Month: December 2013

2013 in Review

Every year, I usually write a short Christmas post and then a last one to spin off the year before heading into a new season. I can certainly say, I’m really grateful for everything this year. Both my ups and downs. God is really teaching me about joy and humility.

Life and a taste of freedom

Before I left for Israel, my mom was diagnosed with bladder cancer. She had already been in remission for 26 years. I have had to do everything I could to keep my-self from crying for the last two months. But I’ve been learning to find joy. Joy and thankfulness for a woman who gave birth to me and struggled when being pregnant with my brother years ago. But it’s what helped me understand the value of life. Currently, she’s almost finished with her treatments and then goes in for testing to see if she’s cleared. If not, then she will decide what to do from there. But I declare her clean and one of the toughest fighters I know.

ImageI know my mom is not the only one who taught me the value of life, but looking back at my own past and relieving but accepting certain circumstances in my life, I know my past doesn’t define me. I know having things taken only brings be back to God as He’s the only who doesn’t change and still lets me call Him Abba when nothing else might make sense. I will never understand why was Ezra taken. According to Proverbs 3:5, we are not expected to lean on our own understand but Proverbs 2:1-5 says to embrace all the treasures of knowledge as we pursue God. All I know is, Ezra is in heaven having tea and English cookies with Jesus. Her life matters more in the Kingdom of God than on Earth.

This is where freedom comes in, I no longer look back relieving it over and over but rejoice in what God does everyday.

My heritage/traditions

After spending a month in Israel and realizing the many layers and walls of wars, anger, hatred and hurt; I have to admit, it’s not the life I want for myself. I don’t want a wall to define what my beliefs are. It’s easy to call me a liberal but deep down, my beliefs are based on the Kingdom of God. God chose our heritage from the beginning and will use it to the end to bring us closer to Him. But some people only keep what they know is comfortable or what is rightfully theirs but not God’s. In the eight days where oil could of run out, God ends up being glorified for His provision of light and safety. Maybe it’s a man made tradition, but the tradition serves a greater purpose: to glorify God.

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Playing dreidel in downtown promenade of Tiberias with four generations and hosting a skit about the history of Hanukkah.

For the first time ever, I’m okay with the idea of saying Happy Holidays because I have a much deeper appreciation for other holidays and the purposes they serve. Christmas is served to celebrate Jesus’ birth but it should be celebrated everyday as a simple reminder. If you study many of the holidays, they were rooted a deeper celebration or understanding. Other holidays turned into paganism celebrations including Christmas. But if I remember the purpose, then perhaps celebrating won’t be as difficult from a worldview perspective. I’m thankful I have the freedom to celebrate who God is and all He does.

Until then my friends, happy holidays and a blessed new years!

A peice of Israel

Israel is the kind of place where millions of people come and go each year to see where Jesus walked or understand the historical context of the Bible or other considerable Holy Books. Once our team stepped off the plane, we were already beginning to get into high gear of ministry.

Our Home

Shortly after, we met a family with nine children who were allowing us to stay in their home. As crazy and cute as their nine kids were, we drove to their home only to discover through a friend of theirs that their home was locked and we couldn’t stay there. But because this friend came and personally notified us, they hooked us up in east Bethlehem (Beit Jala), where we stayed for two weeks unplanned but was welcomed with open arms and heart. Not only did we spend time getting to know people there but also we worshipped, prayed and heard their personal testimonies of how difficult it is to be ‘underground’ due to be blacklisted by the government.

One of the things that was shared, it is difficult to talk about Jesus, but easier to talk about the Kingdom of God. We had ideas of how we can share about the Kingdom of God and how. Not only that, but pay attention to who we share it with (cockroaches and moths are the ones attracted to the Light, cockroaches are not). We were also talk in some retrospect, we as Christ followers could be considered Muslims because the word Muslim means one who submits to God.

Ministry in Bethlehem

During the two weeks we were there, we spent time doing ministry with Jemima where people with disabilities reside and receive care their families cannot provide. Our team did skits, signing songs, playing games with the kids and prayed with the staff. Many of the children really enjoyed hanging out with us. The staff who received prayer were simply hungry to pray for their families and for some for their health or job searching. Afterwards, two of the staff received intense messages from us and was thankful.
http://www.jemima.nl/en

We also went to the House of Hope, a church where students with mostly mental disabilities live attend school. We hung out with the kids and had a great time having a dance party on the balcony. Meanwhile, we met a young deaf woman who worked there as a substitute teacher but was greatly honored by the director. We met a family a beautiful family but heartbreaking story, though really struggled in terms of relationship, war and education. We encourage her and her sisters to continue to pursue deaf education in Bethlehem.

According to some of the deaf people, Bethlehem’s general education system is run by the government and unfortunately, the government does not support education for the deaf. Any student who attends school, their parents must pay or find a private sponsor. Sometimes the school offers sponsorship but only for a portion. In Palestine, about three percent of the population is deaf or hard of hearing. Which explains why it was easy to meet a deaf person almost wherever we went.

We also found a school just about a mile or so away from our home. We just pushed a button and said, “We’re from America.” And the gates opened. The school is run by Italian nuns. We met one sister who allowed us to meet some students and do fun skits. As they saw us signing, they couldn’t believe it because they thought they were the only deaf people in the world. They really thought they were alone. Then we talked with to the nun (Ronia) privately, as she was the only one who knows English fluently. She mentioned the school’s philosophy for the deaf is to teach to speak and they will go far in life. Signing is not permitted. However, she did wish the school allowed signing. Especially after meeting one of the workers from the House of Hope and seeing they could sign and have a college education from Jordan. She did encourage to mention to people internships are accepted, especially deaf who would be interested in an after school program to teach sign language to the children.

