Sunday, 30 April 2017

God's Daily Surprises & Gifts in the Holy Land and Jordan!

It has been slightly more than week since I returned from the Holy Land.  I am taking longer to recover from jet-lag.  But here I am, finally putting words down so that God's goodness to our Holy Land Adventure team can be praised!  Yes, please give Him all the glory, praise and honor.
But let me go back to 2016 and take you down this adventure trail with Christ.

Pre-trip Preparation

July 2016:  I was really excited that a team would join my often solo ministry trips to just about anywhere.  This was going to be different as only three people in the team actually knew me; the rest were people who had minimal contact with me.  And so, we began praying and meeting via Skype once a month.
Especially with the core team of two brothers and one sister, we would prepare ourselves with the Word, intercultural issues and intercession.
We were supposed to partner with another ministry in the Holy Land (more about that later).

Throughout the next six months, we saw people dropping out of our team or being unsure of going with us.  Still, this did not deter us (volunteers with Faith Ablaze International Ministries) [FAIM]; we trusted God explicitly.

Fast forward to 13 Feb 2017.

Praying and Fasting for the Holy Land Adventure

God impressed upon me to fast and pray for the Holy Land Adventure for 50 days. It was to be the Prophet Daniel's fast (Daniel 10:3).  I did not have a variety of prayers but I found myself desiring for God's answers to prayers for salvation for people I personally knew, for four impossible miracles that would have personal and global impacts and for the hearts of my team to be prepared for spiritual encounters and to be a blessing to the people.  Especially, we had two children on the team.  One was a three-year-old named Jaidan and the other was a nine-year-old named Neha.  I have never led a team with children as members!  But there was an intense desire to see the children used by God, yes even for Him to speak through them.

50 days is a long time to fast.  The Prophet Daniel only took 21 days!  I did not question God on the number of days; I have learnt not to question Him when He speaks so clearly.  So, yes, 50 days was a long time but I benefitted from it - my spirit was more sensitive to God; I was feeling healthy and was definitely fitter.  There was that tinge of irritability when I was I driving on the Honduran roads - I confess.  Repentance came in many forms - for self, for my ministry and for the nations.

But this is What God did!
1. By the 3rd day of my fast, God had revealed that my team would not be involved in ministering to women leaders in the Holy Land.  I was crushed but perhaps for 10 minutes.  On the 4th day of the fast, God showed me very clearly as to why He allowed it.  Upon such a revelation, I began to thank God and my joy was restored!  His plans are forever greater than my own plans!  God had a special trip in store for us and NO ONE was going to thwart His plans for this team.  I discussed this major setback with my coordinators and the resounding response was:  God has better plans for us!  We are more excited about the trip now!

2. Interestingly, God did not fund me for the hoped-for ministry.  Instead, He used a FAIM supporter to help me buy my ticket to the Holy Land in late 2016, and then used this same supporter to help me with expenses in the Holy Land.  On the 2nd day of being in the Holy Land, I received a text from this generous supporter telling me to use the amount deposited into my account for the trip.
You see, NO ONE knew that I was short of funds for this trip except God.

3.  God moved another supporter to help me financially during the time of my fast and that contribution helped with a portion of my lodging expenses.  The life of depending on God for everything is indeed challenging but oh so worth it!  Hallelujah!

I love this part about God!

Just 1-2 days before my departure from Honduras to the Holy Land, my friend Douglas Freeland messaged me and said that he had a vision of me in the Holy Land and that God was going to SURPRISE me and my team.  Douglas did not know that I had plans to visit the Holy Land at that specific moment.  Wow!  I took this word from Douglas.

Within the next five minutes, another friend Patrick Koh sent me a Scripture verse that became the theme Scripture for the adventure - Job 5: 9

Earlier on, Patrick had encouraged me with
2 Corinthians 9:  8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

And to top it, my cousin Jerusha Seenyen told me this:
 Rachel, there are many things to pray for you but I am  burdened to pray especially for your trip to the Holy Land.  There is going to be RESTORATION during your trip.

I knew that many people prayed for us during this trip.  In moments of challenges, I kept claiming Job 5: 9.  In the daily surprises that God gave us, I joyfully shared with my friends and I witnessed with my own eyes, the restoration God brought at every devotional session during this adventure.
Glory to God alone!

And what about my prayer - for everyone to have special encounters?

God answered my prayer for the children to be used on the very first evening together.  We were discussing about our cultural perceptions of God and biblical perspective of God.  When I asked for feedback, I decided to include the children. The children added onto what we adults had already thought about God.  Jaidan said, "God is my Helper" and Neha said, "God is my Father".  All of us adults simply knew that God spoke through them.

Everyone's life was touched by God but here are some memorable moments for me (the others will need to write their own blog!):

How God organised last-minute bookings for our lodgings when I found out that we were not going to minister and He did all that in less than 24 hours!

How God allowed for my team to spend our devotional times at least 5-6 times at the Garden Tomb and I am thankful that FAIM volunteers helped me with the Holy Communion.

