More New Friends at the Oasis

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Full moon over the employee’s lodge at Timna–the start of Sukkot

17 October 2016

Today is our fourth day at Timna.  We went to the grocery store and bought supplies—and it’s a good thing that we did when we did because Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) begins tonight.  The store—a large supermarket—was closing around us at four in the afternoon.  We barely got our shopping done.

The reason we arrived in Israel five days ago is because in Israel you’ve always got to take Shabbat into account.  They have only the most urgent and minimal things open from Friday evening to Saturday evening.  It’s hard to get used to, coming from the US, where practically everything is open every day of the week—and some are even open 24 hours.  Even Italy is becoming like that now.  In Milan, only the little mom & pop places close for two hours every afternoon.

Today Amit and his family moved out and two new families moved into their tent and the one next to it.  Yesterday Nina had lamented that she had nobody to talk to besides me and God.  And maybe she was getting tired of talking to me.  For my part, I’ve been constantly translating for her, but I don’t mind.  I love having her here, and I know that she puts everything she’s told before God in prayer.  Still, I wanted to comfort my friend, so I said: “God will send someone who speaks Spanish.”

Our new neighbors came over to us offering little cups of scotch whiskey and friendship.  When I explained that Nina speaks only Spanish and Italian, one couple, Moshe and Yael, launched into a Spanish conversation with Nina.  I had trouble understanding the Hebrew-accented Spanish, so I spoke with the other couple, Igal and Mindy.

Later Nina explained that Moshe and Yael actually met in Colombia, so they love finding someone to speak Spanish with.  Nina was impressed with my prophetic powers, but of course, it’s not me, it was the Holy Spirit.

All of them are Israeli, except that Mindy was born in the US.  So the four of them and the two of us, and their six daughters (three from one couple and three from the other) all hit it off like a house on fire.  They invited us to have dinner with them, explaining that they were celebrating the birthday of Yael and Moshe’s eldest daughter’s tenth birthday, and they had made too much food.  That was the truth.  Even with all of us having our fill, there was still a lot of leftovers.

Yael and Moshe spent the evening sharing fond memories of Colombia with Nina, while Mindy and I talked about the life as Americans transplanted abroad.

Yael and Moshe had also brought their Jack Russell puppy.  They didn’t keep her on a leash, but she had responded well to training and didn’t ever go very far from the family.  Whenever she did wander a bit, she always came back immediately when called.  Of course, the little girls played with her a lot.

Igal told me that the two families go on vacation together twice a year.  I noted that their girls all correspond in age pretty well.  They agreed that it was a very fortunate—and fun-filled—coincidence.  Of course, I don’t believe in coincidence.

As the evening wound down, Igal asked me what we have planned for tomorrow.  I said that we don’t have anything planned.  He didn’t like the sound of that.  I guess when you’ve got six little girls to keep amused, it’s far more important to have some kind of fun activities planned.  But honestly, I just don’t know what there is to do around here besides hiking (not such fun for a fair-skinned person like me under the desert sun) or going to the Red Sea beach at Eilat (again, grave risk of sunburn).  But Igal said that there are lots of things to do in the area.  One thing he suggested sounded very intriguing, and if it’s open tomorrow, we’ll go to Hay-Bar.  It’s a drive-thru nature reserve featuring Israeli wildlife.

How fun it is to find new friends!  They will be here for the next few nights.  God is good!

Desert Foxes

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The oasis attracts all kinds of desert foxes

16 October 2016

This is our third day at Timna, and twice now I have seen desert foxes early in the morning by the oasis.  Both times they stopped to look at me, ears at full attention, before dashing off: curious, yet cautious.

Yesterday we made friends with an Israeli family.  Their fifteen year old son, Amit, speaks English very well, and he has sort of adopted us as exotic pets.  Amit makes the morning coffee for himself and his parents.  So he offered me and Nina coffee, too.  Being Colombian, coffee is a love language for Nina.  Amit makes that amazing Israeli coffee that is so fragrant and delicious.

Amit is so smart and friendly that I decided to ask him to show me how to use the little camp stove that we got.  Immediately he saw what the problem was: the store had sold me the wrong size gas bottle.  After a hurried conference with his dad, Amit came back to me with a proposal: give them our gas bottle, and they’ll buy us one of the right size while they’re in town.  Excellent plan!

