done in the last year; and of how blessed we have been all of our lives in all things and in all ways. It is our desire to give back some how some way, to bless others no matter where we are and what we are doing. The pilgrimage continues!