My Wife and I’s experience in Israel. 

As some of you know, my wife and I were in Israel just recently. We were on a 10-day Holy Land Tour. I think it was morning 5 where war broke out and Hamas did some terrible things. It is very unfortunate and terrible and it changed the Dynamics of the trip….to say the least.  I went live on my Facebook and I shared my  take on it and shared some of my thoughts and lessons from the trip, so we thought it would be good if the two of us also did that on my page. We also wanted to share here with those of you on the blog. 

News Outlets. 

From Jess: It’s still a wild experience but as somebody in our group said so beautifully “first and foremost we are not the story.” We’ve been asked from many different news outlets to share what’s going on over there in the Middle East. For some of them we will, but just to really bring light to “who is the story” which are the people over there who are still there. At least Americans over there have hope, Canadians have hope, people who are citizens of other countries have hope that even if they’re scared and they’re stuck over there….they have hope that they can get out. A lot of people who are citizens of Israel, of Gaza, of these different countries have no hope. They are stuck .They are staying there. For a lot of them (what we learned) is this is completely normal for them. They live with this each and every day, they get very comfortable being uncomfortable.

Testimony of Faith and Trust.

For us this was really a testimony of faith and of trusting each other as a couple and that’s really what I wanted to share with you. Trusting each other but also trusting God. I promised, I swore to God that if we made it home that I would share what really came up for me in this experience. One thing that you just can’t even comprehend when you’re in that type of situation, especially as a mom when you’re away from your children, is that you’re at a level 10 fight or flight at all times. Each and every person in our group handled it a little bit differently but you’re at a level 10. We kept getting information that the country was going to shut down tomorrow, different reporters would say different things. I met a reporter in the hotel who said “I get Intel before everyone else and the country is shutting down tomorrow it’s going to get really really bad no one’s going to be able to get out…basically they are going to blow up Israel.” So you hear that after you finally start to think things are going to get better, you hear it and it just totally rattles you and literally makes you fear for your life.

Long story short the one thing that really came to mind for me and I really heard God so clearly on the plane say was “your anxiety doesn’t keep you safe.” The real battle, throughout this whole week for Ray and I was that he was such a rock and trusted and knew that God was going to take care of us and knew that we were going to get on our plane. Now in the midst of all of this, flights were getting cancelled, the airport was being bombed, things were getting shut down left and right because terrorists were attacking. But he… as just such a solid rock said, “we are going to get on our plane and we are going to get out of here.” I literally could not hear him, could not hear him and it was just total fight or flight. Couldn’t trust God, couldn’t trust the process. I couldn’t hear him….. I was like, “that’s why God gave me persistence… because we have to get out of here…. I’m getting a flight… we have to get out of here.” I would book flights and they get cancelled or I would book a flight and then all of a sudden bombs are getting close to the road where we are supposed to go to get to the airport.

From Ray: We had to go to the bomb shelter three times while in the hotel that we were at…

From Jess: Yes, while in the hotel. Here’s the amazing thing. Israel has one of the best if not the best military in the world and they have something called the Iron Dome which literally just gets rid of these Rockets. But first of all I didn’t know that….okay I thought that we were all going to be bombed and terrorists were going to take over the hotel and that’s literally what you think is going to happen. I mean there’s people going through that right now.

From Ray: There was an experience that I had at the hotel twice… two different people, I don’t think Jess was with me (she might have been, maybe…)but twice in the hotel. I remember the first time I was in the elevator and this lady said, “hey where are you guys from?” There were a few of us in there and I said, “oh Florida” and she just looked and said, “now you know what it’s like.”

That’s just like a harsh reality that they deal with all the time over there. This time is a little different in that…I think it’s more intense than normal but they’re constantly dealing with the threat of bombs, the threat of civilians being attacked or knifed…

From Jess: The most amazing thing to me was that our group was so trusting in God. It was such a beautiful, incredible experience to witness these 50 people. We became a Target. Basically because you have 50 Americans in one location and if they really wanted to make a statement…. at that point they could. So the state department of Israel, everybody, the whole country knew we were there and knew that they had to get us out. There was information coming to us that was very unnerving that I couldn’t share with the entire group because it would have just created more panic or more worry than necessary.

For example an hour before we are about to get out on our flight a good friend of mine calls me (who has some very high up connections) and says, “hey are you going to get on your flight?”

 I said, “gosh…it’s delayed three hours… I don’t know… I pray that we are going to get on it tonight.”

He said, “well if you don’t, you need to let me know because it’s about to get really bad today at 5pm. it’s going to get real bad. You are going to need to go to the Embassy and seek shelter.”

