A Marriage Made in Heaven by Pat Franklin, M.B. (Mother of the Bride)
‘I’ve met the man I want to marry.’ Our daughter Annie, then 21 and just home from a language course at Haifa University in Israel, pronounced those words as she tightened her grip on the steering wheel. She had only been back home in southern England a few days, and she and I were on our way to shop in the ancient market town of Guildford. By the time we got there I knew his name was Michael, he was a Jew, but also a strong Christian, and that they would make their home in Israel. Israel - so far away, so tiny, surrounded by nations intent on its destruction.
To say we struggled with Annie’s decision does not begin to convey the maelstrom of emotions that swirled around our family. The fact that our friends were delighted and told us what a great honour it was for the family helped us not at all. It didn’t fit my future plans. Annie had only one more year at Cambridge University and then I had dreams of us moving from England back to the USA, living in nice, safe suburbia. Annie living thousands of miles away in a potential war zone did not fit the picture at all!
It took us a long time to lay down our objections and give our blessing to the union of Annie and Michael. I remember telling her that every time I wanted to meet her for coffee it would cost me the best part of £1000. They met at the church Michael attends, where Jews, Arabs and gentiles from many nations worship the Lord Jesus. Michael translates the services from Hebrew into English. Although Annie was only in Israel for the language course for a few months, she was given a recommendation to that church by a Christian leader in England.
Annie noticed Michael each Saturday (in Israel worship is always on Saturdays) and at midweek meetings, and she thought: ‘A man like that, I could marry.’ And as he observed the English student he told himself: ‘Why let myself hope? She will only go back to England.’ Neither of them had ever had a serious relationship. Annie had never been on a ‘date’ in her life. As Christians they believed in keeping themselves pure and holy, dressing modestly and trusting in God to provide the right husband/wife. The weeks went by, their respect for one another grew, but nothing had been said. Michael was secretly praying and fasting for Annie, but thought she would never want to live in Israel.
Annie was praying and fasting also. She loved Israel from the moment she arrived and longed to spend the rest of her life there. Her prayer was: ‘Lord, you know how I feel. I want to live here, but I am not going to be one of those Christians who go overboard about Israel, so unless something happens that gives me a reason to stay here, I am never coming back once I leave.’ She was also praying for the right husband and confided her feelings to a remarkable woman, Ruth Salinger, who had emigrated to Israel from New Zealand with her husband John many years ago.
Michael too confided in Ruth that he urgently needed a way to meet Annie socially, but she was always being whisked off somewhere after church. So it was that Ruth helped to bring them together by inviting them both to her home for a meal. She is now like another mother to them both. At first I struggled with this, but can honestly now say that I am very thankful for her. But Annie and Michael did not get time to speak at length until both went to a youth event on the beach. They sat on the sand and talked for hours, checking each other out on many important issues.
They were delighted to discover that they both hated television and would never allow one in the house. They both wanted a big family and believed the mother should stay home with the children. They also carefully checked out what the other believed on all the important doctrines of the faith. Both knew that they could not live happily with someone who had different views on important issues. That was the start of a beautiful, and godly, courtship. At one stage Michael asked the leaders of his church to escort Annie up to see his tenth floor apartment so that she could see where they would live. He was so careful of her reputation that he did not want to take her there on his own.
They had only a few weeks before her return to England and they decided that they would not hold hands or kiss each other at that stage. At the airport they shook hands as they said goodbye. We knew nothing of any of this. So our darling Annie came home and hit a brick wall - us - when out of the clear blue sky she made her big announcement. Looking back at all the tears and remonstrations, I am ashamed of my opposition; I didn’t really want to see the hand of God in this. We caused Michael and Annie much sorrow and, being the loving couple they are, they have forgiven us. What an amazing thing is this wonderful faith we share - that forgiveness is real, and not only once, twice or seven times, but 70 times seven we can forgive each other and find mercy new every morning.
Alan and I went to Israel for the first time in September, 2005, for the official engagement and met Michael’s amazing parents, Albert and Ruth. The couple said that Albert was like water and Ruth like fire and between them they created a lot of steam. This was true. When they were with you, something was happening. There was some brain activity. There was humour. There were stories. There was singing. Sometimes there were tears. We now have Jewish relations and I love being in their company. They are Christians and have suffered for their faith - but never without an apt quip or two!
Their history is the history of the Bible. When the Jews were taken in captivity to Babylon, Iraq, in about 600 BC, many never went home - including Albert’s ancestors. His dad was a rich merchant in Baghdad until he went broke and ended up living in Israel with Albert and Ruth until his death. Ruth’s history is pure ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ with her great grandmother carrying Ruth’s grandfather (then a baby) in her arms across eastern Europe from the Ukraine to escape murderous anti-Semitism. Ruth can hardly bear to watch ‘Fiddler,’ but this does not stop her breaking into many of the ‘Fiddler’ songs when the occasion arises!
