Edmonds group finds its purpose in helping Israel

EVERETT — Their first trips to Israel were like those of many other tourists: a trip to the Holy Land to see the sights, the culture and the history.

That was until they fell in love with it, a country they call the “apple of God’s eye.”

This year, as Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary, Karen Anderson, Jane Hansen Hoyt and Nancy McDaniel, members of Edmonds-based Aglow International, marked their group’s eighth trip to Israel.

This time, they traveled to Israel not as tourists but as caretakers. They call themselves prayer warriors and say the Bible wants them to stand with Israel to fight for the war-scarred country through prayer.

“For God’s own reasons, Israel is a very special spot on the earth,” said Anderson, Aglow’s communications director.

Since 2000, members of Aglow have traveled each year to Israel to build relationships and to offer aid. This year, the Edmonds group met with 400 other Aglow women from 25 nations and six continents, including North America, Europe, Africa, South America, Asia and Australia.

The 40-year-old Christian women’s group has chapters in 172 countries. Once, a group of roughly 700 members converged on Israel for the annual trip.

Each member brings along an extra suitcase — what they call a “compassion suitcase” — on their trips to Israel. It’s filled with toys, toiletries, over-the-counter medicines and children’s clothes. This year, the group brought 66 of them. While in Israel, the women handed them out at orphanages, schools and refugee and immigration centers.

Anderson traveled with a video crew, setting out from Jerusalem to travel along with the nine buses carrying Aglow women on their trips through the country.

Hansen Hoyt, Aglow’s president and CEO since the 1980s, said Aglow also works on other outreach efforts, including prison, nursing home and disaster-relief programs, and sends small groups to other countries such as the Philippines and Uganda.

Aglow had been reaching out to Middle Eastern women who had been hurt or abused, and considered making the trip to Israel for 10 years before finally going, she said.

During that trip in 2000, Hansen Hoyt said, she felt “a purpose and a desire to bring groups into the land to form a prayer covering, a protection.”

McDaniel, who made her eighth trip this year, was traveling in the wilderness area near Masada and the Dead Sea when she fell in love with Israel. Masada was a fortress where a group of Jewish people fled when the Roman legions were invading.

When the Romans finally breached the ramparts, those trapped inside chose to end their lives rather than submit to slavery.

“There was something about that area that got ahold of my heart,” McDaniel said.

Anderson fell in love with Israel in the spring of 2002, in March while traveling there following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“It was a ghost country,” she said, noting that few people traveled there.

Anderson, a former journalist, said she traveled to Israel the first time on an invitation from the Israeli Tourist Board, which sought ways to bring journalists to the area.

During her trip, she visited the remnants of the temple’s Western Wall.

“I felt a feeling I had never felt before, so powerful that I wondered if I could actually walk away. I knew it was God impressing upon me something that was very important to him,” Anderson said.

Reporter Leita Hermanson Crossfield: 425-339-3449 or lcrossfield@heraldnet.com.

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