Signs and Symbols in Israel
by Petra van der Zande
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Since our marriage in 1979, my husband William and I served the Lord in a myriad of ways, ranging from Bible Smuggling trips behind the (then) Iron Curtain, to becoming caretakers of our church.
The latter was a live-in job, and we had to be on-call all day. There were hardly any rejuvenating holidays, and we were often treated as a doormat.
Calling it a challenging time was an understatement.
What we didn’t know, that these four years were the training ground for our calling to Israel.
“Israel? What on earth can we do there?” was my first reaction when William breached the subject.
Like many Christians, I was often annoyed and irritated by Israel - the country and its people - due to a lack of Bible knowledge and being influenced by the world media.
“OK, Lord,” I prayed, “If this is really You speaking, then you must change my heart and give me a love for those people.”
Dangerous prayer. Of course God answered it.
We didn’t have a clue where and how, we just knew we were to go to Israel and comfort God’s people. (Isaiah 40:1)
In Holland we had been content living a simple lifestyle, and the fact that we were childless, wasn’t an issue.
Somehow I had this premonition that we were to receive our “lives calling” in Israel.
Our church sent us off with their blessing, but no financial support.
“God will provide,” William encouraged me, “He has done so in the past, and will do it again.”
In 1989 we began to volunteer at a Christian organization in Jerusalem.
Although the culture was completely different from Holland, we felt immediately at home.
We found an English speaking church and tried to learn the Hebrew language. Because English was the language spoken at the workplace, it was hard going.
A Dutch couple, colleagues, asked us to form a community with them, which we did - life was good.
I enjoyed working at the Social Assistance Department and loved living in Jerusalem.
December 1990. On a Sunday evening in church, I was deeply touched by the age-old gesture of a mother putting her arm around her daughter, who leaned against her.
Adoption. The word sprang to mind.
Where did that came from, I wondered.
William was just as surprised as I was.
“Let’s pray about it and ask God to confirm it,” he suggested.
Confirmations came from unexpected sources and angles, (Bible readings, devotions, novels, magazines, newspapers) and with such speed that William said,
“I wouldn’t be surprised the Lord has a child waiting for us already.”
And indeed, the Lord had.
“Yesterday we’ve received your letter.”
The social worker added, “and might have a child for you. The only problem is that he is Jewish. As non-Jews, you won’t be able to adopt, but can become foster parents. Can you come for a visit? Tomorrow perhaps?”
It took almost a year before Moshe came to live with us.
The physically disabled, and emotionally troubled 3½ year old boy turned our lives upside-down.
Fahima (a 4 year old Bedouin girl) came exactly a year later.
In 1994 Nadia, (Fahima’s cousin) joined us.
The 7 year old ‘wild horse’ was a big challenge to the community household, which in 4 years time had grown from 4 to 9 people (our friends now had two children).
Because we couldn’t find a suitable, bigger house, we had to go our separate ways, and although the community ended, we are still each other’s best friends.
Na’il, a 3 year old disabled Arab boy joined our family in 1997.
Our life in Israel was not to be measured by the amount of converts we made, but by being faithful to our calling.
Micah 6:8 says, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (NIV).
For us, it meant providing a home for disabled children. Creating a safe haven, a dwelling where their medical needs were taken care of, a place where they could blossom and thrive.
People watch, observe, notice, and to my embarrassment often call us angels.
“No, we are human,” I always tell them, “with our good and bad days. We are parents who struggle with anger, impatience, frustration, exhaustion, just like you.”
“Yes, but still. I wouldn’t be able to do it,” they usually add.
Because we don’t look Jewish, people presume we are Christians.
“You must be, nobody wants to do the work you do,” they conclude, “I see the Messiah in you!”
Often I share how the Lord God guided us to these children, and tell them we can only do it through His grace and strength.
The Jewish people understand, and glorify God.
God uses our special family as a sign of His love.
I feel a bit like Isaiah when he said,
“Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.” (Isaiah 8:18 NIV)
The fact we miraculously received permanent residency, enables us to continue to provide for the 3 children still living at home, even after age 21.
We are still amazed at how God led us to this country and into this ministry.
Ordinary people, chosen by our heavenly Father, to be signs and symbols in Israel.
For His glory.
“We don’t know what the future holds, but we know the One who holds the future.”
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