Final Day in Jerusalem – Day 10

It is hard to get to the final day.  Everyone has bonded and no one wants to break up the family (except Will – who wants to get back to his girlfriend, Hannah).

So we start the final day feeling a bit sentimental.  It was a beautiful crisp day and the view over the Judean hills was spectacular.  Meals at our hotel, Yad HaShmona, with everyone eating together has gotten to feel normal.  We have a full day ahead so we eat well and get on the bus.  First stop is at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount where we go through security and make our way down to the base of the wall.  Women and men separate and we approach the wall.  But there is no power in the wall itself.  These stones are just stones.  True, this is the only permanent edifice where God chose to dwell among men, but with the perfect sacrifice of Yeshua and the tearing of the curtain between man and the Holy of Holies, God’s temple is now within each of us.  We all placed prayers in the wall, prayed in the name of Yeshua and left it at that.

We visited the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount where everyone except the priests would have entered the temple.  Here is one of the few places where we can be fairly certain that Jesus actually walked.  There is a cleft in the rock wall where we took turns posing for a picture symbolizing God’s protection.  Then we gathered and read the Psalms of Ascents, one for each of the large steps ascending to the temple.  What a joy to read the songs they would have sung going into the temple!  When we reached the top we prayed for eyes to be opened and hearts to be softened as we do everywhere in this land.

Next we had an appointment to visit the Rabbi’s Tunnel which runs underground along the base of the Western Wall.  After absorbing much information and walking a long distance in narrow spaces, we emerged in the Muslim Quarter where we had to walk back what seemed like miles (probably only about a half mile) to get back into the Jewish quarter.  Starving by now, we grabbed some lunch and coffee and then released everyone to do some shopping.

Back at Yad HaShmona, we took a photo of the group with our tour guide, Jerry, and bus driver, Shimshon, and got cleaned up for dinner.  Malka and Ken joined us again and after dinner we came together for one last time of sharing and prayer.  We gave our team mascot, Imree, a shirt signed by everyone.  Then we held hands and gave thanks to the Lord for his faithfulness and all the ways He revealed Himself to us over the last 10 days.  We gave hugs and kisses to our friends as the sun set over the Judean hills.

Tomorrow we rise at 3:30 AM to be on the bus at 4:30 and to the airport by 5:00, catching the 8:10 flight to Paris.  Paris to Atlanta and then a bus ride to Knoxville.  I expect to hear snoring.

These trips are like an intimate date with God.  There is so much to process, so much to turn over in your mind.  We will be seeing the faces of all our friends in the ministries we visited.  We will never read scripture without picturing the land where the stories happened.  So if you ask us to tell you all about our trip, don’t be surprised if we cannot put it into words for awhile.  Thank you to all who supported the team members.  We are returning with a love for Israel and all her people.

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Shabbat in the Land – Day 9

Our second Shabbat here in Israel and our second-to-last day.  As the sun rose there was a mist that covered the Judean hills around us.  It was a cool and beautiful June morning.  We started by going to Join Danny and Tammy Meyuseff at their congregation in Kfar Saba.  Danny’s sister-in-law is a counselor and teacher who uses the tabernacle as a teaching tool for spiritual and emotional healing and to disciple women into a deeper walk with Yeshua.  We were privileged to have her walk us very briefly through the tabernacle and just a few of its spiritual truths.  Then Tammy shared about their ministry and how long and persistent they sometimes have to be to see someone come to faith in Yeshua.

Pastor Tony Sperandeo taught from John 12:23-25 and told of his recent trip to China to teach and serve the underground church.  He was arrested and detained twice but it didn’t deter the believers.  They just kept moving the location of their meeting until they were finished with the worship and teaching.  It is good to see Israel taking the Gospel to the world.  We were challenged and emboldened in our faith.

