Photos & Re-entry

Photos & Re-entry

Today the team is en route back to the US. Please pray for safety and protection as they make the journey home.

On their return trip, Supt. Randy challenged the travelers to submit a photo to a group photo contest. The guidelines were simple: the photo had to have been taken on the trip and could not be retouched. Each individual could submit one photo. There were no guidelines as to content or subject matter.

While the voting has been closed, we thought you might enjoy seeing the entries.

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Bethlehem

Bethlehem

Our day began overlooking a panoramic view of the Holy City. We talked of the many ways Jerusalem shows fulfillment of scripture and acknowledgement of Christ as Savior. Acts 1 says “He appeared to them over a period  of 40 days”…you will receive power when the HOly Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

We took some time to pray and reflect on the steps Jesus climbed on the way to the cross. His words “Be still and know that I am God came alive as we thought about His suffering and fortitude on that journey.

Church of the NativityWe spent time in Bethlehem. As a fulfillment of prophesy we viewed the church of the nativity which is the oldest church building in Christendom built where the stable was located for the birth of Christ. What a joy to be where our Savior came to us as a baby. 40 years ago there were 70% of the population in Bethlehem that were Christians. Now  only 7% are Christians. We were challenged by our tour guide to pray for this country.

cave.jpgWe ended our day at the Shepherds Field and sang Christmas songs, read the Christmas story and listened to a great devotional by our Superintendent Randy. It was exciting to be where the shepherds could have watched their flocks during Jesus’ time!

Tomorrow is our final day. We have learned a ton. We have prayed a lot. We have felt the presence of the Lord so much. Hopefully we can be a blessing when we return!

Jon and Sheryl Strutz

A Day Below Sea Level

A Day Below Sea Level

If you thought you had to be in a submarine to spend a day below sea level then you have never been to the Dead Sea in Israel. The Dead Sea is located in a rift in the earth’s surface that stretches from north of Israel in Lebanon to Mozambique in Africa. The Dead Sea is the lowest place on the surface of the Earth at around 1300 feet below sea level. As we traveled from Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea, we passed the Good Samaritan Inn, which commemorates the story Jesus told of the Samaritan taking care of the man who had been attacked by thieves. One of the realities for all of us is that the Bible is coming alive as we travel the Holy Lands and see the places we read about and where the teachings were given.

Here are a few pictures that outline our day. We started at En Gedi where David took refuge when King Saul was hunting him. This picture is of a beautiful waterfall that is fed by a natural spring that is higher up on the mountain. We sang together and Pastor Jon Strutz shared a devotional

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A highlight of the day was to go up to the high stronghold and palace of King Herod at Masada. You may remember the story of Masada and the zealots who, when faced with their gates finally being destroyed, took their own lives rather than being taken by the Romans in 73 AD. What an incredible place filled with wonder and sadness. Today, in modern Israel, many Israeli military personnel take part in their final swearing in ceremony on top of Masada.

 

Did you know that you cannot sink in the Dead Sea? That is right. With no effort at all you simply lay back, stretch out and float. A cool experience but you have to be really careful to not get the water in your eyes or mouth. If you ever make it to Israel than this is a “must” experience!

The caves at Qumran were used by God to preserve copies of the Scriptures for two thousand years. An amazing find discovered by a shepherd boy throwing a stone into a cave. The cave in the picture below contained some of the most extensive and important scrolls found in clay pots.

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Our day concluded with a short visit to Jericho. (Check out this short video!) Wow, Joshua did fight the battle of Jericho and walls came tumbling down. Archeological digs have found what is believed to be civilizations dating back long before Joshua led the people of Israel across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Standing on this location helps us to remember that God is able to do immeasurably more than we think possible. So, keep your chins up, look up and expect the help and deliverance of God as you walk with Him.

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Tom and Roberta Hurt

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today we spent the entire day in the City of Jerusalem. All flags were at half mast because it is Holocaust Remembrance Day. At 10am, sirens sounded for two minutes as all activity ceased and we joined the rest of the nation in silent respect for the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. (Click here for a video.)

Our first experience was to visit the Wailing Wall, the closest area to the Temple’s Holy of Holies. Areas of the wall are segregated for men and women. Before entering the prayer area, we were symbolically purified by cleansing our hands at a washing station modeled after one used by the priests in the temple. A row of white plastic chairs sit a few feet back from the wall to accommodate the elderly. The wall is massive and the pale limestone blocks are smooth and cool to the touch. Prayers written on small pieces of white paper are rolled or folded and inserted into cracks in the stone. Delicate green plants grow sporadically between some of the stones and birds rest in crevasses and sing their praises as sweetly as any choir. While I knew we were visiting a site holy to the Jews, I had not anticipated it would be a holy experience for me as I experienced God at the Wailing Wall.

