My Israel Story

Love for Israel and Bible prophecy was birthed in my heart almost immediately after I was born again. It occupied my heart as nothing I had ever known before. I hoped that someday I might be able to see God’s land and his people.

One day my pastor announced that he was taking a group to Israel, and anyone interested should sign up. There was no way I could go, I was a single mother, working full time, and could never have afforded it. I ached inside as I watched people sign up and prepare to go on that tour to Israel.

Then shortly before they were due to leave, two of the people in the group became sick and told the pastor to give their tickets to anyone he wanted to. I bit my tongue as I waited to see what he would do; after all, everyone knew that I was all about Israel and Bible prophecy and I was sure he’d give me one of those tickets. But I was passed over. So I went into my bedroom and went into one of my rants before the Lord. I said to him, “Everyone in that church knows that I’m all about Israel and prophecy and should have had one of those tickets, and you certainly could have arranged it! I can’t believe you didn’t! To the other people in the group, it was to be just a fun trip, they could have been going anywhere. To me it would have meant everything. I can’t believe YOU passed me over!”

The next day I was driving home and I can tell you exactly where I was, going over the railroad tracks near the Winslow hill, when the Lord spoke to me. He said, “You didn’t ask me for two weeks in Israel.” Stunned, I remembered that I had told him long ago that I wanted to go and STAY in Israel, like for a couple years. What does the Lord mean? Could it be ….??? I was dumbfounded.

Later, it was November now and I was sitting at my desk one day when the Lord said to me, “You have one year to prepare.” Don’t you just love it when the Lord drops something into your heart like that and you have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about??? I asked what he meant by that, and got no answer. So I began turning that over and over in my mind wondering what on earth I was to prepare FOR. Finally, I concluded that maybe the Lord is going to take me home and he’s giving me a year to get everything in order so my family won’t have to afterwards. So I started doing exactly that. Cleaning drawers and closets, giving away a lot of things, throwing out a lot of “stuff.” Gradually over that year I got everything in order so that if the Lord took me, my family wouldn’t have much to do to sort things out.

Exactly one year later, the following November, my sister called from California telling me she was sending me tickets to fly out there and spend a couple weeks with her. What a surprise! My three older children were out of the nest now, and my youngest was away at the university. I got excited and eagerly went. Just before leaving, I received an unexpected check, I can’t even remember now from where, and so I asked the Lord where he would have me send the tithe. He answered, “to the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.” I wasn’t very familiar with that organization, but I had seen it’s founder, Jan Willem van der Hoeven on tv recently so I knew the organization the Lord was speaking of. I mailed the tithe. And went to California. My daughter was still coming home weekends, but I knew she’d be ok alone for two weekends.

In California, my sister took me to a Messianic prayer group. I guess I must have spoken about Israel, (could I talk about anything other than Israel?) and one lady looked at me and said, “Looks like you’re supposed to BE in Israel.” I answered her that, number one, I didn’t have the money to go, and number two I couldn’t go anyway because I still had a daughter coming home weekends. And I thought no more about it.

A day or two later, my sister and I were sitting at her dining table when the phone rang. It was my daughter. She was hysterical. Her boyfriend had broken up with her and she needed to leave because she saw him everywhere and she thought she’d lose her mind if she didn’t get away. She asked if she could go live with her father who lived in another state. My heart was aching for my daughter and I told her that yes, if she felt that’s what she needed to do, of course she could go. We talked and she cried and I cried, and we talked some more and cried some more. When we finally got off the phone, my sister who had been sitting there and saw all this said to me …”Well that’s one obstacle down, isn’t it?” I just looked at her, I didn’t “get it” at first. Huh??? “You know,” she said, “you had two reasons you couldn’t go to Israel, and now one has been taken care of for you.” I just stared at her, astonished. But oh well, on second thought …the other obstacle was just as big. If you don’t have the money to go, it’s impossible. Not only that, but I don’t know anyone in Israel, so where would I go?

Well the visit with my sister was over and I flew back home. The next morning I went to church as usual on a Sunday morning. After the service, the church secretary came to me and asked me to come into the office. We went in and she shut the door. What on earth??? She told me I’d better sit down. So I sat down. She took an envelope off the desk and handed it to me. She said, “Someone who insists on remaining anonymous came to me and gave me this check for you. The stipulation is that it can only be used to go to Israel.”

