June 25, 2016
Volume 8, Issue 1
When Sally first told me how she thought God was going to send her across the Atlantic to help birth a process of healing and reconciliation by handing out flowers—roses
. . . I backed away from her very slowly and surreptitiously began hiding the sharp objects in the house.
Since then the Lord has made a way spiritually, financially, logistically, geographically and every other which way for such events to transpire. And it all seems so normal now.
To date Sally has led 9 teams to foreign lands and 2 domestically. I'm always amazed when one of these missions is over because once again God has done the impossible.
We at Improbable People appear to be in a transition of sorts, moving from a "music ministry" to something larger and more daunting in scope.
As Sally and I are inching closer to Social Security while bidding middle age adieu, we find it surprising that this would be a time of transition rather than of slowing down and calling it a day. It's beginning to come into sharper focus that you don't really retire from this gig of proclaiming the Good News. You just keep your ears open for new marching orders and keep the Ben Gay handy.
This is not to say Sally won't be doing concerts anymore or recording new songs as they are written. It just means times are changing and we want to be found doing what Jesus has called us to when He returns in Glory. How that shakes out from here is anyone's guess . . .
" But he said, 'I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is
why I was sent.' "
If you would like to give an online tax-deductible gift to Improbable People Ministries you may do so here.
—Michael & Sally
View a calendar
of Sally's upcoming concerts & speaking engagements.
- Open your iTunes software
- Click on "iTunes Store"
- Type "Sally Klein O'Connor" in the search window
IF YOU ARE NOT YET ON OUR MAILING LIST AND WOULD LIKE A FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS NEWSLETTER PLEASE CLICK HERE
Please email us with your comments at:
If you would like to share this newsletter with a friend, please use the forward link at the bottom of this page.
A Tour Of Roses Israel: The Call
by Sally Klein O'Connor
Recently I was worshiping and reflecting on God’s goodness in my life, and a picture formed in my mind. At first it felt like I was holding two shoelaces, one in each hand. But, in reality, I was actually holding both ends of one shoelace threaded through one shoe. I felt so strongly at first that I was holding two different shoelaces. But as I crossed the ends over and folded them into the typical tie I have made ever since I was 5 years old, I became aware the ends represented the Israelis and Palestinians. It explained why I felt so strongly at first they were the ends from two different shoelaces. But they weren’t. They were the opposite ends of one lace, threaded through the holes of one shoe, tied together by God’s design.
She stood in the doorway of the souvenir shop—watching. She was a young and darkly beautiful Palestinian. I was on my keyboard worshiping as the rest of the team prayed and gave out roses in Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. When I stopped she came over to one of the team members, Sam Walker, who was standing nearby, and gave back her rose, saying: “Here, for peace.”
When the roses were all given out I felt led to talk to her, I asked Sam to come with me.
“So I guess you figured out what we are doing…?”
“I knew what you were doing from the beginning,” she responded. Her face seemed hard.
I said, “Well, I am Jewish and I believe in Jesus and I came here to share that love with you.”
“You want to share that love with me? Why don’t you take down the walls and stop killing my family.”
It was clear she was angry. I knew she was not Muslim working in a shop with all the Christian souvenirs. It turned out she was a Palestinian Christian.
“I have no power to do that, but we do the things we can do which is to come here and share His love." I explained to her that I have ministered to men in different prisons, some who had life sentences. Some felt trapped by the physical circumstances of being incarcerated, but others walked in freedom, even though they also lived within those same limitations.
She said, “Why not take the roses to them (the Israelis)? They need it.”
I explained, “We did, but now we are bringing them to you. You can have all these external events going on and still have peace. He can take the hurt from your heart. That is what His wounds are for—for Jesus to heal you.”
As we continued talking her face softened noticeably. Sam, who was with me, said to her, "I want to say something, too. Please forgive us for the hurt we caused your people.” He was crying.
“You don't have to.”
Sam responded, “No, I am really sorry.” It was apparent Sam’s apology really touched her in a deep way.
Purim night we were in Jerusalem, giving out roses around Allen Street. Purim in Jerusalem is a lot like Halloween in America. It’s an excuse to dress up in some crazy costumes and party. There were some crowns and beards but mostly a variety of scary masks and flamboyant attire. Dressed in our t-shirts and armed with roses, we braved the crowds on the streets, sharing God’s love along the way.
As we walked back we ran into a group of young women who stopped us. Sarah, a young Israeli woman, was asking what we were all about. I explained we were giving out roses as a way of sharing God’s love. She read the card and asked me, “Whose blood?”
I responded, “The blood that was shed here in Israel and among the Palestinians.”
