Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snowed in!

Though Simperopol is a fairly flat city, our little village is nestled among some hills. During the last couple of weeks, we experienced some very cold, icy weather. Because of the ice (and some dangerous cliffs off of the road), we were snowed in for a couple of days! A couple of times David tried to leave the village, only to return more than an hour later saying he had only been three minutes away, trying to make the same incline over and over again. One time it took him an hour and half to drive to get to the edge of town, and this normally takes us only about seven minutes! The lowest that it got that I know of was -17 degrees fahrenheit.

Praise the Lord, our electricity was only off the first day we returned from Israel. We were without water during that time, but our wood-burning stove kept us warm. Since then the electricity has been running strong. You must be praying for us!

Now we are entering another season out here in the village as all of the ice and snow is nearly melted... muddy season!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Last pictures from Israel trip

Looking off of Mt. Tabor, the Mount of Transfiguration
Stopped at McDonald's for coffee, and thought you might enjoy seeing the menu in Hebrew
The town of Nain, where Jesus raised the widow's son
Nazareth, where Jesus grew up.
We found a Burger King!
The Valley of Armageddon... where the final battle will take place
This is Caesarea, the town where the first Gentiles were saved in Acts 10
Shores of Joppa, where Jonah was to leave toward Ninevah. This is also where Peter was when he saw the vision of the unclean animals and from where he left to go witness to the first Gentile who became a Christian, Cornelius
Mall in Tel Aviv
One of our stops took us to the "Beit Kobi" home, a home started by a fallen soldier's mother (she is pictured on the right) that is now used to house soldiers whose parents live in other countries.
Coffee break
In the airport, ready to go home!
Still waiting to leave....
And waiting....
Our flight was finally canceled due to bad weather in Ukraine, and the airport provided this room and two great meals for free!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

In Defense and Support of Israel

Upon returning from Israel, my husband had some thoughts he recently recorded about his burden for Israel and Christians' need to support this nation. He wrote this article, and I thought you would enjoy reading it:

THE WORLD HAS SET ASIDE this day to pause and remember the atrocities carried out by Nazi Germany over 65 years ago. January 27 is International Holocaust Day. As I write these lines, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is at Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland, marking the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp by Soviet troops. And Israel’s President Shimon Peres is speaking to the German Parliament in Berlin. Both are doing what each of us should do: pause to remember.

Earlier this month while in Jerusalem, I had the honor of meeting with the Vice Prime Minister of Israel, Moshe Ya’alon. Later that same day I met with Member of Knesset Dr. Arieh Eldad at his office at Knesset. Both of these men expressed a concern to me which I relate to you here. They addressed the need for Christians the world over to stand in defense and support of Israel. This message must be delivered to the sixty million Christians in America, in the Spanish world where I was born and raised, and in the former Soviet Union, where I now live and serve. Therefore, these words will be written in English, Spanish, and Russian, and disseminated to Christians living in these countries.

The Jewish Agency reported earlier this week that anti-Semitism is more widely spread and prevalent in 2010 than it was during World War II. Speaking about the rise of anti-Semitism as evidenced by the Jewish Agency report, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned the international community that those who hate Jews and want to destroy Israel will eventually move on to the rest of the world, too. Speaking Monday during a ceremony at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, he said, “We know that this just begins with Jews, and then continues on to the rest of the world.”

IT IS AN INDICTMENT ON CHRISTIANITY that during difficult days such as these, when it seems everyone is against Israel, our friends in the Jewish community are in short supply of true friends. I am convinced that Jews today are facing the same situation they faced in 1938. Iran is today’s Nazi Germany, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is today’s Hitler. Nothing less than a nuclear holocaust is the threat we hear from Iran, and we must not sit by in silence this time while this generation’s Hitler plans the destruction of the State of Israel. Speaking of the Jewish nation, the Scriptures declare, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee:…” These blessings and these judgments are very real. However, at every turn we hear not blessings, but curses against Israel. Even supposedly devout Christians praise the patriarchs of the past while avoiding their Jewish neighbors.

