Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Scoping out the shade!"

Psalm 121:5
The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand.

Sometimes the simplest of verses in the bible can bring you tremendous encouragement. When my older brother and I were young boys, during the summers, we would visit our dad in Las Vegas, Nevada. Needless to say it gets extremely hot there. The last time I visited, in 1996, the temperature was 111 degrees at 11:00 at night. On those summer days, you could have literally ‘fried an egg’ on the pavement…that’s how hot it would get.

As I think back on those times, I have such fond memories of literally running around town with nothing but our swimming trunks on, no shirt, no shoes (not even flip flops). The pavement was so hot that you would have to scope out little bits of shade from point to point, to make sure you didn’t burn the bottom of your feet. I vividly remember running so fast, with the heat growing in intensity until finally with what seemed like, not a moment to spare, we would find that little bit of shade and with it instant relief.

Isaiah 25:4 says, You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat. The Lord is our keeper…the shade at our right hand. When things are getting too hot around us, when we feel like we can’t take it anymore, when we feel like we are not going to make it, He provides that perfect amount of shade that brings instant relief.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Day 10 & 11 - Soup Kitchen

As we wound down our final two days in Israel, our focus would be on the soup kitchen. Our day began by visiting what they call the cafĂ©.  CC Tel Aviv does this every Wednesday from 10 to 12.  People from off of the streets come in and sit at tables while the staff and volunteers (mostly volunteers) serve them pita bread and humus sandwiches, hard boiled eggs and coffee or tea.  I think that the part that blessed me most was that the people were able to come in and sit and be served.  No long lines of waiting for their handout.  It seemed that this would be the heart of Jesus.  I would find out that the soup kitchen was run the very same way.

Whitney and I and Patrick (a missionary who has been working with Pastor Steve from the start of the church) visited with a man who was from Morocco.  His name was Elimelech Solomon.  He made sure that I understood how to pronounce it with an emphasis and the ‘…lech’ and the Hebrew sound of the ‘ech’, if that makes sense.  At first I thought his first name was Elimelech but would find out later that that was his last name.  He was quite an interesting fellow who had traveled a fair amount to the United States and spoke very good English.

At 1:00 PM we were off to the market.  This was one of the most enjoyable things I have done in all of my visits to Israel.  We would take these empty shopping carts and head to the ‘shook’, Hebrew for market, by foot (though I do not know if this is how you spell it).

We would soon arrive at the market.  As you can see it was quite colorful and very animated with all of the people shopping and browsing about.  You name it, it was there.  Hundreds of people and hundreds of items.


It reminded me a lot of Pikes Place market, except with much more variety and animation.  Not to mention the Hebrew language.  I loved looking at all of the spices and olives and mounds of gummy candies.  I tried to get some spices for Jenny, but failed in that I could not find any of the vendors who spoke English well enough to understand what I was asking for.  Needless to say, it was quite an adventure.  I look forward to going back.

Some 800-900 shekels later, we were headed back to the church with baskets overflowing with food and supplies for the soup kitchen the next day.

Later that evening I would attend the Men’s Bible Study.  Several guys from the church came and Brian led us through a study through parts of John 4 and the Samaritan woman at the well.  One of the most interesting things about bible studies in Israel, is the constant reference to the struggle between the law and how it restricts and Jesus and how He liberates.  It just seems to mean a whole lot more when you are in the land where you see the restrictive nature of legalism all around you.

Generally by around 8:30 to 9:30 in the evenings, I am fading fast…due to the early morning wake-ups from the jet lag affects.  This night would be no exception and during the sharing as I was doing my best to stay awake, I fell asleep.  Not just had trouble staying awake, mind you, but full on ‘out’.  Randy, a brother from Texas, who was sharing at the time, discreetly (not) called attention to the fact that I was full on asleep and told me I needed to get some rest.  He went on to point out how that jet lag can kill you.  Everyone was very gracious.

We had to pack up before turning in, knowing that we had to be at the church at 8:30 AM.  The soup kitchen would take the rest of the day, giving us just a few hours before heading to the airport.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many pounds of potatoes we peeled.  People were peeling and chopping potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions and cauliflower throughout the church building.

