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The IPM Newsletter

July 22, 2016

Volume 8, Issue 2

Circulation: 380

Two Conventions, One Hope

I am a fairly political animal with strongly held beliefs and a moral compass that guides my choices when stepping into the voting booth. I know that is true of many who will read this.

I have been watching the GOP Convention from Cleveland this week and will likely follow the Democrats' nominating party next week in Philadelphia.

I know just about everything a member of the public can know about the two major candidates, and I just realized why I'm following what amounts to a four day infomercial for each party.

I am looking for something.

I am hungry for something.

Several major polls have concluded that in excess of 50 percent of voters from both parties HATE the choices they've been given. For these non-true-believers they realize if they are to participate in the election at all they will have to hold their collective noses and vote for the lesser of two evils:

1. Donald Trump
2. Hillary Clinton

This is where I find myself. Both, in my opinion, have displayed severe character flaws during this election or during public service that could drive a patriot mad enough to purchase a one way ticket to Fredonia, that fictional kingdom inhabited by the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup

I only recently realized what it is I'm looking for from either candidate. Five words—or at least five as a starting place:

"I was wrong. I'm sorry."

I'm not talking about your standard and slick non-apology apology like "If anyone was hurt by what I said or did—I'm very sorry." Save it. We don't need the manure piled any higher.

Instead, how about "I was wrong to diminish my fellow candidates with demeaning nicknames like 'Lyin' Ted' or 'Little Marco'. I was wrong to make unflattering comparisons of their wives to mine. I ask each of them to forgive me for being less than who I am in the eyes of my Maker."

Or a similar sincere mea culpa on the other side of the aisle.


What a moment that would be. No lies. No spin. Just looking into the candidate's eyes to see sincere remorse and contrition. 

So that's why I'm watching.That's what I'm hoping to see. Yes, it's probably a fool's errand. But like a lone Vermont maple I would like to see one of the candidates—or preferably both—squeeze out one unfiltered, undiluted drop of pure and wholesome humility.

Just one.

And while I'm waiting for this moment I know I need to check my own heart for the things I say and do in private of which I'd be ashamed and devastated if they ever became public knowledge. For I am no more pure in heart than they.

" When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom."                                   --Proverbs 11:2

Let us pray God gives us the wisdom to choose our leaders this November, up and down the ticket, who can lead us to becoming, once again, a God-fearing, God-loving nation that is not afraid to hit its knees from time to time and whisper these profound words:

I'm sorry.


                                   —Michael O'Connor

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but  rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. "
                          —Romans 12:3


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                     —Michael & Sally


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A Tour Of Roses Israel: The Call, Part 2

by Sally Klein O'Connor

NOTE: This is part 2 of Sally's ATOR Israel story. Part 1 may be found here.

There were so many amazing moments on the A Tour of Roses trip to Israel it’s hard to pick out a few. I am sure each team member has their own special memories of what mattered most. But, for me, Damascus Gate was one of the more meaningful experiences.
We had just come from a beautiful time of worship and communion at the Garden Tomb in East Jerusalem when we crossed over to Damascus Gate. All the vendors had been swept out of the area and could only go about their business inside the gate. The entrance area was emptied of all the noise and color that usually heralds the Arab Quarter. The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) was everywhere with guns loaded and pointed from high places surrounding the outer area of Damascus Gate.
I wanted to worship and pray in this place, so most of the team spread out and began praying as I sat down with my keyboard. Daniel Collins (from Holy Land Missions) was on one side of me with Nic Scher picking mandolin on the other.

             Magda praying as Mazzen interacts with the youth

Mazzen Warra was dialoguing in Arabic with some younger guys nearby. Magda Balcerak was taking it all in and praying. Sam Walker was keeping an eye on the action.

All the rest of the team wandered through the open area, pausing to pray in different spots. As Nic and I began worshiping and others on the team interceded, I felt the peace of the Lord enter in. Whatever bits of fear and doubt accompanied me as we crossed the street vanished as we connected with the Lord. There was a sweetness and stillness as some people stopped and listened. A few Israeli soldiers even smiled as they walked by. We lingered there for almost an hour.
However, unknown to me at the time, there were three young Arabic men who had returned on this particular day, at this particular time, to “remember.” They had been sent to prison for a year or so, for whatever action they had taken in this place previous to their sentencing and had just been released.