When they returned with the right size gas bottle Amit showed me how to use it.  So today we had our first cooked meal.  I smiled as we enjoyed our meal.  “I think Amit is a two-legged desert fox.”  Nina laughed in agreement and we both silently blessed our new friend and his family.  God is good!

An Impromptu Trip

Nina sent me a message this morning: “I’ve got to go see about the house.  Want to meet me at the train station?”  Of course I said yes.  I’ve hardly seen Nina (my bestie) since returning from the US about six weeks ago.  I’ve missed her.  Usually we see each other at least once a week when she comes to clean my house (it gives her an income and helps my ministry—I love how God’s economy is always win-win).  But she had a minor surgery just after I returned, and lost so much blood a few days later that she almost died on the way to the emergency.  Although she was given a transfusion, I don’t think they gave her enough blood.  She’s been extremely pale and weak ever since, not even venturing out of her apartment to go to church.

A few years ago Nina bought a house in a small town north of Turin.  It was a miracle from beginning to end.  For many years Nina told me of her dream to own a house with a view of the mountains and a vegetable garden.  She also wanted livestock: sheep, cattle, and chickens.

A practical person would look at Nina’s situation—a Colombian woman with no marketable job skills, working as a badante (nanny)—and say that home ownership is an impossible dream.  But Nina knew that this dream was from God.  Every so often she would tell me: “I want to do hospitality ministry like you.  You can come stay at my house any time.”  Thus she pulled me into her dream.  And me?  Well I’ve never let practicality interfere with a dream.  I say dream big because God is still bigger!

One day a few years ago, Nina’s brother-in-law, Pastor Fabio (who you may remember from all our adventures in Israel in the fall of 2015), called her.  He said: “There’s going to be an auction on a house near us.  You should come bid on it and see if you can get it.  Nina took all of her savings, which only totaled €22,000 and sent it with her son, Michael.  The day of the auction, Michael was the only person that showed up.  The bank’s auctioneer was about to call off the auction, but Michael said, “I have the money right here now.  I want to buy the house.”  The banker couldn’t refuse cash in hand for the future hope of more money at a rescheduled auction.  So against all the odds, Nina got a three-story house at the end of the road with a flower garden, a vegetable garden, and fruit-bearing fig trees.  It has a lovely view of the mountains.  The only thing missing is Nina’s livestock.

But there were problems from the start.  Many times when God answers an audacious prayer and the defeated enemy won’t release it without a fight.  Since the auction was because of a default, the bank was more interested in recouping some of their money than in evicting the delinquent former owners, described to me as Marocchini (Moroccans).  They continued to squat, and we all wondered if they would ever leave voluntarily.  After about a year of prayer, they left the house because of marital problems.  But they left the house a disaster area.

Even if she had wanted to, Nina couldn’t move in right away because of her work and family situation here in Milan.  In addition there’s the fact that Nina doesn’t drive.  If she lived in the house she would have to learn to drive—a process that takes a year and about €1000, besides the expense of getting a car.  Nina, who is just a bit younger than me, has always said that she doesn’t need to drive, and she’s not prepared to start at this stage in her life.  Now she’s changed her tune and thinking more seriously about learning to drive.  One thing at a time.

The train station had its usual mass of trafficked men, trying desperately to sell selfie sticks and other useless junk to travelers who didn’t know or care about the desperation of their personal situations.  These are not independent businessmen.  This is modern-day slavery.  I stopped and took a quick video of one (see above).

I met Nina in the station and got us fruit smoothies: strawberry for her and mango for me.  Then we went to get her ticket.  Nina prefers to let me do this because I’m the “expert,” having traveled a whole lot more than her.  As I was buying her ticket at the machine, Nina said, “Why don’t you come with me as far as Novara?  It would be a good opportunity for a longer visit.”  It didn’t take me very long to decide to do exactly that.  I bought a newspaper.  I always get the weekend edition of the international English language newspaper on Saturday.  I use the newspaper both to keep current, and also to know the issues in current events around the world that need prayer.  Plus, this would give me something to do on the ride back.

