She is a young widow. Her husband passed from this life to the next four years ago, leaving her with three young children to raise alone. She is from the Caucausus region of Russia, now living in the Land promised to her ancient people. She made Aliyah to Israel several years ago, and Hebrew replaces Russian as the primary language of her new world. There have been so many significant changes in the life of this young woman named Flora, changes that have not been easy.
There has been another change in her life as well. Raised in the faith and understanding of traditional Russian Jewry, she awaited the first coming of the Messiah. One day three months ago He came into her life as a result of her neighbor, Ilana, sharing the testimony of life in Yeshua. This change was a joyous and powerful one. She proclaimed Yeshua as that awaited Messiah and now she looks for His return.
She waits for that return from her home in modern Akko, near the ancient city, just north of Haifa in Galilee. The 5,000 year old walls of Akko extend to meet the Mediterranean Sea on three sides of Old Akko. She waits with others of the Messianic faithful in a small, daughter fellowship of the Ohalei Rachamim congregation. The congregation teaches the blessing and consecration of immersion into the death and life of Yeshua. Flora sought this lifetime moment of blessing and consecration.
On a beautiful, sandy beach of the Sea, Flora waits for that moment. The fellowship of believers from Akko surround her. They are the only people on a deserted beach on a late afternoon in early November. In the near distance the ancient sentinels, well-worn walls and spiraling towers of Akko seem to look imperiously toward the small community of love clustered around Flora. The citadels of the great, green-domed Akko mosque, the aged Crusader castle, and the weathered ramparts of the Christian cathedral seem to cast their gaze sternly in the direction of Flora's new extended family. The windows and rooftops open their eyes in curiosity toward what is unfolding before them. What can they be doing down there? What does it mean?
The meaning is clear to Flora. Congregational leader Eitan Shishkoff of Ohalei Rachamim and the Akko fellowship leader, Guy Cohen, speak the words of Scripture to Flora about what this immersion into the Sea, this immersion into the death and life of Yeshua means to all who will follow the Messiah. Around Flora's shoulders are the arms of Ilana, who introduced her to Yeshua. How fitting that the journey of redemption in Flora's life be brought full circle for them both in this moment. There are tears. There are smiles. There are prayers. There are songs. The circle comes together tightly as friends clasp each other's hands in a grip of unspoken affirmation.
Clothed in a flowing white garment, Flora takes the hands of Eitan and Guy and they move into the waters of the sea. The wind is gentle. The gulls soar and glide above us. The sail boats playing at the foot of the Akko walls in the distance are too far away to intrude their noises upon Flora's moment. The only sounds are of the soft breaking of the waves upon the shore. It is the end of the day and the sun is making its way toward the horizon while distant waters prepare to swallow its fire.
The moment of a lifetime has come for Flora. Eitan and Guy steady their sister in the low swells. They raise their hands. Her smile widens. They lower her. The waters cover her head and body. She emerges with the glisten of not just the water, but of the Holy Spirit of God. One more time the eternal comes to meet the temporal. Heaven comes to earth just as Yeshua came to His people, to all people. The ancient eyes of Akko have seen a new thing today. But even more significantly, the ancient eyes of God have looked with tender favor upon a new creation of His making.
They walk through the surf back into our embrace. Their eyes are shining. Her countenance has changed. It is radiant. Something marvelous and wondrous has happened even more than we might have imagined. And then she tells us what we could not have imagined. "Last night," she tells us in hushed tones, "the Lord told me, 'Tomorrow, you will be a bride.'"
What an unfathomable kindness of Yeshua to tell a young widow, who has been through so much, that she is again a bride - His bride! In the Land promised to her people - in the shadows of a city that has never fully seen its salvation - He called her a bride.
Yes, Flora, you are a bride. His bride. And we celebrate with you. May the same thing one day be true for all the people of Akko and for all the people of this Land.
Missions Pastor Mick Antanitis serves on the leadership team of Steve Fry, Senior Pastor of Belmont Church in Nashville, Tennessee, a congregation that has been in covenant with Tents of Mercy for many years.
|Let us know what you think - why not comment to this article:|