oh little {lowly} town

I went this past Wednesday-FIELD TRIP DAY- to Bethlehem, Herodian, Tekoa, and Hebron

This trip was really interesting, as we passed from Israeli controlled cities into Palestinian controlled cities.

Our first stop was in Bethlehem-which is still a good depiction of the original city. Originally, the city was nothing beautiful, just a city in Israel that Joseph was from. And today, it hasn’t been made into this city inlayed with gold, it is a city that was having a garage sale at the top of the city and has a Catholic church built on top of the place where Jesus was born-thanks to Constantine’s Mom-Helena. It has some cool architecture, but really, it doesn’t have a whole lot going for it.  As we passed into the city, we stopped at the separation wall that literally separates Bethlehem (under Palestinian rule) from the rest of the country, in essence. On the Palestinian side, there is a lot of graffiti that is favor of peace and wanting to be at peace with Israel, yet they are the ones who were hostile in the first place-it is quite ironic.

We got to the church and read Luke 2:1-8. It was crazy to stand and read and think about what happened in this city so many years ago-it’s a real event at a real place. One aspect that I love is that the Magi, Gentiles, came and worshipped Jesus, which is only recorded in the gospel of Matthew chapter 2.  And here are some misconceptions of the birth of Jesus that we too often don’t see as the text doesn’t explicitly say-yet we traditionalists just go with what has been said over the past 2000 years:

  • “Inn”-it is more accurately translated as guest house-there was no room in the guest house.
    • Therefore-there is no large angry innkeeper
    • There is no mention of animals
    • Joseph and Mary did not arrive late, they were actually probably living in the city for a long time before the census was happening as it says, “And while they were there”. Some even go to say that they traveled there far before she was even showing dramatically that she was pregnant.
    • We don’t really know if Jesus was really born at night-we assume that because of the Shepherd’s being told by angels at night.

I had never thought about some of these things before!

The city was nothing of beauty-it was made beautiful because of the fact that God sent His Son, Jesus to be born as a baby to a young, poor couple, placed in a feeding trough. I love how God made Jesus my example and how I can see His humility from literally the beginning to the end of His human life.  

The irony is that one of the next stops was where Herod the Great built a great kingdom for his name to be exalted and be made great. He was a sick man who was willing to do anything and everything to make his name exalted and made beautiful. He had to be named King of the Jews-which was SUCH a threat Jesus was BORN King of the Jews.

Herod did everything he could to grasp power. Jesus found His equality with God nothing to be grasped {Philippians 2:6}

We then stood in field just East of Jerusalem and read Luke 2:8-20-the account of the Shepherd’s hearing of the birth of Jesus. And we also talked about other things that took place in the fields of Bethlehem- David, Shepherds, and Ruth & Boaz. Again-humble beginnings and stories of real live people that God used for His glory.

While we were standing there, all I could think of was the song, “Humbly thyself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

We went to Tekoa where the prophet Amos is from and we stood in another field looking at the city and valley, and read Amos 6 which talks about the fact that it’s when things are going well that the people can become numb, desensitized to fact that it is the LORD who is doing the work-not them. And it is so often that I find myself in this same position. I don’t want to become desensitized to my sin and the sickness of this world even when things in my life seem to be going well- it’s all for His glory {Romans 11:36}.

And we also went through the amazing story of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. We were overlooking a valley of olive trees which Bill, our teacher, told us could be a possible location for the Valley of Baracha- The Valley of Blessing. The place where Jehoshaphat led his troops, led by the choir, to gather the spoils from their enemies that were originally trying to destroy Judah, but ended up killing each other-the Ammonites, Edomites, and Moabites. The Lord protects His people yet again.

Our last main stop was Hebron.

This was huge as it has been closed off to the general public for ages, it has only been the past couple years that our program has been able to go to this city as it is under Palestinian control. I’m pretty sure only Muslim people were allowed to go in and out for the longest time-not super confident in that, but I do know that the number of Christians that have actually visited Hebron is very few.

