After completing her freshman year of college in Michigan, Amanda (Wheeler) Choi ’07 transferred to Olivet to pursue a degree in family and consumer sciences education. Her boyfriend at the time was already an Olivet student. They got married, graduated and established their lives and careers in Kankakee County. Unfortunately, the relationship soon deteriorated.
When it became obvious that reconciliation would not happen, Amanda turned to Olivet connections for wisdom and advice. In addition to counseling, she got involved at College Church, where she connected with Kendra (Custer) Schwada ’97, who became an influential mentor during the season of marriage separation.
“I started meeting regularly with Kendra, and the Schwadas eventually invited me into their home,” Amanda says. “I got a front-row seat to see a much healthier marriage partnership than I had experienced. That season of life was a gift from the Lord. He really knows what we need in hard times.”
As Amanda recovered her sense of stability, she broadened her view of the world and her place in it. She had always been interested in traveling and serving abroad, having taken missions trips to Mexico and Ecuador in high school. The summer before coming to Olivet, she worked for Mercy Ships, living on a floating hospital yacht as it traveled throughout Europe to be serviced. Amanda anticipated continuing similar mission work with her ex-husband, but she let the dream fade as the marriage did. However, the Lord was faithful in honoring that dream.
“Because I was so broken at the time, I was constantly in the Scripture — it’s the only place to go when your life is falling apart,” she says. “For the first time, I took note of God’s relationship with Israel and became intrigued with how His love for the nation served as an example for the whole world. As I figured out the next steps to take in my own life, I asked the Lord to reveal a passion for a specific people and a place. He answered in one word: Israel.”
It was not long before Amanda traveled to Israel through the organization Bridges For Peace (BFP), a nonprofit that seeks to build relationships between Christians and Jews in Israel and around the world. The experience was transformational.
“I saw how the Lord was restoring the land in Israel,” she recalls. “I witnessed the fulfillment of Scripture, and I was even playing a small role in that work. After seeing unfaithfulness in the worst way, God brought me to Israel to show me His faithfulness to His Word. I learned what faithfulness really looks like.”
The trip reignited a sense of purpose in Amanda’s life and reframed what she felt was an international calling. She returned to Israel the following summer break, eager to continue to support the mission of BFP. When she returned to the United States after the second trip, she was fairly confident that she would not be home for long.
In 2017 Amanda took a leap of faith and moved to Jerusalem to work in the Feed a Child program through BFP. Public schools in Israel do not provide many essential resources, including textbooks and lunches, and parents often face staggering school fees at the beginning of each year. One of every three Israeli children lives below the poverty line. Many Jewish families in Israel are immigrants or refugees, and the adults often struggle to establish careers and community connections because skilled jobs require a mastery of Hebrew and, in many cases, local licensure and certifications. The Feed a Child program matches Christian donors with Jewish children to bridge the economic gaps as families get resettled and assimilate into the local society or simply find themselves facing seemingly impossible financial difficulties.
“When I first came to Israel, I was amazed to see how the Lord places us and uses the skills He’s given us,” Amanda says. “Initially, I did a lot of food prep and worked in the school setting, so it was helpful that I had a background in education. My role has evolved, and now I get to be an advocate for the organization.”
In the six years she has lived in Israel, Amanda has experienced personal growth and restoration she never anticipated. She met her husband, Glory, at a Messianic synagogue they both attend in Jerusalem. Glory is a Ph.D. candidate who is studying Jewish thought at the time of the Second Temple Period. They married in 2020, have one daughter and are expecting their second in fall 2023.
The Choi family frequently travels back to America to visit family, provide updates about their work and studies, and raise support for Amanda’s work at BFP. Doing so has given her opportunities to encourage others in their faith journeys by sharing traditional feasts like Shabbat and Passover Seders.
“Living in Israel — and having an understanding of the Jewish people and culture — has helped me understand Jesus better,” Amanda says. “The concepts represented in those traditions are pictures that point to Christ. There’s so much hope in the future here, and that should be encouraging to our Christian faith.
“I believe the Lord brought me here to teach me what faithfulness is and to restore my heart. He was on a mission. In witnessing the restoration of Jerusalem, I have experienced His love on a level I never had before. God has used my time here to totally restore my heart and my life. I have an incredible family, and I am constantly blown away by the goodness of the Lord. He is so faithful to His Word.”
From Olivet The Magazine, Strength & Hope – Autumn 2023. Read the full issue HERE.