Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Jesus Trail 2016 Last Day

Well today is a sad one. We finished our journey as we boarded the plane from Tel Aviv towards Newark. It is here that we separated from the Iowans as we made our way home. I'm writing this while still on our transatlantic flight, so barring any unforeseen exciting details, this will complete my reflections for this trip.

We said good bye to Ginosar after breakfast and headed west toward the coast to the town of Akko (Acre). Peggy and I had visited here a few years ago on our own, so it was good to get a better picture and a guided tour of the old crusader city. It's been around for much longer than that and was at one time the largest harbor of this part of the Mediterranean. On our tour of the old city walls, the mosques, and the suk (Turkish market), we stopped by a shop to visit Wafa, a shop owner we met years ago. She was so happy to see us, remembering many details about us and our visit. (Honestly she remembered Peggy more than me at first. Kind of humbling.) After a little time of reacquainting, we shopped for a bit in her shop and grabbed a Turkish coffee from her husband next door. After saying our good byes (and getting a half dozen hugs from Wafa.) we headed back on our tour, but not before getting a couple of pictures together!

Leaving Akko, we followed the natural harbor around to Haifa, the 3rd largest city in Israel and Israel's major port. It also sits on the side of Mount Carmel, the site of Elijhah's confrontation with the 450 prophets of Ba'al and the 400 pagan prophets. God provided the fire for Elijah's sacrifice and proved that God was real, powerful, and the only true God! 

On the mountain side is a B'hai temple and gardens. It is a beautiful and well kept site that sits above the German part of Haifa. We stopped by the Carmelite Monestery, built over the caves where Elijah had lived for a time, but it was closed for Mass,. So a few pictures of the beautiful panoramas of the Mediterranean Sea and harbor would have to suffice.

We made our way down from Haifa to Tel Aviv for our overnight stay. Taking Highway 2 that hugs the Sea, we were able to glimpse Caesarea again, some other parts of the aqueducts, and much of modern Israel which is growing by the day. Hundreds of high rise apartments, condos, and hotels are being built all throughout the country, but then again, they have plenty of rocks to build from. The number of immigrants to Israel is staggering with the population growing exponentially every year.

Our afternoon in down town Tel Aviv was uneventful. After checking into the Metropolitan Hotel (in which we were upgraded to suites), Peggy and I headed out for a stroll on the beach. They have built a promenade along the beach that extends for several miles and it was filled with walkers, bikes, scooters, skateboards, etc. along with thousands of beach goers enjoying their holiday (Shavuot). Our stroll didn't take us to the water's edge mostly because of the number of people, but it was fun to sit and watch the activities that included a group of young men try to throw and catch an American football (it was comical), lots of paddle ball, volleyball games, soccer games, and several people showing their skill on some tightropes tied between some Palm trees. 

Our evening finished with a late dinner and the news of the Orlando shooting. We paused at our table and prayed together for the people and families involved including all the first responders. It's hard to fathom such violence, especially in a place that generally is filled with so much joy. it is one more reminder that our world is suffering and needs the grace and good news of Jesus Christ more than ever. While we are not ready to return home (and Abed invited us several times to stay.) we know that we return with plenty of work to do in the kingdom.

This morning we packed up our things and after breakfast made our way to the airport where we tried to empty our pockets of shekels before boarding our plane on our first leg toward home. We said good bye to Abed, who encouraged us to stay, or at least come back and visit him especially, as well as Micah. While we had our differences, he still guided us well and safely delivered us where we needed to be every day. We are already discussing our next journeys both back to the Holy Land and our next one following the Missionary Journey's of Paul hopefully in 2018. (Watch back on my website for updates)

It's been a pleasure sharing this unforgettable journey with you. I'm grateful for all of you who have kept up and journeyed along with us from afar. Whether it has sparked an interest in joining us next time, or fulfilling your desire in case you can't travel yourself, thanks for being with us, especially in prayer. We have been blessed and can't wait to share more stories when we return.

Peace ><>
Pastor Chris

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