Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Autobiography-Israel 2008

*This is a portion of the story of my third trip to Israel.*

I arrived at the Pittsburgh International airport with plenty of time to catch my Continental flight to Newark.  As I checked in on the convenient touch-screen, non-human machine, an attendant came to help me.  My passport shows two middle names, Melissa and Sarah, while my ticket only showed Melissa.  I was concerned this would cause an issue, but she assured me it wouldn’t.  As she touch-screened through prompts, she made me aware that I did not have an actual seat on the Tel Aviv connection in Newark.  She asked if I would accept $400 to wait and take another flight.

“Absolutely not!”  I retorted, “I must be in Tel Aviv so I can attend a meeting in Jerusalem on Friday.” 

She quickly pressed through the prompt that I had rejected and handed me a boarding pass without an assigned seat on it.  She advised me to go to the gate as soon as I reached Newark and tell them, “I must be on that flight.”

“How can one pay $1800 for a flight and not have a seat?”  I asked, sarcastically.  I didn’t really expect an answer.  Somehow, I supposed that throwing around the fact that the seat was expensive would solve my problem.  Obviously it didn’t.  I quickly started down the hall as my stomach growled, reminding me that during my rush to buy last minute items and pack, I had not eaten lunch.  After a quick, healthy dinner at Fridays, I sat down in my gate as a woman complained that flights to Newark are always delayed.  Her husband exhorted her, “It will not be delayed this time.”  I glanced at the screen:  Newark 5:55 p.m. ON TIME.  Then an announcement thundered, “Ladies and gentlemen, Newark flight 3245 has been delayed until 6:30 due to bad weather.”  

Around 7:30 we filed onto the plane and waited another hour before taking off.  I sat on the small plane next to a businessman. I pulled out my bible to cling to God for peace.  The stewardess walked past, noticing the bible and said, “That’s a really good book.” I smiled and replied, “Amen, it’s my favorite.”  “I have mine, too.”  She said.

I continued to read and meditate.  During these times of delay, I usually am keenly aware that the opportunity for a divine appointment is often in the works.  I remembered my prayer earlier that morning, “Lord, I ask for divine appointments today and the strength to walk through them.”

We exchanged friendly conversation as I read the back of my boarding pass.  You must be at the gate and checked in at least 30 minutes prior to boarding for an international flight.  Asking what time it was, I quickly realized that I probably would not be making my connection.  I looked out the window and prayed, “Lord, you are the one controlling the skies.  It was your hand that made this plane delayed.  I trust you.  I trust you to get me on the plane and if it isn’t your will I submit.”  I had such peace covering me.  The time 11 rang in my spirit.  I believed my next flight would be leaving at 11.  Then two thoughts starting running through my mind, along with the familiar nudging that I often mistake, ignore, or question. 

“Pray for him.  Pray for his wife.”

I looked at the man sitting beside me.  “Sir, may I be praying for you for anything?” I questioned, sincerely looking him in the face while trying to remain calm, even though this part of following the Lord is one of the most uncomfortable for me.

He looked around, seeming nervous, yet unsure of what to say.  I continued to softly look at him and cautiously asked, “What about your wife?”

“Yes, she could use prayer, she is really stressed out right now.  I want to move.  I want her to want to move.  I want a fresh start.”

The Lord began to minister through me.  As I encouraged him, I began writing a note for him and his wife.  Through the Holy Spirit, I said with confidence, “Your wife’s life is going to change dramatically within the next week or two.  When it does, please remember this conversation.  God loves you.  God loves your wife.”

“Oh, I will remember this conversation.  I will tell me wife about it.”

I ripped the back of my old boarding pass that had my hand written note on it.  He looked down as I handed it to him and read: “Phil 4:6-7.  Be encouraged.  Stay strong.” 

He looked at it, chuckled, folded the note and put it in the front pocket of his light blue, Ralph Lauren dress shirt.  He said he would be sure to read the Scripture with his wife.  The plane touched down shortly after our conversation ended.  I leaped up, asking, “What time is it!?” 

“10:45.” A voice in front of me said.  Peace still consumed me.  I assumed that meant I would make my flight and be on the way to Israel soon.  As soon as I got off the plane, I ran through the airport to gate C138, about 20 gates away from where I was.  I glanced at the departure screen. Tel Aviv 11 p.m. now.­   I read it, realizing that earlier it was the Holy Spirit telling me what time the plane would be leaving.  I continued to run through the airport.  I thought, “Will I actually make this flight?”

I began running through the food court, following signs for gate 138.  Then a sign read, Tel Aviv Secured Boarding with an arrow pointing the opposite way of the gate sign.  My mind began to spin.  “Which way should I go?”  I ran towards the impromptu sign, as I passed by rows of chairs.  I looked to my left at a blocked off area.  I called to a man behind a desk, “Where do I catch a flight for Tel Aviv?” 

“Go through there!”  He shouted and pointed towards the blocked area.  I squeezed through the small opening in the solid white, make shift gates.  I was met by 5 TSA officials on the other side.  They began speaking boldly and sharply, “You can’t just bust through here like that!  The plane is gone!”  I looked around frantically and continued to half walk half run towards the gate.  “Ma’am, the plane is gone!  You need to go to customer service.’  They gave no other option or hope. 