What makes this city great is that it is the city of the Patriarchs. The tombs of: Rebekah, Leah, Isaac, Jacob, Abraham, and Sarah. Sarah died, and Abraham bought a piece of this land to bury her in Genesis 23. It is also known as the fields of Mamre. It is the place where Abraham was visited by 3 visitors and was told that he was going to have a son-Isaac. We read through Genesis 18 &19 and my favorite part of this section, “Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year and Sarah shall have a son” (Genesis 18:14). SNAP! I sat close to the place where the LORD put His name “on the line” through Abraham and proves Himself faithful through Isaac.

We went and visited the tombs where they think the different people are laid- Abraham, Jacob, Leah, and Sarah are located in what is now a Catholic church. And Isaac and Rebekah are in a Muslim mosque-which we were allowed to go into as long as us, girls, put on those cloak like things and all of us took off our shoes. It was definitely an experience. I felt like an elvish girl from Lord of the Rings.  

Then we stopped on the side of the road to buy some HUGE grapes-which were delicious and only made me think of John 15-what a beautiful picture of Jesus-especially as grapes are a big deal around these parts. PLUS it was crazy to see how the vines grow so well in rocky terrain- I don’t know what they are doing, but they are doing a great job-Dad-we should be able to grow these grapes! Hahaha but then again, SCV isn’t quite the “Promised Land” J

I’m doing well-thankful for the package I got from my parents today-Monday-as I was literally missing the little things-like goldfish and Oreos and gum and some of my striped shirts. AND I was really missing the feeling of blow dried hair-so I improvised. I set my fan on the highest setting-and within 30 minutes-voila, I had dried hair and it felt great! Plus no heat damage! *win-win-win situation*

Last week I had a couple tests which were difficult, but I’m getting back into the whole studying thing. Don’t worry mom, I’m staying on top of my reading! I am loving the people that are here-making friends and having some great gospel conversations and also laughing with each other. I have been so encouraged by the girls here and even through emails from back home. Thank You! On Tuesday mornings, we have girls Bible Study lead by the teacher’s wives and 2 female IBEX staff-and we split into small groups and that has been a sweet time of fellowship, prayer, and encouragement.

OH and I’ve definitely been missing my youth group girls TREMENDOUSLY! Praying for you girls!!!!

Bea has definitely helped me just laugh. One of my favorite Bea quotes of the week, “The fan is squirting air into my mouth!”

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My God is

September 17th: Erev Sukkot

On this night we went to a giant Sukkah (plural of sukkot) fair. At this fair, my Jewish Thought and Culture teacher, led us around a giant booth that sold the Lulov & Etrog-etrog is a citrus fruit and the Lulov is comprised of a date palm, willow branch, and myrtle. These elements are held together in the man of the house’s hand and used in the worship of the morning prayer while they are living in the sukkah for the seven days of Sukkot. It was interesting to see how the people only buy the best branches and etrogs for their family celebrations for the entire week. The atmosphere was loud, scents of food and spices being sold changing from booth to booth along a huge street.

Sukkot is the Feast of Tabernacles that is the time to recall the journey to the Promised Land and the trek through the wilderness to get there {Leviticus 23:33-36}. It is a harvest festival-Exodus 23:16. It is a time of unbridled joy as the people rejoice over the crops that have come in from the harvest. It is a Hag, meaning pilgrimage festival, and a Mo’ed, appointed time. It being a Hag and Mo’ed, people come from all over to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles-even today, they come from New York. It is a season of hospitality as everyone is to celebrate and be included even the strangers. I have loved going through the different towns as we are on our way to field trips and what not and seeing the sukkahs setup on the Jewish people’s porches and even rooftops. We walked through a super orthodox Jewish town/street where everyone was wearing the traditional Jewish man’s clothing, and there was a sukkah on every porch. Sadly, the street is not well kept, it was actually super dirty-because the people don’t think that picking up trash is part of their job and responsibility-interesting.

September 18th: Field Trip to Benjamin

The main purpose of this field trip was to learn about the different ways to get into Jerusalem from the West and East. Along the way, we stopped at many spots to learn about their significance not just geographically, but Biblically.

Emmaus was our first stop, but according to Bill, he doesn’t think this is the actual Emmaus that Jesus went to, there are actually four contending cities that it could actually be. The reason we stopped here was because it overlooked the Aijalon Valley and onto Gezer. It is across this valley that the Lord allowed the moon to stand still in the life of Joshua.

