The past week has been jam packed. We've done all the touring of the "Holy Land" that we're going to do. I have experienced God so much here in Israel. This may be long but here are a few things I want to share...
As the 5 other teams have given presentations from their outreach, it has reminded me of my desire and heart to see more. Yes, I'm tired and want a small break, BUT there is so much I want to see. So much need. God is moving all around the world and my desire to take part in it is unescapable. It was inspiring to see pictures, here stories of the high points and the struggles, and just hear the ways our mighty God is moving. We gave all the glory back to Him and we're still overwhelmed by the fact that He chose to use and work through us.
We have seen many wonderful sites of this "chosen land." Masada may have been the most beautiful of all, as it sits on top of a massive cliff overlooking the Judean desert and Dead Sea. The history behind this site is amazing, read about it. Of course we floated in the Dead Sea and covered our bodies in the "amazing" mud. It also was beautiful and SO fun. Not sinking is such a weird/cool feeling. We spent an afternoon "relaxing" at Ein Gedi which is an oasis in the desert and is where David hid from Saul and wrote some of the Psalms. The waterfalls, streams, caves, and views are amazing. We also went to Qumran which is area of the cave the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in, which of course is a major discovery. The next day we spent the morning at Yad Vashem (the Holocasut museum). And that afternoon went to the Garden Tomb which is another possible site of the resurrection. I found this "garden" and tomb to be much more believable. We were able to worship and take communion as we reflected on what really could have been the place of Jesus' death. I was absolutley overwhelmed, and as I'm sure I'll say a few more times, there is something extremely special about worshiping in this land. That night we went on a tunnel tour which is an underground tunnel along the Western Wall. It is the closest the Jewish people can get to the "holiest of holies." Such cool history and archeology. The next day we hit up the Mount of Beatitudes (where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount). Some of our team memorized the sermon and recited it, very cool. It was just crazy to think that so much of Jesus' ministry was done here and in the surrounding area. Our next stop was the church of multiplication of loaves and fishes. This is located right on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and is where Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection and told Peter to throw his nets on the other side of the boat. This is a place of annointing and calling. In John 21, Jesus calls Peter into full time ministry (to shepherd the sheep). I LOVE this passage. Jesus asks Peter 3 times if he loves Him. He tell's Peter to "follow me." I was reminded of my call to follow Him wholeheartedly and was thinking, do I love Him, do I REALLY love Him, do I love Him enough to follow Him WHEREVER? There will be places I will not want to go but I love Him. I really love Him. "Yes" is my answer. Again, I was overwhelmed as I stood on the bank and in the water right where Jesus was. After that we made our way to Capernaum. Very cool ruins in a beautiful setting. We spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing at the Sea of Galilee where I was baptized!
I was sprinkled as a child and for the past year or so have thought a lot about the significance of baptism. I know that because I wasn't "dunked" means I'm missing something BUT being baptized is supposed to be MY decision and public declaration of following Jesus. I love the symbolism of being washed clean and coming out of old life into new. This was a great opportunity (as it is the Sea of Galilee) to publically declare what I believe to my brothers and sisters who I've grown with and who have encouraged me over the past 6 months. It was symbolic of me entering in to this new phase of life, being completely open and surrendered. My deepest desire is to be in His will and be completely obedient. I have grown so much over the past 6 months. I am SO in love with Jesus. So, as I was dunked, I left my old self and I'm now living completely alive and confident in who I am in Christ. "My whole life is YOURS, I give it ALL, surrender to Your name and forever I will pray, have Your way, have You way."
The past couple of days we've been debriefing and talking about re-entering. We've been worshiping a lot and I have felt His Presence so strongly here. I've been so excited to get home but now it's hitting me. I'm sad. This is over. I don't want to go. It's going to be hard. I'm anxious about this transition and cannot believe in 3 days I will be leaving this new "family" of mine. I know I have an amazing family in America but it will be hard to relate to anyone. I am seeking His face and resting in His Presence. He is meeting me here and He is already waiting for me at home.
I have much much more going on in this whirlwind head of mine. But I'll stop now.