(That’s me–first row on the right, kneeling. 🙂 )
On August 9, 1994, in Independence, Missouri, my life shot headlong toward Israel. It began in a windowless conference room, at the end of exhausting hours of discussion, prayer and decision making. Back tired and mind frazzled, I fidgeted on a metal folding chair. I glanced at my watch and groaned. “It will be five soon. I need to get home.”
The director agreed. “Let’s pray and close. Father,” he started. “We thank You for leading us today in setting plans for the coming year………………”
There was a long pause. I peeked out of one eye. He stood, silent, eyes closed, in deep thought. The pause continued. Then he said, “I see an angel with a handful of flags from many nations. God wants to give each of us specific assignments. Let’s pause right now and ask Him.”
With eyes closed, I prayed. “Lord, show me where You are calling me.” Before my next breath, I saw myself walking alone wearing a white short-sleeved shirt and an easy flowing calf-length skirt. The path was a narrow sidewalk etched into a gentle hillside rising to my right and dropping off to my left. Sparse grass and small rocks covered the area. Beyond the rise stood a towering wall of cut beige stone.
My heart stopped. I gasped, “Jerusalem—the Old City.” My mind raced back and forth. Did I see the truth? “Father………are You taking me to Israel?” I asked.
The scene repeated, with greater depth and color. “Yes, Yes…You are saying, ‘Yes.’” I strained to believe. “I’ve been afraid to dream Lord,” I cried. “Now You are telling me, I am going. You are calling me to Israel. I am there. I see myself there. It is a done deal.” Shaken but ecstatic, I opened my eyes and tried to convey my experience.
Later I shared the vision with my husband. “If God wants you to go to Israel,” he said, “God will have to pay for it.”
He was right. I was working as a volunteer secretary. Mike’s income met our needs. Trips to foreign lands did not follow the criteria.
Not to be discouraged, I applied for my first passport in September. Elaine Perry, who shared my love for Israel, gave me the money for my birthday.
Almost four years later, in 1999, Mike and I were on a Southwest flight to San Diego for our anniversary. Mid-flight an announcement came over the intercom. “Will Mike and Mary Ellen Wright please come to the galley area.”
Mike and I looked at each other wondering why we’d been summoned. We unbuckled our seat belts and made our way to the galley. There the attendant took us aside and said, “We received a message from your son Brett. (Our son worked for Southwest and was able to get a message to us.) Your mother has had a heart attack, and they aren’t expecting her to live.” My mind raced as she continued. Mom had ended her radiation treatments two days before, and we’d been celebrating the end of her ordeal.
“This plane flies to Phoenix and then on to San Diego,” the attendant continued. “You should be able to make arrangements for a flight into L.A. Let them know your situation. It’s late, but there should be some seats open.”
Mike put his arm around me as I tried to absorb what was happening. We turned and made it back to our seats. I was in shock.
When we got to Phoenix, we discovered that Brett had called the Phoenix ticket office and told them our circumstances. We were able to get on a flight out to L.A. When we arrived in L.A., we rented a car to drive up the coast to Santa Barbara. We got to the hospital at 12:30 a.m.
My brother’s wife, Suzanne, was there waiting for us. Suzanne and I had been taking turns coming and staying a week with Mom at her home, while she was in treatment. Suzanne was the one who took over Mom’s care when I left Santa Barbara a few days before. Mom was still alive when we got there. Her condition had improved some, and we were able to talk to her for a few minutes.
We called my sisters, Ginny and Becky, who were in Austin, Texas for our niece’s National Gymnastics event. They would be in the later that morning. My brother was driving from Arizona. We prayed Mom would hold on until they all arrived.
Mike and I went to get some sleep at Mom’s, while Suzanne kept watch at the hospital. In the morning, Mom was lucid for moments but was asleep for the better part of the day. My brother and sisters arrived, and we were all able to gather around Mom’s bed and sing to her and be family.
About eight that night, Mike and I left to go back to a motel. We were past exhaustion. We’d been in bed about thirty minutes when we got a call that Mom had died.
“Why didn’t we stay?” I felt so bad for not being there, but knew when we left her, she’d already lost contact with us and her surroundings. Her eyes and face were blank, and she didn’t respond to anything we said. I was grateful I had the chance to tell her goodbye when she was conscious.
It had all happened so fast. In January, she went to see her doctor about fatigue. It was then they discovered she had uterine cancer. After four months of tests, surgery, and radiation, my eighty-one-year-old mother was dead of congestive heart failure. My heart broke.
Later, in her will, we found she left each of her children a small inheritance. This was such a gracious sacrifice from one who loved the Lord and her family.
