Marhaba and shalom! What a day, what a week! Where to even begin? My mind is trying to process all the awe-struck wonders we experienced today. As I ride the bus on our way to lunch in Jericho, salty tears run down my cheek reflecting on all that was taken in–happy tears.
Yesterday Pastor Chuck asked the team to reflect on a word, a word he challenged us to use and pray over for the next few days: Consecration.
We started our morning like any other, breakfast at the hotel and bus ride to our next adventure. We had a pit stop where we were greeted by Mooshy the camel. To our surprise, the leaders arranged for us to ride Mooshy 🐫.
We continued on to our first site of the day, En Gedi. It’s about 90 degree with little to no shade and very dry. We hiked about a mile with stops every now and then for a teaching or to soak in the beautiful David waterfalls. En Gedi is the place where David hid in a cave from King Saul. Craig shared the story with us as we looked up to find a number of caves in the same area we were in, most likely one of which David would have hid in.
We then embarked to our next site which was Qumran. This is the exact spot where almost all of the Dead Sea Old Testament scrolls were found. About 14 caves total, the site is still an active site as they continue to search for more artifacts.
Last, we met Pastor Chuck and Pam at the Jordan River where baptisms are conducted, my favorite experience thus far. The Jordan River holds great meaning in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Stories that come to mind include tribes of Israel crossing the river on dry ground to enter the Promised Land with Joshua after wandering in the desert for years. John the Baptist baptizing Jesus in the waters of the Jordan River. The sick and disabled coming to the Jordan for healing. Some of the group decided to get re-baptized, of course I chose to be a part of this significant experience. I mean we were at the place where Jesus was baptized! I still can’t believe it. 🤯 I have to ask my friend and roommate Toni to pinch me at times because I am in a constant state of disbelief. This event marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
Consecration. I’ve been meditating on this word today, praying over the areas I ask God to consecrate in my life and in my team members’ lives as we spend the next 7 days in the Holy Land together. God is good! So, so good!
Time for a late lunch, ma salemeh!
It is Friday! And we are all so excited for this day. We have four amazing places to visit and each one so full of biblical history. So where does one start…
We ventured out today to Ein Gedi. Oh! But wait. We have a detour on the way. The first stop of the day was to go on a camel ride. And I said “WHAT? Count me in!” Most of the Team elected to “go for it” and took the chance. A bit bumpy of a ride but it was fun. Lots of laughs!
Back to the coach. We all got on and we’re excited to go explore the Ein Gedi. Pastor Craig taught us about the history of this area. This is where David ran to hide from King Saul who was trying to kill him; as he felt David was trying to take his throne. Saul found out that David and his men were hiding there and he took 3000 able young men from all Israel and set out to look for him. When Saul went into a cave by himself, he did not know that David and his men were hiding in there. “The men said to David, ‘This is the day the Lord spoke of when He said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’ Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off the corner of Saul’s Robe.” 1 Samuel 24:3–4
“Afterword, David was conscience stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went away.” Saul had left the cave and David ran after him to make himself known to Saul and to let him know that he did not mean any harm to Saul. He said to Saul, “Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said I will not lay my hand on my Lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.”
The place was amazing. We hiked to several waterfalls which brought such beauty to this desert region.
There were several caves along the mountain side. Who knows which one could have been the one that David and his men were hiding in.
And off we go again! This time we are heading to Qumran, the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found between 1947-1956. There were 11 caves in which they discovered every book of the Old Testament except Esther. They are approximately 2000 years old, dating from the third century BC to the first century AD. The Word of God was provided by God and given to us so that we may know Him too. “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
We drove up to the Jordon River to get baptized where Jesus was baptized. I could feel the Spirit stirring inside me as I was overcome with so many emotions and joy as to what we were all going to experience. We quickly went to purchase our robe coverings and to change into them. I chose a robe that had a picture of the Holy Spirit; a dove with its wings fully extended. It said, “Jesus when He was baptized saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting upon him.” Matthew 3:16.
Pastor Chuck and his darling wife Pam joined us at the Jordon river. Everyone was filled with excitement as we anticipated going into the Jordon and being baptized like Christ was by John the Baptist. Ours were to be done by Pastor Chuck and Pam. We watched as each one of us walked down the steps and into the water; and were greeted by Pastor Chuck and Pam. He said a blessing over each one and asked if we believed that Jesus was the Christ and if we accepted Him completely into our life. Cheers went up as each person emerged from under the waters of the Jordon and there was laughter and hugs given as they came up from the river. It was one of the most spiritual encounters and blessings I have received. Tears were flowing for me the moment we pulled up. It was something I had dreamed about doing when I was younger. I am so glad God answer prayers!
It was time again to hit the road. We traveled to Jericho where we were treated to a savory lunch. As we were walking in there was music and drums being played. It had such an authentic flair. The food was delicious; as all our meals have been. And now it was off to the Dead Sea.
Did you know that the Dead Sea is 430.5 meters below sea level? It is the lowest land-based elevation in the world. I found that fascinating. As we all carefully lowered ourselves into the water, trying to avoid splashing and getting water in our eyes, we all began to laugh again as we were amazed how we could all float. The silky feeling over our skin from all the minerals in the water felt good.
As we boarded the coach for our ride back to the hotel, I could not help but smile and thank Our Lord for the beautiful day He gave us! The biblical places we were able to visit to learn more about Him, and feel closer to Him, gave me an enormous amount of joy and love in my heart. “When you said, ‘Seek My face!’ Your face, LORD, I will seek.” Psalms 27:8