Thursday, November 12
8:00 a.m., Local Time
A full minute passed before Blake relaxed the bear hug she had around Ty’s neck.
“I can’t believe it. This is so amazing!” She squealed.
Ty was pleasantly surprised that such a petite, beautiful woman could exert so much strength. There was raw power hidden behind that blond hair, blue eyes, and sweet figure. She’d overcome his height advantage in a single bound.
“Yes it is,” he said, and then took the opportunity to offer a long, tender kiss. When he opened his eyes he saw pure joy.
“We’ve got a ton of work to do, don’t we?” The reality of it all had just hit her.
“Unless you want to occupy separate beds on this trip, this wedding has to happen in the next two days. Exactly how big and fancy of a ceremony are you looking for?” Ty smiled as he lowered her to the floor.
“Big and fancy has never been my dream. Anyway, it would be out of the question under the current circumstances.” said Blake. “My main concern has been in finding the right guy. You’re it pal!”
“I’m glad to be tagged. As far as fancy, you’re right. That would be inappropriate. Big is another issue. My guess is everyone in the congregation will be there, plus all the folks that are occupying the church. The tent will be filled to the ropes.”
“What about licenses? Are the county offices even open?” Blake asked with a bit of alarm.
“You know, at this point, having God’s approval is going to trump a license from the State of Missouri. I ran it by the Deacons and they feel the same.”
Blake’s forehead crinkled a bit. “Ty, are you sure of that? I don’t want us to be anywhere close to an unholy situation.”
“Neither do I,” Ty shrugged. “Really, my heart tells me it is the right thing to do. You know, ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness?’ God knows our hearts, and getting married with all our people as witnesses will seal the deal. When state licenses are available, we’ll finish the job. We might even get one in Israel.”
She thought about it for a minute, and then smiled again. “Okay, you need to call your preacher friend. He may be up to his knees in refugees too.”
“I did, and he is. I talked to him on the phone right after I got the call from the State Department. He’s cool with it. In fact, he was pretty happy. Says we’ll finally be on an equal playing field.” Ty chuckled.
“What’s that mean?”
“It’s been a running joke between us since we met. He’s married and has three kids. He says I haven’t learned the true meaning of humility. He thinks I’m about to find out.”
Blake’s eyes twinkled, but she gave no reply beyond an ornery grin. Ty loved the way her face lit up when she smiled. It was as if life blew into his heart whenever he saw it. The more of that kind of breeze, the better.
“Anyway,” he continued, “Pastor Jim said he had people to attend to in the morning, but he would be here with bells on at one o’clock. That means we’ve got to be packed and ready to fly before the ceremony.”
“What’s going to happen when we get to Israel?” Blake asked as she headed for the pantry and a box of cereal.
“You mean accommodations?”
Ty could see that breakfast was about to be served. No milk was available, so it would be a crunchy one. It didn’t matter. It was the company that made it all work. She poured him a bowl and pulled a spoon out of a drawer. She then filled a bowl for herself.
“Ben Sherett said we’d have full use of the apartment he’s been using. His wife will move in with some people in their church. That way we can have a place to ourselves, and she can be occupied in recovery efforts in Haifa without being all alone.”
Blake nodded her head. “That makes sense. Too bad he didn’t tell you what he’s up to.”
“Well, he did, at least part of it. Can’t tell you though…”
“I know. If you told me you’d have to play spy and bring about my demise,” she laughed. “Eat up! We’ve got work to do to make this all happen.”
“Amen to that,” said Ty with a sigh. Somehow, he perceived that another whirlwind was just beginning to blow.
Thursday 4:30 p.m., Local Time
Ingrid’s forehead rested on the Ben’s firm chest. She cried softly, fighting to keep from falling into an emotional display that would make things more difficult than they already were. Ben stroked her long brown hair, allowing tears to escape from his own eyes.
The moment required few words. Everything had been spoken. Both were aware of the danger surrounding the mission. Both knew the possible consequences of his involvement, and neither wanted to dwell on them. As it stood, Ingrid would continue with the work of ministering to broken lives in desperate need of Yeshua. Ben would immerse himself in saving Israel from the gathering storm that was building beyond the mountains of Israel. All that remained was this tender embrace, a consummate touch of tenderness that could be the last they’d experience this side of the Kingdom of God.
Ingrid lifted her head and wiped away her tears as she looked into Ben’s eyes. He used his finger to separate a few strands of hair that had become tangled on her forehead.
“Father,” he whispered, “watch after the love of my life.”
Another tear escaped as Ingrid smiled ever so slightly. “And may the Almighty keep my man from harm and bring him success.”
The kiss that followed was not long or passionate, but it sealed a love that was as deep as any human union on earth. Ben then reached for the strap of his small duffle, brushed by his wife, and left her standing alone inside the apartment.
No one noticed the man hidden in the alcove of an apartment across the street. He quickly raised a cell phone and dialed a preset number. The connection was made on the first ring, and then was followed by a random series of clicks indicating security measures had been activated.
“Report,” a low voice sounded.
“The subject is moving.”
“Very well. We have confirmation that eight of the twelve have departed. Proceed to observation point delta and report back in six hours.”
The man slapped the phone shut and inserted it into the pocket of his grey jacket. Checking to make sure he’d attracted no attention, he stepped into the street and made his way up a shallow hill toward his car.
Ben sank low into the seat of the non-descript, slightly dented sedan. He needed to think. So many things had happened in the last few days, he was still trying to absorb it all. To top off, he’d just left his wife under the protective wing of a fighter pilot, and his church in the hands of an American he’d never met. Still, there was a peace deep in his heart that he was doing the will of God.
