Israel-in-Depth with Rod VanSolkema

June 22 - July 4, 2015

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The Jordan River

Today I was reminded about the privilege we have to be under the leadership and teaching of Rod. So far this trip to God’s country has been shaping. The sight of the numerous different places and how they tie into their biblical stories has illuminated meaning within the bible to depths that I have never explored before. After seeing the sights, understanding the biblical geographical context, and having Rod give passionate and detailed sermons, I can never look at the bible, Jesus, or the mission that we have as Disciples of Christ, the same. Rod has left us with a clear message; that it is our Christian duty to pick up our crosses, journey to the dark places of the world, and bring shalom into chaos wherever God has placed us for the glory of God.

In light of what is written above, today was a very special day. Today we were able to witness numerous different Christian brothers and sisters take a baptismal plunge into the Jordan River. For many it was a powerful moment of obedience and an event that recognizes each person’s commitment to follow Christ into the darkness of the world so that we can partner with God as he ushers in his kingdom. On top of the baptisms, the whole group spent time in the Jordan doing Mikvah, which is a ritual cleansing that symbolizes the repentance of our head, heart, hands, and feet. As we walked away from the river it became increasingly evident that our communal cleansing at the Jordan was very powerful.

On top of visiting the Jordan, we also visited Beth She’an and Jericho. At Beth She’an were able to receive a vivid picture of how the Roman culture heavily impacted the Jewish world. But it doesn’t stop there. Thanks to Rod we were able to see how culture effects how faith manifests itself. It became increasingly clear that we as Christians must be aware of the implicit messages that are given off by the way in which we practice the Christian faith.

Beth Shean

Located 17 miles (27 km) south of the Sea of Galilee, Beth Shean is situated at the strategic junction of the Harod and Jordan Valleys. The fertility of the land and the abundance of water led the Jewish sages to say, “If the Garden of Eden is in the land of Israel, then its gate is Beth Shean.” It is no surprise then that the site has been almost continuously settled from the Chalcolithic period to the present.

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Visiting the Jordan and Beth She’an were both incredible experiences, but there was something particularly special about our walk from Jericho to Jerusalem. We journeyed many miles on a small path within the ascending mountains that lead to Jerusalem. It was powerful to know that each step that we took on that path was a step that Jesus took towards Jerusalem for Passover, where he would be beaten, tortured, and crucified for the sins those whom he loves. As I walked, I tried to imagine the weight of his footsteps and the anxiety he must have felt as he approached his death. What a loving savior.

Jericho

The “City of Palms” spreads out on the west side of the Jordan River at 825 feet below sea level. In Jesus’ day a new center had been constructed on the wadi banks in the foreground by the Hasmonean rulers and Herod the Great.

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Overall today was moving and a gift from God. I am so grateful for the way God is using this trip to inspire people to follow him whole-heartedly. Thank you for all of you who are praying for us.

- Jackson Brown

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