Note: Jesus was clear when he said, “the way is narrow and few are those who find it.” Picking up our crosses and following Him each day is a very different way of life from that of the world. It’s difficult. My mom and I don’t look in churches for Christians much anymore. God called us away from a churchianity, a lukewarm and even a new-age-ness that has invaded the majority of churches in the USA. We didn’t see it until we left. As we have traveled, we still haven’t been called back to the church life, but as you can see in this post, God has a wonderful way of bringing His church, individual believers, together in awesome ways and places. Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of everyone, and some of them are blurry. I hope you enjoy it all anyway. 🙂
Old City, Jerusalem
The very first night of our new nomadic lifestyle was spent in a hostel, my first ever. The hostel was built into the stone walls just outside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. But the walls were close together, the air musky and wet, and the rooms always sticky and humid. Moving to a better hostel introduced us a wonderful gem of a woman: Natasha. Kind, open, and thoughtful, Natasha blessed the beginning of our journey with her words of encouragement and faith. She was an aware believer- aware of the end times, aware of the truth and Biblical significance of current global events.
While the roof there provided incredible views of Old Jerusalem, we booked yet another hostel outside the Old City walls. Before switching hostels, my mom, sister, and I fell terribly ill. When it came time to leave, we were weak and dreading the hot, long trek with our bags. Natasha showed us love in deed when, although of small frame, she lifted the heaviest bag to carry for us the entire way. I’ll always remember her as a woman who smiled and fervently prayed.
Jerusalem Hostel in Jerusalem, Israel
That next hostel that Natasha brought us to was the Jerusalem Hostel in Zion Square. This hostel hosted a long, open kitchen and common area where the guests met, talked, cooked, and congregated. Musicians played their saxophones, guitars, and violins in the square below our windows while, in the hostel, conversation quickly turned strangers into friends. In Israel, a one of a kind place, the topic of religion usually led introductions and discussions, and sometimes, politics followed. Anything real or substantial was game conversation material. Center of the world, holder of the most significant history, and a country equipped to regularly dispatch missiles received from their neighbors, in Israel, reality tended to rooted itself in the forefront of its residents’ minds.
Here we met the one of the largest number of like-minded believers.
Adi, although not a Christian, was a young woman who left her job and boyfriend to explore her Jewish faith and truly understand what it meant to believe. She and my mom hit it off especially well.
We met our good friend Keith, a strong believer who was incredibly kind and considerate of Grace. An awake, aware Christian from the US, Keith enlivened and fully understood deep conversation about world events and faith in Jesus Christ. He was certainly a rare find and thankfully one we’ve been able to stay in contact with. While my mom and I spent a month working at the hostel, Keith spent the mornings working, out of his kindness, with Grace. We saw her improvement from his investment into her life.
RV paired joy and sincerity so sweetly. My mom and I knew that RV was a bonafide, not just a nominal, Christian when she did her utmost to serve Grace. She told us that she would get her Christian music playlist together for Grace to listen to and did. Grace loved all the music RV prepared for her.
There was a young man in his mid-30s whose name I cannot remember. I instead remember him as the guy who addressed every woman as “ma’am.” A volunteer at the hostel, he was polite, friendly, and hardworking. He showed the beauty of the teachings about Jesus in everything he did (Titus 2:10). He wasn’t shy about his faith, but he always remained respectful. He told us that he had been called to Israel to pray. After he finished his hostel duties each day, we saw him with his Bible doing just that. One afternoon we all engaged in a heart-to-heart chat. That meeting instilled in us the wonder of a God who sovereignly brings Christians from different nations together.
We briefly met others who were called to Israel to pray for salvation for the Jews as well.
One other such lady came from France. Around the ripe age of 90, this woman felt God drawing her to travel to Israel, Jerusalem specifically. She spoke Hebrew and her parents were killed in the Holocaust. She was poor and her English very difficult to understand, but she had such a pure, humble, and loving spirit. She told me of her dreams and visions of the end times. It was so like God to use an elderly woman to share His mysteries and knowledge with. She had been overlooked by the world, but holds a significant spot in the loving kingdom of Jesus.
I don’t keep a journal (though I know I should), but I wanted to remember talking to her so I wrote this at the time:
Oct. 18 talked in the kitchen with an older woman from Paris. She spoke of a vision about God telling her to return to Israel. Some family is providing for her right now, but she might have to go back. She spoke about Joel 3 and Zechariah 14. I went up on the roof in the hostel tonight and a guy from the USA was talking on skype about Zechariah 14 as well.