Sue was right behind the potato peelers chopping onions which were so strong it was about to take all of us out.  There is a lady in the church who did the cooking.  Her name is Regina.  I spoke to her afterward and found out that she worked at a secretary at the German embassy.  She speaks Romanian, German, English, French and Hebrew.  You would be shocked at the number of languages spoken throughout Israel.  To be honest it can make you feel very small.

The menu for the day was vegetable soup, cabbage salad, potatoes and chicken legs in a red and yellow pepper juice.  Once the food was prepared, the tables were set up and each of us were given a table to serve when the people started coming in.  We prayed and then at 2:00 PM, the doors were opened.

For the next two hours, we served: first the water, the soup and then the main dish.  I had mainly older ladies at my table.  Several old Hebrew women and I believe a couple of Russian women.  For the most part everyone was very grateful although there were a few who were complainers.  I had to remind myself that these are people who are homeless and living in the streets.

When we came across people who could speak English, we would sit down and visit with them.  I had a very nice visit with a man named Doren, who was from Hungary.  He was an Israeli army veteran who was wounded in the war of 1967 and is currently on disability.  I tried to ask him a couple of questions about it…but it became obvious that it was difficult for him to talk about.  He was a very pleasant man.

Unfortunately, we were unable to take pictures in the dining area of the soup kitchen to protect the people’s privacy.  We were told that some of them get nervous that we might turn them over to the authorities.  There is also some traditional fears that a picture somehow takes a part of their souls.  I wish you could have been there.  As the Lord gives us our own building, a soup kitchen would be a must.

Towards the end of the meal, the women were able to go to the clothing bank downstairs.  There were a bunch of them and as they were returning to their tables, they were proudly holding their new items up and sharing their joy with one another.

This is just a part of the group we served with.  From left to right is Regina (the cook), Brian (who serves with Pastor Steve Apple), Zack (another American missionary indefinitely serving in Tel Aviv) and the rest of us.  Linda, who is in between Donna and myself, is from CC Costa Mesa and was on our bus to Petra.  She ended up staying a few extra days and was staying at the same hotel as we were.  She was a real blessing and allowed us to store our luggage in her room while in Galilee.


Well that is it!  Our adventure ends in the same manner it began, on a very long flight.  As we are preparing to land in New York, we are looking forward to an American breakfast.  We have a 10 hour layover in New York so Donna’s husband is going to be picking us up at the airport and we are going to have breakfast before our final leg of the trip.  I am going to try and get this final post sent before we board the plane to head back to Seattle.

As great of a time as it was, it will be good to be back home with our families on good old American soil.  Thank you all so very much for your prayers.  We had a great trip, very productive and already looking forward to our next trip in March of 2011.  I do hope that many of you can join us. 


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Day 9 – Proverbs 16:9

Proverbs 16:9 is a verse the Lord gave me when we started the church 9 years ago, A man’s heart plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.  Today would be a day when we would begin to plan the way and watch the Lord begin to direct our steps.
In this last leg of our trip, we would begin with breakfast in the Hotel Gilgal dining room.  This hotel has been a real blessing.  It is owned by a Christian Jewish man and his wife.  Both Donna and Sue have met them and I am hoping to as well, before we leave. 
Their accommodations are very nice, but what has been even better is the lobby where I am able to use the working internet at a very reasonable price, 20 shekels (approx $6.00) for 24 hours.  They wanted $20.00 for 24 hours at Nof Ginnosar.

We had a great discussion over breakfast as to the goals and strategy for bringing Healing Hearts ministry to Israel.  The Lord has been, step by step, opening various doors with unique opportunities.  It will be fun to watch them continue to unfold.
Our lunch with Pastor Steve Apple was very insightful.  We learned a lot about the challenges of witnessing to the Jewish people.  I am looking forward to sharing at Veritas on Saturday about some of the things he shared.  He and his wife have been here for 6 years and have to leave the country every 90 days to renew their visa.  He shared with us that less than ½ of 1% of the population are Christians.  This is a much smaller percentage than many of the other countries.

