Saturday, March 9, 2019

Shabbat Shekalim, A Special Encounter

You know sometimes when the Lord does something so amazing, you find yourself taking a little selah, just to meditate on it and process everything?  Well, yesterday was one of those days for us.  Since our time in Israel, I don't think we will ever look at the Sabbath (Shabbat) the same way.  From sundown on Friday night, to the sunset on Saturday night, everything in Israel comes to a pause.  Traffic slows down, businesses close their doors, and there is a very special time of rest for all.  Not only for the religious, but for every single person in Israel.  The experience is pretty amazing to experience it, and the quietness is really something I hunger for now being back in the states.

While I was in Israel, I felt like this Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace), was such a special gift.  The greeting in Israel from sundown on Friday night to Sundown on Saturday night, is "Shabbat Shalom"! At first, I confess that I was a little disappointed that all of the restaurants would be shut down on Saturdays, and in my expectation I felt that I would be looking forward to Saturday night when everything would re-open.  To my surprise, after experiencing that peace and quiet rest, I was hungering for it more and more.  I even felt a little sad when it was over and everything went back to the busy hustle and bustle of life.  It was not something I felt obligated to do, but it was more like a special gift than an obligation.  It's hard to articulate exactly the way that this impacted my heart, but it was really special and still resounds in my heart as a very special time of resting from the practical things of life, and taking a little more time to just focus on the Lord and rest in Him.  Precious!
Our first Shabbat in israel, we fellowshipped at a Messianic Congregation on Mt. Carmel and met some amazing friends.  Anna in this picture is one of them. 

So, now fast forward to being back in the US.  We have been so touched by our time in Israel, that we want the fire in our hearts to keep burning.  We don't want this to to dim, so we are continuing to kindle the flame in our hearts toward the vision and the project that we believe the Lord has put into our hearts.  When we were in Israel, the Lord birthed something amazing in our hearts.  We have an established travel agency for missionaries and adopting families called Adoption Airfare®" in the states, and we are established for several years, and our team of agents are all doing really well.  We are all very experienced within the travel industry, and can sustain an additional branch of work to incorporate tours as another side of this business and ministry.  While in Israel, it was birthed in our hearts, to do something that would use our expertise in the travel industry to touch Israel.  Israel has made such a lasting impact in our hearts, that we desire to bring back that blessing and allow those from all over the world, to "Come and see..."this amazing land.

In Israel, we had a special encounter on a Shabbat, at a Messianic congregation in Jerusalem, where the pastor approached us to meet us.  In casual conversation with this pastor, we mentioned our travel agency.  He said, "I own a travel agency also!"  Of course we wanted to know the name, and when he told me, I was amazed!  His travel agency, is actually the #1 land tour operator in all of Israel, who could care for and accommodate all of the land arrangements for our teams!  We were blown away!  He was so humble, and Christ-like.  How could it be that he would be the owner of this large organization with Mercedez Benz luxury busses all over Israel?!  We were actually on his tour busses on our touring, and everything was TOP NOTCH!  How could it be that we ended up with an invitation to this congregation, and met the owner.  He told us how he would love to work with us and help us with the land part of our tours.  What an amazing connection!  And of course, this will require another trip in a couple weeks, back to Israel to get things more and more established.  What an amazing excuse to go back, right?!

After this encounter, we decided to pray about a name for our tour side of the business, and the name "Hineni Tours" seemed to almost drop down from heaven into our hearts.  It was pretty amazing how the Lord shined upon this name to us, and we felt that we needed to adopt it as our own.  Within days, we began the meetings with our web team, to design our website.  Of course we got our tickets to go back, and have meetings already in place for our next trip, to make sure our teams are cared for and all of their land accommodations in order for our tour packages. It is our desire that our teams would be able to "Come and see" the beauty of the land of Israel, while incorporating times for prayer, reflection, worship, service & ministry on our life-changing tours.  Our meetings in Israel will be to put all of this together.

So, fast forward to another Shabbat back here in the US.  We have been attending a very special Messianic Congregation here in the US, in order to help us acquire some Hebrew, to worship with our fellow Jewish and Non-Jewish brothers and sisters, and to immerse ourselves in the Jewish culture as much as we can, to help us to be able to understand the people of Israel who we love so much!  Last Saturday was a VERY special day.  Kevin woke up to having something impressed deeply upon his heart with our new project, Hineni Tours.  He was feeling like this project is something we are going to need supernatural help with.  He was meditating early in the morning on how we want to magnify the Lord with this project, and give it all to Him to build.  In the car on the way to this congregation, Kevin reminded me that we were worshiping to the song, "How Great is our God.."

We arrived at the Congregation, and in the bathroom were some Korean ladies.  We got to talking and sharing the little Korean that we know from our time in Korea.  They were visiting from another part of Georgia and it was there first time there.  We had been there every week since our return from Israel (3 consecutive Saturdays), so we felt like we were welcoming them there even though we are also new.  They felt very happy to meet us and to hear us speaking in their language.  I think it made them feel less uncomfortable, and more welcome.  It was sweet.  We sat near them and as we were worshiping, a Hebrew-English variation of "How Great is our God" came on the screen.  Kevin and I both glanced at each other, with the Korean friends in front of us, and knew exactly what we were each thinking. It was something hard to articulate, but when you KNOW that the Lord is with you, and that you are worshiping Him in spirit and in truth, and He sort of touches your heart, it's hard to explain.

