BLESSING

When Ann and John Stacy raised an Israeli flag at their log cabin on a bend in the Brazos, it started to rain after years of drought threatened the existence of this once mighty river. Thus began the wettest March in Texas history…and that is just a drop in the bucket of blessings this Christian family has bestowed upon the Jewish people!

Get comfortable. This is going to take more than a few paragraphs and if you are at all interested in architecture, luxury homes, home decor, family building, friend making, the fine and gentle art of hospitality, the power of prayer, humility, charity, piety, purity, divine intervention, G-d’s will, and the earthly rewards possible when one seeks G-d in order to serve Him, you’re in for a treat! Oh…and rivers. You’re going to learn a lot about the Brazos River. And faith. And Zionism. But, mostly, this is about a beautiful family named Stacy who live in a home they call Blessing.

Ann: My husband was reading the Sunday morning paper and the real estate section had a half-page picture of a beautiful home in Granbury. The bottom half of the page told about the house. He said, “can I show you my dream home?” I am no shopper, and one look at that I knew we were not moving from the home we had been living in for 40 years that was flanked, on one side, by one of our sons and his two children and, on the other side, our daughter and her four. John said, “let’s just go look.”

By most definitions, it is safe to say that any 22-room home qualifies as a mansion. A 22-room home with multiple staircases and a saltwater pool, set amid nearly two acres that are nestled in a gentle bend of one of the mightiest rivers in Texas; a home with its own boat dock, lighthouse, and a guest house with a complete kitchen, that’s more than a mansion. That right there is a slice of Heaven, that’s a blessing.

John and Ann Stacy and their family are in the flooring business, they know quality construction when they see it. A log home was John’s dream, but even a house made entirely of timbers milled from a Canadian forest, sanded, notched, sealed, assembled in Canada for quality assurance then disassembled and transported on four enormous trucks to Texas where the house is re-assembled like an enormous set of Lincoln Logs…that, to the pious Stacy family, is a building. A beautiful building. An ingenious construct. But it’s a house. A thing.

A site in the river bend – a spot so lovely the Spanish named it “The Arms of God” – that is, to the Stacys, just real estate.

They appreciated the beauty of the land and the craftsmanship and artistry of the house, but the Stacy family understand that inviting and glorifying G-d’s presence in a home is what brings blessing to the land, to the house, and to those who live and visit there.

Ann: From the time we saw it, we knew only G-d could give us this house. Even though it had been reduced by a great amount it was still far too high. My husband made a ridiculous offer that afternoon…but the truth is, we moved in two months later.

Let me tell you a bit about the Brazos River, which forms Lake Granbury, which is in Blessing’s back yard. It is not small. It is not insignificant.

Texas declared its independence from Mexico on the shore of the Brazos, and this river was an important passage that thousands navigated before, during, and after the Civil War until railroads surpassed steamboats as the prime mode of transportation. Everything is bigger in Texas and the Brazos, always known as a particularly muddy waterway, is not just the longest river in Texas, it is the 11th largest in the United States. The Brazos River is a vital source of power and irrigation for much of the state. It is also a major playground for those who enjoy watersports and that is why the family who originally built the house the Stacy’s call Blessing chose this specific site along the bend of the Brazos in Granbury. They hoped to enjoy their motorboat, speedboats, canoes, kayaks, wakeboards, inner tubes, and fishing gear all in their backyard.

Thing is…as soon as those four huge trucks delivered the many tons of logs and while that mansion was being built in 2009, the mighty Brazos was quickly and alarmingly receding. Within a few years, the River was at an all-time low. Texas was in a serious drought and the situation was dire. Not just for water sport enthusiasts.

“Many threatened or endangered species serve as indicator species — that is, as the ‘canary in the coal mine,’” said Lesli Gray, an official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014. “If water quality and quantity is not sufficient to support the shiner [fish], impacts to human communities may be down the road.”

Kayakers and fisherman be damned. As the drought dragged on, labyrinthine laws that allocated what had become increasingly scarce water supplies in Texas were setting farmers against manufacturers, community against community, and state agency against state agency. There simply was not enough water flowing in the Brazos River to satisfy all the water rights claimed by cities, farmers, and industry. No one was wakeboarding.

Martin Rochelle, a lawyer who represents dozens of cities that draw water from the upper Brazos, lay awake at night worrying about the implications of this drought.

There would be “a land rush for water,” Rochelle predicted late in 2014. “It won’t be good for anyone, and it certainly won’t be good for the Texas economy, which is the envy of many of our sister states. We have big challenges simply as a result of Mother Nature; dueling with each other on the side won’t be good for anyone.”

