Thursday, October 30, 1997

VOLUME 1 - Winter 1997

Getting Through Security Securely

El Al airport security is notorious for their strict matter-of-fact questions. Many passengers are astounded at the amount of information the agents request. Topics ranging from, "how did you afford to buy this airline ticket", to the standard "did you receive any packages from anyone to take to Israel" are very time consuming to the anxious travelers.

I was determined to be prepared this trip. I had our itinerary in my carry on bag (to explain the funny shoes and wig) and a copy of Sunshine After Rain - Promised Land Poetry and Prose, to prove that I REALLY am a writer. The security guard started interrogating me with all the aforementioned questions, and I was ready with all the answers.

The occupation question arose and I told her I was a writer, she stopped and said, "really, so am I". She resumed the routine security list of questions, but then interjected, "what do you write?" I told her mostly poems and song lyrics. "Really, I am a poet myself. Do you have anything that proves you are a writer like a book, or something?"

Was I ever ready for that! I pulled out my trusty copy and handed it to the security agent. She was visibly impressed. "Well, I can see that you really are a writer." She opened to the table of contents and saw the list of traditional Christian sites visited in the Holy Land; Gethsemane, the Garden Tomb, etc., but she stopped and remarked when she read the titles for the Holocaust Museum. "Ah, Yad Vashim, I see you know this place as well".

I turned to the page the poem was on, and asked her to read it. As she was reading, the tough, strictly business exterior faded. She began to cry.

I could not believe it. She turned away, composed herself, and then faced me to finish her set of routine questions. She apologized for the delay and closed the book to return it to me. I opened the cover, asked for her name, and signed it "In His Service". She appeared moved by the gesture, and thanked me for the gift. As I was leaving the security area, she approached me and handed me her address and phone number. “Keep in touch,” she said. Of course I will.

I was asked many times before leaving on this trip how we intended to witness to the Israelis if we could not mention directly the name of Jesus in the Jewish facilities we were planning to visit. Before the plane even left the ground, the LORD faithfully showed me He would handle the witnessing opportunities, we need only to be prepared, available, and listening.

That will not only get you through security – it will get you through SECURELY!

The Israeli Invasion

– Or what happens when you storm the gates!
In an effort to relate a few of the many miracles experienced on our Fall 1997 trip to Israel, I am taking the “what I did on my summer vacation approach”. There is no way to tell all of the blessings we witnessed and received without writing a book or something (hey, now there is an new idea!). Our sincerest appreciation, to all who supported our ministry mission efforts and faithfully held us up in prayer while we were gone. We could not have done it without you. In all the thousands of hands we touched you, the supporters of Sunshine After Rain Ministries, touched them as well.

First Day
Our day began performing a few skits for our fellow Pilgrim’s on the Zola Levitt Tour. After the laughs died down, we told them what all this “funny business” was really about. Strengthened by the group’s commitment to pray for our “going forth with the good news,” we set out for the Messianic Kindergarten. One of the most frequently asked questions about our mission efforts, by supporters and those we contacted to visit in Israel, was “how do you get past the language barrier?” Laughter like music is a universal language. The ability to make people smile and forget about the cares of the world, even if only for a moment is truly a gift from the Lord. The children in the kindergarten acted amazed but a bit shy at first. But when we started telling stories and making balloon animals, the international barriers were crossed and smiles broke out across their faces. As we told the stories, their teacher interpreted for us, even putting the accentuation on the funny parts of the story – like “clown subtitles”. After the storytelling and balloon making antics were over – we waved goodbye to the children and prepared to make our way across the city to the Princess Basma Home for Disabled Children. But how to catch a cab?

Convincing a driver to take us into Arab occupied East Jerusalem, in full clown makeup, was no easy task. Fortunately, our contact for the day, Ms. Rival, spoke excellent Hebrew. She convinced the reluctant driver of our good intentions. Arriving at our destination, we were heralded with screams from the children on the playground of the school next door. A stampede toward the fence that separated us occurred as they eagerly held their hands through the partition, wanting merely to be touched. It was thrilling. We went inside the Home where the director escorted us through the facility. The able-bodied children had just been released for their playtime and we were soon mobbed by a three-foot high, hand waving, overly excited crowd.

You would have thought they had seen Elvis or something!! I began to feel claustrophobic, and started to pray for Norma. “Lord, if I am bothered this much, she must be about to scream.” I expected any minute to hear my friend’s panic stricken voice. When I looked toward her, she seemed to be having the time of her life. I asked later if the crowd of children pressing in on all sides had bothered her and she replied “No, not at all. In fact – I took off my other glove so I could touch those precious little ones with both hands!” So much for claustrophobia. As I looked around at the gathering, my own panic rising, the Lord reminded me of Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. (KJV) My childhood vision of the Master sitting quietly, with one or two small children changed. They most likely massed around Him as these children were around us. And yet, our Lord did as my friend – He held out both His hands so He could touch them all – the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Second Day
Our scheduled visit to the hospital in Jerusalem was cancelled for the holiday of Erev Yom Kippur (the Eve of the holiest day). Our next stop was in Tel Aviv at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center (SCMC) and the Tel Hashomer Hospital. The SCMC was a gleaming colorful new facility, which belied the fact it housed so many critically ill and dying young. We followed our escort from floor to floor, canvassing each room, passing out our clown coloring pages and crayons. Parents, even the orthodox Jews, smiled as much as the children, shook our hands and thanked us for the visit. Unlike American hospitals, we were allowed into the highly restricted areas of intensive care and the emergency room. We were blessed to see the first child to receive a heart transplant. The Tel Hashomer Hospital was quite different, it could be compared to one of our state funded facilities. The language barrier, we discovered, existed more between the bureaucrats of the system than with the children. Through miscommunication, we arrived unexpected, but since we had “dressed for the occasion” we were invited to stay. Again, we traveled floor to floor, room to room, bringing smiles, laughter, touches and hugs - our greatest reward for the day.