Once we got settled onto the train, Nina told me that she has invited Fabio and Sissy to live in the house and take care of things for her.  And it sounds like they are going to do just that.  They had lived for years in a comfortable apartment, but about a year ago they had to move to a smaller place—a much smaller place.  Nina would give them the ground floor, which would give them ample room and freedom to come and go, while Nina would take the room just above them.  The top floor still needs a whole lot of work, and the roof probably also needs some work.  But again, one thing at a time.

Then she asked about me.  I told her about the ending to the long saga of the broken shutters, and the start of the long saga of jackhammering in the apartment above mine (see In the Cuckoo Zone).  I also told her about a few upcoming travel plans.  It seems that this year, travel is ramping back up for me again, with a couple of daytrips to Turin later this month, a trip to Basel, Switzerland and another to the Baltic states in May, trips to Leipzig and Prague in June, and a possible trip to the US in August (I’m still praying about that one).

We had hardly gotten started when we arrived in Novara.  I helped Nina get to her connection, then went to buy my return ticket.  I went to the snack bar and got myself a bottle of water.  There I saw something I could never have conceived of: candy sushi.  I took a picture, but then fled with my bottle of water to the waiting room.

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Having some time in the station gave me time to notice something I had also noticed on the way to meet Nina in Milan: homeless people.  It’s not something that you see a lot in small towns like Novara.  Usually they migrate to Milan, where there are people with money to give them.  In the waiting room of the station there was a homeless man sleeping on the horribly uncomfortable bench.  He had threaded his legs through the armrests so that he could stretch out.

On the train I saw three gypsies: two girls and a guy.  What made me notice them wasn’t that I saw them, but I saw the reactions of the people sitting near me, and turned to see what it was that they were reacting to.  There is a deep suspicion and hatred for the gypsies here.  For their part, the gypsies have done nothing to endear themselves to their Italian hosts.  Their reputation as beggars and thieves is not unearned.  And even if they have lived in Italy for several generations, the gypsies remain as “foreign” as ever.  I know missionaries who work among the gypsies, preferring to call them by their proper name: Rom (Roma).  For their work and help, they have been robbed, shunned, and even reported to the police as child molesters.  A few have also thanked them.  Myself, I have only had one bad run-in with gypsies, when my phone was stolen in the street market.  But I got it back just minutes later (See Angel in the Market).

When I got back to Milan I took the subway home because of an errand I had to run on the way home.  On the subway car I saw a homeless man get on with all his possessions.  I couldn’t tell what he was wearing, exactly.  It looked like he had strapped several layers of decaying blankets around himself using bungee cords.  The effect was a shapeless mass with arms and feet (sort of like the Muppets character Sweetums).  His bags were likewise decaying layers of bags wrapped around mysterious lumps of things, held together with bungee cords and all strapped to a travel cart.  When he got onto our car, several people immediately got up and moved away.  One woman held her position, watching him intently out of the corner of her eye, while pretending not to.  He reached out to hold the rail by her arm, accidentally bumping her.  She jumped as if hit with a jolt of electricity.  That sent her running to the far end of the car.  He sat down in her seat, directly across from me with a satisfied plop, which was accompanied by an odor that I will leave to your imagination.  Suffice it to say, I was grateful that my stop was the very next one.

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Would you give up your seat to this guy?  Would you sit next to him?

Despite the smelly ending it had been a nice impromptu trip, and a good visit with Nina.  I’m sure she will get things straightened out at the house.  I am looking forward to my first visit there as her guest.  I know Nina is, too.  Maybe she’ll have some livestock by then.  God is good!

A Rose by Any Other Name


This button is given to brides at a jeweler in Asheville.  I wear a “wedding ring” that shows that I am the Bride of Christ (see Prophetic Words).  The Spirit and the Bride say: “Come!”

15 October 2016

I watched as thrones were put in place and the Ancient One sat down to judge.  His clothing was as white as snow, His hair like purest wool.  He sat on a fiery throne with wheels of blazing fire, and a river of fire was pouring out, flowing from His presence.  Millions of angels ministered to Him; many millions stood to attend Him.  Then the court began its session, and the books were opened, (Daniel 7:9-10, emphasis mine).

I had come to Timna for Tabernacles, to unplug and to plug-in.  I have want to unplug from the world—especially the internet with all the craziness surrounding the coming election.  At the same time, I want to plug into my real Power Source.  So as I read the passage above, I was suddenly struck by the fact that God, the Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth—God will look in the books, and He will read my name.  Think of that for a moment!  In fact, He wrote my name in His Book of Life.