One of them sat down right behind me. Sam, ever-watchful, asked Khalida to go check him out and talk with him. She was able to connect with them all, sharing with them who we were and why we had come: to minister the love and peace of God. They seemed touched by what she shared and even willing to pray with her for peace. None of us know exactly what their original intent was, but God used Khalida and Sam—and all of us praying and worshiping—to perhaps help them see things from a different perspective. Thankfully, God kept His hand on all of us.

                                  Khalida praying with 3 young men

Ironically, we revisited the gate two days later in our t-shirts with buckets of roses. But no sooner did I sit down with my keyboard than the IDF told us to move. They pointed us outside or inside the gate—either was good but we couldn’t stay in the entrance. No one could. Apparently there had been another incident soon after our time there and I was reminded there are appointed times and seasons with God.
We were blessed to give out roses in Jerusalem, especially to many of the Arab shopkeepers in the Shuk (the marketplace), near Jaffa Gate, and even among some of the Orthodox Jewish people who were out walking. But I was often reminded the calling of God for this project was especially to the Palestinians.

Sam made a statement early on, that he felt the Lord was working in the Arab/Palestinian community at this time—especially through dreams and visions, etc. He believes the “Arab Spring” has "stirred things up not just politically but also religiously, giving a tenuous freedom to many who have never had the liberty to consider other possibilities."

As Sam says, “Many Muslims are leaving their religion or at least questioning it due to the extremism they see in ISIS.” As a result many are coming to faith. Sam shared, “With these conversions, many of them through dreams and visions, comes a new mindset. Hate is no longer allowed, resentment and anger must be confessed and there is the command to “Love your enemies.””

Sam felt the Lord showing him that when the hearts of the Arabs and Palestinians were turned to God through His Son, Jesus, the change in them would impact the Israelis. They would see God at work and be drawn to the Lord through the witness of His Spirit in the Arab and Palestinian believers. During the project it became increasingly obvious the Palestinians were spiritually hungry and open, but the Israelis were more careful and reserved—some even angry.

                      Giving out roses on the street in Bethlehem

The first time we handed out roses in Bethlehem was on the street in front of our hotel. Daniel Collins gave us the rundown on their street protocol so that we would not offend anyone. The Holy Land Missions teams had been offering water bottles with tracts and men were instructed to give them out to other men, and women were only presenting them to other women. We agreed to abide by that instruction—men to men and women to women.

But as soon as we brought our buckets of roses onto the street it was clear those rules did not apply where roses were involved. Men approached women on our team wanting a rose and women asked for roses from the men on our team. No one appeared offended, even by the cards attached to each rose which referred to the “Savior’s blood.” It was really quite amazing!! Several times we stopped traffic because drivers and passengers reached out for a rose as they slowly cruised by.
Prior to the moment we walked out on the street with our buckets there was a lot of anxiety, fear, and concern about how we would be received—especially in the West Bank. But each of us made a choice to trust the Lord more than our fear, and stepped out to see what God would do. It became very clear God had gone before us, paving the way with grace and favor—definitely an answer to so many prayers. We were blown away, rejoicing in His Goodness!!

                                         Stopping traffic

A few of our team decided to go with Daniel to give out roses at a hospital nearby in Beit Jala while the rest of us were out on the street. They were escorted to every floor in the hospital to offer roses, which were received with so much appreciation.

Heather, who was one of the two official recorders for this trip, shared this story:

There was one man sitting on a bench in the hallway. He was dressed in traditional Palestinian clothing and headscarf. Daniel was unsure if he would receive a rose from a woman, or of his response, so he handed the rose and they walked down the hall to other rooms. I sat with the bucket of roses, and replenished the team as needed. This meant I was 10 ft from the man as he read and reread his card. He stood up and approached me. Motioned for a 2nd rose, so I gave it to him. He then took the 2 roses into the room and gave them to his family. He returned for 1 more rose for himself and returned to his bench. He sat there staring at the card for a long time. This is how things have been going. What we perceive as a hard or closed door, every one has been open! 

