For more than a decade, Julianne Hale has traveled the world on behalf of the U.S. government—as an analyst of international intelligence.
Now she's authored her first book, a novel entitled Covert Awakening that tells of a terrorist forsaking his past violence to follow Jesus after encountering Him in dreams and visions.
Leaders like Joel Richardson or Georgian and Winnie Banov have shared such real-life stories for years, but it's striking to hear someone in the intelligence community confirming these accounts are true. In a wide-ranging interview, Hale shares about her background, what inspired Covert Awakening and the supernatural move of God she is seeing happen across the earth.
Josh Shepherd: Could you give us a snapshot of your career and world travels so far?
Julianne Hale: I started my career over 10 years ago as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, which took me to Germany for three years. This is really where I gained an avid interest in foreign relations, working with the German Army, law enforcement and NATO partners.
After that, I worked in the field of counterterrorism and foreign relations—focusing on the Near East region for the majority of my career including the radical ideology. This work has taken me to several countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. While overseas, I've participated in discussions with various leaders, delivered humanitarian aid and ministered in refugee camps.
Several ideas I had for my book, and hopefully future books, have come from these travels, whether through first-hand experiences, stories locals have told me or in-depth research for my intelligence job.
Josh Shepherd: Why did you go with Covert Awakening as the title for your novel? Historically, spiritual revivals happen in the public square.
Julianne Hale: Because there's a great awakening to God happening in the Near East right now, but very little is known about it. It often happens underground, in secret house meetings or in caverns in the mountains. They're often small and scattered to avoid attention. If caught, they could be arrested or executed.
Historically yes, revivals have been public, particularly in America where we largely exercise freedom of religion—though even in open societies like this, revivals today rarely receive pervasive media coverage. In the Near East, however, Christians are heavily persecuted, and not just by terrorists. In many nations, it's illegal to proselytize or proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Despite this, even in closed nations where it's nearly impossible for foreign believers to get in, Jesus is appearing to many in dreams and visions. As His glorious appearances spread, so does the Word of God through word of mouth. Muslims are converting to Christianity in unprecedented numbers today, but many are forced into hiding afterwards. In many Muslim families, it is not only acceptable but expected to kill family members who convert.
Josh Shepherd: How does your day job intersect with the call Jesus gave to His followers, to "go and make disciples of all nations"?
Julianne Hale: It's easy to think that, as Christians, we need to go on mission trips or do some kind of local outreach in order to "preach the gospel to the nations." I don't believe that was the intent behind the verse in Mark 16. My day job, and yours—whatever it may be—is our ministry.
If you never step foot outside of the country, you can fulfill this calling just as well as a full-time missionary. It's all about what God has called you to do. If you've been called to the field of government or foreign relations, what a blessing that you can be a witness to everyone you come in contact with, in some of the highest places in the world! God needs people in every industry to be His ambassadors.
In my profession, I take time to listen and pray throughout the day, even when I don't have time for it. It makes every difference in the ideas I receive and people I encounter.
Josh Shepherd: Many Americans avoid trying to understand foreign policy, which gets complex very fast. Why should Christians care about what's happening overseas?
Julianne Hale: Many of the events happening today align closely with end-times prophecies in the Bible. It's important for Christians to be aware in this crucial time in history so we can receive informed strategies on how to pray for these regions. Even the shortest prayer makes a big difference.
Over the last year alone, I think we've seen a massive shift in how polarizing politics has become, even in the church community. If you watch most national news channels, this is quite evident. They rarely show the true face of international events while focusing on partisan politics. If you want to understand foreign events, you must do a little research.
Josh Shepherd: What is the greatest global threat to the gospel?
Julianne Hale: The greatest global threat is the deception of the enemy, in whatever form that may take. This is the primary method Satan uses to thwart the message of the gospel; there's a real battlefield in our minds that happens every day.
Deception is what causes terrorists to believe they're fighting a worthy cause, leading to a global spread of radical Islam. In the last five years alone, this radical message has spread at unprecedented levels online through cunning messages. Many of the attacks we see in the news are conducted by people who are inspired by ISIS' message, but may have never even met another ISIS member.