It was God who inspired my daddy to choose my name: Alisa.  In Hebrew it means great joy.  Every time someone says my name, they’re pronouncing great joy over me.

I used to hate my name.  English-speakers have trouble pronouncing my name properly, in fact I have relatives who have never said my name right.  For my part, I’ve gotten tired of correcting them.  I prefer to go by my nickname with English speakers: Al.  My name has been mangled and tangled and mispronounced in lots of different ways: Alicia, Alice, Alison (?), Alisha, Melissa (??), and most commonly: Alyssa.  For those interested, it is pronounced exactly as it’s written: uh-LEES-uh.  Like Lisa with an A in front.

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When I learned the meaning of my name, I knew that this was from God.  It was Daddy who gave me my nickname, too.  Daddy only gave nicknames to people (and pets) that he loved.  Someday I will receive a new name, like a nickname from my Heavenly Father.  He also gives nicknames to people He loves.  But for now, I am very happy with this one, my name as it appears in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  But if you have any doubts, just call me Al.  God is good!

Another Tramp for the Lord


Sometime around the start of my official ministry as a missionary to missionaries[1] a couple of Italian missionaries gave me a book: Vagabonda per il Signore.  It was the Italian translation of Corrie ten Boom’s Tramp for the Lord.  They gave it to me, saying, “We believe that, like Corrie ten Boom, you will travel well into your old age.

I admit, this was not a word that I received happily.  Even though I was not yet a grandmother, I had imagined a retirement of dandling grandchildren on my knee, and occupying a rocking chair on the front porch, watching the world go by.  Traveling into old age meant racing to airports, standing in long lines, take-offs and landings in cramped airline seats, in other words: exhausted discomfort.

I had heard of Corrie ten Boom of course, and I had seen the movie of her life: The Hiding Place.  I liked Corrie better than her too-good-to-be-true sister, Betsie.  Corrie was believable and relatable, though Betsie was arguably the more Christ-like.

I set the book aside, unwilling to expend the energy to read it in Italian or to see myself in the person of Corrie, the elderly traveling missionary.  And I got on with my life and ministry.

As the years passed, two wonderful things happened.  The first was that I fell in love with my ministry.  I fell in love with the ministry because of my love for the missionaries I serve.  I now have friends literally all over Europe (and indeed the world).  Loving them, praying for them, encouraging them, visiting them, and helping them is one of the greatest joys in my life.

The other wonderful thing that happened is that I became a grandmother.  I love being with my grandchildren so much that I forget to take any pictures—something I regret every time I leave them because it would be nice to have more pictures.  Of course my son and daughter-in-law are very generous in sharing lots of pictures and videos of the kids.  It’s just one of those things: you can never have too many pictures of the grandkids.

Because I first fell in love with the ministry, I couldn’t even consider retiring now.  And it’s not that I wouldn’t love to retire and spend more time with my grandchildren.  It’s just that my missionaries are precious to me and now I understand the urgency to keep them motivated.  Plus, God has told me that while I’m here taking care of His business, He is there, taking care of my family—including my grandchildren (See God’s Gift to a Missionary Grandmother).

This past winter I came across an old copy of The Hiding Place.  I read it, finding as always, that I like the book better than the movie.  Although the virtuous Betsie is still too-good-to-be-true, I also found Corrie to be even more relatable than before.  And soon after finishing it, I came across an old copy of Tramp for the Lord.  I began reading it (in English).  In its pages, I found Corrie speaking directly to me: missionary-to-missionary.  I found that I understand her far better than I had imagined possible.  Her motivations are the same as mine: a love for the people God is calling her to serve.

The other night as I was reading her book at bedtime, I learned that Corrie is the only other missionary (that I know of) who God gave the following instruction: “Do not ask people for money.”  Fundraising is something that missionaries do.  Passing the offering basket when missionaries speak at church is how God allows everyone to participate in missions.  I remember thinking that it was strange at the time, but I have been obedient to this word.