                             Inside the hospital giving out roses

The truth of the matter is that I would not, in my less-than-perfect-wisdom, have chosen the people on this team. But clearly God knew much better. I was very narrow-minded in my thinking about who should be on a team like this to Israel. One of the most glaring examples is it never once crossed my mind that it might be good to have a Palestinian or Arabic person participate in this project. While I did seek out some Palestinian believers who live in Israel for advice and direction, I was clueless as far as who might be best-suited for the team on this project.

I say this to make it very clear that it’s certainly not about how open-minded I am. It’s solely about God’s grace and His love that continues to win me and bring me to a place of greater trust in Him. I am in process as much as anyone else on the team, and all of us struggled with our own fears and ideas about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We were definitely not all on the same page politically. But all of us were completely committed to following the Lord and sharing His love.
When I first met Khalida Wukawitz at Congregation Beth Yeshua in Sacramento in August 2015, I was apprehensive. I didn’t know how we would relate to each other. Not only Palestinian to Jew, but she was clearly very extroverted. I am actually more of an introvert.

We had lunch together and threaded our way through each other’s testimonies and experiences. Khalida shared some of her amazing story of how the Lord brought her out of Islam into relationship with the Living God, replacing her absolute hatred of Jews with a tremendous love. Because of all the Lord has done in her life she deeply desired to minister to the Israelis.

I had to explain this trip was really more focused on reaching the Palestinians. Little did I know when I told her she would be ministering to her own people God had totally anointed and appointed Khalida to draw them to Himself.

Heather wrote:
6 Muslims in 3 days have joined the family. Can you believe this?!
We did not take roses out tonight. Instead we decided to prayer walk Manger Square. This turned out to be exactly what was needed. As Sally sang in an archway, the team walked the square and prayed. Teams also engaged with those in the square. 3 women heard a voice singing and it called to them. They were compelled to come closer. Brenda, Elaine, and Khalida were able to speak with them and as the Muslim call to prayer sounded overhead, they prayed to the living God for salvation.

                     Elaine with 3 young women at Manger Square

The next mind-boggling moment was Sam and I stood with Khalida as she spoke with about 5 men. They were accusing Christians of idolatry. She proceeded to explain the trinity. A Palestinian daughter of the Most High living God quoted the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) in Hebrew to Muslim men while standing in front of the Church of the Nativity. Only God can orchestrate this.

                                   Khalida sharing the gospel

On the ride back, Jurgen, Khalida, Sam and I hopped in a taxi. The man had a similar orphan story to Khalida and the doors were open and the spirit was sweet and gentle. Jurgen went to get the driver a rose. Khalida was privileged to pray with him. Sam and I just sat there and cried. Grateful for being witness to what God was doing.

Both Khalida (born in Bethlehem) and Mazzen (born in Ramallah) were each a treasure to our team in ways I did not anticipate. I look back and realize how very different things might have turned out without them on this project, and I am once again humbled and grateful that this is God’s gig—not mine.

                              Arabic Mother's Day brunch at hotel

A more difficult moment occurred when we attended the Arabic Mother’s Day brunch. It was hosted by Holy Land Missions and put together at a beautiful hotel. I was encouraged to sing a few songs and they asked  Khalida to give her testimony after the message given by the pastor’s wife, Elvira. Khalida had shared briefly the night before when I had expected to tell my story. It became clear to me then that it was the easier, more acceptable thing for the Palestinians to ask Khalida to share her story than to have me, a Jew, come and share mine.

I don’t make a habit of pushing my agenda in a situation where we are the invited guests, after all, there were women at the brunch who were not believers—Muslims—friends and family of those who invited them. But during the message I felt the Lord strongly impress on my heart to communicate with these women the struggle our two younger daughters, Bonnie and Shannon have interacting with, and understanding each other. Both wrestle with autism and yet they express that struggle very differently. Because they are so consumed with their own inner issues they are unable to see beyond their own ideas and perceptions into a different expression of the same fight.

I paralleled it with the idea that both the Palestinian people and Jewish people have suffered tremendous rejection, and those hurts go deep. But neither side, as a whole, is willing to see beyond the lens of their own grief into the other’s eyes, because the intensity of their own particular wounds is so great. Yet we, who are believers in Jesus are supposed to look with a whole other set of eyes.

