January 4, 2016
Well friends, this is it. The official final day of our GBC Israel trip. And what a day it was!
We started today near the top of the Mount of Olives, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, with an incredible view of the city. Wes taught about the Jesus’ triumphal entry a few days before His arrest and crucifixion, as well as His final commission to His disciples. Their faithfulness to His call on their lives is the reason why we have heard and obeyed the Gospel thousands of miles away in Texas, and it’s the same call that He’s put on our lives. We then spent a few minutes worshipping together in song, which was both moving, as we reflected on the Gospel, and a bit comedic, as it attracted the attention of at least one camera-happy tourist with little regard for personal space.
January 3, 2016
Today was a day of lessons, of new steps in unfamiliar places, of uncovering even more lives that we can exemplify.
We drove along the cobblestone streets of the city to a vast complex made of stone—the Temple Mount built by Herod the Great. Here we discovered some treasures that are precious to this city and have been for thousands of years. We stood at the foot of the Golden Gate, the only gate that faces east of the Temple Mount and where it is believed that Jesus will return one day, riding on the brilliant clouds that dot the Jerusalem sky. We touched the Wailing Wall, the closest place to the Holy of Holies where men and women have slid creased notes in the cracks and muttered prayers with their fingers pressed to the stone for centuries past.
January 2, 2016
Most of us did not know the story of Bet She’an (House of Strength) as we climbed the tel. We were cold, rain was coming down on us….again. We stopped at the top of the hill and learned that this point was a crossroads between the Jezreel Valley and the Jordan River Valley. Behind us was Mount Gilboa, the place of King Saul’s death. Wes called us to the edge of the tel and we had a view of Beth She’an, an incredible city of the Decapolis. Before us, we could see a theater, streets, a market place…the ruins of a once thriving city. As we began to tour the ruins, Wes reminded us of the prodigal son. Although we don’t know the exact town that Jesus was speaking about in His story, we know that this place offered all of the temptations that would draw a boy from the country away from the faith of his fathers. Because of the time that we have spent in smaller villages such as Qatzrin, we now have the perspective that the hearers of the words of Christ would have had.
January 1, 2016
Today was about as full a day as we’ve had since we arrived. We started our day with a tour of the Yigal Alon Museum in Kibbutz Ginosar, where we’ve been staying the last couple nights on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. The Yigal Alon Museum houses a first century fishing boat that was discovered by a couple of local fisherman in 1986 and excavated and preserved over the course of the following decade. It’s pretty incredible to see and to imagine all the stories of Jesus and the apostles in similar boats throughout the Gospels.
December 31, 2015
We spent our day north of the Sea of Galilee in the region called Golan Heights, the area of Israel closest to Syria and Lebanon. Our first stop was Qatzrin, an ancient Talmudic village that lived under Jewish Law. Here we learned about the Jewish culture of patri-local living where extended families lived next to and around each other sharing common spaces and resources. As one generation would grow and marry, they would build a new house around the patriarch’s house. In one example of this type of patri-local house within Qatzrin, we read Mark 2:1-12, the story of Jesus healing the paralytic. The biblical story is set in a similar house that is over-crowded with people listening to Jesus teach.
December 30, 2015
Today started off by making a climb from nearly 1,300 feet below sea level at our hotel next to the Dead Sea to the top of Masada, a few hundred feet above sea level. The hike from the base to the top of Masada was around an hour, with about 1,500 feet in elevation gain. We then spent the next couple of hours exploring the fortress located on the top of an isolated rock plateau that was Masada, and learning about i’s history and significance to the people of Israel. Masada was built by Herod the Great over the course of several decades, and finished around 8 B.C. Masada was the last stronghold for the Sicarii rebels (Jewish Zealots) during First Jewish-Roman War. The story of the Roman Siege of Masada in around 70 A.D. is particularly iconic because, rather than surrender and become Roman prisoners, historians believe that the leaders of the Sicarii rebels initiated a mass suicide of all of their own (including themselves) that remained in hiding at Masada, in order to die free.
December 29, 2015
Today started with a two hour bus ride southwest from our hotel on the western coast of the Dead Sea to a site called Ein Avdat (a.k.a. Wadi Zin) in the heart of the Negev. The Negev (Hebrew for both “south” and “dry”) is the southernmost border region of Israel. It’s vast and beautiful and consists of fairly treacherous wilderness terrain. The drive out was breathtaking and the bus was filled with laughter. It was a really great way to start the morning. This group is so fun and full of life.
December 28, 2015
I woke up this morning just outside Jerusalem, but as I write this, I’m sitting in a sixth floor hotel room on the southwest coast of the Dead Sea. I’m here with about 35 friends, most of them new. If you’re reading this blog, I trust you know and love at least one of these fine folks and are excited to hear about what they’re experiencing in this special place. Let me begin by assuring you that everyone made it from Texas to Israel safely and in good spirits. From what I can tell, everyone is thoroughly enjoying their time so far.
As the crow flies, we’re only about 65 miles southeast of Jerusalem, where we started our day. But we didn’t come straight here. Our objective today was in our journey, not in our final destination. In fact, to say we took a scenic route to the Dead Sea would be quite an understatement.
November 25, 2015
Our trip to Israel will be here before you know it!
Once we’re on the ground in Israel, we’ll post periodic updates and photos. Check back often or get update notifications using the subscribe options on this page.
We’ll be sharing our travel experiences online with you, our friends and family, to not only bring you along on the journey with us, but to also solicit your ongoing prayer and support. Most of us on this trip have been preparing mentally and spiritually for what will be a life-changing experience in the land. We’re also preparing physically as we train our bodies to handle all the time we’ll spend on our feet walking. So please pray that we would be diligent in our preparations and we would all be ready to learn what God has to teach us!