In 1938 far too many Christian leaders, and therefore world leaders, did not take seriously the threat to Jewish citizens of Europe until it was too late. There is a pattern throughout history of persecution of the Jewish people, often perpetrated by brutal thugs presenting themselves as religious leaders, while the rest of the world feigns ignorance. When we turn a blind eye to an impending atrocity, we are as guilty as the perpetrator of the crime. If we ignore the events in our world today, much as our ancestors ignored them a generation ago, we are repeating history in a way that can only be seen as sinful.

God placed Esther, whose real name was Hadassah, queen of Persia (modern-day Iran), in a critical position to help the Jewish people when an evil man, in this case Haman, was plotting to exterminate the Jews. 2,500 years later, today’s Persian leader, Ahmadinejad, is again plotting to exterminate the Jewish people. His ultimate goal is to put together the capability for a nuclear holocaust.

Just as Esther’s cousin Mordecai said to her, God is today saying to Christians, “If you remain silent at this time, I will see to it that deliverance comes to the Jews from another place. But you and your house will perish.”

DELIVERANCE WILL COME to the Jewish people again, even if God Himself has to come and save them. But it is clear that Christians worldwide have been elevated to a position of influence for such a time as this. I am convinced that if we will stand in defense and support of Israel, God will defend our nation. But if we hold our peace and remain silent at this very critical time in history, the judgment of God will fall on our land.

The Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has opened unto us a great door and effectual way to stand in defense and support of Israel today. We need your help to continue the work the Lord has given us to fulfill. If you love the Lord; if you love your country; if it is your desire to stand with Israel during these critical times, I call on you to share our passionate support of Israel and her people and let us know that you would like to become involved in fulfilling Isaiah 62:1 “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest….”

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Home, Sweet, Home!

We are finally back home in Ukraine! It was a joyous reunion when we picked up our children, and it was sheer happiness to me to hear their squeals of delight to see us. Even my big man, Davey, who is outgrowing hugs and kisses, held on tight and extra long as he hugged me. It was simply blissful.

It is below freezing here, and we returned home to no electricity. Praise God for that new wood-burning stove! Unfortunately, though, no electricity for us means no water since the water pump is run by electricity. So, we spent the night in our home, then headed over to the VanSant's house the next day. They even graciously offered their washing machine for our use!

The electricity was turned back on yesterday evening, only to be switched back off at midnight. We gathered the children from their rooms and all finished out our night of sleep in the living room, near the wood stove. Not remembering the transition, my silly 5-year old Nate thought it was a miracle... that somehow he had "floated" from his bed to the couch in the middle of the night.

So, we are home. Poor electricity, low water, freezing temperatures.... but home! Home, sweet, home! It feels so good to be here!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Plea for Israel

Our flight from Istanbul, Turkey, to Simferopol, Ukraine was postponed, then canceled due to weather conditions in Ukraine. The airline company graciously paid for our dinner, hotel room, and shuttle. Lord-willing, we will be returning home tomorrow morning!

This evening, we found out that Pastor Bob's mother passed away today, so please be much in prayer for him. He was able to return to America last month to spend a week with her, and we are grateful for the time the Lord allowed them together in her last days.

I have a burden for the Jews and I want to share it here with you. I am a wife and a mother, but I am also a missionary's wife. Therefore, I cannot sit amongst any group of people and not wonder where they will spend eternity one day. It is simply ingrained in me that people are dying without Christ and will go to hell if they do not accept Christ's payment for their sins. And, I know that it is my responsibility to share God's simple plan of salvation with those in need.

I am leaving Israel with a heavy burden. I realized this last week just how desperately Jews need Jesus, but how difficult it is for them to accept Him. Two years ago, some Jews that we witnessed to told us that they could not accept Jesus because, "We are Jews." Those words have haunted me for two years. Jesus was a Jew, yet the Jews cannot accept Him. They believe that Jesus was a prophet and they are still waiting for their Savior, for their Messiah. Their Messiah has already come, yet they are still waiting. Thousands of years and still waiting. Waiting.

