It is difficult to put in words what our past summer in Palestine was like. Mountain top experiences don’t happen everyday. Life is usually 80% ordinary and 20% extraordinary. Most of our lives will involve being faithful in our normal, everyday routines. When God chooses though, He will give you something that changes your life forever. That something was this past summer for me. The whole thing was extraordinary. God brought such an incredible group together and I was honored to be a part of it.
Each teammate worked a total of 142 hours. Multiply that by 13 and the bigger picture becomes evident that they accomplished much! They filled 328 chicken feed sacks (or in other words, REALLY big bags) with dead, prickly thistles and other weeds that covered the ground of Hope Secondary School’s compound. The brush was a major fire hazard and needed to be removed. It was a laborious and tedious task but they did it. They completed painting renovations of an entire ward of the school as well. The classrooms required a much needed paint job that involved scraping and sanding old paint off before new paint could be applied. I loved it when they all came to lunch speckled with paint or covered in sanding dust. It was evidence of their hard work!
Directly located across the street from the school is a Palestinian Border Police Station. The police and the young people who attend the school have had some unnecessary “run-ins” that could have been preventable if the fence surrounding the school afforded it some privacy. So, we built a privacy wall around the front of the school to help with this. Passersby will no longer be able to poke their garbage through the fence and onto the school’s property and the students will now be able to enjoy the soccer field at the front of the property with an added measure of safety. We started working on the construction of a brick wall that would cover an exposed sewer pipe but were not able to finish it because supplies ran out and were not redelivered in time before our summer in the Holy Land ended.
Our time in the Holy Land did not end without us getting to see it though. Our host missionary, Rock, hired a bus to take the team out into the “non-tourist”
parts of the West Bank. He really wanted our team to see as much of Palestine as they could. He also wanted to deepen our understanding of what life is like for Palestinians. We saw villages (whose names I can not pronounce or spell properly) with children playing in the streets, mothers preparing the evening meal while keeping a close eye on those kids and men gathered together in small groups fellowshipping together after a long, hard days work…while waiting for that evening meal to be ready! Sounds similar to what our families do in North America, eh? In one of the villages visited, we were able to see and touch an olive tree that is more than 3,500 years old!!! If you do the math, the tree was standing during ancient biblical times!!! Isn’t it thought provoking to think of all the people who could have sat under that very same tree before us? We were also able to see the on going construction of the wall being built around Israel on Palestinian soil and it is like a scar on the land. Many Palestinian homes have been demolished or been given demolition papers to make way for the construction of the wall. We saw half completed homes that will never be completed due to their proximity to the wall and homes with families living in them that have been given the demolition papers. These families will have no choice. They will have to move. Although the wall is being erected by Israel as a security measure, it is very difficult to understand how it will ever open doors for peace between the two nations. The view on the ground is very different from what the media tells us from both sides. Our hearts cannot help but be affected by the plight of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people who both earnestly do long for peaceful resolutions to the conflict. Most want to be given the freedom to just live their lives and provide for their families. Officials from both sides make this difficult. What an opportunity it was to serve in the Holy Land as ambassadors for Jesus Christ, the ONLY One Who will ever be able to bring the peace so desperately longed for.
Our travels took us to the Holy City, Jerusalem, as well, where we spent several days exploring ancient sites and, of course, shopping! The Dome of the Rock is located at the visual center of a platform known as the Temple Mount. It was constructed on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. To enter the Temple Mount, we were subject to strict screening, where our Bibles were temporarily confiscated from us since they are prohibited on the Mount. Thankfully, we were able to retrieve them after we were finished viewing the site. From the Temple Mount, we could see the Mt. of Olives and the old, Roman walls that shielded the Garden of Gethsemane from our eyes. At the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount, is the Western Wall (also know as the Wailing Wall). It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard, and is arguably the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself. Throughout the ages, the Wall is where Jews have gathered to express gratitude to God or to pray for divine mercy. Small bits of paper with prayers inscribed on them fill each crack that can be reached by human hands. More than a million notes are placed each year, and this year, the notes of our team will be among that huge count. We also traversed Hezekiah’s Tunnel, walking the length of it in water that was at least ankle deep. In some parts, it was about three feet deep! The entire experience was one of those times where you wonder to yourself if you are dreaming and then you realize your toes are going numb from the cold water and you are very much awake and who knows how far underground, in a tunnel that was carved through solid rock over 2700 years ago with a chisel and a hammer!!!
If I wrote about all the things we saw and did, by the time you were finished reading, you would have read a book instead of a letter!!! I will close with this: We were privileged to have been given the opportunity to go and work in the Holy Land once again and not just be tourists in the most popular tourist spot of the world. The people we met and the sights we saw (even if for a second time) and, more importantly, the team we got to do it all with, will forever leave
permanent, irreplaceable footprints on our hearts. (To our Holy land teammates: My heart still aches at being apart from each one of you. Bella’s words play in my mind everyday, “Don’t cry because it’s over; Smile because it happened.” Each one of you was an instrument that God used in my life to sharpen me and draw me closer to Him. Remember what is really important and be careful about what you let influence you. The more satisfied you are with God, the more dissatisfied you will be with the world. A life lived apart from God, is no life at all. Use your God-given talents for His glory. To not do so is, simply put, a waste of time. Je t’aime beaucoup!)
Home schooling—I have found, is a rewarding career. I have discovered the thrill of learning right along with Kenya. Math, History, Geography, Language Arts and other subjects take on a whole new dimension when the Lord is in the lesson! Things are going really well and Kenya is proving to be an excellent student. Living in the success of the now though, I don’t want to become nearsighted and think that our current home schooling blessings are the result of my own hands. May I always see the true picture: God is in control and I am not! May I always acknowledge His divine hand of intervention in our lives. “I like homeschooling very much. I think it is very fun to do even though it takes up a lot of my day. I like being home with mommy and being comfortable at home.” ~Kenya
Isabelle is excelling in her studies as well. She loves going to school. The school she attends requires students to wear uniforms and Isabelle questions why she has to wear a “costume” everyday. (So cute!!!) I love hearing her recite all the memory verses she is learning. There is something so special about hearing God’s Truth spoken from the mouth of a child. She fills our lives to overflowing with memories we will cherish forever. Memories truly are gifts from God just waiting to be opened!
Lily reminds us daily to enjoy the little things, so that one day we won’t look back and realize they were big things. She enjoys life’s simple joys–those things that are available, spontaneous and pure like flowers, ladybugs and skipping in the rain. They unfold as treasures that delight her heart. She reminds us of what is truly valuable, precious and long lasting. She teaches us to enjoy the moment. She refreshes us with surprises–pointing out an airplane in the sky or gleefully splashing during bath time. Through all our daughters, we have discovered that sometimes setting aside the task at hand reaps a sweet reward: a hug, a kiss or an ‘I love you’. Our love for each of them is forever, whenever and with no strings attached.
We are ever grateful for your commitment to us and to our ministry. Your faithful prayers and support are making a difference in our lives as well as the lives of those we are able to touch through Teen Missions. Please continue to pray for us as we continue the adventure of being parents, husband and wife and missionaries for our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Mike, Michelle, Kenya, Isabelle & Lily