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Holy Land Day One

Doug Husen

A joyful and giddy group of 31 arrived at 1:30 a.m. with expectations of a true bucket-list journey!  This is the Crossroads – Holy Lands mission team 2022.  After final weighing of luggage and suitcases, a motor coach roared as it took the eager travelers toward LAX. A symphony of teamwork unloaded nearly 60 suitcases, nearly half with the tools of our trade or mission (puppets, children’s games, project supplies).  Once in the Air Canada lobby, the chatter subsides.  We board the plane in teams.  Some will be able to sleep.  Others, no… just too excited.  A layover in Toronto feels like a ‘blink’ and its airborne for another 10 hours over the Atlantic, Ireland, England, Germany, Southeast Europe, the Adriatic sea, and the Aegean Sea until our destination is on the horizon: Tel Aviv, Israel.

Now, our senses are stimulated, the sun has risen, its Saturday morning–peaceful as the Jews abandon the streets for their Sabbath rest.  We are greeted by Michael, our host and pastor as well as our bus operator “Amin”.  I would learn at our first break that he has six children and five grandchildren (he has me beat on both accounts).  He is Arabic speaking, and Hebrew and English as well.  He enjoys jousting with Priscilla from our team who learned Arabic growing up in a family of Lebanese descent.  I marvel at the young and old on our team.  You will meet them in the blog and journal soon enough.  Each chosen by God for this time and place.

There is time to stop for an amazing, traditional Mediterranean lunch in groups of 8 on tables that feel more like couches.  We dip our bread in freshly pressed humus, the vegetables–all fresh and a delight to the taste buds, a main course of lamb, beef, and chicken Kabobs.  We are rejuvenated. The conversation is as delightful as the food and service.  How did all the young people end up at the same table?  New friendships forming!  Old ones enjoyed.  Just the beginning.  Today, only time to take in the sense of history from the top of the Mount of Olives.  We peer toward the Eastern Gate where Jesus one day will return.  Below us, tombs and graves of obscure people and the famous–very likely the prince of prophets, Isaiah himself is interred here for thousands of years.  This is exciting!  Just the beginning.  Its time to check into our hotel.  We are in Jerusalem!

Craig Olson

When training for short-term missions trips, a well-taught principle goes something like this: Our Christ-like example is necessary when interacting with those we’re attempting to reach. It’s easy to assume that this is just a focus while in country but  the Lord often provides opportunities while traveling. And this trip was no different.

I had the privilege of sitting next to Betty on our leg from Toronto to Tel Aviv. Betty is a native of Alabama currently living in Florida working on her second marriage with her husband of 2 years. It would be five years ago that her marriage with her first husband ended after 30 years and 5 children. Her now ex-husband, a self-proclaimed Christian, was unfaithful to Betty. Over the past 5 years, Betty’s faith has wavered due to this hurt and pain. A message rang true in my mind that not only did I get to encourage her, but this story will also be an encouragement to our team and all we interact with while in country: “A strong faith in Jesus requires our eyes to be focused on Him, NOT on his followers.”  Everyone around us will let us down, but Jesus never will. How we live our lives can be a great example for others. But it’s Jesus we must always point others toward. As we minister to one another and to others these next two weeks, may our unwavering faith be centered upon the ever-unchanging One.

Holy Land Day Two

Damian Beltran

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24

Waking up in Jerusalem was amazing. I watched the sun come up as the light breeze cooled the air. I dove into my quiet time and I felt complete peace.

I had an amazing opportunity to share a devotional with the church in Palestine. I will admit that I was a little nervous to share this devotional, but every time I thought about what the Lord taught me, I had complete peace.

It’s in those times where I remind myself where I am, and who came before me, and that gives me peace–peace that covers every worry, doubt, and feeling of anxiousness. Going on a missions trip is something way out of my comfort zone, but doing the will of the Lord, serving His people, I have definitely felt the Lord shine His face upon me.