No one expected the mighty Brazos to regain its previous level. It might take decades if the water ever returned.
Disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how the original homeowners felt when they realized their shoreline was so shallow that they couldn’t dock their boat in the backyard. Their log cabin manse now fully fitted, they listed it for sale without spending one night on the property.

Ann: The man who built this house built a 90 foot boat dock that had nothing but bedrock 15 feet down. People said the Lake would never come back, others said it would take years to fill, if it ever filled up. All the fishing guides had long left. It never entered our mind that G-d would not quickly fill up the Lake, our only concern was that it would rain before we could get the papers signed! We prayed on it. For weeks. Months. If it was meant to be ours, it would be.

John Stacy, I would be utterly remiss not to add, is a brilliant businessman and a savvy negotiator. The seller lowered his price.

The L-rd seemed to have given His blessing so, the Stacys bought the house and enjoyed furnishing it with antiques from both Ann’s and John’s families. Ann’s grandfather’s bible found a home just inside the front doors. Once your eyes adjust to the awesome sight of all those logs, this family bible is the first thing you see upon entering. The Stacys delighted in finding treasures such as bar stools carved from logs and light fixtures fashioned from antlers. They hung framed psalms and proverbs around the house and gave their collection of biblical art and the Judaica they acquired on their many trips to Israel pride of place. The house was becoming home.

About a month after they moved in, their son John, Jr. came with a present. He’d noticed a flag pole on his parent’s dock so he brought them an Israeli flag. A man of action, John, Jr. didn’t just present his parents with the flag, he installed and raised it. Right there. On the banks of the Brazos for all the non-Jews and possibly anti-Zionists or possibly anti-Semites and, oh, yes, for G-d to see.

“That flag went up and it started to rain,” Ann said.

Rain?!

No. Rain doesn’t adequately describe what happened.

March 2015, beginning when John Stacy, Jr. raised the Israeli flag on his parents’ property, was the wettest month in recorded Texas history. By the end of 2015, the Brazos River – as measured in Granbury – grew from 0 capacity to 100 percent.

The Brazos River Authority, at www.Brazos.org, maintains BrazosBasinNOW, a water information site that features interactive maps with data provided by several organizations including the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) from 59 gages located at points throughout the Brazos basin. The data is collected every 15 minutes and is accompanied by the conservation and flood pool elevations, as well as flood stage elevation, when available. The information can be viewed in graph or table format. In many cases, historic information is available. None of the meteorologists or River Authority executives or academics predicted it or believed such a thing might be possible; there was no “natural” indication such a thing could happen, but clearly, from the day John Stacy found that log cabin mansion to the day his son flew the Israeli flag until today, G-d has been busy with the Stacy family, that log cabin mansion in Granbury, Texas, and with the Brazos River. As of the printing of this magazine you are holding, the Brazos River, is at 99.3 percent capacity.

“Those who bless Israel will be blessed,” John Stacy says. This is just plain fact to him. Like the sun rises and gravity keeps the planets in orbit, blessings are a matter of fact and a way of life and something in which, if you are wise, you will invest. “Blessed are those who bless you, people of Israel, and cursed are those who curse you.”

He is quoting the words Baalam spoke (quoted in Parshas Balak – Numbers 24), but this is not a “line” to John Stacy. This philosophy, this behavior, is the foundation upon which his life and, indeed, his house is firmly established.

The Magen David flying over their boat dock is appropriate given that Ann is the Texas Chapter Chair for Americans for a Safe Israel.

“We network with other pro-Israel groups to give North Texans as many opportunities as possible to hear the truth about Israel. Our mission is to provide forums for Israelis to tell their personal stories. Our house is dedicated as a gathering place for AFSI events and we encourage Texans to make lasting friendships with our Israeli guests, and begin to make their own plans to further their relationships.”

But how did the granddaughter of a West Texas circuit-riding Methodist preacher become one of Israel’s major supporters and a best friend to the Jewish People?

Ann: All of us have a story of September 11, 2001 and my husband and I have a short one that changed the course of our lives.

John and I were on the fjords of Norway with about 150 other flooring dealers when terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes and attacked the United States. As we down to dinner in Bergan, we had no idea how we were getting home as all the airports were closed. One couple had just received news of the birth of their first grandchild. They walked to a store to buy a doll for her. Their money was refused, pushed back to them, and the man said, “no American dollars…who knows what they will be worth tomorrow.” A very grim evening. We were five hours ahead. Lots of uncertainty in the room that night.

