Shalom! I got back just a couple of days ago from Israel. Thanks for all your prayers. Many of you commented that you were lifting me and the others traveling with me up in prayer. I certainly felt it. In one particular instance it was very apparent.
We begann our trip in Israel by traveling from the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv to a atown on the Mediterranean called Netanya. We visited historical sights like Caesarea Maritimaand Mt. Carmel from that location before moving on to a beautiful hotel on the Sea of Galilee. There we spent two wonderful days exploring northern Israel which included Caperaum, the Golan Heights and Caesarea Philippi. Then we left the northern area of Israel heading south along the Jordan River toward the Dead Sea. We were to spend the night in Jericho.
Jericho is in Israel but it is a Palestinian city. Our guide, who was Jewish, could not go into the city with us. We dropped him off in a hotel just outside the barbed-wire entrance to the city. We had to pass Israeli soldiers just to get him to his hotel. When we returned to enter Jericho we drove the bus through Palestinian soldiers guarding the gates to the city. Immediately the mood of the passengers on the bus changed. There were bombed out and vacant buildings all along the road as we entered the city. There were young men standing on the street corners eying our buss as we passed by. Posters with the likeness of Yasser Arafat were everywhere and his image was on the front of more than one teens t-shirt. The streets were almost desolate of motorized traffic. There were forlorned figures trudging the streets looking at the pavement as they walked and only glancing at the bus as it passed by. The laughter on the bus that was so prevalent before entering the city subsided and now only hushed tones of bench-mates discussing what they saw.
Upon arriving at the motel for the night the front desk met us with a smile and everyone began to feel better. At least we would be staying inside the compound within the safety of the hotel. We soon discovered they had booked us out in bungalows on the grounds. We were all a little nervous about being separated this way. When we took possession of our rooms we found them to be dark and full of odor. It was evident they had not been used in sometime. Then as we were gathering again to eat supper the haunting sound of the Islamic call to prayer begin to fill the air as if it were coming from every direction. For the first time while in Israel we felt like we did not belong.
At dinner the discussion revolved around our situation. Many of us began to pray for safety. Not because of any direct threat, but our spirits were not at ease in this place. The travel guide from Harmony tours came and asked if we could have a meeting just after dinner and before my Bible study began. As we met, along with one of the team from the church, he expressed that several from the group had talked to him about their feelings about staying in Jericho. Already, people in the USA were praying for us as many had already called home expressing their concern for safety. This would have been on Monday afternoon in the States. Our travel agent said he would try to do whatever we asked but that it would be difficult to leave for Jerusalem that night. It was the Feast of Tabernacles and Jews were flooding into the city from all over the world. We asked if he would try and he said he would. Understand, none of us imagined this would be possible if God did not intervene.
Just as I was finishing the Bible study Brad, our travel agent and American guide, came into the room and said, "Pack up, we're moving to Jerusalem tonight". His boss in the city had miraculously found a hotel that had enough empty rooms for thirty three people. We loaded up quickly with smiles on our faces again. As we drove through the dark streets of Jericho, once again we watched the lifeless figures of the inhabitants of that city shuffling through the streets. I imagined they did this all night long with nothing else to do. It was a visual reminder of what a world without the love of God would be like.
I look back now and am sure that it was the prayers of saints in the camp and at home that got us out of that city that night. I am reminded of how the spies were led out of that same city thousands of years ago as God's hand led them out to safety. Thanks for praying. Your intercession was key to our safe and remarkable time in Israel. I'll share more about the things we saw and did soon.
In His Shadow and under His wings,