Steve McKinley 

Today has been our first full day here in the Holy Land. I am still trying to get adjusted to the 10 hour time difference 😬.

The day started with breakfast at the hotel. I then read my Bible which was super surreal… reading about the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24, yet that happening just a few miles away 🤯🤯🤯.

We boarded the busses for church in Ramallah which was very special. I got to meet some new friends Layla & Elias (in the first photo below). They literally invited Jessica and me to go to a coffee shop within the first 10 minutes of meeting them… which is a glimpse of how loving the people are. I appreciate seeing first-hand how the young adult community here supports each other in their careers and in their faith.

Pastor Galen got to preach this morning a very much-needed word:  How Christianity is one generation away from distinction if we aren’t making disciples. He was inspiring and motivating us to live out The Great Commission. Yesterday afternoon after we landed we saw where Jesus ascended…and then today we are hearing about what took place in that moment. WOW. POWERFUL.

We are all loving it here. I am eager for all the touring we are going to do in the coming days, and the fun we are going to have at VBS 🙌.

Holy Land Day Three

Ed Dennis

How do you react to a smile? What joy do you experience when someone smiles at you with their whole face? Smiles are a part of a language that crosses borders.

We crossed from Israel into Palestine and I’m told most of the language I hear is Arabic but each of the languages I hear sound both strangely alike and unknown at the same time. How can we communicate without a common language ? I honestly hold back a bit, afraid to cross some border into “unknown territory”. So, I smile a little, nod my head, say “thank you” mostly with my lips and little voice. In return I hope to get a small smile or nod or a mumbled response I can translate into “they heard me and I hope it was ok?”

BUT NOT HERE IN THIS CHURCH, not here among these Jesus people!

The people of Ramallah Local Church have greeted me with full-on smiles and hearty “welcome” that glows from deep within their faith. Why can we communicate? Because we share Jesus’ language of love!

Today is VBS, our opportunity to worship in Spirit and in truth; and, despite our differences we all are communicating A LOT. Children are welcomed in with T-shirts, songs and smiles. Jesus’ language of love connects us.

Children are lovingly guided in putting together a craft. Each thing they do is encouraged and celebrated, small successes, little oops that bring grins; and, those glorious moments of “wow, look what I made!” We share Jesus’ language of love – serving with humility, touching with caring, guiding with encouragement, acceptance with celebration!

Sports can divide and highlight deficiencies…BUT NOT HERE. Games include and share, activities build-up and connect. The VBS team shares sweat and smiles, jumping and pausing to catch a breath, high-fives and bumped joints with laughter that connects us in Jesus’ language of love.

Storytelling should be a strain across our languages …BUT NOT HERE. Puppets grin or laugh or frown or wave in ways that turn smiles into laughter and stories into a shared experience. Children in Ramallah may speak some “American-English” but together in God’s Spirit we all speak Jesus’ language of love.

Jesus gave us an example that unites us in one beautiful language. Giving to others in ways Jesus has given to me brings blessing in the doing! See John 13: 13-17.

Today I am blessed. Today I have seen blessings poured out on servants and recipient, leaders and students, blessings on each who follow Jesus example.

Today, I now know a little-one with whom I cannot speak in understanding but our lives have spoken to each other in deep understanding. Today, I have received a life-story from someone I cannot talk with but I will remember all my days. In the smiles that beam back at me … at our team… I believe we are each one blessed WHY? Because we share in Jesus’ language of love that unites us into eternity!

Luke Davis

For this portion of the blog, I wanted to focus on the city of Jerusalem and when we decided to stop on our way to the hotel on our first day to the Mount of Olives. To be on such a significant piece of land, mentioned in the Bible multiple times, and to see the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock in the distance brought forth various emotions from awe to wonder. To actually see where Jesus walked and where He will walk again when he returns is too great to put into many words. To see where my Savior will triumphantly return to set up His millennial kingdom really not just brings the Bible to life, but impacts your life in such a way that it will never be the same ever again, especially in my life.