This recent trip to Israel showed me something else about the Jews' desperate need for Jesus - something I had not clearly seen before. Two of our Jewish friends had been given a New Testament in English. They had tried to read it, and even though their English is good, they could not understand it. They wanted the New Testament in their own language for clarity. We went to bookstores and asked for the New Testament in Hebrew. Nothing. How about any information about Jesus and the explanation of the places He lived and ministered? Nothing.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. The store clerk replied, "I'm sorry, but our people do not like Jesus." We finally found the Hebrew New Testament in a tourist book shop and bought it, even though it cost $23. In a normal Christian bookstore, a New Testament of its quality would have cost no more than $5. But, we needed it... desperately.

It was then that I came to understand that the Jews do not reject Jesus because they do not believe in Him. They reject Jesus because they know nothing about Him! They are told that He was a false prophet who claimed He was the Messiah, and they hear nothing more about Him. Even though we in America do not believe in Mohammad, Buddha, Allah, etc..., we can walk into any bookstore and find a wealth of information about these false prophets. We have the freedom to read about these prophets and make our own decision whether or not to believe in them. The Jews do not have this luxury. They do not get to make this choice for themselves.

It is prohibited by law to pass out religious literature to anyone under 18 in Israel. Well, there goes the bus ministry. And, you will never hear "Jesus Loves Me" sung openly. How will the Jewish children ever know what Jesus did for them on the cross? And what about the people who live on the land where He once taught and ministered? Well, I met some of these people and I can tell you. They live, work, rear families, and never even know what happened 2,000 years ago, in the very place where their feet walk . They have no comprehension of why tourists come to see their land. No understanding of these "ancient ruins."

The Jews love God. They respect God's Word and many keep its laws nearly to the letter.... at least right up to the book of Malachi. But, that is where it ends. Nearly every Jew has portions of the Old Testament Scriptures prominently displayed on their doorposts, and they faithfully show their reverence when they walk through their doorways. But, it is all just a ritual. They love God, but they do not know His Son. They do not understand salvation and the way to Heaven. No one has ever told them.

Would God have you to go to Israel to be a light in terrible darkness? Who will share the redemptive story to God's chosen people? Maybe my words will burn deeply in someone's hearts and help them to see the need of Israel. Maybe a missions teacher can share these words with his missions class. Israel needs the Gospel. I only wish I had another lifetime to live to serve there as well as where I already serve. Time is short. Please answer the plea of a missionary's wife and take the light of God's Son to this place of utter darkness!

Was someone saved while we were in Israel? Yes! Yes! Yes! We had the joyous opportunity of seeing a Jewish woman bow her head and call out to Jesus to be her Messiah! But, I do not have the freedom of sharing her name or her picture with you. One of the greatest thrills of my life has to remain a secret in my heart. I cannot share details because these people do not have religious freedom. Thank God for your religious freedoms, the handful of whole Bibles laying in your home, and beg Him to send someone... even YOU... to teach of His Son to His chosen people! Will you go?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Last day in Israel

Just a quick hello to let everyone know that we are fine and well. We do not have internet connection (this is a friend's computer I am typing on), which is why I have not posted pictures of the rest of our trip.

We leave Israel tomorrow. Our flight will take us through Istanbul, Turkey, and then on to Simferopol, Ukraine. We have talked to our children (who are in Ukraine) a couple of times and they are so happy! I told my babysitter, Nelya, that the only complaint I have is that it seems as though the kids are so happy that they are not missing us. But, of course, this is very comforting for me.

Please pray for us to have a wonderful last day here and then safety tomorrow. I have enjoyed the comments many of you have been sending to me!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Joy in Heaven today!

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth... Luke 15: 7

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A day by the Sea of Galilee

We started out the day yesterday with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. We ended up with a tourist group from Columbia on our boat, and, boy, were they a lively bunch! We then drove to the Jordan River, which is just a beautiful area. We ended the day at the ruins of Capernaum, where Jesus spent His last years of ministering. It is incredible to me how much history I am learning about the places where my Jesus walked. The facts I have heard since I was a child are now becoming real places to me... I am walking where He walked, touching the water He calmed, and looking at the places He saw. But, even though I will be leaving these places in a few days, He will be going with me because He lives within me!
On a boat ride, looking onto the Sea of Galilee
These are ruins of a boat that were found about a decade ago during a dry season here. Of course, no one knows to whom this boat belonged, but it was certainly used several centuries ago. They now call it the "Jesus boat."

