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Israel, I love you, but I do not love your soap.

Jess recently came home from Israel smelling like days gone by.  His clothing was washed in what seems to be the only brand of laundry detergent that Israel has to offer.

All at once the memories came back.  Not just memories spanning across our years living in Jerusalem as a family, but my memories of firsts.

October 31, 2004.  I’m 26.  It was my first drive up to Jerusalem.  After a 13 hour flight and a welcome by Jess’ childhood friends at the airport, all I wanted was to brush my teeth.  At home.  In Canada.

With little world experience aside from my life growing up in suburban southern Ontario — my father, a faithful and gifted Chartered Accountant, and my mother, the best teacher in the Peel District School Board — I was lost.  I had 22-month-old little Jonah, hockey bags full of clothing, linens and anything else that could be folded into a bag.  Nothing else.  No shipping container.  No furniture.  No Hebrew language skills. But in this country, Jess was home.

Not two weeks later, November 11, Yasser Arafat dies.  As we approached Jerusalem up the winding hills from the Dead Sea after a day of exploring my new existence, all hell had broken loose as we tried to enter the city.  Chaos.  Grid lock.  Palestinian license plates jammed the checkpoints from the West Bank.  Our Israeli license plate was ushered to the shoulder and allowed to cross.  Looking back now, I realize that I had no understanding of the implications of this event because I had little knowledge or past interest in Israel’s modern history.  I was barely aware of how tired and traumatized the Second Intifada had made Israelis, or of how the intifada had now been diffused.  We would be entering a season of respite from daily terror attacks.  It was a week of riots, demonstrations and news headlines.

Not yet settled in an apartment, I took a bath at the guesthouse we occupied until we could secure a place of our own.  I held my nose so that I could be completely submerged under the hot water.  The water conducted the sounds in the 17 story building and I could faintly hear someone playing Moonlight Sonata.  Whoever this musician neighbour was, he executed the piece as well as my dad.  I used to fall asleep to this “lullaby” of Beethoven’s as a kid.  So, I would just lie there safe in the belly of the tub.  I would be a kid at my parents’ house again, for a while.

Oh, but for Israel’s terrible soap.  It would be the smelling salt reminding me that I was I was not in Kansas anymore.  This was my new home and now with a 22-month-old precious Little Soul of my own, life would change.  I would grow up.  I would wash our laundry in terrible detergent for six more years.

***

But what a country I would grow to love.  What a People I would come to respect so much.  How my theology and relationship with God would grow and change by living in this city, in this history.  I would fall in love with all of the extraverted little old men socializing on every corner. I would eat and enjoyfood.  I would expand my view of family and children. Our own little family would begin to incubate here — a family of five with one Little Soul born in Zion.  Then, launching from Jerusalem to church plant in Quebec where a group of seven raising chickens in a farmhouse we would become.

God has been too good to our family.

As many of you know we are on course to return to Israel.  We can’t thank you enough for praying with us and for encouraging us in every way.  So many of you have prayed us through this journey.  So many of you have helped to shoulder the burden of our ministry with every kind of support.  We are forever indebted to you and are so very thankful.

I am thankful to God this Christmas time and always, that he has never given up on me no matter how many times I was not grateful for His provision for me.  No matter how many times I doubted that He would see us through the journey.

He has been too, too good to us.

This Christmas I pray that you remember Jesus, the Saviour of the world.  That He came to us as a humble little baby.  He is called Emmanuel, God with us.  I encourage you to walk with God this year — to live by faith and not by sight.  He loves you!  He is with you, and He is faithful.  For unto us, a Child is born.  Unto us a Son is given.

Merry Christmas and may 2018 be a year of unexpected blessings for you all.

Hugs and love,

Erica, together with Jess

*Hugs also from, Jonah (15) Benji (12) Kobe (9) Matti (3) and Teddy (1)