Holy Land Day Four


The chatter on the bus ride to Ramallah this morning was a little louder than the previous mornings.  The discussions ranged from Biblical sites we had seen, cultural analysis, and personal experiences from serving the day before but, all spoken with excitement!  We received our Word and prayer for the day as we made our way into the city.   Limestone buildings and walls fill the landscape.  You know when you have crossed the border into Palestine as the scenery changes.

I’m standing alone on the back balcony of the church for a moment to myself and the Lord.  Hearing the birds, feeling the breeze, and I feel like I’m back at home.  I’m thousands of miles away and the only thing that brings my mind back is the Arabic language flowing in the background.

The kids seem to be excited as well this morning.  Many are warming up to their foreign visitors and creating bonds.  Our team is also warming up to the kids and learning to communicate in spite of the language barrier.  The volunteers from the church are helpful and engaging!  It’s also helpful that many of the older children speak English.

We are now back on the bus driving to Joppa before tonight’s church service.  We drive in and out of settlements in the West Bank that have brought so much political and cultural angst to the region.  It’s surreal to see the places we see on the news that have brought so much conflict for decades.

Reflecting back, there was a time when I had no desire to visit a country that was so different from home.  I am so grateful that God called me to do this.  I am equally grateful I was obedient.  It may seem intimidating to GO on a trip like this but the reward is immeasurable.  It’s humbling to be a part of the work the Lord has already begun.

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Luke 10:2


MarHaba from the Middle East! Personally, working with children is not my spiritual gift. However, I work for Jesus so when He tells me to GO serve the children of Ramallah Local Church, I GO! Before we began the first day of VBS the Holy Spirit spoke to me in my study through Matthew. In Matthew 18 Jesus tells his disciples that anyone who welcomes a little child on his behalf is welcoming Him. This changed my perspective! I was able to connect and love on these littles through the love of Jesus and will continue to reflect on this scripture throughout my time here.

I’m enjoying playing games with the children and learning Arabic from them. They are talented, fun, and filled with energy! Hence me on the bus after the first day of VBS. Ma Salemeh

Holy Land Day Five


On Tuesday, we walked around the city of Jaffa. It was beautiful, with a lot of interesting things to look at. My favorite thing to look at was all of the walls with vines on them. It was super pretty. I loved hearing all of the stories of what took place there. It is nice to visualize it all.


Today (Wednesday) was a great day for both VBS and sightseeing! During VBS I am on the “games” team, and I help to facilitate the games that the kids play. Today we played games like four corners, sharks and minnows, and basketball. The kids loved them! As far as touring goes, we were able to see the Israel Museum and the Dead Sea Scrolls! At the Israel Museum, there was a model replica of the entire ancient city of Jerusalem! It was incredibly detailed and interesting. Next to this museum was the museum where the Dead Sea Scrolls were being displayed. We got to learn all about how they were found and why they are significant from our guide, Michael. Overall, today was an awesome day and I’m so excited to see what is in store for us tomorrow!


Had a great day today.  Third day of VBS with 75 kids. The children are having a great time and learning so much about connecting, working as a team, and of course Jesus.

We also went to the Israel Museum today. The museum has a scaled model of Jerusalem in the time of Jesus. It clearly depicts the City of David as well. Very educational and will prepare us as we tour both the City of David and the sights and event locations later on in our exploration of Jerusalem.

The group is representing Crossroads in a spectacular way. You all would be proud of them.

Holy Land Day Six

 Ted and Susan Wilson

Ps 72:4  May he defend the afflicted among the people, and save the children of the needy…

For 3 days, 10 different people worked for 12 hours to transform the drab internal perimeter walls encircling a 3-story Muslim school for the deaf, ages elementary through high school.  The walls were faded and dirty, with some graffiti and stains.

The normal student population is 60, 35 of whom are on-campus residents.  With the school being on summer break, it was difficult to impossible for most of them to come today to an “unveiling” of the work we did.