I told her we had given out roses in the West Bank and she became angry. Sarah made it clear she wanted all the terrorists to die. I recounted to her my moment with some of the Palestinian children who gathered around me in Dheisheh (the refugee camp) as I sang to them after we gave out roses. I told her how I shared with them I was Jewish and how God loves us and wants us to love one another.
Sarah really listened. I told her after I finished talking to them they just broke out in applause. I encouraged her that I believe there is hope. I saw it in the faces of these children. In the end, Sarah and I hugged each other.
Mazzen Warra and Khalida Wukawitz—two ATOR team members—were standing nearby, praying. They both identified themselves as Palestinians who love Israel and respect the IDF (Israeli Defense Force). She seemed very surprised. Khalida went so far as to apologize for all the hurt and loss Sarah has suffered because of Khalida’s people, and then Sarah and Khalida hugged.
There were so many “moments” on this tour it is has been hard to sum up. From the moment I felt God start speaking to me about this project on through the whole process of planning and putting together this tour it was nothing short of miraculous.
A little over two years ago while worshiping at a friend’s church in Lynwood, CA, the Lord spoke a single word into my spirit: “Palestine.” I had just returned from a profound experience with ATOR (A Tour of Roses) project in Munich, Germany and Mauthausen, Austria and was still recovering, even as we began planning for our Poland project in the fall. As I poured out my heart I was sure I must have heard incorrectly. That word was so impossible for me as a Jewish believer. Scripturally it didn’t make any sense, and culturally it was offensive. I think I even responded, “Surely You must mean Israel?”
As this word hung around in my psyche I began to realize “Palestine,” represented (in this case) how the people living there identify themselves and their location. Whether or not it is scripturally, politically, and/or culturally correct wasn’t relevant to me in this case. What mattered was that God was showing me how they see themselves.
A few weeks later I felt the Lord impress on me these words: “These are my people also and I have not forgotten them.” I knew absolutely this thought did not originate with me. I was not thinking along those lines, nor had I ever. Now the sheer insanity of doing a project in Israel, specifically reaching out to Palestinians loomed huge and impossible before me. I went to the associate pastor of my church, asking him to pray because I felt God calling me to possibly bring ATOR to the Palestinians. He began praying, asking God to help me hear Him. And I did, even as he was praying for me. And the words were not easy.
“…and they loved not their lives…” (Revelation 12:11)
I know this is often a passage about martyrdom and that was how I first understood it, but then I perceived the Lord smoothing it out for me and helping me comprehend what He was speaking through these words at this time. I think the New Living Translation says it best for me:
“And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.”
I felt the Lord calling me out of my comfort zone once again, to follow His leading, not my own.
Even as I began praying and preparing for Poland during the second half of 2014, I was also processing and starting to plan for Israel, though I wasn’t clear when that would be. I kept asking the Lord for His leading to also give out roses to the Israelis, but it was very slow in coming and much more ambiguous than the clarity of the call to reach out to the Palestinians.
In January 2015 my good friend and stalwart companion, Evi Hall, journeyed with me to scout out Jerusalem and, hopefully, Bethlehem. We were greatly blessed during our trip by our visit with Eitan and Connie Shishkoff, of Tents Of Mercy in Haifa, who graciously housed, fed, and encouraged us in numerous ways, before we drove up to Jerusalem. We stayed in Jerusalem 5 days—praying, walking around the Shuk (marketplace) and talking to various vendors. In that time we connected with Joan Lipis and shared some of the vision for ATOR.
She introduced us to Zak—a Palestinian believer who has a shop in the Shuk. It was clear Zak knew the Lord and yet our viewpoint on Israel and the Palestinian territories differed greatly. But Zak was very touched by the vision for ATOR and encouraged me by saying, “Do we have to agree on every point in order to share the love of the Lord?”
We also made contact with one of the associate pastors, Karen, from Pastor Dunham’s church, Living Bread International. My good friend Ed Rothman from Minnesota had suggested I connect with Pastor Dunham, but she was out of the country at the time we were in Israel. The associate pastor, Karen, was from South Africa and was kind enough to spend some time with Evi and me processing the whole idea of bringing roses to the Palestinians. She was very encouraging and said she had a contact in Dheisheh. Although Dheisheh is considered a refugee camp it actually appears more like a small city of about 15,000 people. That said, there are minimal amenities in many cases.
As things turned out, Karen was only able to take me into Bethlehem two days before I flew home. Evi had to return earlier—on Friday morning. So I was on my own. By that time I was staying in Tel Aviv at the Moishe Rosen Center, courtesy of Jews for Jesus.
The whole idea of driving back into Jerusalem and taking a bus on my own to meet up with Karen on the other side of the checkpoint made me hugely nervous, not to mention there were roadblocks all along my drive, which delayed me by a couple hours. God only knows why I persevered, but I did and finally met up with Karen and her friend, Nadal, on the other side of the checkpoint.
