Blessings in the Rain
By Callie Yeager
It’s been another BIG DAY in Israel. We were able to eat breakfast privately in the bar area this morning as a group. Walking into that room this morning I was struck by the incredible service that the staff at the Ein Gev Resort provide. Walking counterclockwise around the room, I found a full service breakfast bar with all kinds of different breads and rolls (with a toaster!) at the beginning of the line, followed by juice, water, and a cappuccino maker, then eggs, hot dishes, next by vegetables and salads, a cheese assortment and fruits, and finally sweet breads, yogurt and cereal. We eat well here!
We started our day with sh’ma and a devotional by Russell. It was a great reminder to not claim anything as our own but offer it to our Lord. That included feeling the “need” to be comfortable. It was a good word to start our day because rain was our constant companion wherever we went for the rest of it.
We went to Gamla for the first stop, where Ronan gave an incredible account of the siege that took place in 67 AD. This ancient city looks like a camel’s hump and is cliff that juts out from the rest of the land, giving it only one side that it can be entered on. About 9,000 Zealots resided there in the first century, including the popular first century historian many of us know as Josephus. In 67, Romans were taking strongholds held by the Zealots by force at the time, and Gamla was no different. By the end of the battle, many Romans died after the city wall fell on them, but the Romans broke through after that killing 4,000, and the other 5,000 held so tightly to their ideals and refusal to serve Rome that they jumped to their death. We gathered there in the synagogue of those city ruins, which is the oldest synagogue, predating the first century. Andrew taught and challenged us there with the question “What are we being zealous for other than Christ?”
Our next stop was Chorizan, the second of the three triangle cities we have visited that Jesus went to teach and perform miracles. Here Matt taught the importance of what a house meant to a Jew in the first century, using the physical illustration of the architecture and ruins that were left in this ancient city. He then gave us the layout of a synagogue by allowing the Forge students to play a little trivia. It is one of the “Woe Cities” that Jesus refers to at the end of Matthew 11. It is referred to as such because it was given the chance, more than many cities, to receive the Messiah and repent from their ways, but he was just a man to them whose teachings were revered but not applied. Matt challenged us well by asking us to examine our lives and not be so familiar with only appreciating Christ’s teachings and not apply it. Sh’ma Christ’s teachings.
Bethsaida was the last of the three triangle cities that we visited and we were blessed enough to sit under an awning at this time. This was one of the few moments we had been shielded from the rain today, and I can’t express how thankful we were. Matt taught here and spoke on blindness, because this is the city in Mark 8 where Jesus healed the blind man. Matt compared that to the spiritual blindness the disciples still have at this point in Jesus’s ministry, and it is only through His grace that believers are given sight to see God’s goodness. We commemorated this blessing by singing “Amazing Grace” at that site, because before we knew Christ we were all “once blind” and because of his mercy “now (we) see.”
The last site we went to today was the Jordan River. Matt painted a wonderful picture for us communicating the importance of what this river has meant for God’s people over time, as well as its importance played in baptizing believers into new life. It was an incredible time for our group as it has been for so many believers because it is a river of transition and declaration. This was as true for the Israelites in the Old Testament as it is for us today. A few members of our group were able to take this time to make their declaration of hope in Christ to the world by being baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Many other members of our group took a moment to make declarations of other kind by placing their feet in the water of the Jordan, myself included.
All in all, it was quite a soggy and chilly day, but one filled with many blessings and challenges. We continue to remain healthy and uninjured and that is only a testament to God’s goodness and the prayers being prayed by so many of our friends and family. Thank you so much for praying for us and we can’t wait to share with what a BIG DAY we have tomorrow in Israel.