After cleaning the walls, a transformation began with brightly colored paints.  No staff or students saw the work until Thursday morning (today).

Mouths were agape!  😲  They were SO HAPPY and SO GRATEFUL!

The combination of artwork and colors changed the atmosphere to cheerful and fun.

I asked the translator to ask a small group of teens what they thought of the new look.  A couple moms were also standing there, and they all exploded in unison, “Praise God, praise God!  It’s so nice!”  (I’m still a little under-slept, which makes me easily emotional, but I’m tearing up at that recent memory, because I know I’ll never see them again.)

Some of the moms and staff were asking our translator about this church, the annual VBS it puts on, etc.  She answered their questions, but also made sure they understood that the Bible and Jesus are taught here.

THEY DIDN’T CARE !  They saw that all that we’ve done is good for their kids, and they were very grateful.  Praise God, indeed!   👍😬🙏

Rom 15:1-2  We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.  Each of us should please our neighbors for their good to build them up.

Phyllis Mundy

Today was an amazing day. We started off at VBS at the Ramallah church in Palestine. We went over to the school for the deaf children with our painting team who worked on painting walls and beautiful murals. We got to interact with the deaf children. They enjoyed the interaction!

We returned to the church in Ramallah for a farewell puppet show which the kids just loved. The best part of the day was this afternoon–we actually got to go to the Church of the Nativity! Imagine getting to touch the actual place where Jesus was born and that’s what we got to do today. (Luke 2:4-7) But before that we went to Shepherds Field, the area where the Heavenly Host came down to the shepherds in the field with the good news that Jesus was born in Bethlehem! Pastor Chuck gave us a wonderful message at that time on the significance of the town of Bethlehem. (Luke 2:8-12)

Holy Land Day Seven

Priscilla Taouil

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!

Laurie Perez

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


Holy Land Day Eight

Alisa Abril

Our word for today was Sacrifice. Today was the most spiritual, emotional day so far on this trip – at least for me. This is the day I’ve been waiting for.

In short, we walked the path Jesus walked from the Mount of Olives to the site of His resurrection. What a day filled with too many things to put into words! 🤯

As we stood on the Mount of Olives, we had a beautiful view of the city and the Temple Mount and imagined this is where Jesus would come to pray. We began our walk down the path where Jesus rode down and into the city on a donkey that Palm Sunday.

Along the path we were given the opportunity to have quiet time to pray in the private garden where Jesus asked his disciples to stay and pray for him. Nearby was the Garden of Gethsemane. Olive trees thousands of years old are here. Knowing Jesus prayed here often near the rock and wept here is surreal.

Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” The Church of the Rock stands here as well.

From there, we visited Ciaphas’ house and walked through the area below where Jesus was held before his trial on Good Friday. The steps He walked and the dungeon he was held on were sobering. Outside we saw where Peter likely denied Him three times.

We then walked the Via Dolorosa (The way of suffering) up to the church of the Holy Sepulcher, each of the 14 stations with such a touching story.

So many amazing things to take in today. So overwhelming for many of us. Our Bible is so relevant. Being here was an amazing, emotional experience with many tears. We sat and prayed on the actual stones where Jesus carried the cross up to the place of his crucifixion. More importantly we saw the place of his resurrection. It doesn’t get any better than that. Thank you Jesus for your ultimate sacrifice.

John 15:13
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Kathleen Dennis

My words cannot express the views, the emotions and the significance of today. We walked where Jesus walked. From the Mount of Olives facing the Eastern Gate we followed the path of Jesus’ triumphal entry. The gardens where Jesus prayed are awe-inspiring and so peaceful – yes it is an actual garden! We went into a courtyard and prison where Jesus was held before his crucifixion. We visited the pools of Bethesda where Jesus healed.