The afternoon was our time for a team debrief.  This is one of my favorite parts.  We always tell people that this trip is like trying to drink from a firehose.  You need plenty of time for processing all that you have observed all God is teaching you.  We gathered together under the shade of one of the wonder outdoor spaces here at Yad HaShmona.  Some of the ladies wanted to start our time with a presentation of “Superlative Awards”.  They were as follows:

Gregor: Mr. Israel/Fearless Leader/Rooster

Jennifer: Mrs. Israel/Fearless Leader/Mother Hen

Rabbi Michael: Best Corny Jokes/Best Pipes/Most Interesting Fashion Accessory

Amanda: Best Mona Lisa Smile/Best French Translator

Scott & Lynette: Cutest Couple

Bob: Most Likely To Win On Jeopardy/Most Interesting Facts

Judy: Most Adventurous/Most Likely To Jump In A Waterfall

Mindy: Best Israel Tan/Most Reliable

Imree: Team Mascot/Most Mature

Kristi: Princess Di Look-Alike Winner/Walking Bible

Janet: Most Agressive Prayer Warrior/Walking Pharmacy

Sue: Spunky Russian/Walking Pharmacy

Will: Gift of Tongues/Cat Whisperer/Runs on “Will Time”

Ashton: Best Hugs/Germophobe/Best Egg Cracker

Katie: Most Tenderhearted/Most Likely to Start a Cat Rescue in Israel

Natalie: Best Team Member/The Oreo Filling

Michelle: Runner-Up Best Tan/ Most Likely to Catch You in a Logical Fallacy

Jeannie: Best Israeli Native/Most Likely to Start a Deep Conversation

Josh: Most Chivalrous/Best Dancer/Best Documentary Filmaker Award

Mary Anne: Most Cheerful/Best Team Attitude

I posed five questions to everyone and we spent nearly four hours discussing and sharing our hearts (with a few breaks for snacks).  There were deeply moving times and times where we split our sides laughing.  Our favorite quote of the day came from Michelle: “Every time you are with the Rabbi you are going to learn something, even if you didn’t want to.”

We finished our debrief time with overflowing hearts of thankfulness poured out in prayer.  Later in the evening we went to Ben Yehuda Street to shop and play.  We took our dear friends, Malka and Ken Shostak with us.  We sat at a cafe on the street drinking cappuccinos and eating ice cream.  Back to the hotel at 11:30 and fell into bed exhausted and happy yet again.

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Worship, Work and Soldiers – Day 8

Reserving a spot in the Garden of Gethsemane, owned by the Catholic Church, is not an easy task.  But through determination and persistence, our tour coordinator finally secured a place for us; praise the Lord.  We eventually had the entire garden to ourselves. We shared and read scripture from Matthew and Romans reminding ourselves of Yeshua’s sorrow to the point of death on the very ground on which we were standing.  We also read about our being grafted branches in Israel’s olive tree.  That we are not to be boastful or conceited since it is the Lord himself who has partially blinded them until the full number of Gentiles comes to belief.  Then the Lord will lift the blindness and all Jewish people who proclaim that Yeshua is Lord and believe will be grafted back in.  All Israel appointed for life will be saved.  We wept for our Jewish friends who are jealous for their God but are temporarily blinded from the truth.  Lord, bring revival to Israel!

From Gethsemane we headed to the shuck (pronounced shook) which is the main outdoor market in Jerusalem.  From peace and introspection to bustle and jostling crowds, we experienced the full breadth in just a few minutes.  Frantic and full of energy, the shuk is a great experience of middle east life.  We bought fruit,nuts, pastries and candy  and stopped for a coffee.

From the shuck we walked to the King of Kings Prayer Tower where John Ott met us.  He and his wife Tikvah work coordinating and leading worship in the tower.  It is a place where people can come from all over the world to pray over Jerusalem and worship together.  After standing on the balcony, reading scripture and praying over the orthodox neighborhoods and over the temple mount, we went inside and John led us in worship.  We sat or lay on the floor soaking up, basking in the praises of the Lord and enjoying the presence of His Spirit.