Third Day
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana (John 2:1)
Third days are filled with expectations. In searching for passages that mentioned “the third day” I discovered that Jesus’ first miracle was on the third day of His ministry. On the third day of our mission He performed yet another miracle in me (see following story).

The King Replied...

... whatever you do to the least one of these...

“Thank You Lord, I just have one more day of rising early and putting on this grease paint and the grin that I must wear in front of these hurting, sick, and very needy children. You have really put me to the emotional test this time. I’m not sure that my heart can take another day.” So began my prayers this third morning in Jerusalem.

In the preceding days of our trip to Israel, we had crisscrossed the city making visits to hospitals, schools and orphan homes, seeing well over a thousand children. During the months of arranging our time, I had no idea how physically and emotionally demanding the reality of the schedule would be. The International Christian Embassy arranged our visits for the day. The first would be to a Christian school in Hebron, and the last an orphanage outside of Bethlehem.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction… James 1:27

During the drive back from Hebron, we began to hear the story of the Jemima House (pronounced Ye-mee-ma, meaning warmth and tenderness) from Ed Vollbehr, its director. He related how he and his wife had come from Holland over fourteen years ago to help at a home for the blind. Upon arrival in Israel however, their original plans changed. As they made themselves available to where the Lord had need for them, they discovered a whole new area of ministry. They began to assist handicapped and severely retarded children. Children who had been cast off and abandoned by their Muslim parents and society. As word of their care and love for these children spread, neighbors, other caregivers, healthcare workers and even complete strangers would approach them about this or that child they’d heard of, or one that had been left behind. They even received calls to simply provide a loving environment in which an abandoned desperately ill child could die. They always opened not only the door, but also their hearts. Giving, showing and teaching where possible the unending love and mercy of their Savior.

He showed me two people who started out simply to serve Him, and now were parents to over 34 children. Children ranging in ages from 1 to 21 with very serious medical, physical and emotional needs. I sat humbled, under God’s mighty hand. My day had begun, with the grumblings and moanings of one pushed to the limit. I had no idea what limits were. I had a break from the emotional strain coming within the next few hours. They had no break on the horizon. Each day brought its own demands, and some days brought another phone call or knock on the door “there is a child… can you help?” We questioned Mr. Vollbehr on he and his wife’s obvious endless supply of patience. He replied “ the Lord has given me NO patience, that way I have no patience to lose”.

We arrived at the home, and gave our impromptu performance. Using a range of mime, merriment and music we entertained the children, then spread touches, hugs and pats amongst them. Afterwards, we joined the Vollbehrs in their apartment above the dining hall. Gracing their walls, were pictures of their seven now living with Jesus. We shared a lunch of melba toast, cheese and lemonade while animated ambulatory children made their way in and out of the room.

Beside the table a rattan chair cradled a tiny paralytic named Aya (meaning sign in particular of God). Her raspy breathing was frequently interrupted by fits of coughing. There was a tube in her nostril, Ed and Helen explained, to aid in her feeding. A separate machine sat in the corner to help drain the mucous from her lungs. Although she was three years old, her body was no larger than an infants. Her limbs were twisted, and paralyzed. Her blind eyes open to the room, offered only a blank stare to the people loving her into the Kingdom to come.

They asked me if I would like to hold her, and placed her limp, unresponsive body in my arms. I gently held her for over half an hour, until she had an epileptic seizure and was taken from my arms and tended to by Ed.

Later, Norma related how thankful she was they had asked me and not her. She couldn’t understand how I kept back the tears, holding this frail and dying child. I have often questioned the quote “God will not give us more than we can bear” (taken from 1 Corinthians 10:13) until that day. In meeting the Vollbehrs and seeing all that was required of them physically and emotionally to care for so many in such need, their testimony of faith, and even in simply holding this child, I came to understand that He does give the strength and the grace, for each moment and opportunity that He presents to us.

I remembered well what Jesus told His disciples.

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

As I looked down at the child in my arms, I thanked Him, for letting me hold Him that day.

A Final Note

The end of the year is upon us. New Year’s resolutions will be made once again. Last January my earnest prayer was for the Lord to teach me how to have fun. The world, the flesh, and the devil had robbed me of that. He answered – just take a look at the pictures inside! And while we all may laugh at the idea when I said I’d like to “lighten up” I didn’t quite mean to become a white-face clown, I have learned through the “art of clowning” that putting on the make-up and developing a character is a process of dying to self. Of course that was what He had in mind all along.

Through your support, in just three days in Israel over 1200 children were blessed by that answered prayer. For someone as shy as I was that is a miracle! My sincerest thanks.

Remember there is Sunshine After Rain and may God bless you this special season (with Him they all are special)!