Beth-Horon Ridge: the ideal highway from the coast to Jerusalem. It is on this ridge that the Lord threw down large hail stones on the Amorites {Joshua 10:6-15}. It was incredible to stand on this gradual ridge and think through how the Lord cast down hail stones to kill the people that were threatening His children. He was caring for those He loved.

Gibeon: actually Nebi Samwil-the place where some like to think is the burial place of Samuel-but probably not. It is from this high place that we could actually look at the ancient Tell of Gibeon (tell=large mound of dirt that is to be excavated to find stuff to define what that place once was). It is from this city of Gibeon that Solomon offered 1,000 sacrifices to the Lord and the Lord grants Him wisdom {2 Chronicles 1:1-13}. Some might think that this happened in Jerusalem where the Ark of the Covenant went, but it says in verse six that it was at the tent of meeting that Solomon offered his sacrifice which was at the high place of Gibeon-not Jerusalem.

Gibeah of Saul: this city sits on the Road of Patriarchs and has a sad, yet redemptive story {Judges 19,20&21}. It sits above a lot of the other cities, so it is a good place for someone to rule as they can see farther than anyone else from their own home. But it is in this city that the Benjamites create a terrible name for themselves as they were so influenced by the Canaanites. There ultimately was a forgetfulness of Yahweh. But the beauty of it all is that through God’s mercy, through a Benjamite, the gospel was brought to the Gentiles through Paul. My God is all about redemption-in that I am thankful.

The Pass: the section of the Wadi Suwenit that goes from being sheer cliffs to a wide-passable area of land between Geba and Michmash. (Wadi is Hebrew for canyon). This location is mentioned three times specifically in the Bible. The first with Jonathan in pursuit of the Philistines in 1 Samuel 13 &14. The second with King Asa building up the cities on both sides of the wadi so that it is protected and guarded; 1 Kings 15:22. The third by King Hezekiah when Sennecharib is going to Judah and telling of the way that he is pursuing as seen in Isaiah 10. It was cool to see at this site how God in creation provided this way through a wider pass for His people to use for their protection. Just goes to show how God had a purpose from the beginning of time as to what that specific place was going to be used-my God is a planner-the perfect planner.

Jericho: did you know that there are actually 2 of them?! We first stopped at the Tell where they found ancient Jericho, you know the story when the walls fell down. It was incredible to see the actual wall that once stood-as the lower part of the wall is still there because it was made of stone while the upper part of the wall that fell was made of mud brick. So when the top part of the wall fell, it created a ramp for Joshua and the Israelites to go up into Jericho. The thing that really got me about this place was how hot it was. There wasn’t breeze to be felt. It was HOT. But that is why the city was built around a spring-it was the life source of that city.

The big controversy with Jericho is seen in Matthew 20:29 and Mark 10:46 in regards to Jericho which leads me to the conclusion that there are two Jericho’s: the spring-or the residential part of the city & the municipal-the place where governing officials lived and took care of business. In Matthew it says, “as they went out of Jericho” and in Mark, “as they went into Jericho”. And now I see how that is possible. The healing of the blind man was done as Jesus was leaving the residential area of Jericho and walking towards the municipal Jericho. Why was Jesus going that way? He was taking the Ascent of Adummim towards Jerusalem so that He could die. On His way to die for the sins of man, He stopped to heal this blind beggar. My God is kind.

Ascent of Adummim: {last stop} on the ridge that leads from Jericho to Jerusalem. It is a vast desert that it goes through. We stopped on top of a mountain overlooking the pass and Jericho-and it was amazing. Automatically my mind went to Psalm 139 where it talks about how much the Lord cares, for He thinks of me more than the number of grains of sand (my paraphrase). There’s a lot of sand out there. Rolling hills of dirt. It is beautiful. It is this road that Jesus describes the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. And to think that this is the path that Jesus walked to go to die-in a sense, He is like the good Samaritan as Jesus associated with those He “shouldn’t” have, gave up His plans so that we could be made new through His sacrifice. I’m sure that analogy doesn’t quite follow through, but it is something that I’ve been thinking about-the parallels. My Jesus is self-less.

