Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday at the Garden

What a great day at the Garden - not one but two groups from the state of Texas. I love Texans. I always tell them that I am fluent in ten languages (people often ask if I have to speak more languages than English) - I tell the Texans that I speak English, Southern and 8 dialects of Texan! I can say Shalom Ya'll in eight syllables and that often helps our southern friends!

Our second group from Texas today was not just from Houston - they were from Tracy and Dean's church, First Baptist. Their Pastor and Youth Pastor were with them. We had a wonderful time and Judy and I were able to join them for communion. We have visited FBC of Houston several times and love their Pastor. It was a special honor to share this time with them.

Pastor Gregg, Sr. Pastor, serving Communion

This is Pastor Gregg's first visit to Israel and he is like a kid on Christmas morning... I don't think he knows what to look at first! Their visit to the Garden was very special for all of them.

Pastor Doug, Al, Pastor Gregg & Judy

Friday, January 30, 2009

Into the Hills of Judea

The Judean Hills in the background

On our day off this week, we took the Garden Car and drove to the Judean Hills. We visited Sataf that was first settled about 6,000 years ago. 1,500 years later the inhabitants began to build terraces to garden. The land is rugged mountainous rocky with little water and very poor soil. The Israelites constructed terraces along the steep hills with solid permanent walls that helped hold the soil in place. The end result was fertile farm land and the area prospered. A delightful place to visit with incredible views.

An Almond Tree in full bloom

We drove further South (yep towards Gaza) to Bet Guvrin-Maresha. We visited this area 28 years ago with Liberty Seminary. There are man made caves (as the result of quarrying stone) that date to the 4th and 5th century B.C. We drove through the Valley of Elah to get to Maresha. Yep the valley where David killed Goliath. We had lunch on the return trip at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere and had steak for lunch. The meal was great and consisted of more red meat than we have eaten in a month ... and we did not complain! It was wonderful.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Zedekiah's Cave


We have walked on the roof tops of the Old City - today, we went UNDER the Old City! We started out walking down the street to the Damascus Gate & up the street a short walk, to the entrance of Zedekiah's Cave. The entrance is directly across the street from Golgotha and the Garden.

Entrance to Zedekiah's Cave

This is the largest man made cave in Israel and is believed to be part of the ancient quarry from which stone was cut for both the first and second Temples. This quarry ran underground and the Old City is built on top of it. It is believed that Zedekiah fled Jerusalem through this cave when the Chaldeans over threw the City. He was captured near Jericho.

What an exciting day for us walking through the pages of Old Testament History. 1 Kings 5:29-31 speaks of Solomon quarrying stone for the Temple. Jeremiah 52:7-8 records Zedekiah fleeing from Jerusalem. Was it here??? I am often asked that question by visitors to the Garden. To which I reply "I don't care. I stand on the Word of God. The Bible says it took place and that's good enough for me. I don't care if it was here or somewhere down the street... but oh my gosh don't it look like it!"

Our morning ended returning to the peace, tranquility and beauty of the Garden where we had a picnic lunch in the midst of the Garden...

Friday, January 23, 2009

I come to the Garden, but not so alone...

Our day begins early in the Garden. We are typically in the Garden by 7 AM (yes Judy too!). We have the responsibility of cleaning a "patch" of the Garden every morning. Mostly we clean bird poop off of the benches and sweep the side walks. Sound exciting? Actually it is. We enjoy the peace and quiet of the Garden early in the morning and are reminded of our Lord's frequent journeys into the Garden to pray. We follow His example and lift our family and friends to His Throne as we clean.

We are usually back in the apartment by 8 to clean up, dress, have breakfast and prepare to return to the Garden by 9. Our first pilgrims begin to arrive at 9. Al is responsible to guide groups through the Garden while sharing the gospel with them (total joy for him). Judy serves in the bookstore and sets up communion for the various groups that come. She frequently says that her favorite thing of the day is when several groups are in the Garden speaking, singing and praying in various different languages. I always suspected that she believed in speaking in tongues.

The Garden is a beautifual peaceful place to worship God. If you have never been to Israel, we highly recommend that you begin to pray now about coming some day. We did over 30 years ago. God heard our prayer, let us come short time several times and now we are living in Jerusalem ... ok, it's only for 3 months but that is a lifetime as far as one of our grandchildren is concerned! Not so Carly, I promise you baby we ARE coming home!
Until you are able to come on your own... enjoy the pictures!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tuesday in Jerusalem 01-20-2009

The Mount of Olives
taken from in front of the Eastern Gate

The Eastern Gate
up close and personal

On our day off this week (Tuesday) we walked out the Lion's Gate and up the Mount of Olives. We visited Gethsemane and the church of Mary Magdalene (Russian Orthodox) with the beautiful golden onion domes.

St. Mary Magdalene Church

We also went to Dominus Flevit Chapel where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. It is a steep ascent up. Then we started walking down and came upon a funeral in the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

Jerusalem from inside the Chapel

Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives

We walked down into the Valley. Went to the tombs of Zechariah, Absalom and Bnei Hezir in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Then we walked back up from the valley and through the Moslem cemetery to the Eastern Gate up close. While walking out a funeral procession passed us. We stopped for lunch at the Austrian Hospice, a guest house in the Old City, and then walked the Via Dolorosa (the way of the cross) to visit a friend in a shop. In case you wonder, Jesus and the disciples must have been very fit! We kept thinking, as we went up the Via Dolorosa, that Jesus did this after a scourging.

Absalom's Tomb

Bnei Hezir's Tomb (left)
Zecheriah's Tomb (right)

It is great fun for us to be able to leisurely visit places and reflect on the life and times of Jerusalem in the first century. How exciting to be in the city of our LORD!