My mom and I ended up working at that hostel for a month on our return visit to Israel in the autumn. During that time, I started feeling a bit friendless, as the people I worked with were all guys, and the female guests came and went too frequently. I prayed that God would bring me a good friend. It wasn’t long after that that two new volunteers showed up. Mozzi and Paul from South Korea decided to give volunteering at the hostel a try. We hit it off immediately. Mozzi, we called her Haley, was intuitive, intelligent, and kind. Paul was genuine, friendly, and funny. Mozzi will always be a special friend to me, because I see her as the direct answer to a prayer. One night they brought us along with them to a Christian Korean fellowship in north Jerusalem.
Alex Forth and her husband enlivened a shabbat dinner that was driving us bonkers. The pre-meal speaker was droning on in intellectual mutter about the certain age of the earth, somehow tying his made-up number back into an obscure, but relevant fact about Israel, and finally about the traditions of the shabbat dinner which had brought us all together in the first place. When it came time to eat, the food not too cold after the lecture, my mom and Alex bonded over love for soup croutons. My mom was delighted to make a friend more her age, especially a friend with a love for the Lord.
A young Chinese woman came for just a couple days, but spent one of her nights out exploring with us. Early in our first conversation we discovered that the other was a believer. We walked around, got a little lost, and talked about the end times together. Just after my mom decided that her shoulder luggage bag was too impractical to travel with, the bag found a home with this woman who just happened to be in need of such a bag to bring home presents in.
Last but not least, we had some great conversations with a godly couple from Paris and Nicaragua. There was a real, deep love for the Lord in them. We traveled down to the Dead Sea together, although when we got there, the area was experiencing a historic storm.
The Shelter in Eilat, Israel
Keith from the Jerusalem Hostel referred us to a hostel called the Shelter in the south of Israel, Eilat. Thanks to his recommendation, we met and fellowshipped with a varied group of believers. The Shelter was a hostel run by a Christian pastor and his wife, originally from the US. The pastor/owner often randomly gave out discounts on the, which helped as Israel was seriously expensive.
As a hostel that held a Bible study every morning, it naturally attracted Bible-believing guests. We met a large number of wonderful travelers from the world over.
Diane from Switzerland was one of the first Christians to engage with us and welcome us on our arrival. We had a lot of good talks and times together, including our adventure to see dolphins in the Red Sea.
Alina really loved Grace and was always so sweet and thoughtful towards her. No surprise that she had a similar love for the Lord.
Two men who prayed in simple faith a short and powerful prayer for Grace’s healing.
Marta, a new Christian about my age, had recently been saved and now testifies about the gospel to her friends. She already has a lot of godly wisdom and love for the Lord.
The timing of our stay included a large meeting on the spiritual health of Tibet. A woman who had spent many years living and working among the Tibetans shared with us what life and religion is like there. As she described it, rituals, animal and human sacrifices, submission to and appeasement of vast numbers of demons were part of everyday life. When sharing the good news of the gospel, she found that many times the news would be joyfully accepted, but their life wouldn’t change. She quickly saw that Jesus of the Bible was simply added to the long list of gods they already believed in. Getting anyone to understand the One Living, Loving God was proving to be dismally hard work. Adding to the alien idea of Gospel that taught communion with instead of fear of God, any new believer would have to hide and fear for their life if anyone in the community found out.
She told us her struggles and stories of Tibet in order that we might all pray. The demonic strongholds in that region were powerful. She believed prayer was first necessary before salvation would break through to the Tibetans.
Catherine from Hong Kong, China met us in a hostel in the hectic city that is Marrakesh. We did some sightseeing of the city together, including a Moroccan Palace and splitting a taxi ride out to a garden that turn out to just have ancient olive trees.
I wrote about how we met Uuy and her family during our short stay in Indonesia’s capital, here. My mom had had it on her heart to pray for the remnant of Christians living in a proudly muslim city and country. The next day we walked into a Christian hospital for an appointment. We sat waiting with a woman who gently and thoughtfully cared for her father in a wheelchair. By the way she helped her father, we had a good hunch that she was a Christian. Turned out she was!
Luang Prabang and Vientiane, Laos
We went one night to volunteer our English speaking skills at a place called Big Brother Mouse. Every morning and night, locals and travelers were welcome to stop by the center. Travelers who spoke English could volunteer their time and speak with any Laotians who wished to learn or improve their English. The second time we went, my language partner was a guy who turned out to be a believer! His English was quite good, so he told me about his family’s conversion from Animism to Christianity due to French missionaries. Christians in Luang Prabang had been meeting together in homes, but now numbers have grown enough to necessitate a church building. Yo, my language partner also told me why he loved Jesus and how he played the piano for the church’s Sunday worship services. Although Laotian Christians are not allowed any positions in government, he explained that it is no longer illegal to be one.
