Hungary/Romania 2017 …on the fly

As mentioned, a detailed synopsis of this trip will be provided after the conclusion, giving my thoughts time to settle in.  Right now, we are in the midst of the mission trip, and I will share a few of the highlights up until this point.  The evidence of intercessary prayer is with us, as things are progressing beautifully.  The travel has been fine and without incident, our team is of one accord and one spirit, no one has been ill, and the logistics and accomodations are all great.  We attribute this to the prayers of the saints.  We covet your continual prayers.  There have been peaceful demonstrations throughout Romania, related to the populace’s rightful grievances against their government.  After preaching last night, the host pastor and translater had dinner with me and we observed protests in Oradea right next to our restaurant.  They were peaceful protests.  The Romanian people are anything except violent.  More importantly, in the service prior to our fellowship, we were blessed with a packed church with absolutely no extra seats available, and we were also blessed with four professions of faith.  Because of the Lord’s blessings and your faithful prayers, the Holy Spirit is working and convicting hearts.  It does not get any better than this, this side of heaven.  The Romanians who we have met in the many churches are red hot for the Lord and just waiting for leadership, teaching and preaching.  In other words, the pump is already primed.  We have an open window of opportunity in this wonderful nation and would be foolish to not take advantage of it.  Last night is why I feel led to be a part of this dynamic ministry! 

Oradea, an ancient city, is filled with archaeology from both Roman and medieval times.  It was formerly called Dacia, the northern most outpost in the Roman Empire, after Romania was conquered by the Emperor Trajan.  Dacia was the last province to fall to the Romans.  As mentioned, this is a presentation of a few highlights with much more to follow.

In His Service, Pastor Steve  <><

Hungary/Romania 2017

I am on the verge of embarking on a mission trip to Hungary and Romania in January-February 2017.  I had the opportunity to go to the same nations in 2005, and it was the best mission trip I have ever been on.  (That previous trip is summarized on this blog site in the category Hungary/Romania 2005).  I request your prayers.  Romania is still very receptive to the Gospel and recent mission trips were blessed with hundreds of converts.  

The beauty of the trip is that I will travel with the same mission organization as before – Partners In Missions International (PIMI).  Their website is http://www.PIMI.org

This trip will feature a crusade/evangelistic atmosphere, and it will consist of about fifteen pastors preaching the Gospel.  We will be preaching crusade evangelism based in Oradea and the surrounding towns.  We will also attend and contribute to a pastor’s conference in Satu Mare.

Bob Ward was the president and founder of this wonderful ministry of nearly twenty years.  He has gone on to be with the Lord.  The president is now Elijah Morar, from Romania, who works very hard in both Romania and in the United States of America.  The Romanians are one of the finest people groups I have ever met, and they are very receptive to the Gospel.  They are kind and respectful to their guests.

I covet your prayers for the following:

1)Logistics- airplane flights and tickets, hotel accommodations, luggage and connections.  I pray not to be rushed.

2)Health- I pray for good health throughout the trip.  The weather is very cold this time of year.  Their latitude is the same as Minnesota.  I just heard prior to departure that there is lots of snow right now!  I pray to be well rested with a minimum of jet lag.

3)For the Great Commission to be accomplished in a powerful way.  For folks to be gloriously saved.  We pray for professions of faith, baptisms and rededications.  We pray for our preaching to be anointed and for souls to be touched for eternity.  We pray for excellent interpreters who accurately convey the original meaning of our words.  

4)For love, harmony and unity with our mission team.  For doors to open up through new relationships and new Christian friends.  

5)I pray for conditions at church and home to enable the entire trip to go smoothly.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

A complete narrative of this trip will be provided on this blog site at the conclusion of this trip.

In Christ, Pastor Steve

 

Pray For Revival In America!

 

Memoirs From A Short Term Mission Trip To Guatemala

This trip was taken in late August, 2016.  The members of this venture served small children in an orphanage:

 

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Sometimes the above link will not open the memoirs from this mission trip.  If that is the case, you can open them in the seven links below.  They are August 20 (2), August 21 (1), August 22 (2), August 23 (1), and August 25 (1), making up a total of seven pages.

 

 

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=28db4f37a8&view=fimg&th=156be63d09c0e2cb&attid=0.1&disp=inline&safe=1&attbid=ANGjdJ_NnqYZLpt4Q9qnheS2JzzfVuOOY4Zqw7q2ruV3yH48DDhEHBFBVvgnaKmNeXCquGP2m1UGaSJMik14zJPwQzwCTyX7AXGdcrFJTYkoy_sHe_Z_CRhHp8dRGT4&ats=1473257180452&rm=156be63d09c0e2cb&zw&sz=w1366-h643

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Jordan/Israel ~ 1987-1988 ~ Part 6

Day #6

While eating breakfast at the Shalom we observed a beautiful sunrise over Jerusalem.  While eating breakfast I looked around and observed the Israelites, thinking what a stubborn people they were, and how the Lord still has His hand on them, even though they do not believe in Jesus and the New Testament.  Our hotel gave us a beautiful view of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is a melting pot with all kinds of people.  All of the people in Israel, the men and the women, must serve in the army for two years and take their vows on Mount Masada.  I found the people in Israel to be friendlier, more courteous, and more respectful (especially the children) than Americans.

Today, our first stop was at the model of Jerusalem (The “Model City”).  The model depicted Jerusalem at the time of the Second Temple (the time of Jesus).  The Model City displays the many walls, the residences, Herod’s Palace, the Fortress of Antonio, the Temple, and many other things.

