From Jerusalem: Day 8

I am a few days behind. Where do I begin?
Day 5 We left in the morning from Tiberias and drove to Mount Tabor for the Transfiguration. The church is beautiful, especially the small crypts below built on the earlier church mosaic floors and the deck to the right of the church where we read the story of the transfiguration. Mountain top experiences are important for what they are worth: not an end in themselves, but an empowerment for the valleys below where there is ministry to be done. God the father blesses Jesus publically.

We visited Beth Shean, the amazing ruins that rival Ephesus: marble columns, streets, theatre. We sang Great is thy Faithfulness in a tunnel next to the theatre, remembering that God has been faithful from one generation to the next. This is city in the Decapolis Jesus would have ministered in. We drove to Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The entire text of Isaiah was found, which corroborates the text which was previously the earliest, which was 1000 years older than Qumran. This was a monastic community with rituals and rules that dictated their lives. John the Baptist, they said was once an Essene, but didn't complete his training. We ended the day checking in at the Isrotel on the lower part of the Dead Sea. We all floated in the 30% saline water.

Day 6. Masada was impressive. The cable car ride, the buildings built by Herod and later used by the rebellion forces of the Jews. 10 fathers drew straws for who would be the last to fall on his sword before being taken captive by the Romans. It was a sad event, but it has also been a rally cry for freedom and justice for Israel. 35 degrees Celsius and we were challenged by the 2 hours of adventure. They experienced the wilderness, as did Jesus, Moses and the people of God. If we hadn't gone to the Dead Sea, we would have missed something very important.

We arrived at the Dan Panorama in Jerusalem. After dinner we walked to the mall that leads to the Jaffa Gate. We entered the gate and walked east into the Jewish Quarter of the old city. We meandered through the closed up shops of the Bizarre, and ended at the Golden Menorah, which is on the balcony overlooking the Dome of the Rock and the Western (wailing) Wall. It was amazing to walk the streets of the Old City at night when shops were mostly closed and it was so quiet.

Day 7. We went to the church of the Nativity. It was discovered after 313 when Constantine declared the empire Chrisitan and sent his mother Helen to the Holy Land to discover the site of Jesus' birth.

We sang O Come All Ye Faithful in the cave where Jesus was born. I was moved to think where we were and the millions who have gone before us since the 4th century. I didn't care that a church was built over the site; I was happy to know Christians have been making pilgrimage since then. The icons, the languages, the structures all point to a motivated church that wanted to give their very best to the place of the nativity and inspire others to do the same.

Then we visited the Bethlehem Bible College. We were awed at the way brothers Alex (pastor) and Bershwar (founder and president) Awad told their own story about the mother becoming a Christian, describing their experience as Palestinian Arab Christians and their father was killed in the war of Independence in 1948. It was sobering, and I'm glad we went.

We had lunch at a Kibbutz, then on the Mount of Olives. Amazing. We talked about the Lord's prayer in the Pater Noster Church where the prayer is displayed on painted tiles in every language and we prayed it together. As we descended the Mount of Olives toward the Kidron Valley, we read all the stories, especially Jesus weeping, and praying in the garden.

Day 8. Yesterday we walked the Via Dolorosa, reading scripture as we went along. Right after we entered the Lion's or Stephen's Gate, we entered read the story of the man who was healed at the pool of Bethesda, right at the five porticos, then went into St. Anne's Church. Because of the amazing acoustics, we sang the Doxology and Amazing Grace.

We continued all the way to the Holy Sepulcher. There were pilgrims from all over, touching the cross and stone of Golgotha with Rosary beads for blessing. There was a long line of pilgrims waiting to touch the Holy Sepulcher as well. Candles lit by other candles and then quickly extinguished to take home for friends.

