Boom! Crack! Pow! On December 31st, 2011, our family landed in Tel Aviv, Israel to serve as school administrators for a pre-K through 12th grade school in East Jerusalem, Israel. We were awakened later that night by the sound of fireworks, bringing in the New Year. It was hard to believe we were back overseas and would be for about the next four years.
Problem was, I wasn’t real excited about leading a school, knowing the all-consuming nature of school administration. In the end, I was much more interested in learning further about planting churches in the Middle East. Regardless, we set up our apartment, thanks in part to IKEA, and went about meeting with teachers to deal with problems from the fall semester, while also making plans for the spring.
It was a hard few months, trying to adjust to life in a Palestinian neighborhood that was regularly patrolled by Israeli soldiers. We enrolled Nate in preschool and began to try to solve the many problems this school was facing.
On top of it all, Haley, two at the time, started experiencing high fevers, upwards of 106 degrees Fahrenheit, which resulted in her having multiple febrile seizures. Talk about feeling helpless as a parent. We were again facing challenging situations, but thankfully we had a firmer grasp on the sovereignty of God in the midst of it (previous article).
We wound up taking Haley to a hospital to have her tested and try to figure out what was going on. Although we could find no answers there, we, along with other family and friends, prayed for healing in Haley’s body and she never again had another spiking fever, resulting in a febrile seizure.
Our God is a God who heals: spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
Within a few months, Shellie became pregnant with Lucas, again without the help of fertility medicine. Lucas means “bringer of light” and we felt the name was fitting considering Jesus had revealed more of Himself to Shellie and me in the past several years as we walked through difficult circumstances with Him. And I also really like the New Testament book of Luke :-).
About a year into our time in Jerusalem, we found out our missions organization was launching a new church planting initiative in our part of the world, called Live|Dead, and we were eager to learn more about it. While at a summer conference, we asked about the possibility of leading a church planting team in our area, only to be reminded by our leadership that we had made a commitment to the school, so we best honor that first. It was not the answer we wanted, but we trusted our leaders. More than anything, we trusted Jesus and the way He works through leaders, and so we went back to prepare for another school year.
During the next couple of years, we continued to face challenges at the school we were at. One morning I was discussing some discipline matters with Jeff, our dean of students, when the school’s director of operations, George, walked in, seemingly out of breath. I gave him the token cultural greeting. He said Abu Ibrahim was on his way up to talk about his son re-enrolling in school. Several weeks earlier, his son had been expelled for repeated, abusive behavior as well as bullying.
Within a few minutes, Abu Ibrahim came down the hall escorted by our 6’4”, 330-pound school guard, Abdullah. The man appeared agitated, refused to sit down, and said he was upset that his son could not attend school. We discussed the situation, he calmed down and went on his way.
The next morning while helping George set up a businessmen’s breakfast at the school, he told me God was watching out for me. “How?” I asked. It turns out Abu Ibrahim came into George’s office irate and ready to hit me. He left George and headed toward my office. George headed my way but was stopped by someone along the way, so he told Abdullah to go to my office. George then quickly ran up two flights of stairs looking for Abu Ibrahim. The father had taken the elevator, but the electricity went out and he was trapped inside. By the time he arrived on my floor, Jeff and George were in my office, and Abdullah escorted him the rest of the way. He did not feel like hitting me with three big guys in the room. George was convinced God cut the electricity to that elevator in order for me to avoid a physical confrontation that day.
It would not be the only time I faced the threat of physical violence. There were several occasions when I came home to let Shellie know we would have to avoid certain stores or restaurants as certain families were upset with me and decisions I had made at the school. It was a stressful and difficult environment to work in. Many days, I’d come home feeling completely depleted and defeated. I’d drop my backpack, give a quick greeting to Shellie and the kids, and then head to our bedroom to pray and lay everything out before the Lord. I desperately desired to serve Jesus in a different way. I was seeking His wisdom, understanding, comfort and strength to remain faithful to what He had put before our family to do.
We did not understand why we could not pursue the deeper passions in our heart, but remained steadfast in our commitment to lead this school in East Jerusalem. We did not understand everything that Jesus was doing behind the scenes, but we were convinced Jesus knows best, even when we don’t understand.
Our job was simply to remain faithful to Him, by remaining faithful to those we served alongside at the school and to what our leadership had asked us to do.
God was at work and soon, He’d show us what He was up to. In the meantime, our job was to be good and faithful servants of King Jesus (Matthew 25:23).
Have you had times in your life when remaining faithful to what Jesus asked you to do seemed hard?
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