Then came the Via Dolorosa – the tortuous path Jesus walked to his death on a cross. At one point we went underground to walk on the stone pavement that Jesus walked on. The path continued into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Here we viewed where Jesus’ body was prepared and then buried. We were able to enter the empty tomb where Jesus rose from the dead.

Yes, the tomb is empty, Jesus is risen and is coming again to bring God’s promised kingdom.

Please ask any one of us to tell about our journey. There is so much more to tell.

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ is coming!

Holy Land Day Nine

Addy Roekle

Today was an amazing day! We started the day at Megiddo, and the history is so fascinating. We learned that the end times battle will take place there. The water system caves were really interesting.

After that we headed to Mount Carmel. I loved learning about Elijah and his faith. I left feeling inspired to pray more.

My highlight of the day was Caesarea. The Mediterranean Sea was gorgeous and there was a nice breeze. My favorite place at home is Laguna Beach, and it felt very similar. The sea was so blue and we even got to go into the water!

What Pastor Chuck had to share about the location and its significance was really impactful. He shared out of Acts, chapters 2 and 10. Caesarea is important because it marks the place we look back to where Peter first learned that every tribe, tongue, and nation, Jew or Gentile, gender or age can be a Christ follower. Pastor Chuck’s teaching was special to me because I grew up at Crossroads with the opportunity to use my gifts the way the Holy Spirit intended even though I am a woman who is young in age.

I left Caesarea feeling blessed 🤍🌊

Galen Thomas

I love history, but especially biblical history!  Today we visited a number of important sites north and west of Jerusalem, from the Megiddo Valley to the seashore, before we crested a hill and looked down on the Sea of Galilee where we will be “based” for the next three days.  But today the story of Elijah and his courageous confrontation on Mount Carmel with the prophets of the false god, Baal, came to life!

Elijah lived while wicked King Ahab and his even more wicked Queen Jezebel ruled the norther kingdom of Israel.  Elijah challenged King Ahab to gather Israel on Mount Carmel, and he would have a faith battle pitting Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, against the false god Baal.  Today we stood on Mount Carmel and imagined the duel!  Baal failed to answer the prayers, cries, and frenzied antics of his 450 prophets, while our God consumed Elijah’s sacrifice, his whole altar, and all of the precious water he’d poured over it, proving to the whole nation that Yahweh rules!

It made me wonder what false belief or lack of faith I may be holding on to.  Elijah’s challenge in 1 Kings 18:21 rings as loud today as it did thousands of years ago:

“How long will you hesitate between two opinions?  If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”

I wondered if I could ever have faith like Elijah did, but Pastor Chuck reminded us today from James 5:17-18 that Elijah was a man with a nature just like us, which means that, if we have faith, God can use us like He did Elijah!  I’m praying that God will fill me with the faith to believe Him for Great and Mighty things I haven’t seen in this coming year!

Oh, and the view from Mt. Carmel looking west to Caesarea and the Mediterranean, looking east over the Megiddo Valley towards the Jordan River, looking north towards Lebanon, and south towards Samaria and Jerusalem, is second to none in Israel!



Holy Land Day Ten

Jessica McKinley

Today we visited mount Tabor (the location where people believe the transfiguration took place) and Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth.

While on Mount Tabor, I tried to empathize with the disciples witnessing the glory of Jesus and all his splendor. How would I process the information I had just witnessed? I love how Jesus brought Peter, John, and James into one of his most intimate times with God. I pray that I would have the heart and love for Jesus that he would invite me to also experience intimate moments with him.

As we drove down mount Tabor, we saw the small town of Nazareth straight across.

It was so sweet to visit the town Jesus grew up in. And to walk on some of the same roads he probably walked on. I was so excited to experience a little bit of Jesus’ home! The best feeling I could relate this to is when someone first starts dating someone knew. We want to know everything about that person:

Where they grew up?

Who their mother was?

What was she like?

How many brothers/ sisters do they have?

What were the fun things to do in town?

I think we want to know this information because we want to know how these people were shaped. We want to know how they became the people they are now. I wanted to know these things about Jesus as well.

