Encounters in Israel (November 2014)

It’s story-telling time!

Last year, around mid-November, I travelled to Israel for my first time, taking ten days of absence away from school. I went with a team from my home church to attend the first international “Homecoming” conference in Jerusalem.

During this trip, I experienced two “divine” encounters, i.e. supernaturally coincidental chance meetings with two very cool people. I love telling these stories, because they remind me of God’s goodness and divine orchestration. Each encounter felt like a kiss from God.

Encounter #1: Canon Andrew White

Known as the “Vicar of Baghdad,” Canon White is one of the world’s most trusted mediators and reconcilers and has dedicated his life to serving the Arabs and Jews. He has done extensive peace work all over the world. He is also the President of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.

The first time I heard Canon White speak was a year ago, around the beginning of November 2014, when he came to speak at BSSM. I had remembered seeing him before in a TV news clip, talking about the crisis of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, during the time when ISIS was just emerging. Needless to say, I was very thrilled to hear him in person, and, as he spoke, I became even more enthralled by the uniqueness of his character and incredibly lovable charm.

My housemate Zoie had bought his book Father, Forgive: Reflections on Peacemaking and allowed me to borrow it. When I went to Israel in mid-November, I brought the book with me, and I ended up finishing it on the plane. I was so impacted by the book, I remember filling up an entire page in my journal with quotes from the book and then reading them out loud to my parents throughout our trip.

We toured Israel for the first few days. Among all the places we went to, we visited Jerusalem, Caesarea, Jericho, Tiberius, and the Sea of Galilee. We spent time at the Garden Tomb, the Temple Mount, the Wailing Wall, and other sacred sites. It was quite a surreal and incredible experience, knowing that Christ had been in these places and set foot on the same stone that we were standing on.

On the second to last day of our tour, we went down to Bethlehem, which is a Palestinian city south of Jerusalem, to visit Pastor Steven Khoury, a friend and frequent speaker at our church’s summer youth conferences. We had dinner together at a restaurant located right next to the field where the angels had appeared to a group of shepherds, declaring the birth of the Messiah 2,000 years ago (Luke 2:8-20).

In the middle of conversation, Pastor Steven Khoury mentioned that, the following night, a special speaker was coming to speak at his church. “Canon Andrew White,” he said.

I freaked out.

“Canon White?! No way! He just came to speak at BSSM a few weeks ago, and I finished his entire book on the plane! I absolutely love Canon White!” I was so excited.

I proceeded to to share story after story about Canon Andrew White and eventually convinced the whole team that we needed to attend Pastor Steven’s Palestinian church the following night.

At the meeting, the next night, having read his book and now hearing him speak for the second time in my life, I was even more in awe of this man. Canon White is one of those rare souls in history who have truly and completely given their lives over to love and service. His reconciliation work in the Middle East is absolutely mind-boggling. He never stops. Even with a chronic disabling disease (he has MS), he works tirelessly to provide aid for refugees, care for orphans, build schools and hospitals and show Christ’s love to both Jews and Arabs, friend or foe.

I had brought Zoie’s copy of his book with me, so at the end of the meeting I went to the front and asked him if he could sign this book for my friend. “Of course!” He said, with that warm and instantly inviting voice.

As he was signing, I told him, “I am a student at Bethel in California, and I was there when you spoke at our school just a few weeks ago!”

“Oh, really!” He exclaimed. His face lit up, and he seemed so delighted that I was here. He looked me in the eyes, and I felt so much love. When he finished signing, I thanked him and gave him a hug. I was so enraptured by this man’s compassion. It just oozed from his pores.

As I rejoined my team in the back, I felt the pleasure and presence of God so strongly. I thanked Him for the opportunity, that in one month I got to hear Canon White speak twice, on two different continents, and finish his book, while 6 miles up in the air.