I felt like I had been hit by lightning. I couldn’t move. And the tears started flowing. I was just in total shock.

Who could have given me this check? I never found out.

I went home, and when I got to my bedroom and my mind began to clear, I remembered what my sister had said, “well that’s one obstacle that’s been taken care of for you.” And now …the second obstacle had been taken care of, just within days!!! My head was spinning. I could hardly take it all in.

The next day, I went to the Lord and asked how can this take place? I don’t know anyone in Israel. Where would I go?

Several weeks passed. One day my friend Lori told me that Jan Willem van der Hoeven from the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem was coming to Maine to speak, and did I want to go down with her to Scarborough to hear him? “Sure, I said. Love to.” This was odd. It was winter here, and you don’t go to Maine in the winter. I wonder why he’s coming here now? Doesn’t make sense. I had totally forgotten that the Lord had had me send the tithe to this organization immediately before my trip to California. I was clueless.

We were going with a few other friends and one of them said to me, “bring him your resume.” I answered, “huh???” “Yes, bring him your resume!” I said, “I don’t even know him, I’ve only seen him once on tv, and he certainly doesn’t know me.” She continued, “You HAVE to bring him your resume!” “Ok, ok, I’ll bring it,” I said, “but I probably won’t get to talk to him anyway, there will be a lot of people there all crowding around him.” Do you ever look back on your life and wonder how come you didn’t get it? I truly didn’t get it at this point.

So we went to Scarborough and I asked the man in charge of the gathering if I could have five minutes of Jan Willem’s time. Jan Willem said, “bring her here now.” So …I sat down next to him and told him, “I know I’m going to Israel, I don’t know when or how, but the Lord has moved in my life to show me that I will be going.” Jan Willem asked me a whole host of questions. He wasn’t even interested in my resume, he wanted to know how I know this, what exactly did the Lord say, how did my family feel about it, and many, many, many questions. Then he put the resume in his pocket and told me he’d give it to the administrator when he got back to Jerusalem. I went back to the girls who were waiting to hear what he said, and all I could say was, “he didn’t say no!!!” I was – once again – shocked. Yet …I still didn’t get it. How could I believe something so fantastic as this?

Time went by, Jan Willem was travelling so I knew it would be awhile if and when I’d hear from the Christian Embassy. In the meantime, as I mulled this over and over and over, I began to “get it.” Big time. I started to see this story from the beginning and realize this was God, my God who created this whole story from beginning to end, from the day I crossed those railroad tracks and he said to me, “because you didn’t ask me for two weeks in Israel.” My dream was going to come true.

But my friends began to worry because they saw I was convinced now that this was God and that I’d be going to Israel. They started telling me what a long shot this is. “He might even lose your resume because he’s on a speaking tour across America, he’s busy and the last thing he’s going to be thinking about is you. Don’t get your hopes up like this because if he doesn’t call, the let down will be enormous. We’re worried about you.”

One night after a session like that with my friends, I went to the Lord and said, “You know Lord, my friends aren’t trying to destroy my faith, they’re just worried about me putting so much faith in this, afraid I’m headed for a fall if this doesn’t happen. I forgive them that. But Lord, it gets to me when I hear this over and over again, how I’m heading for a downfall. Would you please give me one sign, some kind of assurance that this truly is you, because I’m the only one believing it is. What if I’m wrong? Then I went to bed.

The next thing I knew, the phone was ringing. It was 5:30 the next morning. Groggily I answered. The voice on the phone said, “Paula, this is Jim from the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. I have your resume here. How soon can you come? And can you give us a two-year commitment?”

Have you ever felt like you’ve been put into one of those cannons and shot up into the sky? It was surreal. I felt like I was soaring in the heavens. Was this really happening???

