I had a lot of interesting and unusually things happen on my recent trip to Israel. Some would call these things coincidence but I’d prefer to see them as the providence of God working to answer my specific prayers. First, even before I left to go to Israel, one of the ladies in my church, Stephanie O’Connell connected me with people in Israel that I could be involved with the 1st 2 days I was there. You see, Stephanie works out of the New York office of Chosen People Ministries and she connected me with the folks at Jerusalem office. I was able to go there and make some new friends in Jerusalem through Stephanie’s co-laborers. I prayed for Christian fellowship and ministry opportunities before the International Leadership Seminar started on Saturday! God’s providence answered that prayer through my dear sister Stephanie.
I had prayed that God would give me someone to share this rather unique and incredible experience with as I was on the other side of the world with 25 other people from all over the world (11 different nations). After spending Wednesday and Thursday working and touring with some new friends from Chosen People Ministries I got up on Friday morning with nothing to do and no one to do it with. I’d actually thought of going to Caesarea for the day because we didn’t get much of a visit there on our last trip. I was walking out of the breakfast area at 9 am (I never eat breakfast that late) and who comes walking in but Clarence Johnson. Clarence is a friend of mine from Philadelphia Biblical University where he was the pastoral relations person. Now he works for Friends of Israel and part of his responsibility is leading tours to Israel. He was there for the conference as well. I told him right away that he was God’s answer to my prayers for someone to share this amazing experience with. We then spent the day together touring the Old City of Jerusalem. Imagine having my own personal tour guide. It’s kind of what Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians when he writes “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all we ask or think, according to the power that works within us”, (3:20 NASB).
I had mentioned I really wanted to tour Caesarea again and had actually checked into doing a day tour by myself on that free Friday. It would have been very expensive. The first place our study group went when were all together on Saturday morning was Caesarea! In fact we spent over 2 hours there and I had not only the benefit of our tour guide, but Clarence’s added insight as we toured. The picture is of Clarence and I in Caesarea. God is so good, He gave me my heart’s desire even before I asked. I stand in awe of His splendor and majesty.
One last providential meeting God had for me occurred on Friday afternoon after we had changed hotels. The hotel we were staying at in Jerusalem didn’t a pool but when we moved that afternoon, the new hotel was on top of a mountain outside of Jerusalem with a nice pool and fitness center. I went for a swim and decided I would sit in the sauna for a bit. When I sat down the fellow who was already in there started a conversation with me. I told him I was a pastor from New Jersey and I was there with the Yad Vashen study group learning about the Holocaust. He seem quite interested and asked several questions about my ministry and church. Then he said “Let me tell you what I am doing”. He went on to tell me that he works for the division of Foreign Affairs for the Israel government and he’s currently working on a Bible project where they hope to have every verse of the Bible translated into as many different languages as possible. I ask him “Just Old Testament or Old and New Testament?” I was shocked when he told me this state sponsored Bible translation is going to be both Old and New Testaments. I’m sitting in the sauna getting steamed up in amazement! When I told Dr. Suzanna (director of Christian Friends at Yad Vashem) about this fellow Dan, she said “I know a Dan but I’ve lost track of him”. When he left his business card in my room, it turned out he was a long lost friend of Dr. Suzanna and she immediately called him to set up a meeting with him. Coincidence? No way! Providence- and don’t ever forget that our God reigns and He will meet us in a very powerful and personal way if we open our hearts and our lives to His direction and guidance. Remember Paul’s words to the Philippians where he tells them in the 4th chapter, “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (v.19 NASB).
Still Amazed by God’s Grace,
Pastor Rich Sivo