At the Jordan River, close to where it joins the Sea of Galilee
The peaceful Jordan River
Pastor Bob and Mrs. Judy standing at an entry point to the Jordan River. Thousands are baptized here each year, but we just enjoyed feeding bread to the numerous hungry catfish and muskrats.
My sweetie and I at the Jordan River
There were at least 20 plaques exactly like this one, with the Scripture passage about Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River. Each plaque had the same reference printed, only in a different language. We were amused by this one that was typed in "Hawaii Pidgin."
Standing by the Jordan River
Entrance to Capernaum
Statue of Peter in Ancient Capernaum
Ruins of a synagogue in Capernaum. It is very likely Jesus stood in this very place and read the Scriptures.
Inside synagogue ruins in Capernaum. Here we are trying out one of those aspect-type photos, where it looks like we are trying to hold the pillars. Guess we should have shown a little more stress on our faces to make it look real!
Ruins in Capernaum, showing the separation of living quarters for different families.
An ancient olive press
Ancient synagogue with homes close to it. I was actually surprised at how close the homes were to the synagogue. It was apparent that some people lived just a few steps (literally) from their place of worship.
Dinner by the Sea of Galilee, where David and I shared "St. Peter's fish" A romantic evening in Capernaum, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee
Nearly 10 years and still in love!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jerusalem... and beyond!

Before leaving Jerusalem, we had a couple of places we wanted to see first: Bethlehem and the Holocaust Museum. Bethlehem is now controlled by Palestinians, and even though tour groups are allowed inside their walls, we did not stay long. We did not feel safe there and we knew that no one really knows exactly where Jesus was born. Therefore, just going inside the city for a short while was enough for us.
Once we toured the Holocaust Museum, we traveled two hours north to the Sea of Galilee, which is the general area in which we are staying tonight. We took many pictures along the way, weaving in and out of Palestinian territories since they have taken control of various pieces of land all throughout Israel.
Enjoy seeing some of today's pictures!
On the Israeli side, David is asking Israeli soldiers how to get beyond the walls into Bethlehem.
Inside Bethlehem
A cave inside Bethlehem shows the type of caves people have used as shelter for centuries.
The mountain in the distance is believed to be the place where Herod lived and ruled.
Inside the Holocaust Museum, a "funnel" of pictures shows just a small portion of the Jews who were executed by the Nazis during WWII.
Looking up at the pictures... Behind and all around me are bookshelves 1/3 full of record books of those whose deaths are known. The empty shelves (not seen in this particular picture) represent the other 2/3 of Jews whose death records are unknown.
Palestinian-occupied land
Palestinian homes. I will not make a comment here, but you can see for yourself how they live. We saw this situation everywhere!
Wall and barbed-wire that separates the Jews from the Palestinians
Bedouins still play a role in society today. We saw several of these make-shift tents as we traveled as well.
Driving through the Judaean Desert, where Jesus was tempted by Satan.
We stopped for a snack and I wanted to point out here that prices in Israel are expensive. Just this can of chips was $5! Gas is $8 a gallon; a bottle of shampoo is $7!
We stopped off at the Dead Sea, and all got a good laugh out of this "man" who caught a fish here. Of course, fish cannot survive in this salty water, so fishing here would be useless!
Standing in front of the Dead Sea. Jordan is behind us. (Actually, the territorial line that separates Israel from Jordan runs right through the middle of the Dead Sea.)
The slimiest, strangest water I have ever felt was this water. People were swimming here, and I certainly had no desire to join them!
Don't worry.... we found drinking water elsewhere!
Jews are simply brilliant people, as evidenced by these luscious date trees being grown in the rocky desert. The key here is their efficient irrigation of water.
Supper at McDonald's
You come to understand what it means to eat "kosher," (meat separated from dairy) when you are in a McDonald's that does not offer cheese on their hamburgers. In this particular McDonald's you could order your food to the right and your ice cream to the left. A Big Mac Meal here costs $10!
Until tomorrow...!