Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cheap Backpacks

In May of 1948, David Ben Gurion recited his brief declaration that Israel was now a nation again.  This was not greeted with a welcoming party of celebration but by gun fire and a brief but decisive war that would create many of the dynamics in the region that continue to play out to this day.  I recently read an amazingly detailed account of the period leading from November of 1947 to August of 1948 when these amazing developments began unfolding with an increasing velocity.  The book is called O Jerusalem, and for anyone who is interested in this topic, I highly, highly recommend this book for a fascinating mixture of intriguing back stories to specific situations that developed and of many of the major political players involved in the process.  I recommend the audio version unabridged.  It is long, but available at many libraries and will allow you to absorb the story better in my opinion.

One story chronicled in the book is a situation that developed near the end of the first few weeks after the above mentioned announcement of a new Jewish state.  Jerusalem had been under siege, and, in spite of its leaders' best efforts to set aside enough food to ration out a sufficient amount to its citizens while under siege,  the supplies were swiftly approaching zero.  Even after cutting the rationed amount on two different occasions, there was simply no way to forestall the inevitable starvation.  A desperate cry went out to Ben Gurion for emergency aid within days, or they would have to give up the city completely or starve.  This would most likely have been a death blow to the nation of Israel. 

The Jewish fighters had sought to retake the road to Jerusalem many times, but they had failed.  While out on a scouting mission, three men in an off road jeep saw a vehicle coming.  After initially hiding and planning to wait out the Arab jeep, the men jumped and ran to it.  It was a vehicle from Jerusalem.  They suddenly realized that they had driven part of the way from Tel Aviv and the other vehicle had covered the other half of the distance.  This sparked an idea of a new road, but the terrain was extremely rough.  The off road jeep had barely covered the distance, but supply trucks without that off road capacity would never cover that same terrain as it was.  A sad excuse for the closest thing they had to a road construction crew was brought in to make a passable road as quickly as possible.  Over a few days, they made amazing progress, but finally, the crew came to a mountainous area that made up the final three middle miles to connect the two "roads".  There was simply no way the construction gang could build the road through these mountains in the time frame needed to avert starvation.

Earlier in the book, the narrator tells of a few men who went to the U.S. and Europe in the months prior to the outbreak of war on a shopping spree of sorts.  They were seeking arms, planes, equipment, and anything that they believed could be of use in the conflict to come.  While sorting through an assortment of arms, one of these men came across hundreds of cheap backpacks that he decided at the last minute to buy and find a use for at the price of twenty cents per pack.  This proved to be a fateful decision on his part.  The Jewish leadership did the math and drafted businessmen and merchants from Tel Aviv for a "special mission".  They loaded up each pack with food and supplies and drove the packs and these men out to the farthest point they had been able to get the road to and then the men unloaded out of the trucks.  They each slung on one of the cheap backpacks filled with food, and walked the few miles over the mountains to where the other trucks from Jerusalem were waiting.  A few days after this the road was finished, the arabs made what they would always recognize as their chief strategic mistake.  They accepted a temporary ceasefire.  This allowed the Jews to get arms and a mountain of food into Jerusalem for future sieges.  The hike of the cheap backpacks barely allowed Jerusalem to avoid starvation by the few days needed to survive until the ceasefire.  If they had not had this breakthrough, they would have surrendered.

This is just one of the amazing stories represented in the book, O Jerusalem.  I hope you will check it out and enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Cry More

I was praying recently for more of God's power in my life.  I was crying out in the midst of this prayer time with a slightly more intense cry than I normally do.  As I was praying, a story I read in the book The Heavenly Man came to mind, and I immediately saw the correlation from that story to my current request before God.  This is the story.

The Heavenly Man is an insight into the house church movement in China.  The house church movement is an underground church movement that must meet secretly because of government mandates against all but the most uncontroversial teachings of Christianity.  The book is about one of the underground house church movement's leaders named Brother Yun.  He has become known as the Heavenly Man because of a nickname that stuck after his involvement in so many dramatic miraculous workings of God in and around his life. 

When he was early on in his faith, he desperately wanted a Bible so he could study and read for himself about this God who had so changed his life, but they were illegal at the time in China.  He prayed and cried out to God requesting some sort of intervention to attain a Bible.  He heard of a man in a nearby village that was rumored to have a Bible hidden away, and he walked to meet him and ask for his help and counsel.  I cannot remember the exact words that the man said, but one very basic idea was communicated to Brother Yun.  "If you wish to have a Bible, you must cry more."  This may seem harsh or unhelpful to us, but Brother Yun took it to heart.  He intesified his cries as his prayed.  He begged.  He pleaded.   This went on for quite some time.  His family was beginning to become concerned, but finally, as Brother Yun was sleeping, he dreamed about a man with bread coming to see him.  When he awakened, that very man had come to his house and brought him a Bible because he said God had spoken to him to do so.

This is such an amazing story and seems to hold powerful truths.  Here in the U.S., we have no lack of Bibles or churches or freedom, but, in my opinion, we are sorely lacking in the power of God in our lives.  I intend, by the grace of God, to cry more.