I’m thinking, what… don’t even tell me that right now. It was a battle of the mind for me and when you’re a mom who can’t get to your kids it’s like a living hell… for lack of a better term. Whether you are actually physically being attacked or not…you just fear that every second that you walk out your door. What was beautiful was this group of 50 people who were all Christians were so trusting. Whether they wanted to show their anxiety or not, I know many of them didn’t sleep (it was a hard time…and our pastor was up all night trying to get people home). It was truly a testament to how you can’t have faith and fear in the same body.

So when I posted that Faith over Fear has a new meaning for me, when your life’s on the line and you feel like you’re not going to live or survive or you just don’t know if you’re going to make it home. You are not trusting and you are in that space of fight or flight and you’re around a group who trust so much that even if they suffer…. and this is one of the prayers that they did… “even if we suffer Lord we know that this is in your control and you have it in your hands.

I just ask you, you’re not currently…I’m guessing now… so maybe you are…. but currently you’re not in a life or death situation or you’re not in a situation where you believe you’re in a life or death situation whether it’s false or true.

Where in your life are you not trusting and you’re having fear instead of faith in your own body?

Or where in your life are you suffering and you don’t trust that God is in control that we’re not in control?

I honestly believe that one of the biggest hurdles that we as human beings have to overcome for everybody is our need to be in control. In that situation you have no control. I think for me just learning as a mom, as a wife, the fact that we got out on that plane was a total miracle and Ray knew it the whole time. Knew not just thought, not just hoped, knew because of how God spoke to him and how he just had faith.

I just wanted to come on here and share that, God is real, God is good and you have no control… zero control in what happens tomorrow.

From Ray: One thing that resonated with me was…the leader of the group Pastor Allen said something to me quite a few months ago. He said “you know Ray most people are trying to be their own savior, they’re trying to be the hero of their story, they’re trying to be the rock star, they’re trying to be the champion and the truth is we are to (actually despite popular marketing) be the sheep and Jesus is to be the shepherd. He’s meant to be a rock star. He wants us dependent, not independent, and have him be the Savior.” That is just such a different way to look at life and it is what allows you to really step into some of the biblical scripture of casting your anxiety on him. Don’t be anxious about anything, don’t complain. There’s a lot of scripture that if you’re trying to be the Savior it makes no sense.

Did the US government get us out?  

From Jess: So people are asking, “did the US government help us?” no, they did not…(From Ray: “a little weird…we are not going to name anyone…”) but it’s not to say that people didn’t try. It’s just (as you know) the government has so many moving pieces…but they are helping people now. I’m still getting the emails and I’m still getting the requests. They are helping people. Now I don’t know what that looks like because there’s tens of thousands of people trying to get out of the country. So it’s probably a mess.

What was it like in the airport?

From Ray: The airport was wild. I mean you had a lot of Jewish families with a lot of suitcases.

From Jess: The people in front of us had 24 suitcases with their family. Thousands of people were in line when we got to the airport.

From Ray: It took us 6 hours to drop off our bags. That wasn’t through security that was just to drop off our bags…and yeah there was a big Jewish holiday beforehand so some of them could have been visiting for the holiday but some of them had quite a few suitcases. I think they’re getting out of town. That was my take.

From Jess: They’re getting out of the country.

You are in this sardine type situation in the airport. Another place where you think “oh my gosh if they really wanted to make a statement…this would be the place.” People were dropping their bags because they were like, okay fine we don’t even need our bags, so they were just dropping their bags and going straight to the actual airport security…because the line was so long. So you see these random bags in the middle of the aisles. You’re thinking, “oh my gosh what’s in that bag…no one’s claiming that bag…I’m going to scoot away from that bag…” You are just on a level 10 high alert at all times. I can’t even imagine living like that all the time.

 We are blessed. 

We are so blessed. I know we are not perfect, but make sure you tell your family tonight that they are so blessed to live in a country or to be in a place where you just feel that you have your safety. That level of security and safety allows you to open up to God more than people who are in constant fight or flight.

That is one thing…resounding over and over as a child I thought that as soon as I let my guard down something bad would happen because of my past. I resort to… “if I stay in anxiety mode that’s going to keep me safe…that’s going to keep me on alert…that’s going to keep me knowing what to do next… or as soon as I let my guard down something bad could happen.” I think a lot of us live that way.

The resounding message over and over again that I got on the flight home was, “your anxiety does not keep you safe.” So for you (the person reading this) understand…

From Ray: Your anxiety is optional. You are not in control. You are really stressed out… that’s just an option. You can either have it or not have it. I just really buy into the concept that God is Sovereign and that the things that happen to your life, if you can just step into it, are there to actually help you grow and help you strengthen yourself. I know that’s not easy especially if you look at an act being the end. If you look at death as the end, then no death is fair right. What’s the lesson there? If you look at death as the end… that’s terrible right? If you look at child abuse as the end, if you look at sexual abuse as the end, (not that anyone deserves those things) but if you look at those things as maybe you are called to help those people who’ve been through the same thing.

