Home Sweet Home

Day 10 was travel day.  After going through high-level security checks at Tel-Aviv Airport, we made it onto the plane at midnight, and after an 11 hour flight, we landed at JFK at 4:30 a.m.  We drank coffee and tea and watched the sunrise in New York!

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Then we flew into Pittsburgh, and all of our bags were there, too!

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 We are glad to be home and grateful for the experience of walking in the steps of Jesus. 

Thank you for reading the blog and getting a glimpse of our pilgrimage.  We look forward to sharing more pictures and stories on May 6 at 12:00 noon in Fellowship Hall.  We will even have some Middle Eastern food!  Hope you will join us

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Thank you for your prayers that sustained us on our pilgrimage.  Let us continue to pray for peace in the Holy Land.

A Day in the life of Jerusalem

Day 9 was a free day.  Some of us rested in the hotel and packed.  Others explored the Old City and joined the crowds of people shopping.  

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We even found a Pittsburgh Steeler shirt--in Hebrew!

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A highlight of my day was meeting with a local woman named Widad. 

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She is a Palestinian Christian who shared her story of her family being forced from their home by Israeli soldiers, who forced them—and many others—into exile.  Some fled to Jordan, others to Syria, but most stayed and lived as refugees.  That was 1949, and the Palestinians were never allowed to return.  A wall divides families and communities, preventing them to go to hospitals to visit sick relatives, or to go work to support their families. I asked Widad what we Christians in the United States could do?  She said, “Pray for us—pray for the Palestinians who suffer under Israeli occupation, that they might be given patience and perseverance to endure."  Please join with me in praying for Widad and for the Palestinian Christians in Israel.

Stay tuned for one more posting...

 

 

Christ is Risen!

Day 8 began at the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, where we stood among ancient remains of the Temple.  The tour guide shared that Jesus and Paul would have taught and preached from these stone steps.  As we stood on the “teaching steps,” we could feel the power of the Word of God proclaimed throughout the centuries.  This pilgrimage was also a celebration of 22 years of ministry and annual gatherings for my “Sisters in Spirit.”  

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Then we made our way inside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem to walk the Via Dolorosa (The Way of the Cross), the path that Jesus walked, starting from the place of being condemned by Pilate to death.  As we made our way through the crowded streets of vendors and shoppers, tourists and pilgrims, we took in the sights all around us...

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The sights sometimes clashed, as seen in this picture of a simple woman selling grape leaves watched over by armed soldiers.  

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As we made our way through the Via Dolorosa, we stopped at each of the places where Jesus fell under the weight of the cross, and where he was helped to carry the cross by Simon of Cyrene and given comfort by women along the way.  We stopped to observe a group of pilgrims carrying the cross and singing in a ritual procession.  

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As our faith story tells us, the story does not end at the cross, but at the grave.  And as the t-shirt of one of our fellow pilgrims said:  “Spoiler Alert: The tomb was empty.”  And so it was.  We visited the Church of the Holy Sepluchre to see the tomb where it is believed that Jesus’ body was dead and where he rose from the dead.  Some believe that the resurrection occurred at a different sight, called the Garden Tomb. In the midst of a beautiful garden, there was a tomb.  Inside we could see the place where the women went that first Easter and heard the angel say, “He is not here; he is risen!  Go tell everyone.”  From inside the tomb, I began singing “Jesus Christ is risen today.  Alleluia....”. Others joined in and we went out from the tomb sharing the good news of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

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The path Jesus walked was long and hard.  We definitely reached our 10,000 steps today!  In between the stations of the cross, we rested.

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Stay tuned for more from the Holy Land...

 

Unto Us a Child Is Born

On Day 7 we went to the Shepherd’s Field, where the shepherds who were watching their flocks one night long ago, when an angel appeared to them and said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12). The shepherds said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  Here is a beautiful mural painted on the wall of the church at Shepherd's Field:

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And so, following the shepherds, we too made our way to the place where it is believed Jesus was born.   We went to the Church of the Annunciation in Bethlehem.  The door to enter the church is a mere 4 feet, requiring all who enter to bow down in humble adoration.  We waited in a long line, observing the candles and religious art covering the old stone walls, breathing in the incense swirling all around, in nervous anticipation of seeing the place where Jesus was born.  Finally, we got to the entrance door, bowed down, walked down several steps....and there in front of us was a star shape on the marble floor.  I watched as fellow pilgrims knelt down and touched the star, some pausing to whisper a prayer or make the sign of the cross.  I touched the cross, struck by the power of being in the place where, as Scripture says, “The Word of God became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  As I stood up and lingered in the back of the room, I could not help but sing quietly, “Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright...Christ our Savior is born. Christ our Savior is born.”  

 

From Bethlehem, we began the journey in Jesus' footsteps at the top of Mount of Olives.  All of us were amazed at the magnificent view of Jerusalem.  

From the top of the mountain, we began Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem, by walking the path it is believed Jesus rode a donkey and was greeted with palms and loud Hosannas.  The path ended in the Garden of Gethsemane.  It was a beautiful peaceful garden of flowers and bushes, and olive trees, even a few trees that were 2000 years old.  I could imagine Jesus leaning against one of the olive trees, and while his disciples slept, he prayed, “Father if it is your will, take this cup from me, but your will be done.”

Stay tuned for more from the Holy ground on which Jesus walked...

Back to Biblical Times

On Day 6 we went to Genesis Land, in the Judean Wilderness, where we were greeted by Abraham (he looked good for 100 years old), who recounted the story of offering hospitality to strangers who visited him, and unbeknownst to him, they were actually angels bringing a message of good news from God (that Sarah would bear a son!).  Abraham responded by running back to the tent and said to Sarah, "Hurry! Get three large measures of your best flour, knead it into dough, and bake some bread.” (Genesis 18:6).  And that’s just what happened.  As we sat on cushions on the floor around tables, Abraham and Sarah served us up a delicious meal of pita, hummus, and flavorful dishes—one after another.  It was the best food I’ve had so far!  We felt like royal guests in the tent of Abraham and Sarah.  It made me think about the Scripture verse that reminds us “do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).

Then, we were invited to take a ride on a camel.  Leslie and I rode together on Matilda, a 12-year old camel who the owner said was strong and tough.  As I rode on Matilda the camel, I imagined the three magi making their way to Bethlehem to visit the newborn baby Jesus.  I was tempted to sing “We Three Kings”...but Matilda needed a break. And so it was time to get off.  The trick in riding a camel, so we learned, is to lean back when it leans forward, so as not to fall off!

And Nancy enjoyed making friends with the camel, too!

Notice the olive tree in the background covered with a net...that is to keep the camels from snacking on the olives! 

Stay tuned for more news as we make our way toward Jerusalem...