This morning we left for David's tomb. Men on one side, women on the other as we saw the empty sarcophagus of David. Before we entered, a Jewish man from London, now living in Jerusalem, came up to us as we were reading many of the Psalms of David: Psalm 23, 51, 91, 100 and 150. He suggested we read 48, then he sang for us 23. He told us how he was always afraid to sing. He was praying one day and he began to sing the Psalms. He believed God gave him a gift so that he could sing for the right reasons. Now he comes every day to the tomb of David to sing the Psalms.

We went to the Upper Room and read the account of the washing of the disciples' feet in John 13. Servant Leadership is what we all strive for because of Jesus' example. "I have set an example for you…" and "you will be blessed." We also had time to read through John 17, Jesus' high priestly prayer.

We went outside and talked about Pentecost, because it was also in the upper room that the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. So I read Acts 1 and 2. We talked about the power (dynamite) of the Holy Spirit for ministry, the paraclete Holy Spirit that comes alongside us to comfort, convict and to gift us for ministry. I asked everyone what their spiritual gifts were. Almost all were able to identify their gifts. We sang "Spirit of the Living God" and prayed for the power of the spirit to be present in our lives.

We went to the Western (Wailing) Wall, reading Psalm 30, and prayed. This is the holiest place for Judaism because it's the closest place they can get to the Holy of Holies of the Temple destroyed in 70ad.
 We sat on the Temple steps and I read passages from Hebrews (we have a high priest), Luke (Jesus circumcised in the Temple, Simeon and Anna's blessing and Jesus' journey with Mary and Joseph when he was twelve) and 1 Cor 6 (You are the temple of the Holy Spirit) and Romans 12:1 (present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God). We sat on the same steps Jesus walked and were reminded that Jesus' sacrifice for us was based on the Temple system, we are to be holy and blameless, Jesus is our high priest who is interceding for us. We had some free time, so we went from the southern most part of the Old City, through the Jewish Quarter and Muslim Quarter and out the Damascus Gate to find the St Georges Cathedral, where Dalal's parents were married in 1957. On the way we found two hole in the wall places for falafel and baklava and turkish coffee. After exploring inside and outside the Old City, we walked back to the Jaffa gate, feet and legs aching from so much walking. Jumped in the pool and glad to refresh ourselves.

Tonight we went through the Western Wall tunnel, which connects the current Prayer Plaza of the Wailing Wall to the northeastern most corner of the Temple Mount. We saw cut stone three feet by five feet and larger from the time of Herod. Tomorrow is our last day in Jerusalem: Holocaust Memorial, Israel Museum with the Dead Sea Scrolls and Communion at the Garden Tomb.


  1. Pastor Mike

    I am so enjoying reading of your travels. I am so happy for the two of you. What a blessing to have such a loving marriage.

    I am not sure if you shall travel through Moldova on your way to Ukraine but. . .My eldest son Josh has been in the Peace Corps there for two years.
    He has been teaching High School English in the southern portion of the country but the Peace Corps has asked him to re-sign for at least another year. He will be teaching Journalism at the University in the Capital in Chisinau. He will also help and train the Moldova's journalists. Josh studied Journalism, Photography and Comparative Religions at the U of Co before going into the Peace Corps. He speaks French, Arabic, Romanian and Russian.

    If you do plan to make it through there, let me know.

    FYI-I am writing a letter for Emmanuel to recommend him for a Visa. We are busy working on a lot of different things for him-getting his financial plan together, rewriting his website, etc. I even connected him with the Chargers. He went there the day before he left for Ghana and they were absolutely blown away with him. They will be working with him when he returns to plan some events. I also connected him with a Board Member of the S.D. Salvation Army and we are now working to get International S.A. involved with the school.

    May you both walk in "Sonshine",
    Laura de Ghetaldi-- A.K. A Dr. Laura :-}

    P.S. What an amazing reading list!

  2. Mike- A great friend and former intern Jake Stewart told me that you were with his parents at some point on your israel trip. I love knowing how small the PCUSA and the Christian world is. I was at your old church and at Jake's wedding in Moraga a bunch of years ago. How your trip is amazing.


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