On a separate issue, deception causes Christians, at times, to live apathetic lives—to prefer living like the rest of the world while relying on the grace of God to save us. The refusal to yield to God's voice, even when it appears hard or unappealing, squelches the gospel from being preached—even if only through the example that we show through the light in our lives. It's a threat that's overcome by engaging with the Lord, being rooted in our true identities by staying in the Word and maintaining the right kind of relationships.
Covert Awakening deals with issues of deception, redemption and finding one's identity throughout the book. Walid, the protagonist, struggles early on after being confronted by the truth of God's love—through dreams, divine encounters and people in his life. When he finally surrenders himself, he's able to see his terrorist group's actions for what they really are. A veil is lifted from his eyes.
I was recently told a true story about a member of ISIS walking into the very church he was about to destroy after seeing a vision of Jesus. He was so moved by the reality of the love he saw in Jesus' eyes that he had to know more. He risked everything to walk in there. Walid goes through a very similar experience in this novel.
Josh Shepherd: Your novel deals with events eerily similar to tragic world events; I think back to the 2012 embassy attack in Benghazi, for instance. Does your story point to real solutions for this brutal cycle of violence?
Julianne Hale: My novel is based on real-world events. Many of the events in Covert Awakening speak to current events in Tunisia, Libya and Syria, to name a few. They are true to life but on an accelerated timeline. For example, the uprising in Tripoli in this book is based on the 2013 overrunning of Tripoli by militia and terrorist groups, which caused the U.S. to move its embassy to Tunis and leave the country.
Fast forward several years, and the meeting of world nations in the novel is based on the Syrian peace negotiators in Geneva and U.N. conferences in Paris. The backstory behind Syria is based on the events happening there from 2014 to the present day. Toward the end, I speak, fictionally, about Syria as it could be years from now.
I believe there are solutions to the violence. If there's one thing I see frequently in the policy world, it's recycled solutions to the same problems: whether the two-state solution, conflict in Syria, counterterrorism initiatives in Libya or other old ideas. We need to adapt and innovate as the problems change.
The cast of characters in my novel represents young minds bringing fresh perspectives to issues that have been around for years. They realize that no foreign government can force change in the region. Military solutions are temporary; diplomacy only works if you can convince the forces you're trying to change to see your point of view. If those fail, what then?
Lasting change comes from within these countries. The characters in Covert Awakening partner with nations that have similar interests and seek to foment change by bringing light into the darkness. They build infrastructure to provide jobs and engage in information campaigns to bring truth, advocate for change and win hearts and minds to the Lord.
In one example, Walid and his team speak with a powerful militia leader just across the Lebanese border into Syria. They realize that if they can get the militia leader and his cohorts on their side, that much of his army will likely follow suit.
It's important to note that the Word of God says that, in the end times, there will be wars and rumors of wars. I don't believe human efforts can stop the violence. Until Jesus returns, that will not happen. But there's much we can do to accelerate the global awakening to the Lord, to rescue those in darkness and terror and believe for massive change. As the darkness proliferates, how much more will the light overpower it!
Josh Shepherd: To support the persecuted church and efforts to spread truth in the Muslim world, what steps do you recommend?
Julianne Hale: More than anything, I would recommend spending time in prayer and petition for not only the persecuted church but also for the individuals who are terrorizing them. I believe this is a key reason that so many persecutors are having dreams and visions, particularly in denied areas.
Also, it's important to stay informed. Several organizations like Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs provide excellent news updates, many of which include how to pray for these people. You may also choose to blog to increase awareness and advocate for action. You can also give offerings and resources to the missions groups who are providing aid, Bibles and food to these regions.
Although some countries are very difficult to enter, several missions groups are now taking trips into the Near East region: Global Celebration, YWAM, Iris Ministries, Vision Beyond Borders, Frontier Alliance International and many more.
If God leads you to go, He will certainly open some amazing doors for you as He did for me. On my last trip to the West Bank, He opened the door for my group to enter refugee camps, a heavily guarded military base and orphanages that have never allowed Westerners on site.
Josh M. Shepherd has served on staff at The Heritage Foundation, Focus on the Family, Bound4LIFE International, and two Congressional offices. His articles have appeared in media outlets including The Daily Signal, Boundless, Charisma Magazine and Christian Headlines, where he serves as a contributor. He earned a degree in Business Marketing from the University of Colorado. Josh and his wife Terri live in the Washington, D.C. area. Follow Josh on Twitter @joshMshep.
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