Thursday, March 30, 2017

Day 15 Wednesday: The Journey Home

This final entry brings to a close a wonderful journey to and through the Fifth Gospel.  We return reinforced in the truth that the very Gospel testified to in the Holy Land is meant to be witnessed to in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the world.  So we return excited to continue to be witnesses.  God was and is faithful.  He is still keeping promises.  The tomb is empty and Jesus Christ is risen indeed.  And as He promised, He re-established Israel on the exact day He said He would and has been bringing the Jews home from the four corners of the world.  Israel is the center of the world and all history because God chose it to be that way.

There are no pictures for today.  Sorry.  But there are a few stories.  Especially one.  We woke early and the Prima Kings hotel provided almost a full breakfast spread for us at 5:45 a.m.  It was a blessing to stay there.  David loaded our bags and we were on our way at 6:15.  Nir was not able to be with us because he was flying out to the states just an hour after us.  We had hoped to see him at the airport but we ran into a little problem.  As we checked in, we were told that somehow, someone changed Dee's ticket and she was supposed to be on the earlier flight that went out at 7:30.  I was already checked in and returned to the counter to assist Dee.  We were told it was a full flight and that they were leaving people behind.  We were directed to a ticketing agent for British Airways away from the counters.  She told us we had paid $600 to change the ticket to that flight.  We didn't.  (Dee at this point was concerned she was extending her trip and she would be all alone.  That wasn't going to happen.  She would not be left alone and we knew the Lord would provide a way.)  The ticket agent said she couldn't make the call about what to do and sent us back to the place we began.  Meanwhile the rest of the group went through security and proceeded to the gate.  Dee and I were finally told that they were going to confirm her on our flights but that once they did we would have to run.  We received her boarding passes, went through the second security check point, through a special assist counter at the exit Border control, through the X-ray of our belongs, and headed for the gate.  The gate was closing in ten minutes and we had to go to the very end of the concourse.  I grabbed Dee's bag and she did an amazing imitation of O.J. Simpson in the old Avis commercials.  We heard the final call in the midst of our sprint and arrived in time to be among the last people boarded.  Great job Dee!!

The flights home were smooth and we enjoyed a few hours at Heathrow.  We experienced being off loaded and on-loaded using buses at Heathrow.  That was a unique feature we did not expect.  We arrived in Toronto a half hour early, and were greeted by Herb Schoenfeld and Pastor Shawn Dewey.  We had a quiet trip home (some sleeping) and our journey ended with hugs and goodbyes.

We became family on this journey as is apt to happen.  Everyone was a blessing to all the others.  We packed our days full and saw much.  We experienced church as Dan and Co will always be a part of our family and we had shared experiences with believers from several other countries along the way.

Thanks for taking the journey with us through this blog.  Next year in Jerusalem!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Day 14 Tuesday: Sadness, Joy and Next Year

Today was different in many ways.  First, everyone had the morning free to pack, shop, or meander and take in more of the Holy City before we depart tomorrow.  A number of us roamed back into the Old City to get final gifts.  We met Nir and David at 1:00 p.m. and headed toward the Garden Tomb.  I asked Nir and David to take us up by the Spanish Embassy first so we could see the area where our friend Steven is moving his church.  Please be praying for this transition.

Our major stop for the day was the Garden Tomb.  Bertil Vik was our local guide.  Even his Swedish emotions came out (his words) as he told of the possibility of this being the location where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.  The Place of the Skull (Golgatha) was below us behind the Arab bus station.  Whereas the hill in years past had a clearly distinguishable look of the face of a skill, a heavy snow storm two years ago caused the eye sockets to collapse, so they are no longer visible.  In any case, we moved to the Garden area, containing a very large cistern and of course, an empty tomb.  The tomb, complete with weeping area and one cut out grave perfectly fits the description in the Scriptures.  Was it the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimethea? Who knows.  It does not matter.  It is empty, and for that we are eternally grateful.  As it says in Romans, "and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power[b] by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord."

We went to a small chapel area, reviewed our time together, gave testimonies about our journey, had Dan lead us in worship, then Mike led us in taking communion together.  Each of us got to keep the olive wood cup we drank from for communion. It was a special time.

Nir asked for some time together, so he took us to a park across the street from the King Solomon hotel.  He showed us Herod's family tomb located right there in the middle of town.  He then shared his thanks with us for coming, and gave each of us a gift, a book his wife helped him put together.  It is focused on light, and contains many of the Scriptures which refer to light as well as many pictures from across the country.

It is a common practice at the end of Pesach to say, "Next Year in Jerusalem."  This is our mantra as well.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Day 13 Monday: From the Depths to the Deep

Yad Vashem.  It means a place and a name.  It is a memorial to the Holocaust.  The main building is slanted to convey going into the depths of hell.  Over 6 million Jews entered into the depths of a hellish reality.  We did emotionally too.  This was the start of our day.  We walked with them as anti-semitism rose, and no one said anything.  We heard and saw how the Nazis herded the Jews into ghettos, and no one said anything.  We teared up as we followed them into the concentration camps and eventually the gas chambers and no one said anything.  The world stood silent as a people were facing genocide. The children's memorial there was the last part of our visit.  Hearing the names being read of the one and a half million children who died was sobering.

We had an early lunch in the German quarter of the city.  Falafel for some.  Pizza or salad for others. Coffee for some of us.  We then headed for the City of David.  (No, not Bethlehem).  The original Jebusite city that David conquered and made his capital was only about 13 acres, located between the Kidron and Tyropean valleys below Mount Moriah. Recent archeological finds confirmed this as the probable site for the palace of the Davidic dynasty.  Some of us walked the famed Hezekiah's tunnel, a water tunnel that runs almost a half mile from the area of the Gihon spring to the pool of Siloam.  Hezekiah had his engineers dig deep into the bedrock to route water into the city to protect it from the coming invasion of the Assyrians. This was an exhilarating experience.  We met the rest of the group there and then went by bus to the Davidson Center near the Southern Wall.

This part of our journey as much or more than any other would qualify us to sing the song, "I walked today where Jesus walked."  We stood on the first century street walked by all those going up to the Temple or down through the city to the Pool of Siloam.  We saw the large stones that evidence the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.  They crashed down off the platform onto the street below and have remained there since.  We sat on the steps used by every pilgrim going up to offer sacrifices three times each year.  Somewhere on these stairs was where Mary and Joseph found their twelve year old son sitting and interacting with teachers when his parents found Him missing.  We took a group photo sitting on these stairs.

Part of the group then returned to the hotel and part of the group was dropped near the Jaffa Gate and walked to the Christian Quarter to do some final shopping. Ask Pastor Mike about his experience. :-)

But we weren't done yet.  After supper we walked back to the area of the Jaffa Gate to David's Citadel.  We went in and witnessed a laser light show that used lights and music to show us Jerusalem from creation to the present day.  It was enjoyable.

Our final day in the Holy Land awaits us tomorrow.