We are called upon to gaze through the windows of our Maker’s love and compassion for this world—and that most certainly includes those we might otherwise call “enemy.” Only the blood of Jesus can make whole what is so broken between us. And if we do not live out His love in this world, who will?

                                Khalida translating for Sally at brunch

When I walked up to the stage with Khalida, hand-in-hand, we greeted them in Arabic and Hebrew, and I explained I am Jewish, from the States. And even as I spoke it I told them I knew that for some of them it was hard to hear me say these things. But then I shared with them I am also a mother, and all 3 of my children struggle with some form of autism. At that point one mother stood up and told the group her adult son was also autistic and it was very hard on her, a single mom—so hard that she sometimes wished he was no longer alive. She confessed this with shame and frustration. Later I was able to pray with her about her son, and I knew God had appointed at least one divine encounter through my speaking.

                             Sally talking with mother of autistic son

Since the trip Khalida has said to me more than once, “Thank you for loving my people.” I am touched, but also convicted by her words because I don’t know if I love “her people.” I am moved by what I saw in the faces of those we met—and I care. Sometimes I don’t know if I love any people group in the way Khalida meant. I have certainly wrestled long and hard with the whole concept of loving my own people group—the Jews.

But I am learning to love persons, individuals, as we encounter each other and connect. I love Magda—and in so many ways Magda is Poland to me. Her story includes so much of what I have encountered in Poland during our projects for ATOR. I love Magda—and through her—perhaps in some way I love her people.

I love Jurgen, who was one of our team pastors, and was born near Dachau. I am often overwhelmed by his gentleness and humility as he battles with his culture, history, and flesh. He is one picture, and my friends Dagmar, Beate, and Ulrike are others, of what has come after the Holocaust in Germany. And through each of them I see their people a little more clearly and touch their struggle and pain.

Maybe it is like that with Khalida. In her are the hopes and dreams of her people, alongside their sorrow and suffering. As I love her—maybe in some small way I am also loving her people.

More than any other A Tour Of Roses project before there were greater heights of beauty and deeper places of battle —within and without. All of us paid into this project—body, soul and spirit—in ways I had no idea we would.

But it seemed to me that it was, in fact, the places of our struggles that often knit us more closely together as we prayed for each other and took care of each other. Unity happened. I had wondered if it would.

But God is so faithful. More than any of us deserve. At the same time we were so incredibly blessed to participate in all the process—sowing to reaping. Who would think this band of ragamuffin souls, so unschooled in the protocols of political correctness in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, would catch such glimpses of God’s glory and be used by Him to bring some hope and refreshment to so many wearied by this seemingly never-ending conflict.

May the Lord water every seed sown and cause to fruit every tree growing even now. May the Lord continue to sow His mercies that are new every morning—on both sides of the wall—that hope would arise even in hearts that stopped seeking long ago. It’s been a very long winter of the soul in the land where Jesus walked, but Spring is coming . . . One day the Prince of Peace—Sar Shalom—will return and bring the peace no man can.

                                        Western Wall in Jerusalem

©Copyright 2016 
Improbable People Ministries


Dear Friends

As most of you know this is the second half of my newsletter piece about our project in Israel. There were so many things to share that it ended up being quite a long report, which I sifted down into about half the size via these two newsletters. But if you are interested in reading the full report you can find it on our website.
Several people have already asked when and where is the next project for A Tour of Roses. The answer is it’s still up in the air as we are exploring some possibilities for next year.

We are considering Brussels in April and returning to the Palestinian territories, specifically Jericho and Bethlehem, in December.

One of the items I feel the Lord particularly laying on my heart for our return trip to Jericho and Bethlehem is a women’s conference. In light of the possible women’s conference in December I am planning a women’s conference at our home church, the Valley Vineyard in Reseda, CA, in January as a kind of trial run.

Tentatively I am calling it Something Beautiful for Someone Beautiful. Michael and I would very much appreciate your prayers for the Lord’s leading and confirmation for each of these 3 possible projects. Through your prayers and support God continues to make the impossible—possible!

—Sally Klein O'Connor



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