“The Lord is my shepherd…” (Psalm 23:1a).

Once upon a time, a much younger me was detained in Tel Aviv.

That’s right. Sounds like the making of a marvelous and quite suspenseful fiction story, does it not?

Well, this one’s true. It’s a story from my life I’ve never written about and only told a few times.

Not yet thirty-four, I was just about the same age as Jesus when he endured the cross outside Jerusalem some 42 miles or so from where I was held in an airport in a metropolitan Israeli city on the coast of the Mediterranean, though my suffering was purely emotional, a mere drop in the bucket compared to my Savior’s. That’s not to say, however, that I wasn’t scared. Indeed, I was very, very afraid, but this experience taught me, among other lessons, to wield my sword of the Spirit, and, though shaking uncontrollably, I applied the words of Paul in his exhortation to Timothy–

“… everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (II Tim. 3:12 NIV).

And again, I took a stab at fear in the small detention room just off the main terminal, silently repeating over and over–

The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd.

It would probably help to understand some of the circumstances surrounding this trip to the Holy Land, as well as to know some of the reasons this young wife and mother seemed suspicious, someone they even called a spy.

First, I ask that you not judge me or my husband for any of the things I’m about to share. Remember, this was a long time ago.

When I learned of an upcoming prayer journey to Israel through an article in a magazine called SpiritLed Woman–April / May 2003, my heart stirred, desiring to be a part. The article about this trip, called Women’s Aglow International Feast of Pentecost Mission, offered an invitation for women to come along. I spoke with Bill, but he said, having only recently relocated to NC and with a new job and lots of expenses, it just wasn’t feasible at that time. I was disappointed but understood, and so I set the matter to rest.

Not long after this conversation, however, Bill had a medical meeting in Las Vegas. Perhaps one of the reasons I’ve not told this story broadly is because, as the saying goes, What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But given that nearly two decades have since passed, I feel the liberty to now share.

Long story short–Bill was successful in the casinos. I mean, he really, really was! He’s not a gambler, but, since he was in Vegas, he’d set aside a certain amount for fun, and, putting it mildly, he won!

Upon returning home, he announced that I could go on this mission trip to Israel after all. And though I felt a little bad about traveling with this charismatic, Jesus-loving group to pray for God’s shalom at all four of the Holy Land’s borders on (ahem!) gambling money, I got over it. (Again, I just chose to not talk about it for a long, long time!)

Ian (5) and Jacob (3) saying goodbye to their momma at the Dayton International Airport, June 2003.

I embarked on my journey in early June–first driving to Ohio to drop off our two young sons at my parents’. I flew out of Dayton International, then to JFK International. There I finally met up with dozens of other women who were on this mission, and we departed for Tel Aviv, everyone looking forward to the week and a half ahead–primarily that we were to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost in the city spoken of in Acts 2. 

I was excited, despite the reality that war had recently broken out, and Americans were highly warned not to visit Israel. After much prayer, I experienced the peace that passes understanding, as Phil. 4:7 speaks of. Although I was not an actual card-carrying member of Aglow International, was, in fact, much younger than most of the women going, I’d grown up attending meetings with my mom who’d been a member, and I knew I’d meet some amazing people. I wrote in my journal–

“Just as Jesus was thirty-three at the time He fulfilled His Father’s plan, I, too, am thirty-three, and I do not feel this is merely a coincidence… I can’t wait to see how the Lord manifests Himself to us while we’re [in Israel]. Again, I wait with expectation!”

The 10-day prayer walk started in the north, specifically near the Sea of Galilee where we stayed in what had originally been a kibbutz–an Israeli commune. The only problem I encountered here, something I quickly laid to rest, was discovering that the supposed adaptors for my blow dryer and curling iron did not indeed adapt. From that day on, I went au naturale with regard to my hair and have been doing so ever since. (Another good, though much less important, lesson learned!)

Our mission took us to the eastern and western borders also, and we finally traveled south. There are so many memories I’d love to share, so many confirmations of God’s presence, peace, and love, but that’s saved for another time.

One thing’s for certain–I loved the Israeli people. Everyone was so kind, so thankful for the tourism. Our accommodations were wonderful, and the food… Wow! (Who knew that hummus could be eaten for breakfast?)

There were, however, several spiritual battles I fought, even prior to the aforementioned one–you know, that little thing about being detained at the airport.

So many of the women I was with were very zealous and outspoken in their faith. The enemy tried to guilt me, make me feel that something wasn’t right with my relationship with God because I didn’t “feel” this way or that way.

For example, I’ll never forget our visit to the Upper Room in Jerusalem–where the disciples gathered to pray during the Feast of Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit came upon them like tongues of flame. Many of the ladies were very demonstrative in their prayers–some even speaking in foreign tongues. I sat quietly, observing. My prayers, earnest though they were, came more in quiet whispers. I loved Jesus, and I was so thankful to be in the city where He’d died for my sins, where He rose again. I just kept telling Him over and over, “Thank you for allowing me to be here, even if it is on gambling money.”

(I think we make God smile more times than we realize!)

Later that day, alone in my hotel room, I wrestled with the enemy who tried to steal my joy. As I journaled–

“The Upper Room was, for me, a disappointment and [brought] some confusion… But what the Lord is graciously reminding me is this–I’m not in Israel because of Aglow but, rather, Aglow is merely the ‘vessel’ by which I’ve traveled to Israel.”

In other words, as I went on to write, I didn’t have to be like the other women. In fact,  I shouldn’t be like the others. The expression of my faith, which was genuine and true, was what pleased the Lord most. My prayers and praises were a sweet fragrance to Him.

After I worked through this, the enemy was silenced regarding this matter. Still, he desired to thwart my peace and joy. Hence, the ensuing airport incident–where I experienced firsthand that the Lord truly is my shepherd!

**(Stay tuned–Part 2 next week!)**

Read Acts 2. (You can click on the highlighted reference above!)

Imagine being in the Upper Room. What do you think it was like, to feel that rush of wind and suddenly hear yourself and others speaking in foreign languages?

What was the Holy Spirit’s purpose in doing this, and what was the result?

Lord, thank you for allowing us to experience you–whether at home, out in our communities, or in far-off lands. May You be glorified! Amen.