Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Leaving Jerusalem for Masada and Petra, Jordan

Driving south thru the Judean wilderness towards the Dead Sea we headed towards Masada, the site of King Herod's fortress in the desert where the Jewish Zealots took refuge during the revolt against the Romans. Herod had constructed this fortress high above the desert and it was well fortified with arms, supplies, and food. Around 66 AD, the Romans surrounded the Zealots in the fortress but could not penetrate the mound. Finally, the Romans built a ramp to the gates and stormed them with battering rams to gain entry. The Zealots decided that death as a free man was preferable to life as a slave to the Romans, so they killed their wives and children, then drew lots to see who would kill the remaining men, then fall upon their own sword.

We ascended to this fortress on a cable car, with Charlotte huddled in the middle so we could protect her! We got her up there and back down, none the worse for the wear. Another fascinating site!

Before we forget...we need to say "Happy Birthday" to Jack-B-Quick!! From Susie and all of her new best friends here in the desert!

We spent the rest of the day driving thru the desert, around the Dead Sea and then past the Red Sea, to the town of Eilat, where looking across the Red sea, you could see Saudi Arabia and the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt .
The Dead Sea is a turquoise color with white salt edges and mounds all around it. In contrast, the Red Sea, is a brilliant sapphire blue and refreshingly clear. We drove several hours, stopping for french fries and ice cream at another kibbutz which runs a dairy farm. We crossed the border into Jordan, without any difficulty (even Pastor Kevin was cleared for passage....he wore his hat today! :) We arrived after dark at our hotel in Petra, which is just beautiful!

Pat was feeling rather frisky this evening and began giving "dancing instruction" to Nancy! Omar Abdul just happened to pass by so Pat got to do her dance with the Arab! Photos will follow for sure!!

Melody (aka as Debbie #4) says Hi to Dad and hopes he is reading this so he will know that she is behaving and having a great deal of fun! We have all adopted her as our own!

Tomorrow we walk the five miles thru Petra and then we will head for Amman!

The Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, Garden of the Tomb

Early Tuesday morning we drove to The Mount of Olives. From there we had a terrific view of the Old City of Jerusalem, and it's many walls, both old and new, as many new walls are erected between the Israeli and Palestinian areas. We visited the Chapel of Ascension and then walked the Palm Sunday road to the Garden of Gethsemane. It is easy to see why this was a place Christ and the disciples spent much time, as it is a tranquil oasis. We then entered the Old City again and visited the Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the lame man in John Ch 5.

We next stopped in St. Anne's Church (Mary's Church) where we began singing "He is Lord" and a group from Rwanda joined their voices with ours. They smiled and chatted with us afterward and it was a special moment spent with "friends".

We were then "turned loose" in the old marketplace in Jerusalem for lunch and shopping. A little restaurant was found by some of the group, where they had some marvelous "Israeli" pizza! What a treat!

On the way down thru the marketplace (which is a rough, old stone path) Gordon decided that he had walked way past his limit that day and cried "uncle" for the first time. (We had walked ALOT and climbed even more!) So a shopkeeper by the name of Samir Husseini, offered him a seat in front of his shop, while we went for lunch. Melody "delivered" his pizza back to him, and Samir took Gordon to his table to dine! Of course, by the time lunch was over, Gordon had another good buddy in Jerusalem. There are some really nice people all over the world!

We then went to the Garden of the Tomb, where we were able to enter the empty tomb and then we had a communion service in the Garden. This was the highlight of our day as Pastor Kevin and Pastor Dennis led this service and truly made it special for us.

We continued to our hotel for our last night in Jerusalem tired and with achy feet, but what a wonderful day we had!

The Old City of Jerusalem and five "loaves" feeds a bus...

Monday morning our faithful bus driver, Mike, and our guide, Theo, drove us to the Old City of Jerusalem. Today we were visiting The Burnt House and The Temple Institute. The Burnt House is the site of a home of one of the chief priests, and there we viewed a video of their life around 70 Ad, at the time of the Zealots revolt against the Romans. We were able to piece together much of what we have seen thru viewing the video on the burning of the city by the Romans.

At the Temple Institute we saw exact replicas of what the Temple implements would have been like in the Temple. It was fascinating to see the garments of the Priests, menorah, harps, purification urns and more. We left with a much clearer understanding of the life and times in the Holy City of previous centuries.

Susie and Barbara brought fish...yes, fish, to feed the starving kittys in the Old City. Susie saved her fish from dinner and hung it outside on her balcony "to keep it cool"! So the little kittys had a feast thanks to Susie and Barbara!

We then continued to St. Peters Cathedral, built on the site of the House of Caiaphas, under which is found the dungeon where Christ was held. We descended into this dungeon, and then we walked the very steps upon which Jesus trod many times as he traversed the hill.

