Jacqueline’s story

The story of how Jacqueline became a dear sister in our spiritual family is a striking example of how God can take difficult situations and redeem them for His glory and the good of those who love Him.

Born and raised in Lebanon, Jacqueline first came to Israel almost twenty years ago as a caretaker for an elderly person who was visiting family in Nazareth. Instead of returning back to Lebanon, however, she stayed on with some relatives of her original employer. Eventually, her visa and passports expired, so she had no way to return to Lebanon.

The family she worked for took advantage of this fact and made her work more like a slave than an employee. For many years, she had very little time off of work. Being a very simple, humble person, Jacqueline did not see anything particularly wrong with her situation.

A few years ago, Marlyn, a woman from our church, also began to work for this family. She quickly realised that the situation was not healthy or fair, so she quit, but she and Jacqueline remained friends. She would try to bring Jacqueline to our church as often as possible, which was difficult because of how much Jacqueline was forced to work. 

Last year, Jacqueline’s father passed away. Not being able to be with her earthly family during this sorrowful time made her start thinking about returning Lebanon.

Jacqueline eventually was able to quit her job, and Marlyn welcomed her into her own apartment and took care of her. After a few months, Jacqueline and Marlyn became as inseparable as sisters. Jacqueline was able to come to the church more regularly after quitting her job, and Pastor Bishara began to work towards finding a way for her to return to Lebanon and be with her family.

As it turned out, Bishara was able to arrange a paper of laissez passer for her, so that she could leave Israel. Once the laissez passer was given, however, she would definitely have to leave Israel at once, or face incarceration.

After the laissez passer was stamped and approved, Bishara brought it to show to Jacqueline at the Thursday morning women’s Bible study. When she saw what it was, she buried her head in her hands and cried silently. Tears of joy? Tears of sorrow? Probably a mixture.

What makes her situation more difficult is that Lebanon and Israel are technically at war. The two countries are very suspicious of each other and anyone coming from Israel is subjected to a great deal of scrutiny upon arriving in Lebanon, due to fears of Israeli collaborators and secret agents.

The original plan was for her to take a bus to Jordan and get her papers in order there, then travel to Lebanon. All she needed was a temporary visa for Jordan, and the plan would be a go.

Remarkably, a close friend of a friend was working in the branch of government in Jordan responsible for such matters, and he assured us that he could get her the proper Jordanian visa and send her through to Lebanon.

However, just a week or so before she planned to return, this branch of the Jordanian government was suddenly and unexpectedly reorganised, and our friend of a friend could no longer help us.   

Bishara and the church went to the Lord in prayer, asking what to do next. A friend in the government on the Israeli side suggested that she fly to Jordan, then get a flight to Lebanon without leaving the airport, thus avoiding the need for a Jordanian visa.

Jacqueline agreed to the plan, and Bishara bought her tickets. As the time of departure approached, Jacqueline suddenly realised that she wanted to be baptized. All those months she had been coming to the church had begun to have an effect on her.

She had grown up in a nominal Christian family in Lebanon, but had never had the discipleship, teaching, and sweet communion that she had experienced in our little church, and she had not yet been baptized as a believer.

We quickly organised a baptismal service for her. Due to the suddenness of the idea, not everyone from the church was able to come, but our time down by the river was very sweet. It felt like a small family affair, which seems fitting for her situation.

In her last few times in the church, many tears were shed, as she imagined returning to her earthly family but leaving behind her new spiritual family. It was a bittersweet day when we said goodbye to our dear sister.

Her time in the Jordanian airport passed without any problems. When she arrived in Lebanon, however, the officials noticed her laissez passer from Israel and they became suspicious.

The authorities held her in custody for a few days. They neglected to check on her for some time, then discovered that she was having a diabetic attack in her cell. Thankfully, they took her to a hospital and she recovered. We prayed for her throughout the week, and in the end, by God’s grace, they released her to be with her family. She has certainly not had an easy life, but by God’s grace Jacqueline now has a new spiritual family and an eternal hope!

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