I had a lot to do, I had to find a way to store all my furniture, there’s just a million things you have to do before making a total change of your life. I couldn’t sell everything because I would need it all when I came back two years from now. But how…? Well …the Lord had anticipated that too. Tears come as I remember this. Actually tears come as I write every part of this story. One Sunday morning for some reason I wasn’t in church, but my friend Lori was. After the service a woman came up to her and introduced herself because she saw Lori’s Star-of-David around her neck, and this woman was an Israel-lover. This woman and her husband had just moved into town and they were looking for a church. As it would turn out, they didn’t like our church and would never come back, this was the one and only time they’d be there. In the course of the conversation, Lori told her about her friend Paula who was preparing to go to Jerusalem. This woman told Lori that they had just bought a huge house with many, many bedrooms and would be happy to store my things for the two years I’d be gone…!!! When I think of it …if Lori hadn’t been wearing her Star-of-David, if the woman hadn’t seen Lori, and if this meeting had not taken place on this one and only Sunday they would be in our church, it never would have happened. It still boggles my mind when I think of it.

So, I went to work at the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. They provide lodging and the big meal of the day, and even give you spending money. I shared an apartment with another American woman, and it was a beautiful apartment. And that’s another thing. I didn’t know about the new city Jerusalem, I had thought I’d be in the Old City where the lodgings are ancient and spartan and unattractive, holes in the wall pretty much. I was picked up at the airport at night, so I had no idea of the surroundings until the next morning. I remember opening the “trissim,” (the blinds) the next morning and stood there absolutely speechless. I looked out the window to see a modern, beautiful city, all white, all the trees were in bursting bloom, the air was charged with beauty, and I could hardly believe what I was seeing. I actually wondered if I had died and was in heaven. It was just overwhelmingly beautiful. I just stood there. I couldn’t move. It was too beautiful. So unexpected! Beyond unexpected! I was transfixed. I felt the presence of the Lord, as though he was standing next to me with his arm around me. A memory etched in my heart, forever.

The woman I shared this apartment with had left directions to the Christian Embassy, a five-minute walk, and I went at lunchtime and was warmly received. The atmosphere there was like nothing I had ever felt before. The people were happy. Laughing. Teasing. Having a wonderful time. I knew I was going to love it here. There was no mention of a person’s denomination, all were united in only one thing, love for God and love for Israel. That was the bond that connected us all. A wonderful, deep, heartfelt love.

I was assigned as secretary to Jim. He was very kind and I did whatever he told me to. The job, though, was not a fit for me, yet I tried to do it well. I didn’t care. As long as I was here in Israel, I didn’t care about anything else. But after three days Jim called me into his office. I sat down and he said, “You’re not really happy in this job, are you?” I could not imagine how on earth he knew, because I did everything he asked of me and did it cheerfully. I told him, “Jim, this is such a miracle -my being here, and I told the Lord I was so thankful that I would not complain about ANYTHING.” Then he said to me words I would never, ever forget. He said, “Paula, I’m not only your boss, I’m your brother.” I can’t tell you how that pierced my heart, love that I wasn’t used to, a warmth I was unfamiliar with. He continued, “I read your resume and I think you’d be happier behind a computer?” And my eyes lit up like lightbulbs. “You have computers here???” He took me upstairs and sat me down in front of a computer and told the girls, “train her.” A couple hours later he came back to check on me. I didn’t see him because I had my back to him. Finally when I heard him speak, I turned around and he was grinning from ear to ear. “I guess that sure was the right move!” he said.

But Jim had more to tell me. He said that when Jan Willem came back from his tour across America, he was supposed to give my resume to Johann, the administrator. But Johann was out sick. So …he gave it to Jim. Jim read my resume and saw that I was basically a computer person, but Johann needed an administrative secretary and that wasn’t me. But the Lord spoke to Jim and directed him to call me. “I knew for certain inside that I was to call you. But see,” he said, “Johann wouldn’t have. If Johann hadn’t been out sick, he would have reviewed your resume and would have realized you couldn’t do admin, and he would not have called you.” So the Lord stepped in, removed Johann that week, and spoke to Jim’s heart. Every single obstacle throughout this story was overcome. When it’s God, it’s going to work. No matter what obstacles seem to be preventing it.

This is my God. And this is his story, what he’ll do for anyone who will surrender their lives to him. When you’re born again, he makes all things new and he knows exactly the deep desires of the heart and will move mountains to bring those desires to fruition. After all, he put those desires there!

I had asked the Lord for two years in Israel. He gave me six!

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