As I pondered this amazing fact, the Holy Spirit whispered: “Only someone with extraordinary faith is given this instruction.”  And as I let that soak in, He added: “And because of your faith, you are given extraordinary care.”  And it’s true!  I live in an amazing apartment, way beyond my means, and I have never lacked for anything.  I sow and sow into the ministry: I sow all of my income and all of my energy into this ministry—neither is very big, certainly not big enough for the task.  And I reap a wonderful harvest of friendships and love.  You literally can’t out-give God.  God is good!

[1] I say this because in truth, I was already encouraging missionaries for many years before I even knew that it was ministry.

In the Zone, the Cuckoo Zone!

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This morning at half past eight, it started: jackhammers (yes, that’s plural.  I distinctly hear two of them!).  We were warned of the “possible disturbance” while our new neighbors on the fourth floor (two flights up from me) renovate their apartment.  For the next hour and a half it was a continuous assault of hammers and jackhammers, destroying the structure of the apartment above, and every nerve in my body along with it.

My ears rang and my patience snapped.  This is a day that I should be very happy about: the shutter repairman is coming.  Since last fall I have been living as if in a cave because the shutters on the door beside my desk have been broken.  They broke in the closed position, which is good, but still then there has been no natural light in here at all.  If it had been up to me, they would have been fixed last fall, but since I am only a renter, I needed the landlord’s approval—especially if the landlord was going to pay for the repair, and that was never a given[1].  Then a few weeks ago, the other shutters in my living room broke, also in the closed position, so the darkness became even darker and more cave-like.

The shutter guy had said that he was coming at nine-thirty.  At ten, I was still waiting in the nerve-shattering gloom.  Then ten-thirty.  Where is this guy?  Did I get the day wrong?  Of course blaming myself comes easy, thinking that perhaps I misheard or misunderstood—it’s so easy to misunderstand in your second language.  Desperate to get something useful done while I wait, I sent a message to my home church, telling them that I really need prayers.

I have three writing tasks that I am trying to work on:

  1. Transcribing my Italian pastor’s book (which I translated about ten years ago).
  2. Finishing last fall’s diary entries as blog posts.
  3. Writing new blog posts because stuff is always happening here. The problem is that the other two are keeping me so busy that often I don’t think to write about stuff that I would normally write about.

Once I sent my plea for prayers, I started writing (from number two on the list).  The writing flowed with a facility I rarely see.  The shutter guy arrived over an hour late.  He added his own noise and chaos to the jackhammers.  But thanks to the prayers of my Church Family, I was in The Zone.  Despite the noise and chaos, in less than an hour I had a new blog post written and posted.  An hour after that I had a living room full of natural light.

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I will never again take sunlight for granted.  Or blessed silence.  Today I found myself desperately craving both like a caged cuckoo bird.  Thank God that there are people praying for me!  God bless each of them!  God is good!

[1] When the toilet flusher wore out (as the kind I have do with age and use), I was told that I must pay the plumber.  I took this as a gross injustice.  After all, I can’t take the plumbing with me when I move out.  I paid the plumber, but then wrote a letter to the landlord saying that I would deduct the €187 from my next rent payment.

The Holy Spirit told me: “Don’t send the letter and don’t deduct the plumber’s fee.  Instead, pray for your landlord.”  As I obeyed His voice, I found genuine love for my landlord growing in my heart.  Ever since, our exchanges have been gracious and kind.  But still, it was never a given that he would pay for this repair.

Moving into Our Own Little Tabernacle

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The oasis at Timna Park

14 October 2016

It was a whole lot of trouble getting here and getting inside the park, but worth it!  So worth it!  Nina joined me at the very last possible moment.  Previously we had thought that she wouldn’t be able to get time off from work, then suddenly she found herself out of work, as was her employer.  When we tried to get her a ticket on the same flight, the payment phase failed—three times!  But finally we were able to get it.  Our flight was an overnight flight with a connection in Rome.

We arrived in Tel Aviv in the wee hours of the morning and took a train from the airport into town.  We knew that the bus station was somewhere near the train station, but being pre-dawn, we would never have found it without an English-speaking woman who was doing the exact same thing that we were doing.  We followed behind her, dragging our bags like ducklings following the mama duck.  We got our bus tickets and even got some breakfast.  I had slept on the flight.  Then I slept on the bus ride to Eilat.  Poor Nina suffers from motion sickness, so she sat by the window, trying desperately not to throw up.