We went once to two different churches while in the capital, Vientiane. My mom had asked on a group on facebook if there were any good fellowships in the city. She got a response, and soon after, a couple from one church came to meet us. They offered to drive us to their church’s service on Sunday and also told us about a more ex-pat church we could check out.
The first church turned out to be a Seventh Day Adventist Church. The church service was a bit of the life-less “church-ianity” we knew too well and the guest speaker seemed to be a bit too condescending. However, before the service we were able to participate in a small group Bible study. We read and examined a section of scripture and then prayed together- exactly how real church should be. There was a lot of good input and conversation. It was completely energizing and enjoyable. The knowledge and passion for the Word that some residents of Laos have was great to see.
The other church similarly both pleased and displeased us. The service felt to us at first dry. There was a calculated order to everything that took place. It reminded me of a more Anglican-styled church. During the service we were somewhat asking ourselves why we had come. It wasn’t until after the service when everyone gathered downstairs to have pizza together that we got to have some good fellowship with the church members. The pastor offered to pray for my mom. He prayed for her specific struggles and needs without her having told him about them.
During our time in Cambodia, we were traveling with three extraordinarily wonderful Spanish friends. They had found a great spot for brownies and kept telling us about it. One evening, my mom, sister and I walked over to the restaurant our friends had mentioned. When we got there, my mom almost immediately recognized a set of Bibles stacked on a shelf in the restaurant. And that’s how we connected with Pheakdey and learned her victorious story about how she was rescued in a peculiar way from being sold into the sex trade and became a Christian. She was once an orphan. Now she has a beautiful family and works with the orphans in her local orphanage. Read about her incredible testimony here!
George Town, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Bako National Park, Malaysia
We entered a museum in Georgetown, Malaysia quite by accident, but we were happily greeted by the woman who worked there. She explained the significance of the museum with a personality that exuded joy. We walked around the museum and read the panels. Before we left, we got into a conversation with the same lady. My mom hinted to her that we were Christians when she asked Grace’s and my name. She told us she was a Christian as well. She, too, was watching the world submerge into deeper, darker wickedness and was waiting, hoping, and praying for the Lord to return.
In Ipoh, Malaysia, a lunch special drew three hungry ladies (us 😉 ) into a restaurant we were passing. There was an interesting joy about the guy, Daniel, who served us. Maybe I am just not used to seeing people happy at work, but this guy seemed to be. We made small talk about Malaysia and he was pretty open with us about his country. We told him we loved his country and the mixture of culture. He told us (wait for it) that he was a Christian. The church he belonged to sounded like they were up to some amazing, Biblical work. Every week they traveled to surrounding villages to give free medical treatment to those who could not afford it. They also cared for the poor in their own area of Ipoh. It was wonderful to hear of work being done by a community for their own community.
On our first visit to Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, we stayed at a hostel where we met another bonafide Christian. He was working behind the hostel desk and was always really kind and helpful.
We met Theresa when she helped us get the bus to stop long enough for us to drag all our backpacks out. We had tried to alight at one stop before, but we were too slow getting Grace and our bags up and off. Theresa stepped off at the next stop with us, as it was the stop she needed. We thanked her heartily for helping us. Her dress was full-length and of traditional Malay style. Not wanting us to think she was Malay (about 95% of Malays are Muslim), she let us know she was a Christian. We were excited to meet each other. Missing our stop turned out for the absolute best. The second stop turned out to bring us closer to where we were going, and we had the wonderful, divinely orchestrated chance to meet a local sister.
Absolutely famished from a day of traveling from Taman Negara, Theresa thoughtfully brought us to a good Indian restaurant that she knew of. As guests in her country, as she put it, she paid for our meal and walked us most of the way to our hostel. She had a real motherly thoughtfulness and was also eagerly awaiting Jesus’ return. She made a point to meet up with us again before we headed off to Borneo.
We spent two nights and three days in the middle of a jungle in southern Borneo called Bako National Park. Before we took the boat back to civilization on the last day, we hiked to a waterfall. We saw a towel on the bench when we arrived, but no people. After a bit of swimming, two women arrived from hiking up the waterfall. Those two women turned out to be missionaries to Myanmar. The first woman who yelled hello to us was from Australia and had been living in Myanmar for two years now. The other young woman was Myanmarese… or Burmese (sounds better!) when Myanmar was called Burma. Anyway, it was incredible to meet them basically in the Garden of Eden and be able to encourage each other. They were on a two week vacation in Malaysia. We prayed together and for each other before leaving. It’s amazing how God can supply fellowship, anywhere and at anytime!
Don’t ask me how it happened, but my mom got into a conversation with two foreigners after stepping off the skytrain in Bangkok, Thailand. They turned out to be missionaries to China from Wexford, Pennsylvania.