“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)
It was only a little over a year ago the Lord spoke to Shane and Becky about coming to Israel. While they both have a heart for the nations, Israel had not been one of the top places on their radar. But when change and opportunity comes knocking, we have two options. We can either ignore the knock or open the door. Shane and Becky decided to open the door and investigate this new direction.
They began to research Israel. They began to research organizations, ministries and groups working in and with Israel. They began to ask questions and in doing so, they began to make connections. As they made connections, plans began to form. In September 2015, Shane and Becky stepped out of their comfort zone and traveled to Israel with three of their children to live and learn for a few months as the tourist visa would allow.
If you are waiting for me to launch into stories of the figurative road paved with gold and of signs, wonders, miracles and the supernatural phenomenons that took place from the moment they stepped foot onto the Promised Land, you are going to be disappointed. I will get to those things later. The primary thing both Shane and Becky mentioned about their first time in Israel is that it was extremely difficult.
They were not used to being side by side all of the time. They were not used to being without their oldest son, McGrady, for this long of a period of time. They were not used to businesses, stores and gas stations closing down at dusk every Friday night for 24 hours because of Shabbat (you may know it as the Sabbath). They were not used to the extreme chaos of driving in Israel with the nonstop honking and aggressive maneuvering that occurs in the city streets. They were not used to the metric system which affects many areas of life from gas price budgeting to furniture measurements to recipe modifications. They did not yet know what their purpose in Israel was, just that they were called to go. Becky battled with overwhelming fear and anxiety to the point of struggling to be without Shane. Shane struggled with not having a gym to work out in the morning, which is how he feels at his best for the day, as well as trying to help Becky manage her anxiety. Not only did they need to figure out how to adjust, but they had to figure out how to help three young children adjust as well. It was a painful battle.
Even as the overwhelming battle threatened to take them out, the Lord remained faithful. Becky can easily recall the Spirit-filled moment her anxiety-fueled fear finally broke. Shane connected with a baseball division in Northern Israel and joined the Jerusalem Lions as a pitcher/shortstop. The kids began to get into a routine and adjust to the new world around them. In the midst of the chaos, miracles were happening.
One important observation I noticed in Shane and Becky – they are both incredible networkers. No matter where they are – the grocery store, a church service, a playground, the beach, one of Shane’s baseball games – they are constantly networking and chatting with people, with strangers. Through these connections, they have discovered one of the main purposes for their time in Israel is to share the love of the Father.
Last year, a man asked why they liked Israel and why they wanted to be there. He stated the world hates Israel, is against Israel and that Israel is in trouble. (How hopeless is this man’s point of view? Sadly, he has good reason to think this way even if it is not entirely true.) Becky told him that she and Shane love Israel, they love the people of Israel and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is for Israel. He looked at her strangely and replied, “Maybe in the Bible, but not now.”
Shane and Becky’s hearts are to bring Truth, Life, Hope and Love from God the Father to Israel. They know this will need to primarily come through action, not words. They have purposefully chosen to live among the Israeli people. They have purposefully chosen to develop friendships with Jews and Arabs even though there is not much peace between the two cultures. They have purposefully chosen to uphold traditional Jewish days like Shabbat (Sabbath) and holidays like Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) to learn, understand and engage with the people. They believe God’s Word for themselves and for Israel when it says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18 (NIV).
What about those miracles mentioned earlier? The power of networking combined with passion has led to miracles and more miracles. For example, take Shane’s love of baseball. Since playing with the Jerusalem Lions, Shane has noticed the potential of developing a baseball league in the North and South of Israel. Shane never leaves home without at least one baseball, glove and bat just in case they wind up at a park and meet kids or adults who are interested in learning. He is always aware and prepared to connect through baseball. Through seemingly “random” events in Israel, Shane has met several Jewish professional and minor MLB players/coaches who are interested in his vision. Some have asked what needs Shane and Becky have or what they can do to help. This past year through an “Israel connection”, Shane was invited to a private instructional pitching session in the US with New York Yankees Pitching Coordinator…which only deepens the relationship for the long-term. The day after I arrived in Israel, he spontaneously went to a business conference. There, he happened to meet an American Jewish man who owns a number of Chick-Fil-A stores in the US and is interested in the possibility of bringing the chain to Israel. As it turns out, the gentleman was a minor league pitcher as well and is open to being a part of the vision. When Shane combined his passion with networking, miracles are happening.
Becky is still in the learning process of what her specific niche is. However, we do know some puzzle pieces. Becky has a gift of learning language. She already speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese but is catching on quickly to Hebrew. She practices her Hebrew words wherever she goes. She looks up YouTube children’s videos on the Hebrew alphabet, numbers, holiday songs, traditional songs, etc in order to further her skills and teach her children. She has started taking a Hebrew language class to learn reading and writing as well. When she came to Israel, she was not sure how her Spanish and Portuguese skills would be of use, but then she learned of the Sephardic Jews. (I’m sorry, the who and the what Jews?!?)
A little history/prophecy lesson I learned on this visit: Obadiah 1:19-21 is a prophesy regarding the return of Jews who are scattered throughout the earth. “The Sepharad will possess the cities of the Negev.” The Sepharad are those of Jewish decent who had been exiled or displaced to areas of Spain and Portugal, eventually scattered throughout the world. During the time period of the crusades many converted (some by choice, some by force) to Catholicism, thus forgetting their Jewish heritage or practicing in secret. Now, if we are heading into end times as predicted, this is one part of Biblical prophecy that has not been completely fulfilled yet. However, reports are emerging of the “awakening” of Hispanic Jews. Keep your eyes and ears open people, prophecy may be getting fulfilled right in front of you. Israel and the returning Jews will need people who can speak and translate between English, Spanish, Portuguese & Hebrew…know of anyone who could possibly help out? I do. (Add this to the fact that Hispanics are currently the largest growing ethnicity in professional baseball and Shane’s dream for baseball leagues in Israel is a pretty fascinating scenario!)
Becky also feels a call to love and encourage other mothers. While she does not have a specific picture of what that means, she takes opportunities to hug, pray and network with moms. God has placed some special women in her path for friendship and connection so far. We assume the amount and depth of friendships will only continue to grow with time and intentionality.
I know that God will use each of their children in their unique personalities to do mighty things, even now at their young ages. Abel (7) loves to be around people and be in the middle of the action. He always has something to say. With maturity and direction, his words and actions will be used for glory. Owen (5) is a quiet observer with a tender heart. He notices emotions and feels deeply. As he grows, he will generously love, comfort and empathize with the hurting. Havah (20 months) is an easy-going baby. Even at her young age, she is able to take her roughhousing older brothers in stride. She does not get worked up easily. This ability to persevere will come in handy as she grows to be strong and independent. While I do not know McGrady (12), Shane has shared about his love for prayer and worship. As he continues to refine his prayer life, may it lead to a deeper relationship with the Lord that others will notice and inquire about.
Shane and Becky do not know how long they will be in Israel but they do know they were called and answered with “yes.” Please pray for them as they continue to pursue the Lord’s heart for Israel. If you are interested in knowing more about them and their call to Israel, feel free to contact me. I will be happy to put you in touch.
If would like to read more about the Sephardic Jews, this website has been really helpful for my understanding: http://www.hope-of-israel.org/sephardim.html or you can easily google it.