I really believe that I was called to help people that have been through childhood trauma, been through childhood abuse because I went through it. I could look at it and say “well I didn’t deserve that and that’s unfair” but I look at it now as an adult that it has gotten me in doors that otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get into. When I speak to kids in foster care I tell them my story…they listen, “right?” because they get it… that “oh he’s been through some stuff.”

I think that’s the challenge…really trusting God means “okay let me not be anxious about this, let me not be so crazy about trying to control this thing and let me trust in him.”

I was talking with Pastor Allen and I said “Faith isn’t faith without some kind of risk.” Right? There was a risk of me telling Jess, “no don’t book that flight” and she’s like “what I can’t believe you…” so there was a risk in me having faith and saying to Jess “no don’t book that flight we’re meant to go out with the group.” But Pastor Allen followed that up and said, “but with faith there is no risk…right because if you truly have faith you know that God’s got your back and he’s got a plan for you and his plan for you is greater.

This next bit came from one of Pastor Allen’s sermons that I watched online, but “God’s plan is greater for you than you could ever have… if that’s the case then you need to trust the process. That doesn’t come without risk but once you have that faith and have that actual trust there no longer risk.. “right?” you are showing up, you are doing the best that you can and you are trusting.”

From Jess: Absolutely.

A couple of important notes.

A few important things that I want to leave you guys with… and this is really incredible I think just for everyday life. Some people are asking about plans for Israel and some different things that we learn and where this is stemming from, so I want to speak to that point as well.

We learn more about terrorism and this whole situation than we ever thought we would. There was a point where there was an option for a flight out. I of course booked it immediately and was ready to go and it’s a risk to even go to the airport. At this point I mean maybe a small risk… maybe a big risk but you’re risking being on your own traveling in the country. Ray was like “no we are meant to go out on this other flight” and I just literally wanted to punch him in the face.

(From Ray: I saw, I saw the look.)

I was not happy and he said, “it’s not faith if you only have one option.” So if we only had one option this is the only flight we got. Well that really doesn’t take much Faith right? That’s like okay it’s out of my control… nothing I can do…I’m not to blame… it is what it is and nothing I can do…I hate it but nothing I can do, but it’s not. Ray said “it’s not faith if you only have one option.” There are times in our life where it may not be life or death but we have many options.

From Ray: Sometimes to quit. Maybe you’re building a business and you know you’re called to serve a certain type of person. No one is holding a gun to your head saying “you have to keep going” so it’s an option. You have multiple options. So it takes Faith, “right?” Someone’s got a gun to your head…you don’t have any options, it doesn’t take Faith to do whatever they’re wanting you to do because you don’t have an option.

From Jess: Absolutely. I just thought that was really powerful to share.

This war that is going on and this is something that our tour guides (shout out to Twins Tours they’re amazing Andre and Tony they’re two twins who started this  and they have grown up in Israel their whole lives as Christians so they faced some interesting things. One thing that I want to share with you guys is the media is trying to create sides…right? They are trying to create…the people for Palestine…the people for Israel… They are trying to create these two entities and to get us to fight as usual. One amazing thing that they said was, “don’t let the media distract you from the real core here which is that this is a spiritual war that’s been going on. This is a family feud between Isaac and Ishmael. This is a family feud and it’s been going on for a millennia. This is a spiritual battle. We are not called to wish people to die, we are not called to wish that as people who believe in God, as Christians were not called to say, “okay it’s terrible what they did over here and so we wish that vengeance upon these people, vengeance upon Hamas.””

This is coming from people who live in the country. We are actually not called to do that, we are called to pray for them to be saved, for their hearts to be saved by God. We are called to pray for the people on all sides…the innocent people on all sides to be saved, to be safe and to have a safe haven and for there to be peace in the Middle East. That’s what we are called to do. We are not called to say wipe out and annihilate all of Hamas wipe out and annihilate all of Hezbollah as much as our human nature really would love that right? Spiritually we are called to pray for the hearts of these people who are doing these horrible things to be saved, because who’s to say that and it’s almost guaranteed right that if you wipe out this group another one doesn’t come right up behind it. Because their hearts are not saved, their hearts are not open, their hearts are not pure, their hearts are not love. I know “saved” to you means so many different things for the people reading this post, but just their hearts need more love inside of them. So let’s pray for the Peace of the Middle East and pray that they open their eyes to see.

From Ray: Amen. Well said.

From Jess: I’m being called by my daughter, so thank you so much for your prayers. We felt them and we love you. Thank you. 

From Ray: Yes, thank you all so much for the prayers! 

Ray Higdon

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