On My First Trip To Israel

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It's not hard to believe in God when God is all you have.

The words still slice through my heart and mind. Manal is a wife and mother with a mind for business. She manages her household well. Her husband works three jobs to bring home enough money to maintain their standard of living on the west bank of the Palestinian territory. She is a friend of mine. Our hearts are unmistakably intertwined. I guess you could say we are soul-sisters.

I met Manal during my first trip to Israel. Our tour guide invited my husband and I to have dinner in Manal's home with a small group of American travelers in January of 2001. My first trip to Israel was rush of culture and politics. I felt a constant level of anxiety while traveling in the Middle East.  My anxiety increased every time I tried to communicate with street vendors or discern important locations with very little success. Arabic, Hebrew and English are very complex languages that have very little in common. In truth, I was terrified of going into Palestinian territory with a group of people I hardly knew. I desperately prayed for safety as I sat in the backseat of the Volkswagen minivan driven by a Palestinian cab driver with loud Arabic music blaring from the cheap speakers.

I was secretly embarrassed by my short-sightedness and prejudices as we were greeted with extraordinary hospitality upon arrival at Manal's home. She hugged me like a long-lost sister the moment I walked in. She whisked me into her kitchen and educated me about her secrets of making all her traditional dishes. I felt like I was in the presence of a Palestinian Julia Child!

God must've hoped I would learn significant lessons during my first trip to Israel-Palestine. I admired Manal. I learned how complete strangers could extravagantly extend themselves to make others feel welcome. My relationship with Manal set the tone for my other mission adventures. Sometimes we are the recipient of the greater lesson when we say yes to God. While chopping carrots, I can still hear Manal's voice in my mind saying, "It's not hard to believe in God when God is all you have."

Investing in mission isn't always about changing the lives of others. Sometimes, the mission field is located in the center of our own heart.

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith."  -Matthew 8:10

-Pastor Jen Wilson