“Are you alright?” Ari Goins sat directly in front of Ben in the driver’s seat and observed his charge through the rearview mirror. They were making their way down the eastern slope of Mount Carmel, dodging in and around both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Ben had said nothing since climbing into the car ten minutes earlier.
“No, I’m not.” Ben ran the palm of his hand across his chin with a gesture that he hoped would somehow shift his mind into another gear, one from the distress he felt a leaving his wife, to that of engaging with the mission at hand. “Ari, are you married?”
Ari smiled, “Yes, with six children in tow.”
“How do you do it?” Ben asked.
Ari laughed freely, though it took Ben a moment to realize how his question had sounded to the big man driving the car. Ben’s spirit lifted as he joined in with a self-deprecating chuckle.
“That is not what I meant,” Ben quickly added.
“I understand what you mean,” Ari nodded as he dodged a group of people standing out from the curb. “It is never easy, but we’ve learned to cope. My wife is strong spirited and has a tremendous faith that Yeshua will shelter us. The children occupy enough of her time to keep her steady.”
“Where do you live? Are you apart much?”
“Our home is near the University, and my two oldest are students of Doctor Lira. They understand, to some extent, what I do for the government. But, they choose to pursue the archeological opportunities that have come with the assignment in spite the danger that surrounds me.”
“What exactly do you do?” Ben’s question seemed natural.
“Presently, I am assigned to Doctor Lira. Beyond that, I must not say,” Ari caught Ben’s eye in the mirror and winked.
“Got ya. I’m not supposed to ask, am I?”
“Ask all you want. Answers you will not receive.”
Several minutes passed without conversation as Ari directed the sedan down the mountain, zipping around switchbacks filled with people. The cedar-dotted draws and ravines were being utilized by refugees. Haifa, on the other side of the mountain, offered the multitudes of displaced people nothing but death.
When they arrived at the mountain’s foot Ari turned onto the highway and headed south. Traffic eased considerably, and Ben felt at liberty to continue the conversation.
“How did you meet Yeshua?”
“Ah, now that is a story,” the big man answered. “I found Messiah twelve years ago. Shimon Perez was Prime Minister, and I was serving in his Shin Bet cadre. One Tuesday, I was on duty as his personal escort when a visitor from America came to his home seeking an appointment. He was some evangelical preacher.”
“Who was he?”
“I cannot remember his name, only that he was a very large, boisterous sounding man. Oddly, the Prime Minister had knowledge of the man’s ministry, especially his strong support for Israel and our plight. If you remember, the Syrians were giving us trouble after they occupied the Bekaa Valley.”
“I remember,” Ben nodded.
“Perez granted the man’s request, and I remained in the office as they spoke. The Prime Minister thanked him for his long support, and in a moment in which he seemed genuinely puzzled, asked the man why he worked so diligently for a people not his own. His answer stunned me. He said that Israel was his people. Perez asked if there was Jewish blood flowing in his veins, but he denied any blood connection.”
“What did he mean?”
“He calmly explained how he counted the people of his Lord as his own family, that if God thought it important enough to re-gather them in the ancient lands, then it was his duty to make sure they remained. Perez asked why that should occupy such a steadfast commitment from a non-Jew. The preacher’s answer was simple: ‘If Yeshua counted a non-Jew important enough to bleed and die for, how much more significant must be the people of Abraham?’ He told the entire story of Yeshua, how he was born in the line of David, how he fulfilled the ancient prophecies, his death on a Roman cross according to Isaiah fifty-three, and his resurrection from a borrowed tomb.”
“How did the Prime Minister respond?” Ben asked.
“At the mention of Yeshua, Perez’ mind shut down. I, however, was transfixed. It is not customary for security personnel to make eye contact with guests, but I could not help myself. I was transfixed.” Ari seemed to be reliving the experience, relating it all with animated gestures.
Ben kept his eyes on the road from the back seat hoping Ari wouldn’t drive off into a ditch or run into oncoming traffic. “What did you think?”
“It wasn’t what I thought, but what happened when I directed the man out of the house after the meeting ended,” answered Ari. “I was leading him down a hall toward the door when I heard my name. It was spoken firmly as if it were a command. I turned and asked the preacher how he knew my name. He looked at me with a strange expression, but did not answer. We proceeded toward the door and my name was spoken again, but this time I had turned just before it happened.” Ari paused.
“And,” Ben nudged. He had a feeling which way the story was about to go.
“The preacher had said not a word.”
“Yes, wow! I don’t know how, but he perceived my dilemma. ‘Yeshua is speaking to you, sir,’ he whispered. ‘You need to respond and listen.’ After I showed him out I slipped into a cloak room and did what he advised. That is when I met my King.”
“What did he tell you?” Ben asked.
“I swear I heard him clearly. A voice said, “What the preacher told you is true. If you take it to heart, you will be forever transformed.’” Ari paused, and Ben felt no inclination to interrupt his new friend’s thoughts. When he finally spoke, it was with a twinkle in his eyes and a laugh that emanated from his heart. “All I can tell you is that I believed. Three days later, I met Hannah Lira and my life has never been the same.”
Forty-five minutes later, and with no further conversation between them, Ari pulled the car off the highway and onto a road that followed a low wadi into the hills. They were in the Shafela of Israel. Within three kilometers they arrived at a military check point. The words “Fields of Nazir” were painted over the gates.
Jimmy Root Jr
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