We had a home-cooked meal (the restaurant we went to had researched first century meals that people would cook). There was lentil soup that reminded me of my mom’s cooking 🥹. They also had pitta bread, humus, salad, and chicken. It felt like home!

We then got to go through a Nazarene village. They created the place to resemble what Jesus’ town would have looked like. I loved seeing how many of the parables Jesus used were based off experiences he had. For example: sheep/ goats, wine press, pottery, sowing seed, etc. As I was listening to Pastor Chuck speak, I had this realization about how Jesus humbled himself and lived among the people, learned carpentry, learned how to grow fruit, learned how to produce wine… in order to explain the kingdom of God to his people using metaphors they would understand.

As we wrapped up the day, Pastor Chuck reminded us that Nazareth was the city that could have been. They did not experience many miracles due to their unbelief. I remember the prayer I had prayed at Mount Tabor. I want God to invite me into his most intimate moments but my lack of faith/my own negativity may shift my perspective so I miss Him. Pastor Chuck said “negativity is a sign of lack of faith” because we do not have enough faith or trust to see the good that could come out of a situation. He explained that unbelief blinds us, has us become cynical, and robs us of joy.

Nazareth was a sweet town yet it missed the Messiah. I do not want to miss Jesus due to my own stubborn heart. I will always remember my time at Nazareth.

Eli Dietrich

This trip has been something special to me spiritually and emotionally. During this trip we’ve seen such a variety of locations and artifacts of the Bible and it’s really made the Bible come to life. These past few days, whether it was being baptized in the Jordan River or doing VBS in Palestine, have been such an experience that I cannot write out into words.

One thing that really stood out to me was the Holy Sepulcher. It is located in the Old City of Jerusalem and is very special to me because of the actual feeling of seeing Jesus’s tomb right in front of me. It was astonishing! Seeing all of the Bible come to life before my eyes is something that words cannot describe well enough.

Another thing that really pulled on my heart strings was VBS. The way those innocent children love to learn about Jesus even through all of the barriers that have been set between us. This trip has changed my life and I will never forget it and what it and God have done for me!


Holy Land Day Eleven

Joleen Smith

A gorgeous way to start this Tuesday, June 21st, looking out over the Sea of Galilee at sunrise. I sent this image to my family back in the States, telling them that I was praying for each one as they ended their day. I asked the LORD to give them great rest and to prepare them for their day ahead. He invites us to “come to [Him] all who are weary and heavy burdened, and [He] will give you rest.” ~Matthew 11:28 NIV

I believe God wants us to be intentional in the life He has given us. Daily devotion, prayer, and the choices we make have a huge impact on each step moving forward. As He has created each of us for a specific purpose, having “morning briefings” and “evening debriefs” with Him helps to keep us on that purposeful path.

Before arriving at Caesarea Philippi, some of our Holy Team hiked to Banias Falls near the area designated as the Dan Tribe and stopped to take a picture. It was so refreshing to walk along this beautiful path to the falls.  “He refreshes my soul. He guides me along right paths for His name’s sake.” ~Psalms 23:2

After our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, we made our way to Capernaum, known as “The Town of Jesus.” On these very shores, Jesus called some of His disciples to “drop their nets and follow Him.” They immediately followed Him. They showed such a great step of faith. These fishermen “dropped” EVERYTHING–their profession and livelihood–to become Fishers of Men.

The LORD wants our full commitment, our entire heart. As Pastor Steve was finishing his short sermon on these very shores, he asked us, “What is it that we had to leave behind to follow Jesus?”

I’m so grateful that the LORD, Jesus Christ, redeemed me from my life of sin. I’ve gained so much more when following Him. My purpose in life has so much more meaning. I’m praising the LORD everyday for His amazing grace and love.

Maureen Husen

Our day began with a picturesque drive to Caesarea Philippi. However, just before we arrived, we made a brief stop at Banyas Waterfalls where we took a short hike to the falls. It really was beautiful and reminded me of Gods great provision. He uses the coolness of water to provide refreshment during the summer heat.