As we were leaving, several cans of Pringles were spotted in the gift shop there. Now, we've been having cucumber and tomato salad of some sort in a kibbutz for several days, so there was a huge craving for something "crisp and salty'! Five "loaves" of pringles were carried onto the bus (along with two Cokes!) and all on the bus were fed! It was the most delightful taste of home and the leftovers were gathered and saved for later! It tasted just like 'manna' to us!

Tomorrow we go to The Mount of Olives and then walk the Via Delorosa and visit the Garden of Gethsemane and the Tomb!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Dead Sea, Church of the Nativity, and The Upper Room

On Sunday morning we drove thru the Shepherds Fields of Boaz and Ruth enroute to Qumran, where 2 Bedouin boys found the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. We viewed the remains of the ancient monastery and saw the caves where the scrolls were found. We continued on, descending to the Dead Sea, at 1300 feet below sea level, where some of our group floated including Tia Lou, Susan, Mark & Beth and Steve. The water was strong and briny. After the swim we headed to the modern town of Jericho, crossing once again into Palestinian territory. We saw 3 men fleeing the border patrol, and one handcuffed and blindfolded on the side of the road. Here we saw more signs of war and destruction than we have seen previously.
The Judean wilderness was much as you might picture it- a stark contrast to the fertile regions around Jerusalem and further north. There were many Bedouins and their "tent communities" on the sandy, desert hillsides. We saw our first camels (dromedairies) and Charlotte and June both jumped on the first one, so of course, photos of this will surface very soon!

Our next stop was the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, built over the manger where Jesus was born. The usual depiction of the manger scene (barn and wooden manger) are in direct contrast to the actual stone cave in which we saw the place where He was born and the stone feed trough in which He was laid. We sang "Away in the Manger" and it will never sound quite the same again.

After lunch in another kibbutz, we continued on to the site of The Upper Room, where the Last Supper would have been held. As with all places of historic Christian importance, a church, chapel, or shrine have been built over the site to commorate the event, and are replicated as closely as possible to what the original would have been like.

All is well with our group, but out internet access is very limited, so this will be continued and edited later!
Love from everyone to all our friends and family at home. We have never felt safer and are having a great time together!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cana, Nazareth, Meggido and Caesarea by the Sea

Saturday morning we left the Galilee area and drove to Cana for a visit to the Church of the wedding, where Jesus performed his first miracle. We then went into the bustling town of Nazareth and visited Mary's well, where the women drew water (not we women, but the women of old!). Leaving there we drove on thru the Wheat fields of the Bible and onto Meggido, Armageddon. Meggido was a most interesting tell, or fortress on a hill, which was the site of Soloman's chariot stables and situated at a very strategic intersection on the Via Maris, from Egypt to Damascus. Much blood has been shed here as many wars and battles have taken place in the valley below, also known as the field of blood. We were able to walk much of the old fortress and to climb 183 steps down to reach the wellspring which supplied the water for Soloman's fortress, then climb 86 steps back out, in the same way that the women of old transported their water jugs on their heads daily. Those women must have had some great calf muscles!

We then drove to the Mt Carmel Range to the site where Elijah built the altar and called down for God to light the altar fire. We were able to see the Valley of Jazreel in the distance. Another very memorable site.

From there we headed to the Mediterranean, and Caesarea by the Sea, the luxurious Roman resort which Herod the Great constructed in the late first century BC. What a gorgeous setting he chose for his palace and the well planned town he constructed around it. And the setting on the Mediterranean Sea is so beautiful! We sat in the Amphitheatre there with the sea in front of it...then we all waded in the Sea and longed for more time to take in the lovely area. Pontious Pilate, the Roman governor had his summer home in this place. Most of the city has been destroyed, but they have handsomely recovered and/or rebuilt much of it.

We then headed to Jerusalem and arrived at our accommodations for the next four days. Of course, this was the Jewish Sabbath, so many things were closed, but we had a nice dinner and then went shopping in Bethlehem, after sundown and the end of their Sabbath. Now, Bethlehem is a bustling city and is under Palestinian control (West Bank) so we had to cross the checkpoint and enter thru the wall erected by the Israelis; it is reminiscent of the Berlin wall. We are gaining a new and clearer understanding of the many issues facing the Israelis and the Palestinians, but that is a topic for another time.

Our group is having a great experience and a lot of fun here in The Holy Land. JuneBug got locked in the bathroom leaving Mt Carmel...the locks on the stalls are the heavy duty version, but she managed to break out just as we were coming to her rescue. Now, we ladies are somewhat skeptical about locking our stalls. But June knows we'll rescue her!!

