Highlights from Israel - Part 1
When I travel to places, you can always find me reliving my experiences through the multiple pictures I’ve taken. As you would imagine, my trip to Israel was much deeper than I expected so I spent the last few days sifting my way through hundreds of photos, reading bible stories like David and Goliath in the Valley of Elah, and visualizing all the action happening from where I stood a few days ago. I guess this is the third dimension I heard about. I don’t ever want to undo my eyes, ears and mind from all i’ve seen, learned and experienced.
It was a full seven days in the Holy Land. I think it will take years before I process everything. I feel encouraged and challenged by the people I met, the friends I made, the stories I heard and the things I've seen. May these moments be more than a memory, more than a vacation, more than another travel experience. May it serve as a reminder lest I forget the faithfulness of my God.
I am tempted to tell you about the people I met at Ben Gurion airport, my experience at customs, how the officer smelled my passport because it was brand new and he just loved the scent of new American passports, how he asked me about Grenada and why I did not want the Israeli stamp on my passport, but that might bore you to death so let's get straight to important things like what I've been up to during my time in the Holy Land.
My visit to Israel was part of an organized tour by Hillsong Church and Keshet Educational Journey. I did not plan the itinerary and I’m so glad I did not…ha! The tour was well-organized, detailed, rich, full of fun, culture and history. I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in the mid-afternoon just in time to get the 6:00pm bus that would leave the airport for Nazareth. On our drive to the Northern side of the country I saw my first Middle East sunset. Not too long after night fall I fell asleep and woke up in Nazareth.
Nazareth! Can anything good come from there? - John 1:46
Nazareth Village is a recreation of Jesus’ hometown. Though much of the sites are untouched and unchanged since Jesus’ time, the village farm was restored with olive trees, terraces and an ancient wine press. Onsite, you can find carpenters, farmers and shepherds working in the same type of clothing and tools used in Jesus’ time. I was behind my group most times because I needed to pause, to soak it in, to breathe and take stock and of course to take photos. Conversing with one of the carpenters I asked him 21 questions about his life, the tools he was using and what he was building etc. As I was leaving to catch up with my group, he said, “Please remember us when you pray, we need your prayers.” Oh man, that felt weighty, and I felt convicted, I was moved to my core, because too often I forget to pray for the persecuted church, too often I pray selfish prayers, for things and people nearest and dearest. Too often I allow the things of God to seem familiar and I forget those in the underground church living in fear and dying for their faith.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven - Matthew 5:10
Leaving Nazareth Village, we made our way to Northern Galilee shoreline, and up to the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus preached the most countercultural message of his time and still our time….Sermon on the Mount. The mountain slope is spacious and beautiful, it's perimeter was lined with boganvellia flowers of all colors. Today, there’s a catholic church built by an Italian architect on the premise. As I walked in, I saw people passionately weeping and praying on bended knees. That day I was the last to leave the church, the catholic nun literally chased me out because the church was closed for the day.
It’s still day one, people. The sun was bursting through the clouds, one of the hottest days in Israel, but we still have ways to go. The next stop would be The Church of Peter’s Primacy where Jesus appeared to his disciples for the third time. We then made our way to The Town of Jesus — Capernaum. Here, Jesus casted out an evil spirit from a man and healed many.
Last event on the agenda was worship by the Sea of Galilee with Hillsong United. Can you believe we got to worship where Jesus lived, preached and perform miracles?
On day two we were taken to Tiberias where we boarded ancient wooden boats on the Sea of Galilee. Unbeknownst to the delegates Hillsong United surprised us with incredible worship while on the sea. This is one of my favorite moments. Pastor Bobbie led us in prayer for the people of Syria and those who are living in fear of their faith in neighboring countries.
Later, we departed Tiberias for Caesarea Philippi: Banias. It is believed to be the place where Jesus asked his disciples “Who do men say that I the Son of Man, am?" - Matthew 16:13
The sun was blazing and the day was just getting started. Next up would be Golan Heights overlooking Syria. The view is beautiful and scenic, but on the other side, further north innocent lives are being killed in the Syrian civil war.
Day three we left for the south of Nazareth to Mount Precipice. After Jesus proclaimed in the Nazareth synagogue that the Spirit of God was on him to preach the good news the people were furious and drove him out of town to a hill (Mount Precipice) to throw him over.
Later we visited Hulda Gates - Southern Temple Mount where we would also have a worship event with United.
The first few days in the holy land was beyond amazing. I am so grateful that God is not limited to any one location. His presence is with us wherever we go and we get to experience and watch him outwork in our lives whether we’re in New York or Nazareth.
Highlights on day four through six can be found here.