August. It was the hottest time of the year in Akko. Just ten minutes’ walk to the Mediterranean sea, but – for one used to temperate zones – the fierce sun made staying in the air conditioned apartment the sane choice. The hottest time of year… but there were volunteers in the house, and the resident cat to look after. Cleaning, cooking, sorting; an early morning foray out to the local shop; a phone call to a handyman for practical tasks…. I could have been any housekeeper anywhere. However, the mornings began with crucial prayer for the day ahead shared with the two volunteers – Russian speakers – a long way from their homes and church in central Russia. And as always in God’s economy, fulfilling His call to service accomplishes far more than just a well-run home!
When we obey the Lord we can be sure that He, our best teacher, our Rabbi, will use the situation to fullest advantage for helping His children grow. For a short while I was completely alone in Beit Shalom (a rare occurrence) when the volunteers had some days away, and other staff were on holiday. Any trip outside the building was demanding for me, not yet acclimatised to the heat. I was alone in a foreign land with resultant struggles with language, currency and culture. Far from my own family and friends, in unfamiliar surroundings, I was also unexpectedly limited in energy and “trapped”, as it were, in the house.
This brief taste of what many of these elderly and frail survivors live with constantly was Father’s lesson, to help me identify a little with their everyday experience. I was not unhappy, and certainly have none of the ghastly memories of unimaginable evil which rise to torment these beloved people. But I understood more directly how a friendly visitor, an outing, a gift, a card would lift one’s spirits in these circumstances: human contact… communication … caring.
There was more. One night during that same time I was ready for bed when an eerie wail rose over the sound of the air conditioning fan. I switched that off to listen: A car alarm? It continued. No – a siren. Police? Too loud, too prolonged … rockets! The suddenness of the emergency rendered me incapable. Grab clothes? Find bag and passport? Where was the door key? I must go downstairs and into the safe room. Before I could move, the siren ceased.
Through this, the only siren heard in Akko throughout my time there, the Lord helped me empathise with those elderly survivors who particularly in the south have been faced with this emergency constantly in the last few weeks during Operation Protective Edge. Many indeed, have suffered this fright and helplessness under random bombardment for years. Imagine living at the top of an apartment building with no lift and several flights of stairs down to the safe room. They have fifteen seconds’ warning before a rocket might strike, and it will take four times that just to get on their feet!
To be an intercessor, Father’s training programme will ensure that we can identify increasingly deeply with those we are called to pray for, no matter how different our life situation may be from theirs.
The daily tasks of House Manager are ordinary, mostly mundane, yet the purpose of this charity endues each with significance beyond their immediate benefit. My main role was hospitality, ensuring a restful welcoming space for the volunteers, thereby supporting them in their role. But the job description included accompanying them sometimes to visit holocaust survivors too. So right! This is the Lord’s perception of one’s housework: it is actually service to these deeply damaged and needy of His people. What a privilege. Writing and sending them birthday cards, packing a gift in a beautiful bag, giving and receiving a hug at the end of a visit, these warm moments of sharing Father’s heart of love are supported by all the background tasks – so many and varied – that make Abundant Hope International a charity able to fulfil its God-given remit to bring comfort and help to these people so dear to the Lord.
Back home in the blissful cool air of northern England, I take time to check tickets and dates and think about what to pack for my next assignment in Beit Shalom. Another opportunity: thank You, Lord! So glad I can return. The suitcase is already half-full of gifts lovingly made by AHI friends for the survivors. OK, but what to wear? Ummm. November here in Northumberland: mist, cold, wet, sometimes even snow, fierce winds.
Climate in Akko? Sunny and warm! Baruch Hashem!
by Clare Short