Pastor Steve gave us some great ideas for the missions portion of our trip in 2011.  We talked a lot about the trafficking of women in Tel Aviv which though is illegal is not considered by the authorities to be a big enough problem to  address it with all of the other things that are happening in this country.  He gave us good input on how we can establish a Healing Hearts presence here.  It was after this meeting that Sue felt the trip was well worthwhile.
Whitney, Sue and Donna headed to the church for Women’s bible study.  There were approximately 9 women in attendance.  Gigi was filling in for Pat Apple who was still recovering from a near case of pneumonia.  Gigi was leading the worship and Sue and Donna had an opportunity to share about Healing Heart’s ministry.  Donna was able to share part of her testimony and they felt that the women were really touched.
Our day ended with dinner at a unique restaurant which served various meats on skewers.  There was goose livers, lamb, kabob (pressed meat)…I was very bold and had chicken.  Without a word being said, Sharif and I were having a pickle and olive eating contest, I think I might have won.  One of the highlights was when I looked over at the owner cooking the skewers who needed to whip out a cigarette and light up…while he was cooking the meat.


Tomorrow we will shop for the food for the soup kitchen.  It sounds like this is where the adventure begins.  We will be heading into a market area and purchasing all of the food and then transporting it back to the church…on foot.  Our team of four is getting along so well it is surprising to us all.  We are each trying to figure out to get a good fight started, doesn’t seem right that we should be around each other this long and not have had an argument.  Even Whitney and I haven’t fought, yet…but there a still a couple of days left.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day 7 & 8 – Trip to Galilee

The next two days will be spent in Galilee.  Our morning began with a car rental and my first experience driving in Israel.  I warned the ladies about my reputation as a distracted driver and I knew it wouldn’t help that I was trying to do some sightseeing at the same time.  I know they were praying.
Our first stop was Joppa which is just a few kilometers from the hotel.  Joppa is where Jonah caught the boat to Tarshish when fleeing from the Lord.  It is also the town where Peter saw the vision of the sheet and all kinds of animals…which the Lord declared to be clean.  This took place at Simon the Tanner’s house also located in Joppa.
We proceeded to drive along the coast to Caesarea. Truly an incredible sight. The city of Caesarea was built by Herod the Great and his summer home. Here is a picture of the theater where Paul spoke before King Agrippa and a packed house. Paul stayed in Caesarea for approximately two years prior to heading to Rome to appeal to Caesar.
This picture is proof that: #1, I was really driving in Israel, #2, I did have my eyes on the road, #3, Jesus is Lord!

One of my most favorite places in Galilee is Mt Arbel. It is a mountain near the Sea of Galilee. We don’t know for sure, but I like to think that when the Scriptures speak of Jesus withdrawing to a mountain to pray…this is the spot. I love doing bible studies up here. Chck out this ‘rock hydrax’…one of the many animals spoken of in the bible. He is a cute little bugger…who would probably rip your face off if you got too close.
Can’t come to Mt Arbel without a picture of Jenny’s and my favorite tree. The tree on the masthead of my blog is this same tree, taken at sundown. Last year we didn’t make it here which was a real bummer. From the top of Mt Arbel, is the most spectacular view of the Sea of Galilee you will ever see.
There is only one way to describe this picture…”Suffering for Jesus!” This is where we stayed. It is one of the many kibbutz’ in Israel. These kibbutz’ were established when the Jews returned to Israel in 1948 after it became a state. They represent different families and are run by those living in the kibbutz’. This particular kibbutz is called Nof Ginnosar. It is the place where we stayed on our first trip to Israel. The food is amazing and our plans are to stay here next year when we return.
Another one of my favorite spots in Galilee is the Mount of Beatitudes. You cannot help but envision the multitudes of people sitting on these rolling hills…listening to Jesus teaching. I cannot imagine anything being more wonderful. I taught a bible study here last year, except it was raining so hard I had to teach it on the bus, close to this spot. Visiting here was a great way to end our first day in Galilee.

After a good night’s sleep, we headed out for a full day of sightseeing before needing to be back in Tel Aviv for a 7:00 meeting.
The day began with a viewing of ‘The Ancient Galilean Boat’.  I believe that this amazing exhibit is run by the family who also runs Nof Ginnosar.  At the very least, it is on the same property, right next to the hotel.  Here is a picture of our guide in front of the boat.  It really is an incredible discovery.  Some fisherman found it buried beneath the mud and is dated to the time and type of boat that fishermen in Jesus’ day would have used.  It is conceivable that Jesus, Peter or any one of the disciples rode in this boat.

