Monday, March 30, 2009

Heading for Home...

It's late Monday night, we are packed and ready to head for home. We will move out of our Jerusalem home, the apartment in the Garden, that has been ours for five months and be "homeless" in Jerusalem for 10 hours tomorrow. Our flight to the USA will not leave Tel-Aviv until late tomorrow night but the apartment must be made ready for our replacements flying in from New Zealand.

Our Time in Jerusalem has been incredible. Daily we have been reminded that the cross is why we are here. Every day, in the Garden, we share the gospel with everyone who comes. God has met with believers and the lost. Hearts have been blessed and we have had the privilege of seeing some come to faith in Christ. I don't think I will ever think of the Cross again without thinking of the Garden!

We are reminded that without the cross there would have been no need for the Tomb and without the Tomb there would have been no resurrection. Without the resurrection there would have been no salvation! We rejoice that we will spend Easter Sunday at our home church in Tampa and will enjoy "Family Easter Dinner" with some of our children and grandchildren in Tampa.

We have loved our stay in Jerusalem. The city is beautiful - even at night!

The Damascus Gate is especially beautiful at night!

Look at these happy faces... we loved our stay in Jerusalem but at this moment our hearts are turned toward Home and a happy reunion with our loved ones. See you soon and very soon!!! Some sooner than others but soon!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sharing Israel with Friends from Home!

Friends from Tampa, Florida came to visit us this past week - Allen and Nadine Pelham. We had an incredible time showing them Israel.

They were only here for a four day weekend and we kept saying that we felt as though we were doing Israel on speed - from Jerusalem to the Galilee to the Dead Sea and back again. Of course we started our tour of Israel in the Garden with Al guiding a group through the Garden.

... and the Garden at night, a sight that most tourists do not get to see. How did they do that? Their guides hold the keys to the Garden! One of the perks we enjoy!

Our first stop going North was Mount Carmel - had to take their breath away! We love Carmel. The Biblical account of Elijah and the Prophets of Baal has always stirred our hearts and the view is just drop dead take your breath away incredible!

Our journey around the Sea of Galilee took us to the usual stops. Our favorite is the Mount of Beatitudes and Capernaum. The ruins of the ancient Synagouge at Capernaum are incredible.

Our whirlwind tour of Israel brought us back to Jerusalem to overnight and then Down to the Dead Sea.

On the way to Masada, we stopped off at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

Caves at Qumran
On to Masada and the ruins of one of Herod's Palaces. This one hangs over the cliff overlooking the Dead Sea.
Align Center

The day was perfect. In this last picture you are looking across the Dead Sea to Jordan. Hard to believe that one day you could be in Tampa and the next in Israel.
The Pelhams are on their way home and we miss them already. But in a very short few days we will be headed home too. We will be back in Tampa April 1st and NO that is not an April Fool's Joke! Our tour of duty in Israel is rapidly coming to a close. We shall forever be thankful to God for the opportunity that has been ours to serve Him here at the Garden Tomb for these past months. We are looking forward to returning home, seeing family and friends and are looking forward to new adventures for Christ. Our plans for 2009 include a Missions Trip to the Philipinnes in June as well as a trip back to Mali in December. We are also praying about returning to the Garden later this year.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Judy!!!

We celebrated Judy's birthday yesterday in the Garden complete with a delicious cake and our Garden friends.

I hope you notice there are only 4 candles on the cake... one for each decade of her age???

Judy is in great shape - she blew those candles out with just one puff! You go girl!!!

Unwrapping her gift from her beloved. Yep, she was surprised and very happy (see the next picture). Al gave her a hand made Bedouin Shawl.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Thomas Road Baptist Church & Liberty University

We had a fun morning at the Garden Tomb this morning. We hosted Rev. Jonathan Falwell and his family along with over 300 people from Lynchburg, VA and Liberty University. Jonathan is the son of the late Dr. Jerry Falwell. Judy and I both are alumni of Liberty University. We were able to renew friendships with both Jonathan and his sister Jeannie. Our children went to school with them back in the 70's and early 80's at Lynchburg Christian Academy in Lynchburg, VA.