In Eilat we took a taxi to our hostel just because we had no idea how to find it.  The Shelter is a Christian hostel.  I would love to have spent more time there, getting to know them, but we had to get out to Timna the next day before sundown, when the park closed.  All day seems like plenty of time, but we had a lot that we needed to do: check out of the hostel, pick up a rental car, go back to the hostel and pick up our bags, shop for camping supplies and groceries, and get out to the park before they close the gates.  The day was fraught with one little problem after another.  We couldn’t find our car rental company.  We knew it was near the airport, but we couldn’t find the airport, either.  Then we got lost getting back to The Shelter.  And then we had more trouble than we could ever have imagined, trying to find a place that sells camping supplies.  But eventually, we got it all and made it to the park by four in the afternoon.

When we arrived at Timna Park we were shocked to find that the gates were locked up tight.  So we waited.  What else could we do?  Finally a car arrived.  They were also surprised that the gates were locked, and called somebody.  Then a tour bus arrived on the other side of the gate.  We moved our cars out of his way and let him through.  The gate began to close as we frantically tried to get through it, but no luck.  Another couple of girls arrived who opened the gate with the code.  They sped off down the road and we entered.

By the oasis I found a park employee who showed us to our tent.  The rental tents are really nice.  They are pop-up trailers that have been permanently parked, set up, and kitted-out with electric hookups in a little metal cupboard.  The mattresses are not on the ground, and the whole thing is very comfortable: glamping.  Bathrooms are a short walk away, and so is Wifi, though I intend only to make the most minimal use of it.

After quickly getting settled in, Nina and I took out our little plastic cups and celebrated the Lord’s Supper.  I was sorry that we had forgotten to get candles for Shabbat, but the Holy Spirit point out to me that we have His light inside of us: two people who are His two lights for Shabbat.  My eyes welled-up with tears at the beauty of this truth.

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Nina prepares supper on our little camp stove

Since my first time celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in Poland, I have loved this divine appointed time above all the rest.  But here in the Holyland, spending Tabernacles in a tent (as we are commanded to do) is by far the most special Feast—and it’s only just beginning.  God is good!

Living a Rapture Dream

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The “lake” of clouds below.  Can you see the sun’s rays at the top right?

5 October 2016

After the missions team returned to Asheville, I went to Switzerland.  I had been invited to an organization that does what I do: encourage missionaries in the field.  This is my second event of this kind.  I had found it incredibly helpful for my ministry, as well as personally very encouraging.  Even encouragers need encouraging—you can’t serve water from an empty well.

I arrived yesterday to find that I had been assigned a room to myself.  At supper I sat with the founders of the organization.  The hotel and all the meals were paid for us.  After supper I saw several missionary friends from all over Italy.  It was like a little Italy reunion.  We had a lovely time of worship and then were sent to bed.  I slept eight hours, rather than my usual six.

Today is my 61st birthday.  After a group photo, a bunch of us rode the cable cars to the top of the mountain.  One man said that he didn’t want to waste a day on the mountain top with it being cloudy like this.  But he missed out because halfway up we broke through the clouds into beautiful, warm sunshine.

At the mountain top the view was stunning.  The clouds far below us were all at the same level so that they looked like a high mountain lake.  That’s when I realized that if this had been a dream, it would be a Rapture scenario.  But it wasn’t a dream, I was living a Rapture scenario!  Every year God gives me a special gift for my birthday.  This one literally topped them all.  God is good!

Encouraging Angels and Others


My surprise tiramisu cake

3 October 2016


The Asheville team and I went to MiHOP, the Milan House of Prayer.  My friend, Gloria, met us there and explained that lots of churches here in Italy call themselves Casa di Preghiera (House of Prayer), but they adopted English abbreviation HOP to indicate the connection of Milan’s House of Prayer to the original in Kansas City, IHOP, founded by Mike Bickle.  MiHOP is fairly young, and so has not become a round-the-clock house of prayer, but that is the goal.  Gloria explained that the founders of MiHOP also longed to make this a place where people from all churches and denominations can come and worship any hour of the day or night[1].

As she was finishing her explanation, my friend, Guy[2], walked in, carrying his guitar.  After introductions, Guy led us in a time of worship.  As we worshiped the Lord nudged me, saying that this is the time for Billy to receive healing from scoliosis.  So I suggested that we all pray for him.  Gloria gave her testimony of being healed from scoliosis.  I had no idea, which is a sign that I had heard correctly from God.