On our way to kibbutz En Gev, for a fish lunch, we stopped at the spot on Jordan river where we do our baptisms. Fortunately there were very few people. The serenity of this particular part of the Jordan is wonderful. I love just looking at the water and thinking about Jesus being baptized in this river. As we were gazing at the river, we noticed some humongous catfish swimming below where we were standing. I am already looking forward to the baptism next year and the thought of one of these beauties slithering alongside my legs.
Our bus driver Avi Maletzky grew up in En Gev.  He is a Christian Jew whose parents met at Auschwitz.  He has become a dear friend.  This is the bomb shelter where Avi lived as a child.  He lived there for 17 years, only coming out for 20 minutes a day to play.  He is one of the most joyful people I have ever known.  Such a great attitude in the midst of trial and tribulation.  Hope you can all meet him one day.  He has been our bus driver every trip and is scheduled to be our bus driver next year.
Our last stop before heading back to Tel Aviv, was Bet Shean.  Bet Shean is the city where Saul and Jonathan’s bodies were hung after they died on Mt. Gilboa.  This particular discovery at Bet Shean is the city of Scythopolis, a Roman city that was built around 70-60 BC.  It is a pretty amazing experience to be walking down an authentic Roman road.  The size of the dig is enormous and keeps growing every time we come.
Tel Aviv is only about an hour and a half from Bet Shean, but we found out what Tel Aviv rush hour is all about which made it a bit longer. By the time we got to the hotel, we were beat. We got there just in time for dinner and meeting with our new friends, Sharif and Gigi, for coffee. Sharif works within walking distance of the hotel and came by the hotel to lead us to their home.

We had a delightful visit, though must say I had a tough time keeping awake after such a long day. Their daughters, Nardine and Nada are really cute. They were all excited to be able to walk us back to the hotel with mom and dad. We will be joining them for dinner at a local restaurant tomorrow night to celebrate their recent news that Gigi is expecting.


Tomorrow the final phase of our trip begins. We will have lunch with Pastor Steve Apple of CC Tel Aviv and then the women will attend the women’s bible study. Gigi invited Sue and Donna to share with the women about the Healing Hearts Ministry. Needless to say they are very excited. The Lord is really bringing things together and we are expecting some fertile soil to be plowed and effective seeds to be sown.

Until next time…

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Day 5 & 6 – “God is faithful”

I think that blogging while in Israel is one of the most challenging things to do.  Your days are full of touring various sites and meeting different people, and by the end of the day you are exhausted.  Usually to bed shortly after dinner so you can be rested up for the day ahead of you.

As some of you know, I have been fighting the whole internet issue and think that I finally have some sort of routine.  I apologize for the erratic schedule in postings but should be in a bit of a rhythm from this point forward.  This morning I woke up at 3:15 AM…tossed and turned a bit and figured, oh well, may as well get up, spend some time with the Lord and get to blogging.  As long as the Lord keeps waking me up in this manner…I should be able to be a little more consistent.

Today, I post a couple of days consisting of waking up in Eilat, after a day in Petra, heading to Tel Aviv and then the day following in Tel Aviv, prior to us leaving for Galilee.

Our hotel in Eilat overlooked the Red Sea.  It was a spectacular view.  A major resort town in Israel.  Tourism is one of their primary sources of revenue.

It was a beautiful day, the weather has been amazing.  I am already anticipating great weather next year when we bring the church.  We are going to be traveling even later, at the end of March.  The rest of the group will spend the day in Eilat, we will leave for Tel Aviv.  When we bring the church next year we will stay an extra full day in Eilat…already looking forward to it.

The water was amazing…very clear and pretty warm considering the time of year.  We were really wishing we could have stayed and swam.  Part of the group was heading out on a boat for a day of swimming snorkeling, etc.

Don’t worry of you forgot your swimsuit…you can just go swimming in your underwear.  Lots of interesting swimsuits that people ought not to be wearing.  I need not say anymore about that.