Next we split into two teams.  One worked cleaning and doing minor repair tasks at the Otts home while the other went to the Johnson’s home to paint and clean.  With hands still blistered from yesterday’s work in the olive grove, we labored hard and accomplished much in just two and a half hours.  Then it was back on the bus and to our hotel to get cleaned up for Shabbat dinner.

Each time we come to Israel we make sure to plan a dinner with the Lone Soldiers at Ha MiFlaht (The Refuge).  Scott and Theresa Johnson open their home every day, but especially on Friday evenings, to IDF soldiers and other young people who have no place to go for Shabbat dinner.  With our team of 21 we packed the place.  But that is nothing unusual for Scott and Theresa.  Michael Weiner led the traditional Kiddush prayer and we shared a glass of wine with the soldiers.  Then we had a wonderful evening of eating, sharing, laughing.  We hated to leave.  I had to pull our team away as the bus driver was a bit impatient.  But we left a good portion of our hearts with these young men and women who put their lives in the balance to protect their land and their people.  Another long and incredible day in the land of Israel.

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Humility and Pruning – Day 7

Thursday mornings Asher Intrater teaches at Revive’ Yisrael.  We have been blessed to hear his teaching nearly every time we visit Israel.  This morning he taught on Romans 11 backing up to the last couple verses of Romans 10.  The main focus of the teaching was that the starting point for Jewish and Gentile believers in Yeshua must be humility.  Salvation is by grace alone.  None of us is worthy.  God intends for us to love and support each other, working side by side for His kingdom.  Gentile Christians do not need to become Jewish and Jewish believers do not need to stop being Jewish.  It is the a atoning blood of Yeshua that saves us all.  Because of the persecution that is part of being a Jewish believer here is Israel, we were asked not to take photos.  If photos of Jews worshipping Jesus can be found on the internet they can lose their jobs, be evicted from their apartments and be denied entrance to the universities.

After a wonderful morning of worship and teaching, we headed to lunch with friends from Revive and from there on to work in an olive grove.

Danny Meyuseff is a dear friend with a gifting and a vision.  He and his wife Tammy work as counselors for battered women and marriages in crisis as well as women dealing with the emotional and spiritual fallout from abortion.  But Danny has also been called to work with his hands in the olive fields, cultivating and blessing Israel’s olive trees so that they become exceedingly fruitful.  Over the past few years we have helped trim and cultivate these trees and pick the ripe olives in the fall.  We have seen and tasted the oil and can attest that God is good and he IS the God of the harvest.

Danny also has a vision to find a location to build a full size tabernacle; the tabernacle, a replica to be used as a teaching tool, exactly as described in the Old Testament (the Tanach).  Every detail of God’s tabernacle is symbolic and points to Yeshua as the perfect lamb of God.  If the Lord allows Danny to bring this to reality, thousands would come to see and would be exposed to the Gospel pointing them to Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah.  We would love to support this vision and see this blessing come to Israel.

We worked have in the summer Israeli sun for about two and a half hours until we blistered our hands and wore ourselves out.  I am very proud of this team.  They worked as unto the Lord.  We blessed and prayed for Danny, his family, his olives and for David, the man who owns the olive grove Danny is tending.  David is not yet a believer in Yeshua, but he is open.  David worked along side us the entire time.

We returned to our hotel, Yad HaShmona, tired, sore and stinky.  But the team was alive and energized in the Spirit having spent a day among the olive trees and with a beautiful and humble Jewish believer like Danny.  After dinner we enjoyed the fellowship and friendship of our dear friends, Eddie and Jackie Santoro.  We learned about just how hard life can be for believers here.  They have been in ministry here for the last seventeen years.  We prayed for and blessed them,  They prayed for and blessed us.  We hugged and said “litraot” (until we meet again), and wrapped up another day.IMG_3326IMG_3332IMG_3330IMG_3322IMG_3333IMG_3335IMG_3341IMG_3337IMG_3336IMG_3344IMG_3346IMG_3343IMG_3347IMG_3348IMG_3349IMG_3350IMG_3351IMG_3354IMG_3356IMG_3357IMG_3358IMG_3362