A big “Hello” to our friends, family, church and former teammates!
It’s always a pleasure to share with you the work that God is doing in our lives and in the ministry of Teen Missions. Since our return from the Holy Land, it seems like we have not stopped “running”. Our lives have been filled with school, birthdays, swim practices and meets, and thankfully, only one hurricane!! (Hurricane Dorian felt a little bit like being stalked by a turtle. I have no personal experience to base this opinion on, but I am confident that my perspective on Hurricane Dorian is spot on. Although we are grateful to have escaped its wrath, we are gutted for the Bahamas. There are no words to describe the devastation it left in its wake. Please remember to pray for the Bahamian people as they rebuild their country and, for many, their lives.) As I sit now, writing this letter, I am grateful for the opportunity to remember and finally process the fantastic summer we had.
Travel to Israel
Flying to Israel always requires going through extra security, so I was not surprised when we found our gate sectioned off from the rest of the other gates at the Frankfurt airport. Our assigned gate only catered to passengers flying to Tel Aviv. In order to pass through, we had to put our bags through another scanner (and manual bag check if needed) as well as submit ourselves to a full-body pat down…and I mean it when I say ‘FULL-body’! The process took some time, but we made it through with no problems other than the inconvenience of taking our boots and belts off again and repacking our carry-ons if they were manually inspected. We were at the gate early for our flight, so we got to watch the flight ahead of us board and take off to Tel Aviv. What I did not expect was that after that flight left, the area became “unsecured” again when the gate attendants opened the doors to the rest of airport, allowing anyone who had gone through the airport’s general security to enter the area. After a couple hours, we were asked to leave the area so that they could secure it again, requiring all of us to have our bags re-scanned as well as endure ANOTHER full-body pat down! The whole ‘early is on time’ thing did not go as we hoped it might. Being early resulted in more work! Other than that, the only travel casualty was my REALLY nice travel pillow…my *cough, cough* husband left it on the plane. Am not bitter about the loss at all…;)
Hope Secondary School
Hope Secondary School was our host for the summer and what an incredible place it is. It was exciting to see the passion and enthusiasm of the school’s headmaster and board of directors. They are eager to see it thrive and expand. The goal of the school is to see every child achieve academic success, even those with disabilities, behavioral problems, or a low income. It strives to be a safe place for any child to grow and learn, whether they are Muslim or Christian. The headmaster and board made very clear how important TMI teams are to the school. Welcoming us on our arrival were two big banners they had made with our team picture from Boot Camp and another with a very thoughtful message of warmth and greeting.
So what was our project this summer? Lots of concrete! We hand mixed and poured about thirty yards of concrete, which is equivalent to three cement trucks. They also hauled trucksworth of fill to the job site. We poured a large patio in the garden area in front of the school. Then we poured a small driveway at the back entrance of the school that will enable the bus to drop the kindergarteners off right at the door. Our last concrete pour was another patio extension at the back of the school. We also picked up mountains of trash! Everyday we had people picking up trash somewhere. We also cleared all the weeds and trimmed back all the overgrown hedges, bushes, and trees. Much of the brush and weeds were taller than we were! To accomplish this, the team used small sickles, hoes and their hands to clear acres of dead grass and weeds. The school looked amazing by the time we left. The school’s director said this, “The school has dressed a new dress and has become a friendly, neat, and clean place where you can enjoy yourself. The youngsters are working as a beehive; they are inspiring, very committed, and faithful.”
We attended a Sunday service at Christ Church every Sunday. The church is located inside the Old City, just a short distance from the Jaffa Gate. It is said to be the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East. Its services were in English for the most part, which was such a blessing for us non-Hebrew, non-Arabic speakers! There were some prayers in Hebrew though which definitely helped remind us of where we were worshipping the Lord: in Israel! Our team caught the attention of its leadership fairly quickly and as a result, we were asked to help run a week-long Bible Club that ministered to local children in the Old City. The team was VERY excited about this unexpected but welcome additional opportunity to serve. About 30 kids came each day. The program catered to English, Hebrew, and Arabic speaking children, so it was quite an undertaking to effectively communicate to all! We were asked to do some sort of presentation everyday. When the team performed Colors, a live-action representation of the Wordless Book, I totally teared up when the whole audience of children, teenagers, and adults erupted into cheers and clapping when Jesus (played by a teammate) rose from the dead at the end of the skit. It was a very powerful moment to witness firsthand and extremely special to see the heartfelt response many had to the Gospel message presented in the drama.
Everyday we spent in the Holy land this summer was a visual masterpiece: stretches of bright green grass, vivid flowers, trees reaching as far as the eye can see; mango tree farms, olive tree farms; terrain that was desert-like at times and roads hugged by mountains on either side. The land has so much beauty to offer. We did and saw so many things. I can’t possibly touch on them all, so I will pick a few to highlight for you.
Experiencing what many Palestinians experience on a daily basis was important to us. So we took the team on a hike through Beit Jala and entered Israel on foot through a guarded checkpoint where passports and bag inspections were required. Palestinians are not allowed in Israel without a permit and we have been told those can be difficult to come by. Being American and Canadian citizens, we were ushered through with absolutely no problems. We saw up close the wall separating Palestine from Israel and all the graffiti covering it. Much of it was very political and even some was inappropriate, but there was also plenty of graffiti displaying people’s hopes and dreams for freedom and unity between the two nations.
World War 2 must seem like a lifetime away for many people today, so I was very proud of the thoughtful, contemplative, and respectful way the team approached their time at Yad Vashem, a museum dedicated to the memorial of the victims of the Holocaust. It is committed to preserving the memory of the dead; honoring Jews who fought against their Nazi oppressors and Gentiles who selflessly aided Jews in need. There is an age requirement that all guests must be at least 10 years old, so I waited outside with my children, Lily and Gabriel, since they did not meet that requirement. Everyone that did tour through the museum was very touched and sobered by the experience. Many commented that they would never forget what they saw and read inside.
Visiting the Garden Tomb was a must-see site for us because it is the only place where the Gospel message is actually presented. All “holy” sites are more concerned with rituals and tradition than they are about pointing people to Jesus Himself. There is absolutely no emphasis placed on evangelism anywhere here which is why we loved visiting the Garden Tomb: they tell people about Jesus and God’s gift of salvation! We know that we can meet with Jesus in ANY place around the world, not just the “holy” ones. Now that is special and life-impacting!
On the Temple Mount, sits the Dome on the Rock, a very important Islamic holy site. We were not allowed to go inside it but it’s golden dome shining brightly under the hot sun was a sight to behold in itself. Visiting the Temple Mount was a bit of an unsettling experience for many of us though. In order to enter, we had to pass through security and remove our Bibles from our bags and leave them at a designated area since they were forbidden. All the girls had to put on extra, communal clothes that were provided as well so that none of our skin was showing, except our faces and necks. The whole ordeal definitely made us appreciate the liberties we enjoy back home in America!
It was such a rewarding summer for our family, both professionally and personally. I hope that all of the joy and affection we feel regarding our time in the Holy Land has come through to each of you who are currently reading this. If you want to see more pictures, check out Mike’s Facebook to see the MANY we took. We are grateful that God placed us on the team He did and that we met and made such wonderful friends. Thank you to our MOST AMAZING teammates for a MOST AMAZING summer!! Thank you to each of you who prayed for us. Your faithful prayers sustained us.
We treasure your prayers, support, and heart for missions. Thank you for serving with us these last 15 years!!!
Mike, Michelle, Kenya, Isabelle, Lily, and Gabriel Myers