On our way to see the Church of the Nativity I started talking about the roses and being Jewish, and some of the logistics of the whole project. Karen didn’t think there would be any problem giving out the roses and sharing that I am Jewish. Nadal got visibly tense as he was driving and asked, “Do you have to let everyone know you are Jewish?” He was a brand new believer and later told me none of his friends knew he had come to faith in Jesus—and he knew a lot of people. I could see how scared he was of the whole idea of me being a Jewish believer, and how that might put him at risk if I shared that in his neighborhood as his friend.
Later, as we walked along the main area of Dheisheh, everywhere there were men wearing Arafat-like kerchiefs on their heads with stern expressions on their faces. I tried to smile and say hello… but there was no acknowledgment of any kind. A young man in a shop we stopped at was very hospitable and friendly as was the barber who cut Nadal’s hair. I wanted to engage the barber, but Nadal was frightened I would say something about being Jewish—so I didn’t.
I must have visited within the confines of Dheisheh for about 8 hours, but it seemed like a week. Nadal was kind and hospitable. His daughter (studying to be a chef) and he prepared a lovely meal for Karen and me, cooking it on a makeshift fire pit in his living room. Nadal encouraged us to both stay the night, but I felt incredibly suffocated and sick at heart. I needed to leave. Eventually some of Nadal’s relatives drove us back to Jerusalem because the buses had already stopped running.
I couldn’t get back to Tel Aviv fast enough. My stomach was in knots and I was a mess. I told God all the way driving back from Jerusalem, “I don’t think I can do this.”
The next day I wandered the beach front for 6 or 7 hours, pouring out my heart to God—journaling, praying, singing, reading the Bible… and finally listening…
Lord, I sincerely don’t know how to process. I want to do Your will—but I need You to flood me with the knowing and certainty that You are in this…
I do want you to go... You have nothing to fear for I, the Lord your God, will go with you… Sow in tears and reap with joy. Believe.
I do believe, but am afraid. I know Your love is so much greater than my fear. You can overcome my fears.
Purim—Queen Esther’s fast—this is when to go in 2016… I will provide. I will open the storehouses of heaven and provide such blessing for you. I will be with you, do not fear…
When I climbed aboard the plane to go home the next day I knew I would return. I still had very little vision for how it all would work out, but the Lord did just what He promised on the beach in Tel Aviv. He opened the storehouses of heaven and provided such amazing blessings before, during, and after. More importantly He was with me every step of the way. He gave me wisdom I did not have and strength and tenacity wherever I encountered opposition. He did so much more than I could comprehend or imagine. And as we prepared for the trip I recognized it was an honor and a privilege He called us to participate in this project with Him.
This is Part 1 of a 2 part series. Part 2 will be published sometime in the near future.
Improbable People Ministries
In 2005 Broadman and Holman published my very first book, Beauty in the Beast. (Amazingly, you can still find it here on Amazon.)
They gave me a respectable advance and the book was carried by some stores and in their catalogs for a few months before they dropped it entirely, and it went out of print. There were many contributing factors, not the least was the editor on the project. He had been with B&H for 20 plus years and left right before my book came out. As a result, everyone dropped the ball on the publicity, etc.
Two or three years ago I felt I should probably pick up the phone or email the publisher to see if they might give me the rights back to my book since they were doing nothing with it. Finally, a couple months ago, I actually called B&H and started the wheels turning. To my great surprise it proved a relatively painless process to gain the release of all the publishing rights back. I also contacted the agency and agent involved, and they were equally magnanimous. Thanks, God!!
So, now that we own all the rights to my book we are looking to reprint it as an e-book and also in paperback. We probably won’t be able to use the same cover and will have to create a new one. Also, I have the final draft of the manuscript but not as it was formatted. We will have to re-format and it wouldn’t hurt to do a once-through the book for any additional editing
Mike and I anticipate a rough estimate for all the above items, including a shipment of at least a couple hundred books to start with, at about $2,000. We would be very grateful for your prayers for God’s provision in this!! And if any of you feel led to contribute to the republishing of Beauty in the Beast you can do that online or through the mail. Just make sure to designate the gift for Beauty in the Beast.
Lastly, I would really appreciate your continued prayers for my second book, A Rumor of Roses. After the Israel project for A Tour of Roses I realized that an epilogue might be in order, along with a more detailed chapter about the whole idea of A Tour of Roses. I also need to go through all the edits Dusty Rose did for me months ago and apply what I feel is appropriate. Once that is done I will send out the manuscript to the rest of the publishers I think might be interested. Please pray for the Lord’s specific guidance for this book and how it should be published.