AND then on Friday night, my roommate Bea, friend Tim, and I went bowling with some of the local volunteers that work on the Moshav where I live-that was awesome. It was fun making a bridge with the people that work here and getting to know and talk to them. Plus I didn’t have to wear those gross bowling shoes-I just wore my Rainbow sandals!

Yesterday, I went on a long 7ish mile hike through the Nahal Perat where Jeremiah “spoiled his girdle”. We hiked along a stream that had pools along the way-which we jumped into-which was so fun- great way to cool off and play in the water which had fishies! And if you kept your feet still long enough they would nibble your feet. It was long, but thankfully it wasn’t scorching hot-it was a beautiful day to go on a hike in Israel.

The season are changing here-the first rain was on Saturday which is ironic, sovereign, because it being Sukkot, one of the prayers is for the first rains. And this year, Sukkot is earlier than normal- The Lord is faithful to provide! It was so cool- I was sitting in a covered area outside and literally saw the cloud engulf me and the rain pour down.

I’m doing well-finally getting into the whole studying thing over here which was really hard at first, but I’m adjusting. I am thankful for my roommate-she is a blessing. Absolutely love her! I have seen the Lord’s faithfulness in the “small” and “big” things in my life even while I’ve been here-HE is faithful to remind me of who He is. Last Tuesday, I was struggling-then my Prayer group leader reminded me of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God…” and then the next day, I opened a card, and that verse was written on it-again affirming that I am to be still and know that HE is God. He is. Not just was. Not just will be. He IS! In that, I am thankful and rejoice!!!

today’s thought *yom kippur*

Yom Kippur

The day that is known as the Day of Atonement.

Why is it such an important day along with fasting?

It is the day where God decides whether you are in or out of the Book of Life according to Judaism.

It all begins ten days earlier at Rosh Hashana. After the holiday starts The Ten Days of Awe. In these ten days, people evaluate their deeds and figure out whether they have done enough good or what not so that they can know that they are in the Book of Life.

Looked a little different in the Old Testament, but still the same principles.

What a joy I have that my assurance is not in what I do, but what Christ has done on the cross. Every day I can go before the Lord and seek forgiveness and see His amazing love and kindness. My salvation is through the grace of God through faith {Ephesians 2:8-9}. Jesus was my full atonement-Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Remember

Remember 9/11

Every September on the eleventh day, people typically dress in red, white, and blue, post pictures of the crash of the twin towers or New York on facebook, and become somber in the morning time commemorating the time when the plane first hit.
Personally, not me this year.
I woke up so stinking early to go on a New Testament Walk with the rest of my peers here in Israel.
It wasn’t until we got to the Temple Mount between Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock that the reality of the date set in. This Mosque and Dome are two of the more “holy” places on Earth for the Muslim people. We as a class were able to walk up between them, as there is a large walking area between the two buildings. As we looked to where we were walking, there were many groups of about 8 men to the left of us and women to our right. They looked like they were doing some kind of prayer time among their groups. As we walked through and between the men and women, they yelled, “Allah Akbar”. And I know now that it’s not that they were yelling at us, but the looks mixed with the shouts, it was daunting.
It was there, as I looked upon the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque that I stood in amazement. In awe. September 11th has become a day of remembrance as an American. A day that truly has changed our nation’s history dramatically as so many men and women have fought in this war and given their lives-of which I am so thankful. But to the people I passed, it was a day that commemorates men who were striving to please Allah. It breaks my heart.
The rest of the day, all I could do was praise God for the blessed Redeemer that He was, is, and forever will be. I praise God for the men like Rudy, who literally gave all of themselves to serve their country of freedom-a true blessing from God. It makes me stop and think-how am I, in the daily tasks of life, going hard and full-heartedly to show the love of Christ to others and reflect Him-learning more about my Father’s greatness? Everything is for His glory, right? Therefore, I must be transformed by the truth of the Scriptures-not this culture that has become so sick and twisted. I must go to the purest fountain to truth-drink and eat.
September 11, 2013 was a different day. I did remember the lives that were given-especially that of a dear friend-there were somber moments throughout my day, no doubt-but shouldn’t everyday be a day of remembrance of the Life that changed the world forever. And my response to live soberly seen in every task for the glory of my Father-my Jesus. {Titus 2:11-14}