So, the rabbi began teaching about how we need something "Greater than Ourselves" (GTO), to accomplish the project, we were blown away.  Both Kevin and I had our project "Hineni Tours" on our hearts just that day and the rabbi is sharing about this very thing!  He shared how yesterday is a very special day on the Jewish calendar, called "Shabbat Shekalim".  He explained to us how in Israeli currency, the 1/2 Shekel, is a larger coin, but it was designed because of the temple tax.  In the old custom, the 1/2 Shekel, was paid as the temple tax by all citizens rich and poor, and each paid that exact amount, none more or less.  In fact, we looked up about the coin that Peter found in the fish's mouth, and it was enough for both of them, so it was likely one shekel from what Kevin explained, and the 1/2 and 1/2 = 1 whole shekel.  So in Israel, this coin is very special.  The rabbi explained to us that this coin was used because it shows a need for more than one.  It shows a need for something "Greater than itself" to complete it.  This half shekel, he explained, is like us.  We have a half shekel of a brain, a half-shekel of our own abilities, but when put together with His supernatural completion, we are made whole.  He shared how we need each other in the Body of Christ, and that there is that need for completion that we each carry with us, that need for community, for a power "GTO".

This is the Israeli "Half-Shekel" which is a currency designed for the Temple Tax in Israel.  The coin itself is to indicate a need for completion, a need for something greater than itself.  Such an amazing picture that will be forever grafted in our hearts after this very special "Shabbat Shekalim"!

He invited those to come to the front who had that need for this and had something specific they were praying about, so I knew it was me.  I went without even consulting Kevin, and then I got to the front and felt a hand on my back.  Kevin was there too.  He felt that same nudge from the Holy Spirit to go, to pray, to take a step and move in the direction of what the Lord is putting on our hearts.  We had a sweet time of worship and prayer there at the altar, laying our half-shekel before the Lord there and the rabbi praying over us and asking the Lord to bring the completion.  Many people were up at the altar.  I didn't look back, but I believe there were no seats left open and everyone responded.  It was a really special way that the Holy Spirit was hovering over us there in that meeting.  Then, as he was praying a blessing over all of us and bringing our half shekel before the Lord, in his prayer, we couldn't believe what he said next.... "Lord, these people have come here to say, Hineni, here am I..." We were blown away.  The Lord was speaking to us, even so specifically He spoke the NAME of our project.

Kevin and I were stunned.  How clearly could it have been spoken to our hearts about this project we are putting together?!  And as if it couldn't be any clearer, you will not believe what happened next.  We got in the car and usually we would be the last person to leave, fellowshipping with others about the Lord, but this time was different.  We needed to have a selah, and leave and meditate on what the Lord spoke.  We didn't stay around like usual, we left and got in the van and didn't even move for a few minutes, just amazed at how the Lord just spoke to us.  We were so encouraged.  We decided to go to our favorite restaurant in Lennox Park, a busy healthy place called "True Food Kitchen".  As I walked in the door, there was Jasmine Guy, who I had met there the week before and shared a little gospel tract with her.  I barely noticed her with her dark sunglasses on.  We didn't meet eyes or talk, but I knew that the Lord wanted me to pray for her again.  It was amazing to me that I would see her again after just going up to her and talking with her and bringing a little "Princess" card to give to her and her friend at their table.  She took it and was thankful, and then to see her again, was like, WOW.  I know the Lord wants me to pray for her and I'm hoping I can see her again one day and maybe even take her for lunch there to talk about the Lord if she is willing.

Here is the logo design that is in it's infant stages.  Kevin drew this up as a draft for our design team to put together for us.  We HAD to show this to the waitress as proof that God really truly had sent her to us at that moment.  We were all mutually in awe and amazed!!

We requested to sit out in the outer area since the sun was warm and felt very inviting.  Then our waitress came and got our drink order and Kevin came and joined us from the parking fiasco.  Somehow as we were introducing our family, Kevin brought up Faith's name "Faith Hope Lovell" and Faith decided to share with the waitress, that our name means "Love-God" since "EL" means God in Hebrew.  She looked at us and was visibly touched.  She said, "I have a Hebrew tattoo right here on my hand..." So of course, we asked her, "What does it say?"  And she told us, "It says Hineni, meaning Here am I."  Both Kevin and I almost dropped on the floor.  We had to share the whole testimony with her!  How could it be?  Just after the Lord spoke this word to us, that He would confirm it again.  As if He had to do more than what He just did, but He did MORE than we ever expected.  He blew wind into our hearts in such a deep way, and put a fire in our hearts for this vision, this project, this mission that we are putting together for His glory.  We found out later that this waitress was a Christian, and she really felt blessed to be serving us.  She told us that she really needed this encouragement in her day, and it was a mutual blessing to us and to her, to hear what the Lord was doing and how He was in our midst.  Then Kevin wanted to share which passage was on his heart from the Bible, and before he could tell her which "Hineni" scripture was the inspiration for our project, she said... "Well, my tattoo was from Isaiah chapter 6."  Before Kevin could even say "Isaiah 6", she said it.  Wow!  We both were in awe of the Lord.

Here is our waitress who had the "Hineni' tattoo on her hand that came up in our conversation RIGHT after the LORD spoke to us in that meeting.  Pretty amazing if you ask me!  How many people in the WHOLE WORLD would have that tattoo?  And then to be there at that moment... Yes, Lord... not only do we see the tattoo on HER HAND, but most importantly, we see YOUR HAND upon Hineni Tours, and that is what we treasure above everything.  We stand amazed!

There will be more to come with the project that is unfolding, but for now we will leave this as the selah.  These things are much greater than ourselves (GTO), and we give all the glory to the Lord for the vision He is birthing, the project, the fire in our hearts to bring teams to Israel not only to see sights, but also to see souls.  What will be next?  We will go to the land in a couple weeks to see more.  We trust that the Lord will show us more into this, and walk with us every step of the process of establishing this work and project.
Kevin and I at the restaurant after our divine encounter where the Lord showed His hand upon our project.  We are so thankful and excited to see what HE is going to do!!  Hineni!!

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