Susie collects our leftovers and feeds all the stray kitties everyday. She and Barbara are the animal catering committee! We've got some really sweet 'Carolina girls on this trip. Vicky and Gary Bell have been such fun to be with. Vicky is a big 'ol bundle of smiles and laughter, and we were concerned about the fact that she wasn't eating much at some meals. She then showed us these delicious "oranges" that she found on the buffet...but they look like large round limes and taste like sweet mandarins. They are so yummy! When we told her we were afraid she'd waste away to skin and bones, she said" I wouldn't waste away if I stayed here forever!" She is a joy to be around!

Our internet access is very poor and therefore we are behind with posting and there may not be pictures for a few days, but we'll get them up as soon as we can. We have to write as fast as possible and don't always get to proofread, so please forgive our errors!

Here is a link for the blog Pastor Kevin has up, if you want to read more about our adventures. He is the young man which we thought the Jordanians were going to retain when we crossed into Israel! But we still have him with us and he is an inspiration to us every day!

Tomorrow, The Dead Sea, the Wailing Wall, the Crypt of the Scrolls and more of Jerusalem!
Love to everyone and thanks for your responses...we love hearing from you guys!

Friday, October 26, 2007

On the Galilee, Capernaum, and the Mount of the Beatitudes

It must be Friday, because we were on the Sea of Galilee today. We have rather lost track of time!
After another delicious breakfast, we boarded one of the boats for a ride across the Sea of Galilee to the Mt. of the Beatitudes. It was a picture perfect morning, calm and tranquil. Pastor Dennis shared with us from Mark Chapter 4 as we crossed the lake. His gentle and warm demeanor was inspiring to us as we knew that we were, indeed, following in the steps of Jesus. Well... we all stayed in the boat...but we knew He could have walked upon the very water on which we were sailing!

After a brief stop at a Jewish kibbutz (commune) we traveled on to the Mt. of the Beatitudes where Jesus delivered His Sermon on the Mount. There really aren't words to describe the serene beauty of the place. It was easy to imagine the people gathered around the hillside as they listened to Jesus speak. Another incredible place to be!

From there we went to the Mt of Multiplication, where Jesus fed the five thousand. We saw the curved hillside where the people gathered, then we walked to the shore of the Galilee and gathered rocks (yes, we are bringing home some rocks!) While we were there, in the chapel on this mount, we had a special prayer for our friends and buddies at home who are fighting some really tough battles. Elizabeth, Bud and Everett..... we love and miss you and are keeping you daily in our prayers!

From there we went to the remains of the old city of Capernaum, where Jesus spent much of His ministry. We were able to view and walk around some of the remains of this old city which once was a major commerce center and intersection for travelers in the time during Jesus' ministry.

After lunch we then went to the Jordan River for a Baptismal service. The river is surprisingly clear at this point, just after it leaves the Galilee, with a slight cast of turquoise to it. Many of us were baptised by Don and Ricky here in the Jordan. Leslie, dear friend, we were surely thinking of you at this time, as we have often heard you speak of your desire to do this!

Tomorrow we will leave the Galilee and head towards Cana then on to Nazareth and will be in Jerusalem for the next five nights!

We love to hear from's nice to know that you are checking in on us!
Many thanks for your comments!

We saw what Moses saw.....

Thursday morning found us leaving Amman early, headed for the ancient Roman city ruins of Jerash...yes the Romans occupied and built the city called Jerash or "Antioch on the Corissus" around 63 bc...and what a city it was. About 15% of the city has been recovered since it was rediscovered around 1806. We were facinated by the rock sewer manhole covers in the streets; yes, until the 7th century they had a working sewage system; it was then mostly destroyed by an earthquake, when it was lost to the world. Interestingly enough, today there is no working sewage system in the modern town. Gordon declared that he surely had climbed at least 378 steps towards the heavens as we ascended to the "Sanctuary of Artemis"

For those of you who don't know our buddy Gordon, he is one amazing guy. He's just as loveable as the Pillsbury DoughBoy, and about 8 months ago went on a strict diet to lose almost 50 pounds and began walking 5 miles everyday on his treadmill with his three (yep 3, one didn't take!) artificial knees to be able to do this trip. And he has walked and climbed every step of the way with us! Kudos to you Gordon!

When we visited the ancient Hippodrome in Jerash we were encouraged to stand in the center sweet spot and sing or call out, to experience the amazing acoustics! George, did you hear Charlotte? She only called one word and that was "GEORGE!" Then she had one little tear and we all missed you being here with us!

We then traveled on to Mt Nebo, the highest point in the Moab Mountains, and the site of Mt Pisgah, where Moses ascended to view The Promised Land of Canaan. From that site we saw what Moses saw... the area that is now Jerico, the Jordan River, Sea of Gallilee, Mt of Olives, the Dead Sea and the vast fertile expanse of Israel. Words really cannot describe being there on that mount looking across to The Promised Land. It was the highlight of our day!