Sunday in Jerusalem... 01-18-09

South wall of Temple Mount
Al Aqsa M0sque

Ruins from Temple Mount
Uncovered at the Western Wall of Temple Mount

Steps leading up to Temple Mount
and the Hulda Gates

Sunday we went to the Archeological Park at the southwest corner of Temple Mount where they have done extensive digging. We were able to see stairs going up the Temple Mount and the gates that opened into a tunnel that went up to the Temple Mount. We also saw Mikvas - ritual baths for purification before going up to sacrifice at the Temple. We had visited this site 16 years ago when the dig had just started. It was pretty exciting walking on the steps leading up to the Hulda Gates. These very steps were here in the first century... hmmm wonder if Jesus stepped where we walked. They were buried when the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD and remained buried until just recently.

Al at the top of the stairs leading up to the Hulda Gates

Saturday, January 17, 2009

City of David

Foundation stones of David's Palace

On our day off this past Thursday we went to the City of David located just outside the city of Jerusalem's South wall near the Temple Mount. There have been extensive archeological digs done here over the past few years. It is a work in progress. It was very interesting to hear about the 4,000 year old history of this area going back to Melchizedek, King of Salem. The area was settled because of the Gihon Springs. Water is an important commodity in this area. The city went up a hill in the middle of Kidron Valley.

Hezekiahs tunnel was built here and exists today. It is cold here now so we didn't walk through the water tunnel but one day... David brought the Ark of the Covenant here and Solomon was annointed King of Israel. The pool of Siloam was here. It was at one time a mikvah or purifying bath for those going up to the Temple to make sacrifice. That helped us understand why Jesus put mud on the blind man's eyes and sent him to wash at the pool of Siloam. When he did, he could see. We really enjoyed the two and a half hour tour here even though it was strenuous with many stairs!

The Pool of Siloam

We had many groups in the Garden today (Saturday) most of them were from Nigeria. My favorite was a small group from the US. There was a blind lady in that group. No I did not put mud on her eyes and send her to the pool of Siloam. If you have noticed or have visited here before you have seen a fence in the tomb that keeps visitors in the preparation area from entering the burial chamber. I unlocked the gate in that fence and took the blind lady inside the burial chamber and helped her feel the walls and the burial chamber where Jesus may have been buried. The rest of the group stood in the preparation area and watched. There are no words to describe the joy I felt as the blind, who could not see, felt the tomb that may have been the Tomb of Jesus! She was thrilled!


Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Pearl of Great Price

As I was walking down Nablos Road to go to the Western Wall Wednesday, I fell. I was rejoicing that nothing broke. After a little grocery shopping I returned to the apartment to put ice on a swollen lip. When I got back, I noticed a black pearl was gone from my ring. While the ring was not expensive, it was of great value to me because it was given to me by my beloved. So I asked God to protect the pearl and help us find it. Al made a special trip to look for it, others prayed and some looked for it as well.
Today as Al & I were out walking Al found the black pearl - not on the side walk where I fell but in the tarred road in a crevice!!!! Cars and busses have driven up that road in the past three days. Also friday, that road was packed with people who could not enter the Damascus Gate.
What a lesson in God's "hands on" concern and care about the problems in our life. Can you imagine that the Great God of the Universe, the One Who holds the stars in place, listend to my request about a tiny pearl, protected the pearl and brought Al's eyes to the black pearl in the black road, in a place beyond where I fell?
The ring will forever be a reminder to me not only of Al's love but of God's love and care in my life.
"Cast all your cares on Him for He careth for you!" I Peter 5:7.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Alive and Well!!!

In an effort to keep you posted, I will try to make more frequent updates.
We are doinng fine. We were off yesterday, said goodbye to UK friends who went home after 3 months at the Garden (sad day for us), walked up to Jaffa Gate for coffee with them before they left, walked to Ben Yehuda Street to do some grocery shopping, quiet night with movie in the Garden. And that was the extent of our day.
Today we are back to work in the Garden and looking forward to it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday in Jerusalem

We are back in Jerusalem at the Garden - uneventful flight back - slight delay - but arrived safely.

The Garden is closed today, Israel is at war with Hamas and we went to the beach! How weird is that?

Jerusalem is calm, we drove north to Jaffa and spent the day on the beach. Sunday is Israel's Monday and everyone was back to normal (except in Gaza). We kept commenting how surreal the day seemed knowing that less than a hundred miles to the south a nation was at war and here we were sitting on the beach enjoying the company of our friends from the UK!

Steve Bridge & Al in Jaffa

We do not know what tomorrow will bring - we just know Who holds tomorrow (and us) firmly in His hands and we trust Him. Please join us in praying for the "innocents" in Israel. There is evil on every hand and as usual the innocents suffer the most. Only God knows what is going on and we have to trust Him to sort it all out. In the meantime, tomorrow brings a new week in the Garden and souls who need to hear the Gospel - your prayers are appreciated.

Tonight we attended church at our home church, Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, via the Web Cast. Pastor Reno did a great job and it is always nice to see our friends in the choir.

We were out and about yesterday grocery shopping and catching up with some of our friends we developed relationships with in November and December. On our way back to the Garden we bumped into (quite literally) one of our local pickpockets - who is now the proud owner of my (Al's) camera, if he has not already sold it! What upset me the most was that our Christmas pictures were still on the memory card along with some great shots I had just taken up close to the Eastern Gate!!! Judy reminded me (as I had said to her years ago) "they took the camera, don't let them take the trip!" And I will not let that happen, we miss our family and friends but we are so thankful for the opportunity to be here.

I wonder who this picture is for?

The pictures in the post today were all taken in Jaffa... enjoy.