Ministry in Haifa:

We stayed at a hostel for a few days to catch up on some rest before heading to Tiberius for a week. We visited the Dead Sea and got to float in water. Wanted to walk on it but I think it would fail. I did bust my leg but it healed quickly because of the mud and oil in the water. Oil is heavier than water, so no wonder we could float instead of sink. However, Haifa was not all fun, we also met a man name Adam. I would like to call him a lost soul. He’s into Reiki but we believe he’s still seeking. We prayed right before we left for him and received it. Only God can work through his heart.

Ministry in Tiberius: 

Our team was invited to stay at a guesthouse in Tiberius but was put on a structured schedule for the week. However, either way, we were met with plenty of divine appointments through the week and was kept super busy. The first day we went to the mountain where the Battle of Hattin took place. We we teamed up with the YWAM, Kona team and lead worship together. Praying over different areas of Tiberius. We helped someone with the food distribution ministry which boxes were packed for about 350 Israelite residents who were living in poverty. Our team also went to Jordan Valley and spent some time at the First Pioneer Kibbutz. We met a man name Hagi who was born and raised at the Kibbutz and explained how he met his wife in the Israelite military (which is required for anyone at the age of 18 for two years). He mentioned he lost his son four years before. Then after meeting him, I prayed to meet his wife. Not too long after we found a building opened and walked in, it seems his wife was already expecting three beautiful American girls to walk in. We chatted for an hour and simply encouraged her to keep going and stay strong. We prayed for her as we left. However, not without realizing how important developing a relationship is in terms of ministry. A couple days later, we spent the morning back in Jordan Valley putting tracts on windshield of vehicles. Though I admit I was scare more of cars chirping or blaring at me than people themselves, we realized just how easy it was. On the last two days, we celebrated Hanukkah together as a team by feasting and praying together.  We also evangelized at the promenade downtown. Where many people had fun playing, deride including the older generation, parents and even young children. We also did a skit about the history of Hanukkah. On our last day, we went to visit a Messianic church, where we did some worship songs and just mingled with some of the congregation. It was a blessing just to get to know them (and see a young girl accept Christ).

Ministry in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is one of those places where it was difficult to describe. Because we saw so much hurt in Palestine, we were able to put things in perspective. We did a scavenger hunt our first day. With several locations to our avail, we met countless people. However, not without going to the Dome of Rock and praying and worshipping. Last, we went to the Garden Tomb, where the entire time of seeing all the sites, I would become sensitive because of idolatry. However, the Garden Tomb simply was a representation of Jesus’ resurrection without making it complicated or even underground.
Last Friday night, we joined a Rabbi’s home for Shabbat dinner. In his small home where eight of the 14 children lived, we all fit into a tiny space. We started with an opening course and then ate soup, then meat and then dessert. However, not without signing of God’s blessings from Psalms and going through a teaching about Joseph and his brother. About love and forgiveness. Any questions or additional teachings were open to anything and one of us got up and shared a testimony about what it means to give something up in order to have peace and forgiveness. The next day, four of the missionaries we met at the hostel went. They began to speak about Yeshua, a few people were annoyed and tried to start arguing. Then one of them got up and started apolegized about his ancestors (he’s from Germany, if you’re wondering). People began mocking them, calling them Nazis. They got up and left. The exact same man, who walked us home the night before, followed and persecuted them. My heart breaks for them as they share, but they were in intense intercession after arriving back to the Hostel. Asking to forgive those who persecuted them and blessing the people they met. We believe our team helped paved the way into the transition of these amazing people to open their hearts and prepare them. We don’t know what we’re doing, but we praise God in advance for working through each and every individual.

This is just some of the many testimonies and encounters we’ve had. However, this is just a piece of what God did in Israel and the West Bank. I pray everyday, God will show me more. I pray everyday of all the different people we’ve met and know the seeds are sown. The workers are few, and I pray that God used us for His good.

*Note: names and specific locations are refrained from this blog to protect people.

The temple or gold?

Today, our culture is fixed. Once we’re decided in who we are, cultural trends tend to follow. Observing the impact of how Religion rules ones life, certainly proves my point. A few days ago, our team did a scavenger hunt and one of the point places was the Dome of Rock.

The original design for the Dome of Rock was a temple built for the Jewish in 691 CE but destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans. One of the main significance from the Roman siege, was a Jewish Rabbi instantly changed his faith to Islam. And of course, the devastation it bought on the Jewish and Christian community.

When our team arrived, we all felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to worship, say declarations and pray. Some of us walked about the Temple we were not allowed to enter, so we did a prayer walk around it. We all believe it will once again become a place of worship. And all will be free to enter. I believe it will be once again called the House of God.

Yesterday morning, some people from our team wanted to go to the Dome of Rock, however because of heightened security, it was closed off to the public. Riots were breaking out between the Jews and Muslims as the Jews are fighting to take back what they believe is rightfully theirs. According to a tour guide, at least for half of the land is what they are currently fighting over.

Here’s what I’m learning: religion sucks. Not that I didn’t know this before, but rules are imposed and the lines are often crossed. People hate and kill. Religion is often blown out of proportion and constant fighting happens.

Why God is so simple: He doesn’t require much. Yes, He established some laws and commandments for us to follow. Mostly to protect the people and make sure they are kept on track in following Him.

Why religion fails: Aside from the rules and regulations created by man and the hate and destruction it causes? It fails because people forget. They forget why God created them. They forget what He’s done for them. They forget the simplest and freest love they could ever receive.

Religion fails when idolization or unbelief take over. People believe the gold at the altar is more important than than the relationship God wants. I will personally take up the altar anytime, if it means having a relationship. The relationship with God fails if I find a replacement considered more important than God.

Which is more important, the temple where gold is laid or the gold itself? (Matt 23:16-22)