Pilgrimage to the Promised Land
If anyone understands exile, the Jews do. Exiled from the their homeland for almost 2000 years, they are a living miracle of God's faithfulness to a covenant He made with a land and a people. And oh, what joy to celebrate this return in the literal land of Israel during their 70th year! At times I have felt like a wandering exile. Physically and emotionally exiled from the people and places familiar to me. In a sense, my family are economic exiles who left for greener pastures, due to the instability within Zimbabwe. And then I have friends from all over the world - political exiles, who dared to stand up for truth and righteousness, and faced the consequences. How fitting that my journey "home" would culminate in a trip to Israel! To celebrate the return of the exiles from every corner of the globe, after their independence in 1948, and to celebrate the homecoming of my exiled heart.
This trip was historic in so many ways! It was my first international flight out of Canada! And with a layover in Toronto, I was able to meet my dad at the airport on route. He gave me a travel cushion for the journey, proudly Canadian, and after a quick lunch and fleeting words about the significance of the season, which included repentance preceding joy, I headed for my gate and began my ascent to Jerusalem!
I took a public taxi to the hostel I was staying at my first night, and was met with the silence of the streets during Shabbat. On the drive up to Jerusalem, I had chatted with a couple who had flown in from Vancouver for just 4 days! Met by the foreign, yet familiar monotony of the Jerusalem stone, I pointed out a few things I remembered, welcoming them to the land, and sharing the little I knew. My first taste of being an Israeli tour guide?
In ancient times, the men of Israel were required to ascend to Jerusalem every year, to celebrate three specific feasts. I was in the land for one of them, The Feast of Tabernacles! The feast of JOY! And did I have a lot to be joyful about! The first thing I did when shabbat was over, was walk down to the Western Wall and put my prayer in-between the hundreds of others. Three years before, I had stood at this very wall with no idea how my life would turn out. Broken hearted, hopeless and surrendered to the will of the Lord, I had just begun my journey to attempt reconciliation with my dad. I had written out a tear-filled prayer for hope and healing, and soon after entered one of the hardest roads I've ever had to travel.
Here in 2018, I was standing at the wall with my thanksgiving prayer for all that God has done. He had healed my broken heart and "brought this captive home".
On my walk down to The Wall, the son of the hostel's owner crossed my path and welcomed me to Israel. He asked if this was my first time to the land. I said, "No, it's my second." His response warmed my heart - "Welcome home."
And with its' fascinating convergence and clashing of cultures from developed and developing nations, I felt completely at home in a place that reminded me somewhat of Africa and somewhat of the West. Israel - you just have to experience it for yourself! There's no place quite like it!
The moment I got off the plane I felt like I was home! The warm air, the dry land, the agricultural plots and the blue sky. It was a sweet relief to have a break from the beginning of Canadian fall, which is as cold as a Zimbabwean winter, in my opinion.
Israel truly is a convergence zone and there were so many special reunions waiting for me in the land. Additionally, through friends I had met in Zimbabwe, I was able to attend a specific Messianic congregation for their Yom Kippur service, spending the night with other young ladies in the properties bomb shelter (now that was a first).
On Yom Kippur, we fasted, prayed and worshiped, ending the service with the blowing of the shofar (synomous to Jubilee). We also joined in praying for an historic convergence gathering happening at IHOP that very day. A convergence with a Homecoming ministry lead by an Egyptian Canadian. There are significant shifts happening in the nations and it is amazing to see how God is raising up the Chinese Church to bless Israel and carry the good news through the 10-40 window! Back to Jerusalem, as they say!
And when the Lord returned the exiles during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, what joy there must have been! Not only were these exiles the fulfillment of Daniel's prayers and Jeremiah's prophecy, but in the process of returning and rebuilding, they came across the lost law of the Torah, and right then and there decided to obey and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as Sukkot (Nehemiah 8). Psalm 126 was written in the context of this period, and is the psalm I have been praying since I had returned to Zimbabwe in 2015. Not only is it a psalm of the exiles, but it is a thanksgiving prayer of restoration! As God had restored me to my land and clan in both Zimbabwe and Canada, He had now brought me to the spiritual epicentre of world politics to pray for the physical and spiritual restoration of Israel.
