By Sara Renee Miller, Times of Israel—
Growing up in an evangelical home while toddling between three locations (Maui, Missouri, Maine), there was a surprising lack of ethnic diversity and outside information available. By this, what I really mean is that I didn’t meet my first Jewish person until just two years before grad school at Hebrew University, nor did I know an iota about the Jewish culture, the roots of our “Judeo-Christian” faith, or the reason for that scary 8-pronged candle fixture, reminiscent of a trident. It was as foreign to me as Timbuktu.
In Christian circles, there is a saying that we are all looking for (or have found) our specific “callings.” What this insinuates is that God has created us all uniquely with specific gifts and a specific task to fulfill during our lifetimes. If we listen, He impresses this call upon us in different ways and in different stages in life. Personally, I sensed that my call was obscure, as I knew not my strengths, knew very little about the world, and felt lost in a vast sea of gifted people. I did, however, have a very strong inclination to learn more about world cultures via first-hand experiences. This played out through what is known as “missions trips,” which are exactly what they sound like. A group of people go on “a mission” to a specific location with a specific task in mind.
For instance, at age 15, I embarked on my first international missions trip to Ukraine and Holland to help host a basketball camp for Ukrainian orphans. At age 16, you would have found me in Nigeria, visiting remote churches made of straw thatching, some without walls or roofs, praying for sick people and trying to figure out what to do with the live catfish and plantains they gifted me at each stop. At age 19, I was immersed in riveting lectures at a French Theological Seminary, afterwards in which you’d find me scrubbing floors and walls to keep the intellectual haven pristine for others to enjoy, as I had.
You would have spotted me in Australia at the age of 20, attending a one-year discipleship training school, where they teach you how to be a full time “servant” of the people. This meant volunteering at churches and schools, taking up community service projects, ministering to the pimps and prostitutes on the streets of Durban, South Africa, during a six-week “live training,” and finally, speaking to impressionable youth about the power of love, kindness, forgiveness and the value of self-worth. At the age of 27, you would have seen me visibly shaken to be standing at the healing Pools of Bethesda in Jerusalem’s Old City, where tradition tells us Jesus cured a man of his 38-year-old paralysis. It was in this moment that I had come to terms with what I believed to be my calling.
My calling was meant to bring me to Israel, to the heartbeat and epicenter of the Middle East, to study alongside students from every tongue and nation. My calling was meant to open my eyes to the complexity and wonders of this tiny, dusty and brilliantly resilient country. My calling was meant to face me with discomfort as I struggled to understand the various injustices in this region. My calling was meant to align my heart with the purpose of God and the heart of His people in Israel and throughout the world. My calling was meant to familiarize myself with Israel, so that I could tell her story in the midst of global propagandistic attempts to unravel her to her core, led by entities shrouded in the guise of “social justice movements.”
My calling was meant to help shed light on a story that is rarely told correctly, where Israel and indigenous Jews of over 3,500 years have supernaturally exceeded all expectations, where they continue to set standards of morality, freedom, democracy, inventiveness and traditions that most nations can’t even touch. My calling IS to let the world know that I stand resolute with Israel and I stand unquestionably with my Jewish brothers and sisters.
To feel Israel’s pain is to be part of her DNA, to know implicitly that you are a part of her plan, of her destiny. When anti-Israel monstrosities such as stabbings, car rammings, growing ostracization on every level, and anti-Semitic attacks on personal property and on many college campuses continue to happen at an alarming rate, there is one clear assumption: Israel’s enemies will stop at nothing until she has buckled and fallen. How remarkably stunning that a nation that represents so much good should be the target of such vitriol? Whether you are talking about women’s rights, gay rights, personal liberties, etc., Israel is the shining light in the midst of widespread brutality and darkness.
The United Nations is comprised of leaders of many of these brutal nations, yet the only permanent topic that will never disappear from their agendas is Israel and the “illegal occupation of Palestine.” Yes, Israel. Forget about the genocides, famines, droughts, decaying infrastructures, missing social services, and poisonous ideologies of these many countries. Israel will always take precedence as the #1 pariah of the nations, while simultaneously being bombarded by rockets from Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and other terror proxies. And that is why she needs a massive network of supporters behind her — telling her story, fighting alongside her, and speaking hope into her future. God’s nation will not be brought down, and that is why I have told my Mom that I might be Jewish — because I believe I am now part of Israel’s story.
Sara is the Executive Director for StandWithUs in San Diego. She holds an MA in Islamic Studies from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem at the Rothberg Institute. She and her husband, Mark, enjoy traveling, hiking, politics and discovering new eateries.