How God delighted the team at Bethlehem Bible College Guesthouse with great guest-rooms and service.

How God gave me two heart-shaped pebbles from Carmel Beach, within five minutes of asking Him cheekily.

How I was pleasantly surprised when three couples on my team wanted to renew their wedding vows at the church in Cana!  I have never done this before and reached out to my amigo Patrick who promptly sent me the words.  Thank God for such a quick response and internet connections.  It was an emotional experience for all of us!

How five team members wanted to be baptized in the Jordan River!  I knew that at least two wanted to be baptized but five was a good surprise.  And just the day before, my friend Douglas had told me that more will come to be baptized.  That was an experience to baptize them all in the freezing (by my standards) water.  Hallelujah big-time!

How God gave us the gift of visiting the life-sized Tabernacle at Timna Park.  We got educated.

How we saw the oldest city in the world, Jericho from the cable car!  Totally unplanned.

How God allowed me to bless a couple of female soldiers at the Wailing Wall and a couple of male soldiers at the Israeli-Jordan River borders.

How I saw tens of angels in the sky above the Bethesda pool.  Grace was the first word the came to my mind when i saw the way they flew.

And oh...that awesome Upper Room experience as a team where we sang before the Lord and sensed His glorious presence. It is one of my most precious times with the Lord Jesus.

How God granted all our team members bird's eye view of the Tomb during the Resurrection Sunday Service.

The Art Part of God's plans

We had two nights of Holy Spirit inspired art sessions where we relaxed before God.  This was led by another Holy Land adventure team member.

The Celebration and Dance Parts of God's Plans

How we celebrated a surprise birthday for a FAIM volunteer at Connect Cafe in Bethlehem and danced to 10,000 Reasons (Wish I could show you the video).

How we celebrated Palm Sunday Service on a Saturday at House of Bread Church.  It was great to meet some of my Palestinian Christian friends.  We had a surprise invitation to visit and minister to a Palestinian Christian family.  Three of us were privileged to experience this and we totally love this family.

How we celebrated our first Sunday with two churches - the Jerusalem Alliance Church and here we discovered that our 'driver' Simon was not only biblically educated but also a very talented worship leader!  And St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem.

How we danced to Hebrew music onboard the boat while sailing the Galilee.  Just wild!

How we celebrated another surprise birthday for a Holy Land adventure team member on the very last day of our trip in Jordan!

The Music Part of God's Plans

How FAIM team-mate who is also a church choir director was blessed by God's affirmation of his gift as a choir director, musician and singer.  He led us into bursts of hymns at various churches during our trip and we had other nations join us spontaneously; God ministered through our singing to a Russian lady in one such moment.

How God surprised my team-mate such that he was able to play the pipe organ at St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem and ministered to people who surrounded to listen.

How God surprised the team with the opportunity to witness an internationally recognised choir: Alternsteiger Vokalensemble!  And we did not have to pay a single cent to watch such gifted talent!

 How God favored my team-mate's selection of songs for our 12-day devotion time.  It was like a practice session prior to Resurrection Sunday at the Tomb.  At least 5 out of 7 worship songs we sang for 12 days were sung during the Resurrection Sunday English Service! Just amazing when we have eyes to see His hands in every single detail.

And God's People whom We Met are the Best!

Joseph from GEMM Travel "held our hand" throughout our pre-trip and during our stay in Jordan and the Holy Land.  His selection of restaurants was just outstanding.  Haitham from Jordan Gateway Tours offered one of the best airport-coordinator services my team or I have received.  Jihad, our Jordanian guide was knowledgable, amiable and patient.  Makhoul, our guide in the Holy Land was extremely patient with us and was very knowledgeable too.
Our team had the best people to help us!  We were blessed to be able to pray for each one of them.

We were so blessed with Nizar, the manager from St.Gabriel's Hotel in Nazareth.  He went out of his way to help get a left-behind journal to my team-mate before the Holy weekend holidays.

We were served beautifully by the nuns, especially Sister Herminia and Elias from White Sisters (a Catholic retreat centre).

Then, I had the pleasure of introducing my personal friends to my team; namely Kenny and Sanaa.  We met on separate evenings for meals.  It was good for my team to receive some life insights from both of them.  We love them both!

And so many more miracles for us...everyday. What Douglas, Jerusha and Patrick communicated to me came to pass.  Our faith in Christ is real and we do know that we believe in a God of Miracles.  God loves to surprise us.  Even when times and situations are difficult for us, God is only a blink away, a breath away, a prayer away, a friend away.

What did I learn from this trip?
God's plans are always the best.  He reveals Himself in surprising ways.  God loves to be known.  We need to tell more people about Christ by our words and deeds that match with our faith in Christ.  We need to be surrounded by friends who will have our ministries lifted to God's throne of grace and mercy.  We need to pay the price of our time and efforts in our faith in Christ, for the mighty moves of God!  We need to ask God for only His plans to succeed in our lives.

And oh...finally to be pleasantly surprised with a Business class upgrade on Air France from Jordan to France!  Love my life in Christ!

Renewed to love and live in Christ even more,