“What should we do with the money?” I asked Mike. “How can we use it in a way that will honor Mom?” We prayed about it, and a day or so later, Mike came to me and said, “Why don’t you use part of it and go to Israel? Mom would be pleased.”
I was kind of shocked that he was the one who came to this conclusion. I’d always thought he was set against me going.
Was it the financial issue after all? To travel to Israel would bring Mom joy. Such a trip had been a lifelong dream of my mother’s. While she never made it to Israel, her spirit would be with me every step of the way.
In August 1999, Sarah and Nick were married. While we had some stressful at times having all the drama of their lives in our home, it was hard to see them go. Another chapter in our marriage and life ended, and a new one started.
I began searching out possible tours to Israel. There was one I found one that was unique, small in size, and affordable. Bridges for Peace is a charitable organization based in Jerusalem. They created a ‘Reunion Tour’ for former volunteers. While I wasn’t a volunteer, they had a few spaces left, and I was able to join the list of travelers.
What was also unique about this group, was the high level of experience and knowledge each of them had about Israel. It would be like traveling with thirty plus tour guides.
On May 18, 2000, I sat looking out our kitchen bay window. I had been five and a half years since I’d had the vision of Israel. In my journal, I wrote:
The sun is shining, skies are brilliant blue, birds singing and flitting from one leafy tree to the next. Everything is springtime and warmth.
Inside my emotions are rolling, Lord. Tomorrow at 4:40 P.M. I will leave Kansas City for Detroit and then on to Amsterdam. I’m as ready as I know how to be. I’ve researched packing methods, packed and repacked a dozen times. I filled the freezer with entrees for Mike. I loaded my camera with new batteries. My traveler’s checks are purchased and packed. Father, I am excited about meeting new people. I can’t wait to see Your land and experiencing all the adventures along the way, but I’m scared.
So many firsts:
First time I’ve flown over the ocean without land in sight
First time to be away from family for this long
First time out of the country and in places where people speak other languages
First time to meet the people on this tour
Lord, will I like my travel companions? Will they like me? (I didn’t know one person on the tour.)
My stomach churning and mind reeling, Father, I choose to consider that You are the One Who called me to go to Israel. You provided the money for this trip, and You directed me to this particular tour. You are in charge. I lay down my fears and choose to look forward with joy and anticipation. You have proven Yourself to be faithful and trustworthy. Apart from Your provision, I would not be going. Thank You, Lord, for this incredible opportunity.
The next ten days changed my life forever. The Land of the Bible came off the printed page in living color. I stood in the Coliseum where Paul preached in Caesarea and looked over the Jezreel Valley from Mt. Carmel, where Elijah met with the prophets of Baal. Our tour group hiked into EnGedi and saw the caves where David hid from Saul. We went to Qumran to see where the shepherd boy found the Dead Sea Scrolls. There was a boat trip on the Sea of Galilee, and a visit to the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. The sights and sounds, tastes and smells imprinted my life in ways no other place ever has.
I kept a daily journal of our trip and all the places we visited. My hope is to publish those notes in the future.
The trip to Israel and then on to Egypt for a few days to see the pyramids was amazing. But God had another surprise in store. In that same summer of 2000, our church group decided to make a mission trip to Guatemala. We would help with the building of an orphanage. While I’d wined and dined in five-star hotels in Israel, Guatemala would be sleeping in sleeping bags on cement slab floors. We would have inside toilets, running water, and some electricity in the dormitory in Zacapa. But, there were no conveniences in the mountain villages we visited. It was a culture shock to be sure, but I loved it.
The people there lived in thrown-together shacks made of sticks and pieces of corrugated roofing. They were some of the happiest people I’ve ever met. They had nothing by worldly standards, but they knew how to love and gave everything they had to us, without hesitation. I came home humbled.
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” In the summer of 2000, I lived the fulfillment of this scripture. Ever since I was a small child, I wanted to be a missionary. While I didn’t lead anyone to Christ while I was there, I shared God’s love and got it back in truckloads. Dreams do come true, I am a witness.
~~ How About You? ~~
Are you waiting on a dream, a promise, a desire to manifest? I encourage you. Don’t give up. God is faithful to His word. He will give you the desires of your heart if what you wish for is moral and in line with His love for you. If you haven’t already done this, sit down, write out your greatest desires and dreams, and then hand them over to God. Let Him work out the details and timing. You can remind Him but do so with thanksgiving.
“Thank You, Abba, for preparing a way for my dreams to be fulfilled. I trust You Abba. You are faithful to Your Word.”
I’d love to hear about how God’s faithfulness to you and your dreams. Please leave a comment. Thanks.