Tears poured down my face.  Even though I had decided to trust God, doubt began to rise in my heart, a lack of confidence.  Often times, it’s because I’ve already decided the outcome of the peace that passes all understanding.  When God’s peace doesn’t lead to what I think it should, I forget that His peace reminds me of His good, pleasing, and perfect will.  I sat down and cried as soon as I was away from the crowd.  I get very emotional traveling by myself so much.  The last 5 times I have flown have been very difficult experiences.  I’ve learned just to let the tears out.  Thoughts weren’t going through my mind.  I just cried with my face buried in my hands.  I stood up and began walking to customer service slowly.  It was a little before 11.  “I should have taken the $400!”  I thought.

I waited in line, crying.  I wondered a few times, “Why am I so emotional?”  A woman in front of me began talking with me.  She, too was on her way to Tel Aviv from Florida and had missed the flight.  “They even called ahead for me!”  She exclaimed.  I began to get angry.  I wanted compensation!  They knew I didn’t have a seat.  I wouldn’t have gotten on the plane, anyway!  I ranted in my mind as this Jewish woman began telling me that she runs tours for a hospital in the north of Israel near Lebanon.  The hospital has 450 underground beds in case there is another war, in addition to the 750 beds upstairs.  I told her about the Bridges for Peace food bank in Karmiel that has food reserved in case there is another war on the border.  I told her, “We should partner together.  Do you take volunteers?”  My mind reeled with ideas for Zealous as she said, “I knew you were gonna ask that.”  We began discussing legalities of insurance for volunteers and foreigners.  We both arrived at the desk at the same time.  The women impatiently told us, “We can’t give you compensation, and we are out of hotel rooms.  The best we can do is give you a pillow, blanket and meal coupons.”  I was outraged.  After exchanging a few more words, I asked in a monotone voice for the pillow, blanket, meal coupons, manager’s name and phone number along with hers.  As I walked away, tears again stung my eyes.  I sat down in front of a CNN broadcast and began to cry. 

Northern Israel

“Hamas and Israel agree to a truce to end rocket fire,” the news broadcaster boomed.  I looked up at the T.V. and watched Israelis and Palestinians picking up broken, bloodied bodies of friends and families.  The newscaster continued to share decisions that had been made with the help of Egypt while images of the fighting in Gaza continued to be shown.

My vision was blurred with tears as I watched the bias media reporting as if Israel was a co-terrorist in this Arab-Israeli on-going conflict.  “They are just defending themselves!”  I screamed in my heart.

I bowed my head and prayed, “Lord, it’s all worth it.  Sleeping in an airport overnight is worth it for your people, IsraelIsrael is worth it.” 

“Dawn!”  I heard someone shout.  I wiped my tears and looked to my left.  The Jewish woman from the line, Judy was calling me.  “I have an idea.” She called.

I walked over to her as she began to say, “We either ask for a second blanket and make a bed on the floor or we pitch in on a hotel room.”  Then her face lit up as a new idea popped in her mind, “I know!   I’m gonna use my age to get us a room!”  She exclaimed. The cute, grayed hair woman began walking back to the desk.  Judy went to the counter again and explained that she is 64 with bad knees and a bad back.  “I can’t be sleeping on the ground!”  She said, and turned and smiled at me.

“We really don’t have any vouchers left, but I will print you one, anyway,” said the clerk, “there is no guarantee that you will get a room, though.”

Judy and I ran outside to the shuttle for Howard Johnson, knowing that the chances of us getting a room were slim.  As we arrived outside, we were told that the Howard Johnson shuttle had just left.  I sat down and decided it was time to email Bridges for Peace headquarters in Israel to let them know I would not be arriving at the anticipated time.  The young man in charge of the wandering people outside continued to shepherd us from the corner of the sheltered sidewalk.  Judy looked down at me on the bench.  “Why don’t you use your girlyness to find out when the next shuttle is going to come?  Go see if you can get him to call the hotel.”  I looked at her and smiled.  She had used her age; I suppose I could return the favor and use my youthfulness.  I walked up to the guard, smiling.  “Hello.”  I said.  He looked a little shy and eager all at once to speak with me.  He quickly agreed to call the hotel for me and ran inside.  I walked back to Judy, laughing.  “Is he doing it?”  She asked.  Still laughing, I nodded my head, then shook my head and continued my email.  He came running out and let us know that the shuttle would be arriving any minute.  As he said this, it pulled up.  I had my laptop out and luggage in pieces.  I stood up, thinking “how can I repack and get to that shuttle quickly all at the same time?”  The young guard had the answer as he began carrying my stuff for me.  People milled all around us.  The guard continued to speak to me with blushed cheeks.  “Thank you so much for all you help.”  I thanked him with sincerity.  “People like you make our job much easier.”  He replied, after loading my luggage on the shuttle.  Judy and I exchanged glances and settled in our seat amongst many foreigners.  Our driver, from Ghana spoke loudly on his cell phone, while an old 80’s rock tune played on the shuttle.  Before I sat down, I saw the drivers name badge.  It boasted one of the names of God, Emmanuel.  I looked towards the Lord.  “God with us,” I thought as we sped away from the airport towards our unknown destination. God with us is the meaning of Emmanuel, the name of the Lord that consistently draws me to Him.

Me in the Mediterranean Sea on the border of Lebanon

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