We continued traveling and crossed into Israel at the northern Jordan river checkpoint! What an experience! There is absolutely no customs clearance to enter Jordan, (we walked right thru, as they have no security clearance) but they sure want to know what you have when you leave!
We had to unload all the luggage from the bus and have each piece x-rayed and then we were finger-printed and photographed! Kevin Brown, a young pastor from N. Wilkesboro, NC. was selected for quite a thorough background search. Now, he's about 6'6, with blue eyes, a clean shaven head, and a winning smile, and they sure found him fascinating. The entire process was exhausting and we hadn't even gotten to the Israeli checkpoint. Amazingly, Israel, although very thorough, and with Humvees sporting 50 caliber machine guns and Light Armored Personel carriers with 20 mm cannons on them, moved us thru their security in half the time of the Jordan exodus and with much less comotion!

Finally, we were in Israel! and headed to our hotel on the Sea of Gallilee. A little tired but in great spirits as we enjoyed a great day with our group.

Now, just a little explanation may be in order. On our introduction we started off as 33 travelers, but we lost one before we left Warsaw. Sadly, Peggy Anderson's husband was taken to the hospital on Monday evening before our departure and she was unable to join us, so now we are 32 travelers. Peggy, we miss you and hope you can joins us thru this site. We are taking good care of Nancy and having much fun with her, so please know that she misses you but is truly enjoying herself.

We have also had some internet difficulties so we are a day or so behind, but please stay with us...we'll post as often as we can!

We have a lovely group of people, very warm and caring, and the Virginians and North Carolinians are enjoying each other tremendously. We have four ministers on this trip; as already mentioned Pastors Don Bowen and Rick Speas, and we also have Rev. Dennis Martin from White Stone (VA) Baptist Church and Pastor Kevin Brown from Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro, NC. If ever there were four pastors that are a joy to be, we've got 'em!! Now, we are a bit partial to Don, because he's ours, and he's just like an old comfortable shoe, but Dennis, Ricky and Kevin are just great guys and are an inspiration to all of us. We are indeed fortunate to be in their company, and we thank their Churches for sharing them with us for this trip.

Tomorrow, we take a boat on the Galilee, then visit the Mt of Multiplication, where Jesus fed the five thousand, spend some time in a kibbutz, and then Capernaum, and will then go to the Jordan River for baptisms!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Amman at Dusk..we have arrived!!

We arrived in Amman, Jordan this evening around 5 pm and proceeded to our accommodations in the city as the sun was setting. It was truly an Arabian night as the sun set on the city and was dark before 6:30 pm.
Our trip was pleasant all around. We spent Tuesday afternoon and evening suspended in time, in the JFK airport. We have a most congenial group, and of course, our fearless leaders, Don and Rick, so we just simply enjoyed our time "waiting". We boarded the flight right on time and were in the air by 11:15 pm. There were lots of empty seats so many were able to spread out and find a comfortable spot and most of us caught at least a few winks of sleep. As we arrived to local Jordan time of 5 pm, we were still a little short on sleep, but bright eyed nonetheless.

Ann and Gordon kept us entertained as we went thru security clearances, as they were always singled out for "searches; we weren't sure if it was due to the extra metal they carry in their knees or maybe they just looked a little "shady-er" than the rest of us? :) (Nah, if there is one thing Ann and Gordon are's definitely NOT shady!)

We had the luxury of watching a Jordanian wedding processional as it entered the hotel, with the traditional ceremonial dancing and singing! This was a true highlight for us; while we watched from the mezzanine above the lovely bride and handsome groom with their families, slowly danced their way into the reception hall. The processional lasted close to an hour and it was mesmerizing to watch them. We are quite sure that Don and Ricky picked up some wonderful ideas to incorporate into their next wedding ceremony.......!:)

So friends and family we are all alive and well in Jordan! We will travel by bus to Tiberius in the Galilee tomorrow so wake up time is O"dark thirty for us (6:00am). We are all off to bed now and a good nights' sleep!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Follow us to The Holy Land & Jordan!

On Tuesday, October 23rd, 33 adventurous souls will depart JFK in New York for an inspirational tour of Israel and Jordan. Donald Bowen, pastor of Cobham Park Baptist Church in Warsaw, VA and Ricky Speas, pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC will lead our group as we travel over 14,000 miles, to the land we've learned about and longed to see.

We will arrive in Amman, Jordan and then visit Mt. Nebo, where Moses saw the Promised Land, continue thru Jerash then cross into Israel; spend two days in Tiberias and The Galilee, Cana, Nazareth, Haifa, then on to Jerusalem where four days will be spent in the Holy City and the surrounding mountains, Calvary, and Bethlehem, before heading to Jericho, The Dead Sea, Masada and the finally back into Jordan to Petra, and returning to Amman for flight home.

We hope you'll follow along, and keep us in your prayers, as we share our journey with you!