May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”
Not long ago I read about the Apostle Paul’s final trip to Jerusalem. As he was preparing for his journey the Holy Spirit came and warned him of the hardships he would face. (Acts 20) Our trip to Israel was just three days away and my traveling anxieties were starting to surface. Recalling Paul’s warning I wondered if we were going to face hardships on our journey. God speaks through His Word. Were we being warned not to go?
Adding to my mounting anxiety were our grandchildren telling us that we should not go. Also family members were asking to see us one final time before we left. Did they think we weren’t going to return? God sometimes speaks through the words of others.
We went to visit our mothers before a few days before we departed. On our drive home I noticed a cloud in the sky shaped like a dolphin. I was sure the cloud offered a symbolic message from God, something to calm my nerves and reassure me that everything was going to be just fine. God will sometimes speak through His creation.
I googled on what the symbolic meaning of a dolphin might mean. What I read was anything but comforting. The symbolic meaning for the dolphin was described as: transporting deceased souls to their places of final rest!
I instantly recognized Satan was trying to get me to cancel our trip. He didn’t want us to receive any blessing from going to God’s Holy Land. I recognized Satan and his trickery, yet I thought, “But Satan can’t put a cloud in the sky.” The deceiver quickly disguised himself as God speaking. Sadly, I fell prey to his tactic and became an emotional basket case. Calling out to Jesus and prayer warriors, through their intercessory prayers, I settled down, and like the Apostle Paul, chose to carry on with the journey.
While waiting for our flight I started reading, Praying the Names of Jesus, by Ann Spangler. Wouldn’t you know, the first Name covered in the first devotion was—Immanuel! The words jumped off the page:
I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15)
I sensed God was making me a promise to bring us back to this land—to return us to the USA.
I have never before traveled with such peace. I didn’t even need anything to calm anxiety because I had none. Tom was surprised and happy with how well I did and he is my hoping future travels will go so well.
We flew into Tel Aviv and met up with the others in our Pilgrim Tour at our hotel in Netanya. It was a blessing to be in a group of only twenty-four people. Groups normally have between forty to sixty people in them. Our intimate group included a family of seven from Indiana and another from Canada. There were also couples from Arkansas, Florida, and New York who we befriended. And… most of them heard something about the Immanuel Quilt. You know, it’s hard to keep a storyteller quiet.
In the lot of us, there was not a pastor in the batch. Our tour guide, Helik, a Messianic Jew, selected Steve to be our group leader. Helik would have Steve read passages from the Bible which made the stories come alive in living color as we stood at the spots where the events took place. Helik was very knowledgeable on the Bible and on the history of Israel. We received an overwhelming amount of information, so much so, we are still trying to process it all.
We visited Caesarea, Mt. Carmel, Megiddo, Nazareth, Dan, the Mt. of Beatitudes, Caesarea Philippi, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Magdala, Tiberias, Bet She’an, Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, Mt. Olive, Gethsemane, Room of the Last Supper, Holy Sepulcher Church, the Wailing Wall, Qumran, Masada, and Bethlehem. We walked probably twenty plus miles up hills, down hills, up steps, down steps, and down into underground tunnels. We climbed mountains, crossed desert terrain, stepped into the Jordan River, touched the Mediterranean Sea, puttered across the Sea of Galilee, floated in the Dead Sea, (well, not me), and tried new cuisine. We walked where Jesus walked and we saw ancient city ruins of Jesus time. We gained a better understanding of the culture, both of Jesus day and today.
The beauty of it all was stunning.
We had our share of bumps in the road. We got stranded in the desert for flooded roads. That’s right…the desert flooded! Oh, and just so you know, thunder in the Israeli desert sounds different. Perhaps it was the sound of Holy thunder.
We were stranded for only ninety minutes, and at our sleek looking hotel. If one is to be stuck in the dessert, we were stuck at the best place possible. However, the delay played havoc with our schedule and Helik had to make changes to it for the rest of the week. His solution to get us back on the road was to travel westward (towards Gaza) and then back north to Jerusalem. He was determined we weren’t going to miss any stops on our agenda. So off we went heading towards the western bank to get back northbound.
Later that evening we learned that Gaza had fired a rocket into Israel. No family members were injured in the home that was hit and the news showed the homeowner praising God for keeping them safe. Interestingly, the family’s last name was WOLF.
Many people were praying for our safety as we traveled. The rocket launched could have taken place when we were nearby, only God knows for sure. However, I wonder if the overflow of prayers for this duo Wolf pair extended over to provide the protection for another Wolf family. God does work in unseen ways. Regardless, we were grateful for God’s protection.
For me this trip turned out to be as much of a cultural awakening as what it was a Spiritual one. Conflict between the Palestinians and Israeli’s was apparent. Every day we got a little dose of seeing the tension between the two. Our bus driver was a Palestinian Muslim. He and Helik did not get along. They argued every day and with each passing day their arguments intensified. The driver was kind to the passengers, he even let me sit in the driver’s seat of the bus, but to Helik, he was argumentative. I admit, I was a bit shocked when he picked up two hitchhikers.
Also in Bethlehem I felt uneasy. Bethlehem is Palestinian controlled. Signage going into the city lets Jews know they are not welcome. Helic, being a Jew was not permitted to be our guide while in Bethlehem. So, while there we were assigned a Palestinian Christian to be our guide. I can not explain it exactly, but while in Bethlehem I had an unsettling feeling. After returning home I learned that a few days before we were there a riot broke out and there was a shooting. Again, God had his hand of protection upon us. What may we have witnessed had our schedule not been changed?
All-in-all it was a wonderful trip. It was a blessing going to the Holy Land. And when the week was over, God safely returned us to the USA.! Thank You Jesus! It’s good to be back home in Indiana.