We took a small commuter flight from Eilat to Tel Aviv.  Security was more intense than usual, or at least what we had thus far experienced.  They separated the four of us to talk to us about why we were in Israel, who we were visiting, why we weren’t still with the rest of the group among other things.  They seemed to be particularly interested in why Whitney and I didn’t have the same last name, if we were family.  As much as I dislike that part of traveling here, I am thankful that they take it as seriously as they do.  Clearly, they are considerably more interested and efficient than the TSA representatives in the US.  Though it is somewhat burdensome, it is what makes coming to Israel safer than most countries.  Threats of violence are just a way of life for them.  If it happens, they are going to be ready for it.  I love that about these people! 

It was quite an experience reading through the book of numbers while flying over the dead sea and the desert area where the things spoken of in the book of Numbers took place.  This truly is one of the most spectacular things about traveling through Israel.  You will never…never read the bible the same way again.  This is my fourth trip here…and the more I come, the more and more pieces of the puzzle fall into place.  When traveling into Petra, in Jordan, we saw Mt Hor, where I had just previously read where Aaron was buried.  This morning I read it again…that spot in Jordan will forever be etched in my mind and heart.

We flew into a smaller airport than Ben Gurion.  As you can see by the baggage claim, not a whole lot happening.  It was much closer to Tel Aviv as well.

This is the view outside our hotel in Tel Aviv.  The hotel itself is quite nice and modern, just settled smack dab in the middle of some rough areas.  As we walk around the city, there are provocative business card photos of prostitutes spread all over the ground.  Sue figured, if you can’t beat’em join.  Now, there are a bunch of Healing Hearts ministry cards right next to them.

This is the street our hotel is on.  Just a little anxious about driving them tomorrow.  As you can see there is not a lot of room.

Just a morning walk to church.  We decided it best to try and locate the church early, which took awhile, just to make sure we weren’t late.  We walked by some pretty rough parts and sketchy looking people.  Alcohol is being consumed at various sidewalk…what seemed to be convenience liquor stores.  One bar and club on the corner was going strong, music blaring and people coming in and out.  CC Tel Aviv ministers to a lot of these people 

Their ministry consists of not only a church service, but soup kitchen, clothing bank and free medical clinic.  One of the primary focuses of our trip is to add a missions portion to the trip when we come next year.  When we return from Galilee on Monday, we will begin to minister along side of CC Tel Aviv.  We have no idea what that is going to look like at this time, but trusting that the Lord will direct accordingly.

After finding the church, we head down to the beach to chill out before service.  I love the Mediterranean Sea.  First of all because it is just cool looking, the  sand the waves…but secondly is because you have this awareness that you are on the shores of a Sea that many people of the bible walked…to include Jonah, who caught a boat in Joppa to get away from the Lord.  Joppa is within eyesight of where we are sitting.   As we are sitting, enjoying the setting…listening to the waves and soaking in the sun, we are reminded by the lifeguard that the seats we are in cost 6 shekels to use.

As we were waiting for service to begin, the worship team was practicing.  Some of the songs they do in Hebrew and some in English.  The woman in the center’s name is Gigi.  Her husband’s name is Sharif and he is on job assignment for four years from Cairo, Egypt.  They have two beautiful young daughters and shortly after we meet him, he invites us to their home for coffee.  The little girls love Whitney and things she looks like Hannah Montana.  Later I find out that Sharif is one of Pastor Steve Apple’s elders.  We are looking forward to having coffee with them on Monday evening.  They live within walking distance of our hotel.

There was a good group of people at the church service.  Pastor Steve taught out of Hebrews 12.  It was a good teaching and I was blessed with the attentiveness of the people.  It was sweet to hear him teach, in such a setting, the danger of the law and the glorious truth about grace. 

They had a hot lunch prepared for everyone who was there.  I don’t know if it was for that particular service or if it is every Sunday.  I meet a young man named Marcus,  he from Germany and is on ‘holiday’.  I found out he is staying at the same hotel we are and we end up having dinner with him later that night.  He was heading to Jerusalem…on his own and then meeting up with a tour group from Germany later in the week.


Things are going well at this point in our trip.  Sue and Donna are discouraged…not sure what is going to come of their trip and what role Healing Hearts might play in Israel.  They are trying to be patient but can’t help but feel like they could have done more preplanning.  We find out, once again, that “God is faithful!”.  I am up late in the lobby ‘blogging’, not even realizing that Donna is sitting outside the hotel. 

