Thursday, April 8, 2010

Easter in Jerusalem 2010

What an absolutely wonderful week in Jerusalem.  Thursday night before Easter, the night Jesus would have been betrayed, we went to Christ Church (Anglican Church) just inside the Jaffa Gate for a wonderful worship service.  After Communion we walked to the Mount of Olives.  I have lost count of the number of times I have led our congregations in worship in Communion Services and concluded those services saying; "the disciples then sang a song and went out to the Mount of Olives to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane.  I wish we could do the same!"  Thursday night that is exactly what we did.  We crossed through the Old City, stopped off at the Western Wall where the Jews were celebrating Passover (the place was "heaving" to borrow a term from our British friends), walked down through the Kidron Valley with thousands of people.  Oh yeah, it was DARK, it was almost 11 pm when we got back to our apartment!  But what a great night of worship.
The next day, Good Friday, we conducted a "Good Friday Worship Service" at the Garden Tomb.  After the service the Garden was open for meditation and prayer only.  We did not do tours but we spent the day in the Garden and had many opportunities to share the gospel in quiet conversation with over 1300 people that visited that day.  The Old City was so crowded that many people gave up trying to get in churches in the Old City and came to visit us.  One of those couples from the U.S that I had the privilege of sharing with (who did not know of the Garden Tomb and were not believers) came back on Saturday and again on Sunday!

Saturday was a normal day in the Garden and concluded with an Arabic service for over five hundred people.  The service was translated into English and Hebrew.  It was a pretty exciting day.
 Easter Sunday Morning in the Garden
We were up early on Sunday morning (try 4:00 AM!) to clean the Garden and prepare for the first of four services on Sunday.  I was in the lane outside the gate at 5:30 greeting people who came for the first service, we opened the gate at 6:00 for the first service at 6:30.  Over 1100 people attended the first service.  Andy Jack, son of Victor (Garden Tomb Chairman of the Board) and his wife Meg, preached an incredible message at both of the first two services.  Al had the privilege of participating in the first service.

We closed the Garden after the first service about 8:00 and had a wonderful typical Israeli breakfast.  We reopened at 9 for the second service at 9:30 for about 700 people.  Both of the first two services were in English.  The third service was in Scandinavian and the third in French.  The Garden emptied about 1:30 and we had lunch in the Garden after 2 PM.  We saw well over 3500 people in the Garden Easter Sunday.  To borrow another term from our British friends... we were pretty well shattered come the end of the day!
 Some, were not quite as shattered as others...
Our lunch main course was provided by Sami, the Muslim business man that sells souvenirs in the lane outside the Garden.  It was a wonderful Palestinian "up side down" dish of lamb, cauliflower and rice flavored with some incredible spices.

This has been a wonderful week and we shall be eternally thankful that God has allowed us to serve Him here in this place this year.  Our friends, Roy and Mavis Haywood, went home to England this week.  We miss them but are looking forward to seeing them again in the fall.  Hopefully, we will see some of you in Israel later this year as well!