In 1992, I moved to Jerusalem to work with a Messianic Rabbi and his family. I had been working for them for about 4 years at that point in the Messianic Jewish Congregation he was leading in Maryland, when they made the decision to move their family to Israel. They asked me to come with them to help them get established and set up the Israeli ministry office. At that time, I had never been outside the United States. I did not know the Hebrew language. I had no idea what I would be facing moving to another country. But I knew it was what God was calling me to do. For many reasons too numerous to mention in this article, I was extremely devoted to this family and wanted to support and work with them when they moved to Israel
They moved about a month prior to my trip. I arrived on a Thursday afternoon and they picked me up at the airport and took me to their home. Through a friend from the Maryland congregation, I had been invited to live in an apartment in Jerusalem owned by the friend’s mother. Her mother was elderly, so she agreed to let me stay in her apartment rent-free in exchange for doing some housework and her laundry.
The first night my friends took me to dinner to have my first taste of felafel, which is the Israeli national food (kind of like hamburgers in the US). They then took me to a store to purchase some groceries and took me over to the apartment. The apartment was furnished, including kitchen items, but there was no television, telephone or radio. The only reading material I had was my Bible and, after a few days, my Hebrew textbook. I was basically alone in a foreign country. The only people I knew were my friends I had come with and the lady who owned the apartment. For reasons I won’t share in this article, for the first few months, the only time I saw my friends was at the weekly Shabbat service. The rest of the time I was alone.
My friends gave me a bus pass allowing me to ride anytime during the month. Bus travel at that time was very common, as cars were very expensive and many people did not own a car. They had very good bus service, as long as you knew which bus to take.
I arrived on a Thursday and my friends told me I needed to begin Ulpan (Hebrew language school) on Sunday, as the semester was just beginning. I needed to learn the language. My friends told me the name of the school and that it was on King George Street, a kind of main street that runs through downtown Jerusalem. The apartment where I was staying was in a neighborhood in the west of the city a good ways from where the school was.
So…the lady who owned my apartment told me I needed to take the bus from our neighborhood, transfer to Bus #7 at the Central Bus Station, and that bus would take me to King George Street. The bus stop was only a couple of blocks from the apartment. I got on the bus, and then realized I had no idea where the Central Bus Station was. So…after worrying about it for a bit, I decided to ask a gentleman in front of me if he knew. He was an Israeli soldier, so I was hoping he spoke English. He did, and as it happens, the bus station was at the next stop.
I got off the bus and saw Bus #7 across the street, so I walked over and got on the bus. I rode this bus until we came to the end of the line and bus driver made me get off the bus. It turns out I was on Bus #7 that went in the wrong direction away from downtown. I had no idea where I was. I didn’t know what to do, so I decided there must be another bus coming so I would wait and get on that bus and go back where I came from.
I got back on the next bus and stayed on it until I saw the sign for King George Street – great! Finally I have found the right street. The only problem was that my friend did not know the actual address of the Ulpan, so I had no idea where to get off the bus. So I thought I will just stay on until I see a sign for a school or something like that. But I saw nothing. King George Street ends at a certain point turning into another street, so at that point I had to get off the bus or I would be lost again.
I got off the bus and did not see anything that looked like it might be a school. So I started walking and a few feet up the street was the Ministry of Culture building, an Israeli government office. I thought that perhaps someone would speak English in there. So I went in and the receptionist did speak English. When I asked her if she had heard of the Ulpan, she said, “Yes, just go a little ways up the street to the corner, turn left and it is right around the corner across from a park.”
So, not knowing where I was going, I ended up getting off right where I needed to be! I started my journey at 7:00 AM and ended up at the school at 9:00 AM. I went in and paid my fee and was settled in my first Hebrew Ulpan class! I remember the teacher walked back to my seat and whispered to me, “Do you know the aleph-bet (Hebrew alphabet)?” I told her no, I knew nothing. So she wrote down the name of the textbook I needed to buy and I was on my way to learning Modern Hebrew! Bonus miracle, she sat me next to another American. We ended up helping each other throughout the year.
Miracles are not always huge and dramatic. Sometimes they are a collection of small miracles put together to make our path straight. I know God was leading me every step of the way, especially during those first few months in Jerusalem. That American woman ended up showing me around and helping me find my way in many different ways.
When I look back on my time there, I remember so many things like this that happened to me, that could not have been except for the Father God intervening in my life and making my path straight. I ended up staying two years before coming back to the US. It was wonderful experience in so many ways and changed me forever.
My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:
For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.
Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:
So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. – Proverbs 3:1-6