Rev. Jonathan Falwell

We were very pleased with Jonathan's sermon at the Garden this morning. The staff was very impressed and had many good comments to make about him and the way everyone with him conducted themselves. Judy told Jonathan that his father would be proud of him and I agree. Jonathan is a godly young man. He and everyone involved in the service conducted themselves in a Christ honoring humble manner.

Judy and Jeannie Falwell

I met Jonathan, his wife and children as they entered the Garden. He greeted me as though he had just seen us last week! I thought how like your father! Dr. Falwell never forgot a face or a name, was always gracious, and always made you feel as though you were the most important person in the world to him. Jeannie was in the group that I took around (there were 7 groups in all from Liberty). I did not recognize her when she asked "is Laurie here?" I was stunned and said "do you mean my daughter, Laurie?"
She did but it was not until 20 minutes later that it dawned on me who she was! Duh! She is very sweet. These kids are a tremendous tribute to their parents. My only regret for the day was that their mother, Macel, did not come with them.

The students were awesome. I sent special messages back to Liberty to our grand daughter, Kristin - a Freshman at LU. I hope every one of them is delivered. We met one of Kristin's future teachers in the School of Nursing. Kristin, you will love our messages!

We recieved special greetings from Josh and Dawn - long time family friends in Lynchburg.
Sharing the Garden with friends is a very special treat and we are looking forward to doing that more this week as friends from Tampa come to visit us. Later this month Dr. Kroll will visit as well - yet another long time family friend! Can't wait. We leave March 31st to return to Tampa.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gates of Jerusalem

Two of our Grandchildren, Carly and Ben, asked us about the Gates of Jerusalem. Today we walked around the city walls of Jerusalem and took pictures for them.

The Damascus Gate is very close to where we live in East Jerusalem. It is located in the North Wall of the Old City and was referred to as "St. Stephen's Gate" up until the Crusader's gave that name to the Lion's Gate on the East Wall. It was called St. Stephen's Gate because Stephen was stoned to death near here because of his strong faith in Jesus Christ.

The "New Gate" was added to the Old City Wall just West of the Damascus Gate in 1889 to give easy access to the Christian Quarter.

The Jaffa Gate is in the West Wall of the city and is part of the wall that Suleyman the Magnificent added in the 1500's.

The Zion Gate is in the South Wall just West of the Dung Gate and was heavily damaged in the fighting in 1948.

The Dung Gate is in the South Wall just East of the Zion Gate. As you enter the city through this gate the Temple Mount and the Western Wall are on your right.

The walled shut Hulda Gate or Triple Gates are on the South Wall of Temple Mount. They are at the top of a wide staircase leading up from David's City. Jesus would have climbed these steps to enter the Temple Mount.

The Eastern Gate or Golden Gate is located in the East Wall and led directly up to the Temple.

The Lion Gate is located in the East Wall just North of the Golden Gate. This is the Gate that the Crusaders renamed "St. Stephen's Gate." This Gate is a short walk to the North Wall, Herod's Gate and the Damascus Gate. The traditional site of Stephen's stoning was the ancient rock quarries located near Herod's Gate.

Herod's Gate is located in the North Wall just East of the Damascus Gate. In between Herod's Gate and the Damascus Gate is an entryway to Zedekiah's Caverns under the ancient city of Jerusalem where Solomon and Herod cut stone for the first and second Temple. The rock quarries extended above ground across the street where the Garden Tomb is located.

Evidence for a Garden

We have grown to love the Garden Tomb and will be forever grateful for the opportunity that God has given to us to serve Him here. Our limited memory will not allow us to count the number of times we have been able to share the gospel in this place. It is our joy to point men and women boys and girls to the Savior here as we emphasize that which God emphasizes - the PERSON of the crucifixion, Jesus Christ, over the PLACE of the crucifixion. God never intended for us to worship the place! Is THIS the place? I don't know and I don't care. But does it at least look like the place? Look at what Scripture says...