After supper we went to the homeless shelter run by Remar, a local church, and an organization called Amici di Angel Services.  My friend, Angelina, works there as a volunteer.  They feed, clothe, and shelter 50 refugee men.  The men are mostly from North Africa, but we did meet a couple of men from Syria and Iran.  Billy and Deborah dished out food while the rest of us helped greet the incoming refugees.  The facility doors are only open from six to nine in the evening, and also for a brief time in the morning.  The men are not allowed to remain inside the building during the day, and if they arrive after the doors are locked, then they must spend the night outside.  This also means that they might lose their place because there are always others that they turn away daily.

No alcohol or drugs of any kind are allowed in the building, and their use is vigorously discouraged.  Only the most hopeless addict would ever risk losing a warm bed and a hot meal for a beer.

We also spent time between arrivals praying for the shelter, its volunteers, and the refugees.  The shelter’s most urgent prayer need is because the building (a former school) is up for sale.  Of course the city has other locations that they would allow the church to use, but this one is in a perfect location, being walking distance from the main train station.  When the men leave the shelter in the morning, they typically go to the train station, where they spend the day staying relatively warm and begging for money.  No other location could offer them such a great opportunity for getting money.  And they must beg because most don’t speak enough Italian to ever get a job, and besides they can’t legally work, being mostly illegal aliens.


Deborah and I took the group to the church that we know as the Athlete Church.  That’s because it was founded in connection with the missionary group, Atleti per Cristo, Athletes for Christ.  There are some professional soccer players, referees, and others with connections to the sports world there.  The team got a glimpse of what a typical Italian evangelical church is like: no pretty building (it meets in a school auditorium), but a big love for God.

In the evening Gloria, Angelica, and Shelly came to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year with us.  After dinner Michele showed up to say his goodbyes to the team.  It was a wonderful, joyous time together for the team’s last night in Italy.


This morning I saw the team off at the train station.  Then Nina came to clean.  As she was finishing, there was a knock at the door.  It was Nina’s son, Michael, Mandy (his girlfriend), and Ketty with a birthday cake for me.  It was a spontaneous surprise birthday party.  And yes, I was very surprised.

This evening I went to a prayer meeting at Michele and Shelly’s house.  After prayer, they had another surprise birthday party for me.  I am feeling very loved and encouraged right now.  My heart is overflowing!  God is good!

[1] Unity!  It has always been a problem in the Italian churches because many pastors regard each other with suspicion, believing that the others are out to steal their flock.  So rather getting together to reach the world, rather than going out to make disciples, often churches become such a tight club that it is intimidating to visit.

I have been a visitor to many little Italian churches where the pastor will recognize that I’m a visitor, and rather just saying “Welcome” he will walk over and stick a microphone under my nose and make me explain what I’m doing there.  Folks, that’s really intimidating to many of us!  If you ever want us to come back, stop doing this!

[2] Guy got a miraculous healing a few years ago at the Feast of Tabernacles in Poland (see Best Moments at Tabernacles).

A Passover to Remember

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The Last Supper?

On Sunday Gloria sent me a message: “Hi Alisa, would it be OK to celebrate the Seder at your place on Thursday evening?  It would be about ten people.”  Of course I said yes.  My part was very simple: plastic cups (enough for four each), plastic plates, and utensils.  And matzo, three boxes of matzo.  Oh yes, and providing table and chairs for everyone.

No, for me the problem was making the living room presentable.  Since I had returned from the US (about a month ago), the living room looks like my suitcase vomited its contents all over every flat surface—not only in the living room, but the living room had gotten the worst of it.  Of course I had intended to get things picked up before this, but I’ve been busy.  Now I had to do it, no putting it off any longer.  Inspired by a sermon I had heard from Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, I asked God for the anointing to get everything ready for the Passover.  That prayer was answered, boy! was it answered!