Titled Zion's Restoration, Psalm 126 is filled with promise! Repeatedly, the promise of JOY!
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Our mouths were filled with laughter then, and our tongues with shouts of joy. Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord had done great things for us; we were joyful.
Restore our fortunes (return our exiles), Lord, like watercourses in the Negev.
Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy. Though one goes along weeping, carrying the bag of seed, he will surely come back with shouts of joy, carrying his sheaves.
I joined both the ICEJ representative of Canada and Zimbabwe, in the annual ICEJ Jerusalem March. The theme of this year's gathering was Psalm 126:1 - Dare to Dream! We marched in solidarity with the Jewish people, their restoration and the prophetic promises regarding the nations (Zechariah 14:16), Walking through the streets of Jerusalem waving our respective flags and blessing the people with "Chag Semeach" and "We love Israel", is a truly surreal experience. As we walked, I heard shouts from the bystanders - Canadian Jews who were happy to see Canada represented. It was a proud moment to represent my country!
What a gift to walk with my two homes, alongside ICEJ Canada and ICEJ Zimbabwe! Shalom Israel! We even managed to walk right next to each other in the line up of the nations! This was truly symbolic for me and I ended up dressed in Canadian gear, handing out Zimbabwean flags! Thank You Lord for the Double Portion!
And if this was a season of restoring dreams, one of my 'dreams come true", was harvesting grapes in Israel during Sukkot! I joined a group of Canadians and Americans into Judea-Samaria for a grape harvest experience. Joshua and Caleb gave us a wonderful tour of their base camp on Har Bracha, the Mountain of Blessing. In-between harvesting, we met a local rabbi in town and heard part of his story, while feasting in his succah. A Jew from Yemen, his family had come over on "the wings of an eagle" (the term they used for the airplane, as they had never seen one before).
Hayovel is an amazing ministry and if you are blessed to pilgrimage to the promised land, take some time to get your hands dirty and connect with the literal land where about 80% of the Bible actually took place! And if you're Canadian, you don't even need a visa! You can get into Israel for 3 months by just arriving at the border. No bank statements, invitation letters or embassy visits - it's just that easy. Visiting Israel is profound in so many ways. First, it is the back drop and geographical stage to so much of the Bible. It is a crossroads of culture, with Jewish immigrants from all over the world, Ethiopia included. And where else can you literally be part of the fulfillment of prophecy!
In Jeremiah 31:5, it says that vineyards would be built on the hills of Judea and Samaria. Thousands of years later, this prophetic word has come to pass, and I got to be part of it! What a time to be alive, and what a time to visit Israel! It's time to start dreaming again and with the restoration of the land, "the desert is starting to blossom like the rose".
Thanks to Israeli drip irrigation, streams are running in the Negev and beyond! It's amazing what Israel can do on their limited water supply. Ingenuity and desalinated seawater! And these irrigation lines are keeping the vineyards alive. Considering agriculturists told the vine-keeper of this vineyard that it was impossible to grow anything in this barren, rocky soil, he held to the promise that if The Bible said vineyards would grow in Judea and Samaria again, then nothing was impossible! I'm so thankful for the faith of this man, and the servant hearted leadership of the Hayovel team who have been serving Israeli farmers for over 15 years now! Not only is the fruit of their love starting to have an affect in restoring Jewish Christian relations, but they have some seriously good red wine! The holiest wine I've ever tasted :)
If you're interested in going to Israel for the Feast of Tabernacles, check out the ICEJ Canada page for more details. There is nothing quite like worshipping G_d in the Israeli desert under a full moon, with believers from all over the world. God is calling His people home. Maybe, He's calling you? And if I learned anything from the director of ICEJ Zimbabwe, it's that if a Zimbabwean can get to Israel every year, when we don't even have a real currency and working economy, then anything is possible with God! This year in Jerusalem!
Thank you to all my friends and "family" who made this trip possible!