She has a great gift for poetry and has just published a remarkable book, 'Musings from Galilee,' available from israelunique.com These talented, kind people are now our extended family and I am so glad to know them. To be related to God’s ancient people is a privilege I don’t deserve. My grandchildren, if God gives any, will be Jewish and, I hope with all my heart, Christian. Together we will await the coming back to earth of the Lord of history, the God of the Jews and the gentiles, the Lord Jesus Christ. Together we will read the prophecies of the Bible which teach the terrible events that will mark the end of this era, followed by the return of the Lord Jesus, the restoration of Israel, the 1000 year millennial reign of Christ ruling the earth from His capital of Jerusalem, and then the final rebellion of evil men, followed by the creation of new heavens and a new earth for the eternal ages. What a glorious future we will share. And, oh yes, I almost forgot - that wedding!
Many guests said it was the most wonderful wedding they had ever attended. One wrote to us that it was so impressive because God was at the centre of it - not the bride. Actually the bride had prayed that the Lord Jesus would be glorified that day, so her prayer was certainly answered. She and Michael were the happiest couple imaginable and I was the happiest mother, unless you count Ruth of course, not forgetting the other Ruth (Salinger), honorary mother number 3.
It was a Jewish style wedding, under a ‘chuppa’, a canopy, performed by Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum who flew to England specially from Los Angeles. And here I have to thank the army of volunteers who made the wedding so very special and took so much pressure off of us. I’ll start with the two ladies who took it upon themselves to decorate the church, and do all the flowers, bouquets, buttonholes etc - take a bow Miriam Withers and Ruth McClenahan from Ash Vale Evangelical Church. They wouldn’t take a penny; they said it was the church’s gift to Annie. Also step forward the Walkers and the Wickwars for decorating the tables at Normandy Village Hall for 140 guests; and the Bakers for doing the punch and much more; and Maggie and Trevor Stewart-Sweet for not only baking the most wonderful apricot tarts but much other exhausting help; and also Helga Longworth, worked off her feet in the kitchen.
As for the superb main course, Arthur and Jenny Cobbett and their daughter Julie and son-in-law Steve did a magnificent Moroccan chicken dish. Our Nepalese chef friend Amrit started cooking his amazing lamb and chicken curries at 7am that morning and people are still saying they have never had such good curry. Guests were bussed in by our son Daniel, driving a bus loaned by Camberley Baptists.
I mustn’t forget Michael’s and Annie’s friends from Israel. I thought we would have to look after them, but they were a huge blessing. David S. ran himself ragged with the last minute preparations. Amy Lee hardly got out of my kitchen and was finishing the icing on the last chocolate wedding cake on the morning of the wedding!* The bridesmaids too - Rebecca and Chin Hwa, Annie’s friends from Cambridge University, and Jenni - were ever ready to roll up their sleeves, as was Michele Rast, Annie’s friend from Switzerland. And here I also have to thank Bruce and Heather Carnegie-Brown who, despite Heather’s painful arthritis, hosted Michael and his two best friends, while we hosted the girls.
As for Annie’s gown, it was made by Dr Rivka Esdale in Australia with the help of her ladies’ prayer group. She has never met Michael or Annie, or any of us, but when she heard on the international grapevine that they were to marry, she wrote and said she wanted to provide the wedding dress! Annie sent a pattern, her measurements and profuse thanks. And now I add mine - thank you, dear Dr. Rivka; Annie was the most beautiful bride you could imagine in the lovely silk gown you made. It was far better than any we could have bought.
Another brilliant seamstress (who begged me not to name her, lest she is inundated with sewing requests!) stepped in at the eleventh hour to make Jenni's beautiful outfit in one week flat - before Jenni had even arrived in the country! Nine nations were represented at the wedding, and I thank everyone who hosted guests.
A special thank you to Sheila McCrae, who hosted Albert’s sister Joy from Exeter in Devon. Albert and Joy had not seen each other for 30 years. What a day it was; a marriage made in Heaven, and God’s people on earth made the wedding day sing!
*A few weeks after the wedding, Amy Lee and David Salinger announced their own engagement, so there was another 'Marriage made in Heaven'! *Michael loves playing Christian music on his guitar, and you can hear him on the CD he made of guitar praise music from Israel. It is called ‘Ronu Shamayim’ which is Hebrew for ‘Rejoice O Heavens!’
Michael worked as an administrator at a residential home for Jewish and Arab believers. The couple had a very close call when war with Lebanon broke out in their first year of marriage, 2006, and one day a Hezbollah rocket landed nearby. But, as we are fond of reminding each other, the Lord God of Israel really is watching over us. He neither slumbers nor sleeps, and the death of each of us is precious in His eyes. He holds the key of death, and not one of us will leave this life without His allowing it.
And so, whatever happens in Israel – and a very great deal IS going to happen, according to Bible prophecy – we will not live in fear and worry, because the Great Shepherd of the sheep will lead us and guide us, and cause our lives to count for something when we stand before Him. Not many people realise that there up to about 10,000 Christian Jews living in Israel now. Thirty years ago the number was just a few hundred. The fig tree (Israel) is beginning to blossom and Michael and Annie are a small part of it.
. Albert has gone to be with his Lord since this article was written. Michael and Annie now have four daughters and a son and they live in Nahariya, where he is pastor of a small fellowship.