Instead of my usual method: work a while, get distracted by something, go off and do something else, come back and work a while, get distracted again, etc., I cleared things away with purpose and determination.  I even cleared away stuff that had been sitting in the living room for years.  You see, I use the living room as my office, so I had books and papers and notebooks and diaries and business cards from various people I had met over the years.  I hadn’t even thought of trying to clear that stuff away.  I think that was the key: I didn’t think about it.  If I had thought about it, I would have been paralyzed into inaction by the enormity of the task and the difficulty of reassembling my office afterwards.  And the truth is that this morning I found it quite liberating to have my desk (also known as my dining table) completely clear.  I didn’t have to go hunt a lot of things down (at least not yet).

Once the living room was cleared away, I went to the street market and got some flowers, among other things.  And then to the grocery store and bought a few things.  I brought my purchases home and started rearranging furniture.  I was concerned because the number had grown to fourteen.  I was relieved to find that if I fully extended the dining table and put the kitchen table on the end of it, I could fit fifteen chairs around it, with one chair to spare.  Perfect!  I had forgotten until just that moment that the Jews always set an extra place at Passover for Elijah because of the prophecy that Elijah will come before the Messiah (Malachi 4:5).  Well, Elijah has come and gone (Matthew 17:10-13[1]), so our extra setting will be for Jesus, who is surely returning—and someday soon.

The credenza, which I had cleared of my printer, office supplies, books, and piles of papers, was ready to serve as a buffet.  We would need this because the table was going to be very full of other things for the Seder.  I put a tablecloth on the table and another on the credenza, and another on the kitchen table.  My big tablecloth wasn’t long enough to do the job of two tables.

That’s when I realized that I didn’t have enough espresso cups for a party this size.  So I made another trip to the store to pick up other things, too.  While I was at the grocery store I got 2 legs of lamb.  I wanted to make sure that we didn’t run short.  That turned out to be a good idea.

The grocery store didn’t have plastic espresso cups, and I needed coffee pods from the Bialetti store.  So I brought my groceries home and put the lamb in the fridge before heading out again, this time to the Bialetti store, bringing Celia with me.  Celia has been staying with me while she is looking for an apartment.

At the Bialetti store they said that they didn’t have any plastic coffee cups.  But then the saleslady remembered that they sell a convenience pack for the espresso machine that I have, and inside is not only plastic cups, but also sugar, stir sticks, and coffee pods.  Plus, it was on sale for ten Euros off.  The plastic cups in the convenience pack were not like I had been picturing (vending machine plastic coffee cups), but really cute, good quality plastic cups that could be washed and reused—excellent!

On the way home, we stopped in the card shop so that I could get a receipt book.  I didn’t absolutely need one right now, but since we were passing by and the card shop is open, I wanted to stop in and pay a quick visit to Antonella.  She is a sweet lady my mom’s age who always loves to stop and chat.  I thought it would also be nice for Celia to meet Antonella.  Actually, it turned out to be nice for both of them, and for me, too.  Antonella has worked alone in the card shop for the past thirty years, so she always appreciates customers, but also a friendly visit.

So I got the receipt book and then we went home to finish up the preparations.  I preheated the oven and began cooking the lamb.  As it cooked, I set out   Soon Gloria arrived, and she sprang into action.  Before long the others came, one after another.  Pierluigi did what he does best: he started taking pictures and video, and playing with David, the one and only child in attendance (that’s only if you don’t include the children in adult bodies: Pierluigi, and also me).

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There were three in attendance that I hadn’t known before, so we set about getting to know each other as the preparations progressed.  Then we set the buffet and sat down at the table.  I sat by Jesus’ chair, with Celia on His other side.  We both agreed that we had the best seats in the house.

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Valeria, our one and only Messianic Jew in attendance, proceeded to guide us through the Passover, explaining each item, its significance to the Jews, and the foreshadow it showed of Jesus.  There is so much of Jesus in the Passover that it’s incredible that the Jews can’t see it for themselves.  But then, they’ve been taught against Jesus all their lives.  Valeria had shared her beautiful testimony a couple of weeks ago at the Milan House of Prayer (MiHOP) Prayer for Israel night.  I was so glad that Valeria had brought her son, David, because the Passover really needs at least one child.  How like God to incorporate something for the children to do for the celebration.  Otherwise, we would have had to use the next best thing: Pierluigi.

After the Seder meal was finished, we took turns praying, and each blessed me and my house.  I was indeed blessed, and pleased to see how God had worked through me with the anointing to host the Passover Seder.  It had taken the anointing to get it done.  God is good!

[1] See also Mark 9:11-13