just a little trip

this past Sunday, we went to Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Jaffa, which is in the picture, is a port city which is also known as Joppa where the story of Jonah happened along with the vision that Peter had in Acts 10. It smelled like fish-it is a port.nothing glamorous-yet beautiful to see how God used this insignificant place for His greater purpose. Then we went to the beach-1st time in the Mediterranean! it was not only hot outside, but the water was warm and a lot saltier. But it was such a fun day! We ended Looking at the sunset ocean-reading the scripture that alludes to the ocean and the awesomeness of God’s power and knowledge and being. And we closed with one of my favorite songs-Behold Our God. Seated on His throne, come let us adore Him!

here’s a link to some of my Israel pics for those who aren’t on facebook!

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201370491559832&l=8fcf7df611

 

Redemption: My God

I realized that so much happens-it’s kinda difficult to keep up a blog. But here is what has happened since last week!

Thursday: first class: Life of Christ-exciting-as the class looks like it’s gonna be good.

Friday: Hiked Nahal Yitlah, Ein Kefirah Hike- the hill behind the Ibex campus. Went down to a cistern and then climbed the mountain. And I sweat so much it was retarded. So thankful for water.  Saw some ruins of an ancient fortress. Then walked back through Abu Gosh to Yod Hoshmonah in time for Kabbalat Shabbat-much nicer dinner as it welcomes in the Shabbat. And I love how the people here treat us. I mean we are a bunch of American college students, except Bea and Jen as they are from NZ and AUS, so we come in a little later than everyone else and eat all the nice leftover food. It’s pretty comical.

Saturday: went to church at Jerusalem Assembly where the church is close to Jerusalem and culturally diverse. The main sermon was preached in English then translated into Hebrew for the Israeli people to understand. All the worship songs were in Hebrew, but there was an English translation at the bottom of the screen-it was awesome to be able to worship the Almighty God together even if we don’t speak the same language-we worship our Father together. Then after church we went to the Old City and spent time walking the quarters, bartering and eating schwarma-which I prefer over falafel. It was a good time to talk and hang out with some sweet friends and explore this place we get to call home for the next 14 weeks. At night, we had Saturday Night Live-not like the show, but it was fun as we played games with each other-I love games! And we celebrated Bill’s birthday who isn’t just celebrating his birthday, but is celebrating his 50th semester in Israel. And if you had been on our hike and seen him hike like it was not a problem, you would not think he is as old as he is. He is a testimony of God’s faithfulness and kindness as I have seen as he teaches the Bible with an enthusiasm that isn’t found just in the classroom, but on the field as well. He has been teaching the same classes for a long time, but every time we get together, I feel like it’s the first. I am so thankful for a teacher who loves and wants to be here not just because he is a teacher, but because he wants to serve the Lord with his whole life.

Sunday: Hung out at the campus. Went to Abu Gosh and got fruit and fresh Pita and coffee and mint tea with a group of girls.

Monday: Went to Old City Jerusalem. We went to Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The original Western Wall which is now far beneath the city walls that are currently built. Loved going to the Jewish Quarter. We went down a street that is called Carda which was the “heart” of the city where we saw the oldest map of the city of Jerusalem that dates to 500AD in the Byzantine period. While we were walking to the Zion gate, we saw a boy passing by with a parade of people celebrating his Barmitzpha. When we got to the Zion gate we could literally see the damage that was done in the second siege on the city as the gates are a symbol of the Jews seeking peace and wanting refuge-but they were placing it in their measly little walls which is seen today in my own life in my own strength instead of the Lord’s. So as much as I want to say that the Israelites were dumb and made stupid choices, so do I. My Father is faithful to forgive. PTL. THEN we went to a place that is supposedly where the last supper took place-even though the architecture dates back to the crusader’s time-it is possible that it was even in that area-air space. So cool to be in a place that Jesus lived with people He loves. Obviously, we read from Luke22 and in doing the cup and bread with the men shows that He is the center-He is the reason for remembrance-the cup of redemption. My God is redemptive. HE redeems. What is sad, is right below this room is a place where people pray to David as if he is saint and he can do something to help-he’s dead.