Somehow the conversation came to Israel, the Jews, and the “Palestinians.” I found a true anti-Semite sitting to my left.

There were two couples at our table that had been to Israel with their church groups, but they said nothing. I had never been and really my husband had never even entertained going. As this man droned on, my husband began to nudge me under the table to say something…and all I could think of was that the Jews are G-D’S CHOSEN PEOPLE, and HE gave them THE LAND OF ISRAEL….and we, as Christians, were to bless the Jews. I really didn’t raise my voice…it was just a conversation at the table…but I have never been so mad in my life. I was so disappointed that I didn’t know the answers to his gibberish.

I knew so little. I had heard of the West Bank…but certainly could not have defined it…I think I thought it was a strip of sand on the West side of the Jordan. I didn’t know at that time almost all the Bible locations were in this mysterious West Bank.

As to the “Palestinians”…I just didn’t know…I came from a family going back to at least my great grandfather, a Methodist Circuit Rider Preacher, that believed the Land of Israel only belonged to one people, G-d’s Chosen People, the Jewish people. All I knew was the Jews were G-d’s Chosen…

HE gave them the Land…and we were to Bless the Jews.

I knew deep in my heart I could read a thousand books, but I would never know the truth until I experienced the Land and its People myself…the Whole of Israel…the Bible Lands of Israel for myself. That night, back in our hotel room in Norway, my husband agreed that I should go on an upcoming trip with a lady Christian minister, Dr. Billye Brim, who used Orthodox Jews living in the West Bank to lead and teach her groups. My daughter-in-law had signed up for this trip months before.

I’m a shy person. I don’t even like to go to McDonald’s to eat alone and here I am, without John, going to Israel just a few weeks after 9/11. Can you imagine?

The World Trade Center was still smoking at Ground Zero as we transferred in New York from Dallas to an El Al plane bound for Israel. The Second Intifada was underway. Yet, we traveled the whole of Israel…the Bible Lands…the West Bank. I remember two distinct things: the thankfulness of the Jewish people for our being there…not cancelling our trip…and our Christian group being silenced at the wonder of the Orthodox Jews, their love for Torah, and their love for the Land of the Bible. For me and my family, that first visit to Israel was a Divine Appointment.

In early October 2001, less than a month after defending the Jewish people to the anti-Semite she encountered at that flooring convention in Norway, Ann was walking through the city of King David and across the mountains and fields once inhabited by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. She followed Billye Brim from the cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron to Rachel’s Tomb at the northern entrance to Bethlehem. Of course, they visited Christian holy sites, as well, but Ann Stacy was most profoundly impacted by her encounters with the Jewish families Billye’s tour group met in Judea and Samaria. In their faces and through their acts of lovingkindness and hospitality, Ann Stacy saw that the faith of their forefathers had taken root and blossomed in the Jewish people.

That visit 18 years ago was the first of dozens of pilgrimages Ann and her family would make to the holy land. Her husband, children, and grandchildren have all visited Israel now. Ann is going on the AFSI Chizuk Tour this Summer. (See the back cover of this magazine or visit www.afsi.org for details!)

The Stacys have become close with Rabbi Moshe and Leah Goldsmith, who were among the founding families of Itamar, which is situated in the heart of the West Bank’s Samarian Mountains. Rabbi Goldsmith, who is an Orthodox rabbi ordained by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, served as Mayor of Itamar for eight years.

Ann: Well, he is our family Rabbi and Leah is our Jewish daughter. I once asked Leah why she was so understanding of Christians. She told me the story of her father, who was saved by a Christian lady in Poland.

Not only do the Stacys regularly visit their rabbi and his family in Israel, they outfitted a fully kosher guest house on the grounds of Blessing so that the Goldsmiths and other religious Jews have a place to stay when they come to visit!

A Glatt Kosher Log Cabin
The Stacy’s guest house has a stove, refrigerator, microwave, and dishwasher that are only used by their kosher observant guests. The guest house is stocked with plates, cups, utensils, cutting boards, measuring cups, bowls, baking sheets, pots and pans, even sponges and scrubbers that are locked away and strictly reserved for use by their kosher observant guests. This enchanting log cabin also has an electric hotplate and a large capacity kettle because the Stacys well know their shomer Shabbos (Sabbath observant) guests can’t cook from sunset Friday evening until an hour after sunset on Saturday night…and they will want a hot meal and a cup of tea! The Stacys even have several “Shabbos lamps,” which are, frankly, a luxury item for observant Jews. These cleverly designed lamps do not require one to turn on or off electricity to control the amount of light released.