Today, he is still making an immense impact in the Middle East, being a father to the fatherless and traveling around the world to raise funds to build schools and hospitals and provide aid for refugees. His passion for people and for the Lord is still infecting and transforming everyone he reaches. For more information about Canon Andrew White’s work with Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME), visit their website at frrme.org.

Encounter #2: The Man in the Yellow Shirt

Our team was visiting the Temple Mount. As we walked through one of the Temple gates, we passed by a group of men. Immediately my friend and I stopped dead in our tracks and made eye contact with each other.

“Is that him?” I whispered. We both turned to look back.

It turned out that one of the men we had just passed was the same man who appeared in Darren Wilson’s most recent film at the time, Father of Lights, a Christian documentary on the Holy Spirit.

In the film, this man wears a yellow shirt. Todd White, a traveling evangelist, prays for him on the streets and heals his leg. Later on, through a series of supernatural events and divine encounters, they reunite with “the man in the yellow shirt,” and he becomes their key to entering The Dome of the Rock, which is supposedly impossible for any non-Muslims to enter. Here is the entire video clip from the film, starting at 5:45: https://youtu.be/wTdY_blFkxI?t=5m45s.

This chapter of the film was my favorite part of Father of Lights, and I often told others about the story of “the man in the yellow shirt.” That is why I was able to recognize him on the streets of Jerusalem.

We were so excited. My friend and I decided to approach him.

“Hello!” I said, “We are visiting from the United States, and…” with a big, curious smile, I asked him, “Are you the man from Father of Lights?” I had no idea if he even knew about the film or that he had appeared in a Christian documentary. “Someone prayed for your leg, and you were healed…?”

His face showed a look of surprise and then delight. “Oh, yes! The movie! You have seen the movie? Yes, yes, I am he!” He seemed excited to know that we had seen the movie, and then he asked us, “Do you know the man who prayed for my leg? I have not seen him again, and I would really like to thank him!”

“Oh, Todd White!” I exclaimed excitedly, somewhat surprised that they never got connected afterwards, and now I was being thrown into their midst as an unexpected middleman. “I don’t know him personally,” I responded, “but I may be able to contact him.” I am a student at Bethel, after all. Who knows who I will meet?

“Wonderful! Here is my email address. May you please give it to him? I would love to meet him again. I am very thankful to him.” He then proceeded to punch in his email address into my phone. I was shocked and amazed at what was going on. I was getting the email address of “the man in the yellow shirt”! Now, all I needed to figure out was, how am I going to get this to Todd White or Darren Wilson’s team?

“I will try my best to give this to him,” I said.

We took a picture and hugged. As we left, my friend and I were stunned. Quickly making our way back to reunite with the rest of our team, we bumped into a group of old friends from Taiwan who were also visiting Israel. What a day of divine encounters!

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The story doesn’t end there though.

A few weeks after I came back to Redding, they announced at school one day that Darren Wilson would be teaching a weekend conference called “The Film Workshop.” Immediately I felt prompted to register.

I went to the conference and learned a great deal about storytelling and filmmaking, but most importantly, I was able to meet Darren Wilson during a book-signing session in between classes.

As he was signing the book I had just bought from his product table, I said to him, “I went to Israel a few weeks ago, and I met ‘the man in the yellow shirt’ from your film Father of Lights. He is very thankful to Todd White for healing his leg, and he said he would love to meet you guys again.”

He looked up at me, surprised. “Really? Wow!” He took out his phone and looked through his calendar. “I will be going back to Israel next month, and I would love to meet up with him.”

I couldn’t have felt more pleased. I took out a small piece of paper from my pocket. “This is his email address! He gave it to me and asked me to pass it on to your team.”

“Wow! That is amazing! Thank you so much!” Darren said. He took the email address and put it in his wallet.

There have been a few times in my life when I felt like I was in the perfect place at the perfect time, as I did that day. God has a way of setting things up in a way you least expect it. I felt privileged to be a messenger of divine correspondence. Perhaps I helped to make a very important connection between two people who will make a huge difference in Kingdom history—in fact, I know that I did! 🙂

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