Being able to step on the land of Israel for me is an ultimate dream come true, I only used to read it from the Bible before, see it in postcards and hear it from the people who share their testimony in my previous church after joining the Holy Land tour.
Back in the year 2000ish I was fascinated by the stories of the "blessed" and "elite" church members who were able to visit Israel, I call them elite because not everybody can afford this once in a lifetime trip. During those time, the desire grew in my heart to someday see these places with my own eyes and have a personal experience on the land of Jesus Christ. But a part of me persuades me it is impossible because I knew I would rather save the money or use it in more practical ways than indulge in travel. Fast-forward, 15 plus years later, 2016 has been gracious to me as I was able to join the Holy Land Study Tour conducted by CCF last May all by God's grace.
God is at work from financial provision to resolving corporate obstacles. November, 2015 when I notify my manager that I will be taking two weeks leave sometime in May, 2016 which happen to be the same time when my counterpart will be in maternity leave. Just in time when we have crucial deliverables in our project and both the key persons from QA will be out. But my manager supported me in making a transition plan and backed me up with the knowledge transfer activities. Eventually transition was gradually accomplished, thanks to my colleague as well who express her interest to learn our project.
I remember praying to God to give me stories of my own encounter with Him in this Bible Study tour and He never disappoints to answer our prayers. When I am about to enter Israel, the immigration officer questioned me about my father and grandfather's name. I was not able to tell her about my grandfather since my Lolo already passed away. I didn't find it alarming until the officer asked me more questions about my Lolo and my religious background. The officer then made a phone call and the next thing I knew I was inside an interrogation room with another immigration officer asking me to write my father's name, grandfather's name, email address and mobile number. When I saw grandfather's name again, I started to freak out in my mind, why are they asking questions that I don't know the answer, they could have asked something else. I answered everything except for grandfather's name and the officer again reiterated but I politely told her that I don't have any recollection of my grandfather because he passed away even before I was born. And the officer seem to understand. Up until this point I still don't understand why they are persistent in knowing my family background in father side.
The officer eventually asked me how I got my name "Abad" and so I answered it is from my mother's maiden name. After knowing this, she shifted the focus of investigation to my mother's side. Apparently my middle name "Abad" is a Muslim name, hearing this I honestly expressed that I am not aware of it until she told me and that "Abad" is just a common last name in the Philippines. She did checked her computer many times then asked me few more questions. I tried to politely answer everything using all the composure that I could muster that moment. Finally, the officer said she still need to check, that it may take awhile she's not sure but they need to verify and that means I need to wait outside.
The waiting time was the longest 20 minutes in my life, I feel so miserable. First I don't know my grandfather's name, second I am not sure if I could even enter Israel and continue the Bible Study tour which I have dreamed of. And out of 214 delegates, why am I the one held in the immigration(not that I wished it was someone else), but why can't I find answers to my questions. While waiting I checked my study manual and found one song that gave me encouragement.
You are the peace that guards my heart
My help in times of need
You are the hope that leads me on
And brings me to my knees
And there I find you waiting
And there I find release
So with all my heart I worship
And unto you I sing
For You alone deserve all glory
For You alone deserve all praise
Father we love You and we worship you this day.
These are the very words that spoke to me and gave me the assurance from the Lord to remain calm and hopeful as I find my peace through Him. After 20 long minutes, the officer handed me my passport without any explanation and I took it and thanked her.
God is sovereign and in control.
That night as I was trying to contemplate everything, I googled Abad in relation to muslim name and found out the following:
Abad - is a common suffix city name in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc which means "cultivated place"
Abad - A Quranic name for boy which means "Great worshiper of Allah"
I also learned that Muslim naming convention is -- Proper name, Father's name, Grandfather's name.
Then it all made sense why they repeatedly asked for my grandfather's name.
One thing I resolved that day, for them my name may be correlated to Muslim roots, but my identity is with Christ Jesus. For I am a great worshiper of an everlasting God who loved us enough to give His son Jesus Christ to die in the cross and offer salvation to all humanity.