All that and the best mattresses known to mankind.

It’s from Abraham and Sarah that civilized people have learned hospitality, but I’m here to tell you their great-great-grandchildren Ann and John Stacy can teach us all a thing or two about hosting guests.

Ann: Every visitor we have had is a true hero or heroine. Against all odds they have followed G-d’s calling to return to HIS LAND. Without a hidden agenda, we want to help the people of Israel. And we want to provide a haven to the Jewish people. I love it when people who live such tense lives can just relax here and go swimming!

So, tell me, I asked: have any of your neighbors complained about this giant Zionist symbol you are so blatantly displaying on your dock?

The Stacys laugh.

Ann: No! They love it. Everyone knows the river came back the day this flag was raised. Matter of fact, some of the neighbors asked us for Israeli flags they could fly! The builder of the home told me, “Ann, I really believe G-d caused this Lake to go down so you and John could buy this house.”

The head of security for the Shomron region of Israel, Marc Provisor, is a great friend of the Stacy family and a regular visitor to their home. He is well-known to North Texas Christians and is a warmly welcomed guest speaker at churches across the state…but he has not spoken at any area synagogues.

“Why not?” I naturally (and naively) asked when my son and I spent Shabbos with Marc at the Stacy’s last year.

He flashed me a knowing, cynical smile that still expressed kindness and patience. He waited a beat to see if I’d answer my own question. Why was he coming all the way from Israel to Texas and only speaking to Christians?

“The shuls are all raising money for operating expenses and building funds,” he smiled. “UJA Federation and the Jewish Community Centers have their own fundraising needs. They’re not as keen to hear about the Jewish people in Hebron, Yehudah or the Shomron as the Christian Zionists. The Jewish community is not full of people who identify with Israel or consider themselves Zionists. In fact, Zionism is a word that confuses and scares many contemporary American Jews. They certainly don’t lie awake at night worrying about the safety and security of the families in Itamar.”

Ann Stacy, however, lies awake many, many nights worrying about the Jewish people who have bravely returned home to the promised land. She cries just thinking about the families she knows who live in trailers, who live in neighborhoods without security fences, security patrols, and security equipment. Her family has actively raised and generously contributed funds to provide security cameras for Jewish neighborhoods throughout Israel.

This past Summer was particularly dangerous. In protest over the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Gaza erupted in violence and Hamas began an unprecedented campaign of eco-terrorism, sending fire kites, fire balloons, and other incendiary devices into Israel, burning thousands of acres of agricultural crops, forest land, and animal habitats, as well, of course, as injuring and killing Jewish civilians. Little of this made news in the United States. What went entirely unreported were the attempted terrorist attacks thwarted.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed at a December press conference that the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security and counterintelligence service, thwarted 500 terror attacks in 2018.

Bibi doesn’t know that he has Ann and John Stacy, their children, grandchildren, friends, and neighbors to thank for some of the security fences equipped with surveillance cameras and sensors that alerted volunteer security teams, police, the IDF, and the Shin Bet to dangers facing Jewish communities across Israel.

Christian Zionists like the Stacys have no interest in converting the Jewish people. Americans for a Safe Israel, Texans for a Safe Israel, Christians United for Israel and other groups raise funds to preserve and protect Jewish people, Jewish organizations, and Torah-true Judaism.

Why, you may wonder. Why? Why are these non-Jews so much more concerned with Israel than most American Jews?!

Ann Stacy makes it very clear. A line from the prophet Zechariah (8:23): is on her lips faster than I could say my own name:
“Thus says the L-RD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that G-d is with you!”

Then she quotes Isaiah 45:14:

“This is what the L-RD says: ‘The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush, along with the Sabeans, men of stature, will come over to you and will be yours; they will trudge behind you; they will come over in chains and bow down to you. They will confess to you: ‘G-d is indeed with you, and there is no other; there is no other G-d.”

You really owe it to yourself to meet the Stacy family at an AFSI program at Blessing. To be notified of upcoming events, please email info@afsi.org and subscribe to the newsletter.

Please visit us on Facebook for details about an interfaith Shabbos dinner Dallas Jewish Monthly and AFSI Texas will co-host this Summer. We can’t all fit in my dining room, or even in the Stacy’s dining room at Blessing, but hopefully we can share blessings anywhere we are together…and Ann and I hope you will join us.