We then trekked over to a spot where we could see where the Beth Hinnom Valley and Kidron Valley come together(as seen in the picture). It is here that we read Jeremiah 7:30 to the end of the chapter-so sad. The killing of their children to sacrifice to their gods. And as much as I want to point my finger and say, “they are so stupid” I can only think of what we do to millions of children every year.before they are even born. It breaks my heart. But then makes me thankful that the Lord is gracious and He did not leave the Jews out to dry, but He still protected and provided for them-His grace is sufficient. He redeems those who turn from their sin in seeking His glory and beauty.

We went to a church that I like to call, Church of the Rooster: the place where historians like to say Peter denied Christ three times. It overlooks the City of David and you can see the temple mount from the top of the church.

Then we hopped and skipped over to the city of David where we saw what looked like a pile of stones that they call David’s Palace which is totally possible from all the archeological evidence that has been found. THEN we went to the Gihon Spring which is where Hezekiah’s Tunnel begins and cuts through the mountain and ends at the Pool of Siloam as found in John 9. While we were in Hezekiah’s Tunnel, there was obviously a constant flow of water, the highest it got was just above my knees and it was awesome. The water felt so nice after the long day of hiking around everywhere in the Jewish quarter and what not. Plus the tunnel was colder than outside which has been very hot. I never felt scared or freaked out-it was so neat! Plus I only hit my head once on a rock which I didn’t duck down in time for. About half way through we turned off our lights and sang one of the Hebrew songs that we have learned and Amazing Grace. AND there are two pools of Siloam. One is at the end of the tunnel, and another is filled in just East of the other.

The last stop we made was at a place that is so-called the tomb of David which is in the side of a mountain that is opposite the temple that Solomon built up which is across the valley of the pools of Siloam. Here Bill explained how Solomon was anointed king at the spring of En Rogel and entered the city on his father’s mule. Because the king wasn’t to have a horse because a horse symbolized the idea that they can have power in their stuff rather than in God. Which makes me understand all the more the warnings in the psalms as some put their trust in horses and chariots, but how much greater it is to put your trust in the Lord (Jenna’s paraphrase). Which is still a struggle us American’s still deal with. We, rather I, am so quick to trust my judgment or my abilities to accomplish a task or issue that I don’t even think to pray about a situation and trust the Lord will do a work. I know He can work through me, but what good is it to do a good deed without honoring the Lord or seeking to live for His name to be proclaimed.

AND after all that walking we did, I went and played basketball for the first time since camp-it was great. Definitely a little more difficult than playing against those junior high kids.

Tuesday: Skyped my momma and dad. Loved seeing their faces. Went to Bible study where we are going to be going through Hebrews 1-7 this semester. Hung out on campus. Did homework. Planning my travel abroad trip. (work in progress…)

Loved this week: sausage in a blanket for dinner-and it was delicious!!! As the meat was well cooked and it was wrapped in a flakey croissant like bread-so good.

AND MAGNUM BARS-D E L I C I O U S

SO sorry this was so long. A lot has happened and I am thankful for you all who have been praying for me. I really appreciate it. The past couple days have just been information overload. I am thankful for a day like today where I could sit and process all that has happened and the things that I have seen. I am enjoying it all. The friends are good. Several people are starting to feel a little sick. Thankfully not me or my roommate-Bea-so glad God put us together!

Only the Begining

Today is Wednesday August 28, 2013 in the land of Israel!

Part of me can’t believe that I am here. I am so thankful for this opportunity to understand with more reality the truths of scripture: putting a place with a story that isn’t just a story-it really happened.