Walling Wall Pic

Underground tunnels connect the western wall to the northwest side of the temple mount. While it was fascinating to walk a labyrinth of stone-enclosed tunnels which reveal awesome architectural and masonry skills, it felt as if we were Hobbits wandering the goblin passages of Misty Mountain until we somehow meandered into the daylight again.

Back in the old city, we walked through parts of the Muslim and Jewish Quarters. The streets were crowded with tourists from all over the world, vendors hawking their wares, local people shopping, school children hurrying to lunch or playtime and the occasional cat meandering through it all. We spotted a dog with a second story vista (pictured below) silently watching all the activity. Also watching was the Israeli military, who were stationed throughout the Old City.

Streets of Jerusalem dog

We (and the hundreds of other pilgrims) visited the Upper Room where Christ and his disciples celebrated Passover. The large room has stone ceilings, floor and walls and artistic additions in stonework and stained glass from the various groups who have controlled the Holy City. The Upper Room is under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism so that every religious group has access to this important Biblical site.

Israel has plans to build a third temple and our group was able to see some of the items (such as a menorah, priestly garments and horns) which have already been completed for use once the building is constructed. All items are made following instructions in the Old  Testament.

Menorah pic

We visited a museum with a 1/50 scale of the City of Jerusalem as it looked before the sacking of the city in 68 AD. The model was made by Hans Kroch to honor his son, who was killed in the 1948 War of Independence. Also at the museum were some of the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran. Our guide, Malcolm Cartier, said we may be the final generation to see the scrolls because even under special conditions, the scrolls slowly disintegrate when on display.

Model pic

Our final stop of the day was to the Holocaust Museum. Yad Vashem, established in 1953, uses artifacts, photographs, videos of survivors and placards of information to follow the rise of anti-Semitism through the persecution and attempted total destruction of the Jewish People. Although normally photography is not allowed inside the buildings, today it was allowed because it is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Holocaust pic

Every day of our tour is truly amazing. Bible people, places and stories are made more understandable and relatable as we experience the Holy Land and walk where Jesus walked. Today we followed in almost 11,000 of Jesus steps as we explored the Holy City.

Shalom,
Victoria Henderson

(pictures by Julie Sams)

Sunday

Sunday

This morning, we headed south to The Negev region of Israel into the heart of the Philistine area. We drove through Bet Shemesh where the Ark of the Covenant was returned by the Philistines. They had captured it but it caused them plagues so they sent it on a cart pulled by two cows. When the cows brought it to Bet Shemesh, 70 people died because they looked into the ark.

We’ve seen so many places that bring Sunday School stories to life. Probably the most famous one is David and Goliath where the battle was fought in the Valley of Elah.

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We saw where David chose the stone that killed Goliath. We read the story as a play, with different “actors” reading their part. It was surprising how small the hills were where the Philistines and Saul’s armies stood facing against each other.

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As we traveled to Arad, we saw fields of wheat which reminded us of the story of Ruth and Boaz. The guide reminded us that we were on a route that Mary and Joseph would have taken Jesus through on their way to Egypt from Bethlehem. Arad was the first walled city the 10 spies would have seen while scouting out the land for Moses.
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In modern-day Arad, we visited a very moving memorial to the Holocaust juxtaposing the crucifixion of Christ with the suffering of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis. It is called the Fountain of Tears. The artist is creating another one just outside of Auschwitz. We were all impacted by this, especially as it is the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

img_0353.jpgBeersheba was our last stop for the day. It is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. Both Abraham and Isaac dug wells. This is where Abraham and Abimelech made a peace covenant over the well. Jacob had his dream about a stairway to heaven after leaving Beersheba. Also, this is where the prophet Elijah took refuge when Jezebel wanted him killed.

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It was another busy day of sight-seeing and learning. We will all have lots to share when we get home.