“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?””

(Matthew 16:13, ESV)

Back on the bus we took a short ride to Caesarea Philippi. In antiquity, Caesarea Philippi displayed a very hedonistic lifestyle influenced deeply by Hellenism.

Matthew 16 describes what Jesus’ disciples experienced as Peter, through the power of the Holy Spirit, revealed that Jesus truly is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16).

Jesus would illustrate the vast difference between Himself and the world during this time by drawing a line of demarcation for His disciples. In my opinion, this was a revolutionary moment for the disciples as well as all of us today. It prompts me to ask, “Do I believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah, and if so, am I living according to His teachings and ways”?

Jesus, however, offered a ray of hope in the midst of great darkness. In the midst of darkness, a small light shines brightest. It is no doubt that Jesus was challenging and preparing His disciples to stand firm in Him.

According to Matthew 16:18, “the gates of hell will not prevail” as long as the disciples stay firm in Him. The same is true for us today as it was over 2000 years ago.


This is where Jesus delivered His “Blessed are…” message. The hillside is beautiful and overlooks the Sea of Galilee.

In Matthew 5, God reveals what his intention was for the law. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount revolutionized how Christians lived within the paradox of Christian faith. As an example, “the poor in spirit” (Matt.5:3) are spiritually bankrupt, yet they are blessed.

According to biblical culturalist Kristi McLelland, Jesus did not come to turn the world upside down, but to turn it right side up. Jesus promises to turn our lives “right side up” when we come to Him completely. There is no comparison between this life and eternity with Jesus.

Blessings to you!

Holy Land Day Twelve

Christina Olson

Today we said our goodbyes to the beautiful Sea of Galilee and ventured back to the bustling city of Jerusalem. It was a joy to celebrate a few baptisms along the way and before we knew it we found ourselves at the Garden Tomb. The setting was serene and peaceful even in the midst of so much taking place outside its walls. We shared in a meaningful time of communion and reflection as we meditated on 1 Corinthians 11:23-26,


On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “this is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper saying, “this cup is the new covenant between God and his people-an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.


Standing in a place near where our Savior was crucified for our sins and near where he was buried was surreal. Even though we may or may not know the exact spot, the joyful truth that the tomb is empty is what we celebrate! Death could not hold him down and our freedom comes from his body that was broken and his blood that was shed for you and for me! He is risen indeed!


We shared in many other memorable moments and places today including Hezekiah‘s Tunnel, the Pool of Siloam, the Temple Steps, and the Western Wall. Places that I will continue to hold near to my heart and unpack in the days, weeks and months to come! 


Angelica Thomas

Our morning started a little earlier than usual, as we loaded our bus with our luggage and prepared to leave Tiberius for our journey back to Jerusalem for the last leg of our trip. Not too long into our trip, we stopped at the nearest portion of the Jordan River which streams out of the Sea of Galilee.  There we gathered as Micah and Sienna were baptized by their dad, Pastor Galen.  Although Micah was baptized when he was 8 years old, he was very excited too experience it in the Jordan River.  We were so proud that Sienna chose to publicly proclaim to follow Jesus as well!  What a special moment for our family!

We continued on to Jerusalem and stopped at the City of David.  What an amazing site to envision it as King David once looked upon his land.  Another adventure was Hezekiah’s Tunnel.  I admit, I was too chicken to wade in water up to your thighs, in pitch black conditions, with about a body’s width of space!  But there were a dozen brave souls in our group who took the plunge and even conquered some fears.  We met them at the end of the tunnel where they emerged victorious.

Our team was able to write and place our prayers at the Western Wall.  Women and men entered separately and also had their own separate portions of the wall where they could pray.  This was a very meaningful time of prayer and connection with God for me, as I rested my head upon the wall and poured out my prayers to God.  Our time today was amazing and my heart is full!