The Tomb

But this is on Mt Moriah, a stone mountain, was there a garden here at the time of Christ? It would have been hard to have a garden growing on solid rock. If there was not a garden here, then surely this was not the place.
The Israelites were masters at farming on solid rock. They built terraces using stone walls on the rock, filled in behind the walls with dirt and had a garden. But you have to have water if you are going to have a garden. There is no natural source of water in this place. The nearest natural source of water would be the Gihon Springs over a mile south of here and down the mountain. Not likely that anyone carried water from the Gihon to water a garden here.
But there is archealogical evidence in this place that does point to a garden at the time of Christ. The first deals with that necessary resource, water. In the next picture you note what looks like the top of a chimney. It is an opening to a deep dark hole that looks down into a water cistern that will hold 250,000 gallons of water. It was lined with plaster that the Romans used and is dated to the first Century. If you have water on a stone mountain, you can have a garden. "In the place where He was crucified... there was a garden."

Opening to the Cistern

Picture of a picture made inside the cistern

I often caution people as they prepare to look down into the cistern; "this is a deep dark hole. I don't do deep dark holes. If you drop anything into the cistern, it becomes the property of the garden. So please hang onto your glasses, cameras, children and anything else you consider valuable because I am not going down in there after anything you drop. And yes there is a Palm Pilot down there." Last week there was a 12 year old girl in the group I had who asked; "May I ask a question?" Of course you may... "what's a Palm Pilot?" People in the group began to giggle. I looked at her as only a loving grandfather can and said; "you know, I can't prove this but I think it might have been a first century Blackberry." She said simply; "ohhhh" as her group roared. Which begs the question, I wonder if my almost 13 year old granddaughter knows what a Palm Pilot is???
Fifty feet away from the cistern the Garden Tomb Association uncovered a wine press that has been dated to the time of Christ and it is one of the largest uncovered in Israel. In the first century there was a garden in this place, a vineyard growing grapes to make wine. Was the tomb the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea? I don't know and I don't care... but it sure looks like it.

First Century Wine Press

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Our Galilee Adventure

We had three days off this week and drove up to the Lebanon Border stopping off at Caesarea on the coast. The site of one of Herod's palaces (where Paul was on trial before he went to Rome) and the Roman amphitheater.

Calm down girls,
mom is not singing "He is Able!"
She was singing "Mary did you Know?"

Roman Aqueduct that brought water from Mt Carmel to Caesarea.

We were greeted by an awesome Rainbow over the Sea of Galilee as we arrived in Tiberius. We spent two nights at a wonderful B&B in Migdal just north of Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee.

View from our room!
We visited "Nazareth Village," a reconstructed first century Isrealite village.



Don't you think he looks like Papa?
We drove up on to Mount Carmel.

View from Mt Carmel
Judy with valley of Meggido in background
Several years ago a boat dating to the first century was discovered in the mud near where we were staying. The remains have been preserved and are on display. Was this one of the boats Jesus may have sailed the Galilee on?

Galilee Boat

We went up near the Northern borders of Israel and visited a Muslim castle that was later conquered and refortified by the Crusaders, Nimrod's Castle. Al loves castles and would have spent more time there than we did but it was raining. The rain did stop and the clouds did lift long enough for us to take some pretty exciting pictures.

Looking East from Nimrod's Castle toward the Sea of Galilee

Golan Heights from Nimrod's Castle
A Rock Rabbit at Nimrod's Castle

He probably expects me to pay him a dollar for taking his picture!

Mt Hermon covered in snow!

Wednesday, when we returned to work in the Garden, we were treated to a pair of parrots that have been in and out of the Garden almost every day. They are beautiful!