On Monday we, me and the twenty-eight other students, got oriented with the campus and introduced to our first class: Land and the Bible. There are still lots of stair and lots of walking-Dad, you would love it. Then after that, the secretaries Natalie and Wendy took our group off the Moshav, where we are staying: Yod Hashmonah, to Kiriath Jearim which is where the Ark of the Covenant was said to have been kept for 100 years then moved in 2 Samuel 6.(Baalah is Kiriath Jearim). And now I can see how it would be easy to have the Ark be fine getting there if they stay on the ridge, which is the path we took, but then going to Jerusalem, which we could see up from the hill where Kiriath Jearim is, looks like a shorter path through the valley, yet so much more hilly opposed to just staying on the ridge where they could have walked much easier yet taken more time. It was crazy to see with my own eyes-and it was only day one!! Up the mount which we climbed to get to Kiriath Jearim, is a Catholic church today. It was a beautiful building in which we sang a few songs and it was just so surreal. Why is it that the acoustics of Catholic churches are so beautiful and not so much in Christian/Biblical churches?

Then we kept walking and went to a town Abu Ghosh where the whole town is built around natural spring that flows all the time, cold in the summer and warm in the winter. We went into another Catholic church where it was really dark and built over this spring. The paintings on the walls really caught my eye as they didn’t have faces except for the virgin Mary, the rest were almost blurred out.

On Tuesday we went to the Old City Jerusalem. There is so information taught, I don’t know if I’ll be able to remember half of it. There were a few things that did catch my attention. The Old City Walls that are standing today are not the original walls, but rather they were built by the Turks at a much later date than the life of Christ. We walked into the Jaffa Gate which is on the Western side of the city. And right inside the gate is the tower of David, which is where Herod the great made large and lived in his time. From the top of the tower, also known as fortress, you can see the whole old city, Kidron Valley, Mount of Olives, Temple Mount (Dome of the Rock), and City of David. From this place, Bill (one of the main instructors) said that he believes that from that place where we were standing is where Jesus was tried. Then if you look at the picture, the big dome and little dome is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the big dome where Jesus is said to have been buried, and the small one crucified. We walked into this church and it was amazing in architecture, but so sad to see these people worshiping and laying everything they own on the place where they think Jesus might have been killed and buried hoping that it’ll bless them so much more. The worship of the places breaks my heart. Are they special places with holy significance? Yes. But being found in Christ, I am blessed no matter where I go as Christ is found in me and as a believer, I am to worship the Lord in everything and through everything-it is a lifestyle.

We walked through the different quarters and ate falafel outside the city gate, which someone pointed out to me that it is older than America, and I thought that was awesome. Hahahaha. Anyway, we continued to walk around the city wall and when we got to the East side of the wall we reached St. Stephen’s gate, where Stephen is said to have been stoned. We entered the gate and walked through to the pools of Bethesda where I got to read John 5, and the healing of the lame man on the Sabbath-again, just brought it to life how Jesus worked showing that He is greater than any man and rules the Sabbath. Again, there was a Catholic church of sorts on this site, and we went in and sang, and this time I got chills. We sang “It is well” and the last verse of “Amazing Grace”. My favorite verse of It is well, “Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and has shed His own blood for my soul. It is well…with my soul.” I got chills.

We kept walking and at this point we were on the Western side of the wall, closest to the Temple Mount, and this is where Jesus would have said to the Pharisees, Matthew23:27-28, that they are like white-washed tombs, and I don’t find it ironic but sovereign, that the hill facing the temple mount is a graveyard with lots and lots of tombs laying out in the open on the outside of the city as they are the most unclean thing that could ever exist.

We finished our walk going through the Dung Gate and going through the Jewish quarter then coming back to the place we started by David’s Tower. Right next to that is the first protestant church in Israel, Christ Church where we will be attending every Shabbat. They have really awesome acoustics in their church and I love their stained glass windows as they have an olive tree, which are literally everywhere here, with one side a menorah and the other a cross symbolizing that we as Gentiles are grafted into the family of God.

The weather is very hot as the sun’s intensity is much greater here than America. I am very thankful for the occasional breeze. Only got a little burnt on my nose. The cats are kind of annoying-sound like complaining children. The food is decent-always something to eat. My roommate is Beatrice, aka Bea, and I absolutely love her and am thankful for her as we have laughed a lot and I hope to laugh so much more with her. The group that God has placed me in is great-all sorts of personalities and great friends that have been easy to laugh with and have encouraged me with good conversation. I am so blessed to be here and have already learned so much-and it hasn’t even been a week. Praise God for what He has done and what is going to be done this semester!