You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2011.

12/15Since we left Tel Aviv, we have been amazed by the Lord’s inexplicable ways. Example #1: we got on a bus from Door of Hope at night trying to get to the distribution center and introduce Medda (left of Arquian and Fabio) to Dror so she could network with him in helping  refuge families with whom she works. None of us knew or could communicate in Hebrew  what stop on the cross-town bus to take. A lady on the bus suggested we should exit and it appeared to be somewhat in the neighborhood we had been in before so without any other directives we disembarked. It turned out we were directly in front of the center. It was after closing hours but as we knocked on the door,Dror surprisingly answered the knock. They exchanged emails and discussed the needs of the refugees. We were thankful we could help them know each other. We walked with Medda into the neighborhood in which we all lived and we  introduced her to the workers at the Dugit outreach center. Even though she had lived nearby for the past 3 months, she had never known of it. Another thanks to Him.

12/17 Example #2: upon arrivng in Haifa at our apartment, we left the next morning to attend a Shebbat (saturday) service at the Kehilat Ha Carmel congregation, a referral we had been given in Tel Aviv. Our expected walk turned into an expensive cab ride 20 km. away and after enjoying the service we met Eric who ran the House of Victory rehab program, somebody that we were encouraged to meet through The Door of Hope ministry. Two days later we had journeyed to Akko, a historical crusader fortress and, while we were eating lunch, we met  Hani who ran the baptist bible bookstore next  door to the restaurant. He wanted to open a rehab house for drug addicts as  there were many in the town of Akko had serious addiction problems. We gave him information to connect him with Eric at the House of  Victory and Hani was very thankful and hopeful they could work together.

12/20 (first day of Hannukah)  Example #3:  on returning to our aptartment from a meeting with Eric at the House of Victory and after attneding the above festival, Chuck was abruptly approached in a drug store by an older Hebrew  man who showed him a prescription for medications and in Hebrew let it be known that he needed 50 Shekels ($15) to buy the meds listed on his prescription. With little hesitation he was given the money and later we both wondered whether that had been in the Lord’s will, as we hadn’t prayed over the issue, it had merely seemed like an uncontrolable urge to help a stranger. We knew that we would never know the wisdom of the move as he had taken the money and abruptly left without even an expression of thanks. We thought,Lord only You know. The following morning we were walking down the winding streets of Haifa to the port to catch a northerly train and out of the passerbys an older Hebrew man joyously approaches Chuck, embraces him and speaking in hebrew, lavishly thanks him for the help he had been given the night before. At first, we barely recognized what was happening but as we parted ways and Claire and I reviewed the happenings of the past days mentioned above and that God Almighty had been involved in every encounter. We had all just received a tremendous blessing in that He was helping us understand that everything that happens to us is some form of blessing from Him even though we may never see the fruit of it in this world. – Chuck

12/14 Today we walked to the neighborhhood tourist don’t see; the hood of Tel Aviv. We met Dave, Fabio, Arquian and Mettah, the latter three you see in the picture above as Dave had a speaking engagement before some governing officials of Tel Aviv. You can see a video made by NBC nightly news on their World Blog. Some things you won’t hear from them but will hear from the staff themselves is the transforming power of Jesus in their own lives and in the lives of the prostitutes! Dave sat with us in the midst of his intense management of the house and explained how Jesus transforms the lives of the remnant of people who are overwhelmed by the Father’s great love to sacrifice the life of His own Son for the cleansing of our pitiful lives here on earth. He described the few women who are lifted out of their addictions and serve the Lord out of their great thankfulness for the intimacy they experience with Him. The list of transformed women seemed lengthy as he went through the stories of the hundreds that pass through this gate of hope. As Dave and Fabio spoke of their experiences I was impressed with how Jesus uses our own personal testimonies to inspire others to live a life that is directed toward an eternal reward of peace and joy as we set our eyes on the righteousness of Jesus. We prayed with Fabio at the end and saw a man who desperately relies on the hope and faith Jesus supplies to overcome the struggles he faces all day as he extends his hands to the women Jesus is serving. Lord we pray You use us in a similar fashion to those you have given us to serve. Press on brothers and sisters!!!   Chuck

12/12 We have been in Tel Aviv/Jaffa for 4 days and are so thankful that we have found some brothers and sisters here, something that has been lacking the past months. Saturday is the Sabbath here in Israel and only the restaurants are traditionally open. We were looking around old Jaffa and were surprised to find they have Simon the Tanner’s house identified so Acts 9:36 through Acts 10 took on a whole new flavor in our devotions. On Saturday we were expecting to go to a Living Stones congregation here that we had found on a web site before leaving the states but attended one accidentally across the street from the one we were looking for. The service was run by Christian, a Danish pastor who knows Hebrew and preached in English on Zaccharias’ prophecy in Luke; he totally glorified Jesus in a way I hadn’t considered so I appreciated his message tremendously. We all took communion and he honored the children in the congreration at the end of the service as pictured here. As we were leaving the church we noticed a Christian hostel across the street and, when we entered, we found out that the service we were looking for had been held there. It was obviously more charismatic than the one we had attended so we were tempted to be disapponted but God is good and as we hung around we met Pastor Avi and his wife, who invited us to their outreach happening daily from Monday through Friday near the hostel where we are staying. He knows Rosemary and had traveled to LA for a prayer conference for the 11/11/11 remembrance. They have a cafe outreach which we will be attending in an hour. We are so excited!!!!!  