IMG_0355Randy and Linda Myers

Saturday

Saturday

We left Tiberius today driving from the beautiful Sea of Galilee en route to Jerusalem through the center of Samaria. We had a fun new tour guide Michael for the day. He shared his passion for Jesus and Jerusalem. He is a great young man who loves the Lord and wants everyone to experience that same loving relationship.
It is a gift for us to be where Jesus showed Himself to the world. Today we crossed the border into the West Bank area. Yes we were in the area of the world that has been in the news for a long time. We shopped and ate there and had a great time.
We spent time at Gideon’s Springs. We reenacted the choosing of the best soldiers who drank from the spring.
We also visited Jacob’s Well and drank from the well, If you can watch the video you will see Tom Hurt reeling up the bucket from 200 feet down into the well. The Greek Orthodox church has been attacked over 50 times in the last 20 years. This is where Jesus met the Samaritan woman.
We also visited a sight where Herod the Great built a Roman temple of Augustus in honor of Caesar Augustus . This part of the journey was hot and very windy but exciting,

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As we drove into Jerusalem our group prayed the Covenant of Abraham to begin our time in the city.
We finished the evening with a stroll to the Wailing Wall. What an incredible sight of so many praying there. (It was so incredible that the first group to leave the wall in a taxi got lost—remember it was the driver who got lost. We arrived back after all the other taxis arrived.)

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This day brought us to the Holy City which is where we will spend the next 5 days exploring more of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, Wish you were here!

Jon and Sheryl Strutz

The Heart of the Ministry of Jesus

The Heart of the Ministry of Jesus

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“Into the Heart of the Ministry of Jesus” is what our guide, Malcolm, said about the places we visited and experienced today. Once again it was a full day of visiting sites around the Sea of Galilee. After dinner tonight I asked five individuals what they felt was the most impactful and significant experience for each personally. Very specific things were mentioned about how each site impacted them. Where did we visit today? We visited some of the ‘big name” locations of the life of Jesus and then a site which is not directly linked to His life.

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First, we traveled to Magdala, which is the home of Mary Magdalene; one person mentioned in all four Gospels and carried the initial news of the resurrection back to the disciples. An entirely new excavation site has opened since we came to Israel in 2007 revealing incredible discoveries. One of those discoveries is a small 1st century synagogue. (Pictured above). Because of its east-west orientation instead of the normal north-south orientation, our guide feels it gives reasonable evidence that it was a Messianic Synagogue, in other words, a synagogue built and used by Christian Jews.

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The Mount of the Beatitudes is a beautiful location maintained by a division of nuns. It overlooks the Sea of Galilee and the site definitely seems to fit the description given in the Bible. We had a few minutes to just sit and give thought to what Jesus taught in the Beatitudes and the entire Sermon on the Mount. It is awesome to have the privilege to read and consider Jesus’ teaching in the place where he likely taught the crowd following him.

From the Mount of the Beatitudes, we went a short distance to Tabgha where Jesus met with his disciples following his resurrection. Peter and other disciples had gone back to fishing and Jesus met them in the morning after a discouraging night of fishing. He called to them to cast their nets to the other side of the boat and they caught a huge number of fish- 153. Becoming aware it was Jesus on the seashore, Peter jumped in and swam to shore. This is the location where, in John 21, Jesus has fixed a breakfast for the disciples and reinstates Peter to ministry. A spiritually powerful experience for us.

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A short distance from Tabgha is the home of Jesus in the Galilee, Capernaum. So many miracles were done in Capernaum- healing of the man with withered hand, man lowered through the roof by four friends, Peter’s mother-in-law and others. The picture above is of a 4th century synagogue built over the foundation of a 1st century synagogue. It is so powerful in our life to know that we are definitely in a place where Jesus lived and ministered to the people.

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After lunch, we drove to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee to where the Jordan River flows out and makes its way to the Dead Sea. Thirty-two of our tour group were baptized, the majority were rededication baptisms but three were first time baptisms. Two Romanian women, a mother and daughter, had come to be baptized and were not with anyone. They joined our baptism experience and we felt honored to help them experience what was so wonderful for our group.

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Our last stop of the day was the Decapolis city of Bet Shean. The excavation at this location is very significant and reveals a city that reaches back in time to before the Exodus from Egypt. Several climbed the stairs to the top of the hill in the background to the original stronghold. It was on the walls of this city that the Philistines hanged King Saul’s lifeless body after their defeat of Israel. As you look out over this powerful city and think of the power of kings and governments it is good to know and remember that they have not, and ultimately will never be able to, hold back the Good News of Jesus. He is the true King and His Reign is over all!

Tom and Roberta Hurt