Written By Sonja Chua, Singapore
In 2019, I spent seven months in Israel for my research attachment as a graduate student. As I reflect on my journey to and in Israel, I have seen how God provided for me and grew my faith through 19 flights, eight airports, five countries/states and a lifetime of experience.
Here are three truths that I have learned and re-learned about God during this time:
1. God Protects Us
Being a traveller has its share of mishaps, and mine started on the morning of my first flight.
That morning, I was informed that my flight to Hong Kong—the first layover in the long trip to Israel—would be delayed by 35 minutes. Later I was told that it would be delayed for an hour.
When I landed in Hong Kong, I found that I had missed my connection and had to rebook my next flight for the following night. This resulted in an unexpected 23-hour layover in Hong Kong. But when I showed up for the connecting flight, the airline told me that they were overbooked and I was on standby.
Despite being frustrated and tired, I felt like God was asking me if I trusted Him. At this point, the thought that came to my mind was: “Yeah, of course. What choice do I have?”
But God proved Himself faithful, and soon I was rerouted through Germany (instead of Turkey, the original plan), then put on a third flight to Israel.
In the end, not only did He bring me safely to Israel, but simple things throughout the trip reminded me that God was there. In Hong Kong I was provided with a hotel room to store my belongings and get some sleep. I was also able to explore the city a little and meet up with a friend studying there. On the flight to Germany I was given priority seating in economy, so that I could get around eight hours of sleep (although disrupted), and was functional when I landed. Also, most importantly, despite changing flights and airlines multiple times, all my bags arrived safely in Israel.
From a human perspective, it seemed that I was caught in horrible situations, but no amount of rational explanation could explain how my journey to Israel ultimately worked out. As I face the current uncertainties and disruptions caused by COVID-19 on the progress of my research, I am comforted, knowing that God still remains in control.
2. God Takes Care of Us
I have learned that there is no such thing as coincidences with God. Where God has placed us—whether time and place—is all according to His will and He provides when we least expect it.
Upon arriving in Israel, I was anxious to find a community, as I knew I would face language and cultural barriers. While I was looking for a church to settle into, I visited one particular church on a Saturday. Who would have thought I would meet a Singaporean exchange student I knew, as well as a Singaporean who has lived in Israel for six years! Neither of them were regular attenders of this church, so only God could have brought us together.
Later on I got connected with a small Singaporean Christian community that enabled me to enjoy Singaporean food and gave me a small sense of home. I also made a group of Singaporean friends who were also doing research. I could reach out to them when I needed help, and I was greatly encouraged by the fellowship that we had by attending their congregation and international student fellowship.
3. God Surrounds Us with His People
During my time in Israel, I experienced the privilege of worshiping with an international community of believers from every corner of the globe. At the student conference, it was an immense joy to be singing in Hebrew, Arabic, and English with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Most importantly, it was amazing to catch a glimpse of the early church where both Jewish and Gentile believers worshipped together, proclaiming Jesus (Yeshua) as their Lord and Savior. It did not matter whether we were Canadian, Dutch, German, Israeli, Palestinian, Nigerian, Korean, Indonesian, Chinese, or Singaporean—our faith and belief in Christ united us all .
Despite the difficulties the believers in Israel face, such as persecution and possible attacks on churches, it is truly humbling to see Acts 2:42-47 being practiced as Christians open their homes, share resources (like giving rides back home on shabbat), and pray for each other. I am thankful for the hospitality my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ have shown me while I stayed with them in Israel. And now that I am home, it reminds me to show love to all and look out for my neighbors, especially visitors in church.
It hasn’t been comfortable living as a sojourner in a foreign land, especially when I am unfamiliar with my surroundings. However, God has been my guide throughout this past year, and I give thanks for what He has done and continues to do in my life.
Now that I’m back in Singapore, a new season awaits me as I become involved in new ministries, and even building new relationships. But I walk by faith and trust in God as my compass and true North. I hope that I won’t forget the experiences I had over the past year, but will continue to find opportunities to apply what I have learned and serve those God has placed around me back in Singapore.