12/8  We are now journeying to Israel and are flying in from Cyprus since the northern borders of Lebanon and Syria are too difficult and dangerous to pass through from Turkey. After an overnight ferry to Cyprus we met Alec from Italy who drove us around the northern occupied area before he dropped us in the old section of Nicosia where we found a bed at the Askaray Pansiyon. It was a welcome respite from the tension we felt being in Van for 5 days. These pictures capture the flavor of Northern Cyprus. The Turks made this beautiful Byzantine church into a mosque during the reign of the Ottoman Empire.  While walking in the old city, we saw a family butchering a goat or lamb in their front yard. It reminded us of Javier telling us stories of how his family would do so in rural Mexico. We stayed in this divided capitol of Cyprus for 5 days and on the day before leaving to Limmasol, expecting to catch a ferry to Israel, we had the privalege of being counted in their census taken every 5 yrs. Everyone had to stay inside their residences from morning until 6 pm to fill out the papers by the census workers. Most of the Greeks speak English as did those in Northern Cyprus so it was no longer an issue knowing how to navigate from one place to another. You could feel the bitterness as the Greeks  sp0ke of the north and described it as “occupied”. The wounds of the invasion 40 yrs ago still seemed fresh. We saw Christmas decorations everywhere wetting our appetite to celebrate Jesus birth in Israel. The Lord woke me up at 3 am with a dream of how to celebrate Christmas and consequently made our reservations to spend Christmas in Jerusalem and Christmas eve in  Bethlehem. No matter how special that may sound we know it won’t be like spending it with friends and family!! We miss you all!   Chuck

12/8  In one day on December 1st three amazing things happened: 22-year-old Fatima shared that her life may be at stake since her husband divorced her and she doubts that she will ever see her 6 year-old son again; a friend expressed his fear of the PKK possibly killing him; and a 5.0 earthquake shook our hotel violently and brought down 3 more buildings. 

Chuck and I were given a translator and a driver by the Department of Civil Services to go to tent cities and minister to traumatized children.  We organized 60 to 70 children ages three to 13 into a large circle where we encouraged the kids to mime short skits for the others to guess the theme.  It was going well until the Muslim call for prayer from loudspeakers for five minutes  causing us to stop our play twice.  The interruptions made it impossible to organize the children’s production of skits so Chuck and I split our efforts: he played individually with interested children, while I went with the translator to talk with a greatly distressed 22-year-old Fatima.  She had been separated from her 6-year-old son when her husband divorced her to marry another woman.  Since women have limited rights in Turkey she doubts that her ex-husband will allow her to see her son again. The traditions and laws of the conservative Muslim groups favor the husband’s and father’s rights over women’s rights (from the Quran Sura 66:5, 2:223,282). When Fatima was 15 her father arranged a religious marriage rather than a legal marriage with a 23 year-old family friend.  Seven years later the husband claims the marriage was not legal and marries another woman keeping the child from his mother.  Fatima has no choice but  to return to her parent’s home but according to the tradition of this Muslim community, her life is now under the control of her brother, father and mother  who have the right to kill her for becoming a burden to the family.  Fatima is now considered “shamed” because she is no longer a virgin but rather a rejected woman with few social opportunities. Few young Muslim men would want to marry a disgraced woman. Her fate is to stay at home and serve her brother, mother and father.   She will not have the opportunity to go to a university because she lacks sufficient education and she isn’t able to become employed unless her brother permits it.  Fatima is complaining of dreams of her son every night and continues to cry in the day for not being able to see him. She was hoping that I would be able to help her.  Of course all I could do is encourage her to have faith in Allah and to take every opportunity to make contact with her son. 

                Chuck and I made friends with a Turkish engineer who was in Van inspecting the buildings damaged by the earthquake to determine which buildings were habitable and which needed to be destroyed.  His assignment suddenly changed and he was relocated to the mountains east of Van next to Syria.  This man was very concerned for his own safety as the PKK terrorists hide in the mountains and are known to brutally kill many Turks. The sad part of this story is that the PKK are Kurds and Turkish citizens who comprise the majority of eastern Turkey.  The Kurds’ objection is that they, as the oldest people’s group in Turkey, want their language preserved and taught in the Turkish schools. The Kurds have been unsuccessfully advocating for their rights for the past 30 years.  It is sad that this engineer is not safe to repair the fortresses and buildings in the mountains of eastern Turkey.

                Later that night at 3:00 a.m. we experienced a 5.0 earthquake that violently shook the entire hotel. The building was trembling for several minutes as we ran down three flights of stairs to join the rest of the occupants of the hotel trying to get to safety outside.   Afterwards everyone in the hotel either slept in the lobby or stayed up anticipating other after-shocks (which were many). 2 large cracks emerged on the front walls and plaster fell in some places from the ceiling.  It was reported that 3 more buildings collapsed downtown. We made the decision to leave Van since there were no hotels that were considered safe to stay in.  First thing in the morning we called the bus station and asked the manager if we could get bus tickets out of there.  He said the buses were full but there was a last minute cancellation by a man who had jumped out of his window during the earthquake and broke his leg.  We were able to buy his ticket and his companions and the manager personally drove to our hotel to deliver the tickets.  We were on the bus by 9:30 a.m.  I had pangs of survivor’s guilt but got over them as we moved to safety. It seemed the Lord was moving us on.   I suppose we could have stayed in one of the tents but the temperature was below 32F and getting colder. 

                Three events of horrifying proportion in one day were more than I could handle.  My body was so tense, it ached.  “Three in one” incidentally is what the Muslims refuse to accept about the Christian God.  They do not understand or accept the Trinity.  Jesus, by the way, according to the Quran did not die on the cross; Judas did. In actuality the Quran has conflicting stories on how Jesus left this earth; one saying Jesus died a regular death and another saying He ascended. Jesus or Isa is merely an important prophet in the Quran. Claire