Around midnight, she comes in with Linda, someone who happened to be on our tour bus to Petra.  She is going to be spending some extra time with Steve and Pat Apple and the ministry there.  Donna also meeting the owner of the hotel who is a Christian and it seems that the Lord is beginning to open the doors.  We are getting excited about what will happen the rest of our trip.  Tomorrow we will head to Galilee…but are already anticipating what the Lord will have for us upon our return.

Well…thanks for reading thus far…sorry it was a little longer than usual.  Pleas post any comments so that I can get an idea of what other types of things you might like to see and hear.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Day 4 - "Wow!"

There is no better way to describe Petra. Truly the site lives up to its name and title of being one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

The day began with a short journey from Eilat, Israel into Jordan. Jordan is an Arab nation, 90% Muslim. Though not the best of friends, they are peaceful with Israel. I enjoyed the whole experience of traveling into an Arab country much more that I thought. I was fascinated by the towns and the culture, though I must say the border crossing was a bit intense.
The whole day began at 7:30 on the bus and ended 13 hours later, 10 of which were spent crossing the border (just kidding). However, the border crossing did take a very long time…the lines were very long.
Interesting sites along the way. You don’t see a lot of ducks standing on cars in Puyallup. Could be some sort of new type of hood ornaments or something. The terrain is unlike any other but reminded me a lot of Nevada and parts of Arizona. You could definitely tell that you weren’t in Israel anymore.
Literally, everywhere you turn there are pictures of the King. Here is a picture of King Hussein (on the left) who was a very popular king throughout the world. He worked tirelessly and continuously throughout his life to advance the cause of peace between Jordan and Israel which he successfully achieved in 1994. He died of cancer in 1999, his son Abdullah (on the right) succeeded his father as current king of Jordan. According to our guide he and the queen are very well liked and following in the footsteps of his father.

The walk into Petra is spectacular. The colors are amazing and you see various carvings in the rocks, many of which are tombs.
Like many of the sites in Israel, you are so overwhelmed at what you are seeing that you can’t begin to describe it. Many of you have seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. They filmed one particular scene at what it known at the Treasury in Petra. As we traveled two and a half miles down the narrow canyon lined path my heart began to anticipate what we were about to see…though could not fully grasp what lay ahead.
What you are seeing in this picture of the treasury, is only two of the three stories. There is a third story buried beneath some 40 feet of sand. The entire face was carved out of the sandstone by artisans who would hang from ropes as they carved. They estimate that it took between 30-40 years to carve. It was carved in the 1st century BC as a tomb for an important Nabataean king.
All along the way there are little children selling rocks and postcards and jewelry. You have to be very careful to not engage them too much, otherwise…as many found out, you will have a tough time shaking them. They are very persistent. These are Bedouins and there are camels and donkeys everywhere offering rides.
Thinking that this is it…you continue down the road to see numerous other tombs. Everywhere you turn there are more and at one point you see the face of a massive rock wall covered with tombs in the rock. I didn’t even realize this was there until I happen to look back and couldn’t grasp what I was seeing. The size of these carvings are enormous. It is believed that at one time as many as 20,000 people lived in Petra.
After walking approximately four miles, we stopped at a restaurant located in a beautiful setting. After eating a late lunch we started the trek back. There is only one way in and the same way out of Petra. It was easy to refuse the camel and carriage rides heading into Petra, but more and more people were taking advantage of them coming out of Petra. One of those was Sue. I took this as she was whisking by. She wasn’t sure what was worse at the end, walking or being bounced around on the bumpy rocks coming out.
Needless to say, there were a lot of people sleeping on the way back to Eilat…I was one of them. One of the many blessings of the trip to Eilat was sitting next to Candy Barton. She was a delightful elderly lady. I could help but think of my mother (who is 83) as Candy sat next to me, wondering how my mom would do on this trip. I know that she would love to have been able to come in her lifetime. I found out that Candy was 92 years old, 93 in June. She was quite the trooper!
Well, tomorrow we are headed back to Tel Aviv. Sorry for the delay in getting these posts out. Continuing to have internet problems, but will eventually get them all posted. Thanks for taking the time to read.