Next, we went towards the Mount of Olives.  On our way, we observed an Arab kiss his camel, and give our pastor a ride.  We went up the Mount of Olives to the temple of Ascension which is now a Mosque.  (refer to Acts 1:4 through Acts 1:11).  There is an “alleged footprint” where Jesus ascended from, inside the small temple upon a rock.  Next, we went a short distance away and took several pictures of Jerusalem from this panoramic view.  From our location on the Mount of Olives, we had a view of Jerusalem over the Kidron Valley.  Also observed was David’s City, the Dome of the Rock, as well as the northern end of Jerusalem.  It is interesting to note that the current city walls are only five hundred years old, and built by the Ottoman Turks.  Mount Ophel is David’s old city, and Mount Zion is above David’s City, outside the wall.  We saw Absalom’s tomb in the Kidron Valley.  As we departed from the Temple of Ascension, a burro blocked our path on our way to the Garden of Gethsemane.

We went into the Garden of Gethsemane (“semane” means olive oil).  Gethsemane may have been near John Mark’s home.  We entered the Church of All Nations where the alleged rock is that Jesus prayed at.  This is located next to the Garden of Gethsemane.

We drove up to the Old City of Jerusalem and entered Stephen’s Gate, which is also known as the Lion’s Gate, with a lion on each side of the gate.

Next, we observed a fine site of archaeology – the Pool of Bethesda.  The pool has five porches where people were healed, and is dug out very deep.

The streets of Jerusalem are very narrow.  The women wore robes, and carried large objects on their head.  Beggars and cripples lingered on the street corners.  Walking in the “Old City” is like walking into the past.  Burros carrying loads walk in the streets.  Flutes, and other eastern instruments can be heard.  Muslim people can be heard wailing over microphones.

Next, we arrived at my favorite archaeological site in the whole city – we entered the Judgment Hall at the Fortress of Antonio.  There was a cistern and a water supply here.  We observed areas cut by Herod, which was originally the moat of the Fortress of Antonio.  Next, we went deep into the beautiful, large, and open Strutheon Pool.  Water runs down into the pools from the mountains.  We approached other cisterns and lithostrotos pavement that Jesus walked on.  The pavement was made up of large stones with wedges to prevent slipping.  A church was built above this pavement.  Jesus was tried and judged near here by Pontius Pilate.

We walked down today’s Via Dolorosa, where Jesus is supposed to have carried His cross to Calvary.  The actual road, however, would be many feet underground.  The Via Dolorosa featured an arch overhead, this is an original arch left from the Fortress of Antonio.

The business district was bustling – people commonly walk up to you in order to sell you just about everything.  There are money changers today in Jerusalem just like in Christ’s time.  Many people wear cloaks, robes, togas, and turbines.  Conservative Muslim women wear veils.  We stopped and looked at a Muslim water trough.

We approached the Western “Wailing” Wall and we were frisked on the way into this area.  The wall is near Mount Zion and the Tyropoeon Valley.  The Tyropoeon Valley, filled over the years, is right in front of the wall.  The wall is very long, and is the last part of the temple that was not destroyed – hence the Rabiis, Orthodox Jews, etc. wail there.  We observed the same wall nearby extending underground.  The entire original wall is 150 feet high.  When the rabiis pray – they read their Tora, and they chant, buck their head backwards and forwards, and side to side.  They shake their knees.  Loads and loads of prayers were stuck in the cracks of the walls.  The rabiis wore prayer boxes (Phylacteries; Matthew 23:5) on their foreheads and arms, and were dressed all in black.  In essence, they are modern day Pharisees.  They are very, very zealous.  If they were converted, their zeal would turn the world upside down (like Paul of Tarsus).  When we entered, we put on “cardboard beenies” or Kippurs, like everyone else.  A head covering, they feel, is needed in a holy place.  Orthodox Jews of the law, modern day Pharisees, were seen everywhere.

We observed the excavated Tyropoeon Valley (Old Jerusalem) near the Wailing (Western) Wall.  We passed a Byzantine, Muslim Mosque and approached the Dome of the Rock.  It was built in the eighth century.  Abraham offered the sacrifice of Isaac at the rock in the Dome – the rock inside is the ONLY part of Mount Moriah that Herod left exposed after all of his building.  The best marble available was used to build it.  There is a hole in the rock, and a drainage area below for all the blood sacrifices.  Blood would run underneath, all the way down the mountain.  The Dome of the Rock is surrounded by a Muslim Mosque and worship area.  From this area, one can see the Tyropoeon Valley, the Western Wall, and David’s City beyond.

Jerusalem is a melting pot of cultures, beliefs and different people’s religions.  At lunch time, a man on the tour (Steve Abbott) was drinking a milkshake for lunch and was told to leave – this is NOT KOSHER.  Dairy products cannot be eaten with meat products.  The religions of Jerusalem are 1) Islamic (Muslim) 2) Jewish 3) Christian and 4) Armenian (preceded by Greek Orthodox).  All believe in one God and are monotheistic, and all of them go back to Abraham.

We observed the remains of Byzantine shops.  The shops were Roman streets with columns (pillars), and stores on both sides of the street.  These shops were part of Jerusalem after 70 A.D., when Titus destroyed Jerusalem.  Farther down the row of shops, modern shops are built in the original shops.  We then passed a display revealing the Maccabean, Hasmonean ruins and walls.  These dated from 100 B.C. to 700 B.C., the bottom stones were from the time of Hezekiah and the first temple.  Next, we saw an area where the Israeli and Hasmonean walls joined together.  We passed a Byzantine mosaic map, revealing Jerusalem in the sixth century – showing even the streets with the shops that we previously observed.

In Jerusalem, the people bargain and haggle over everything – nothing has a set price.  The people are friendly and get satisfaction in helping you.  A boy gave me an olive branch, expecting nothing in return.  I bought film from a boy, and he brought down the price for me.

Next, we entered the upper room on Mount Zion.  A Muslim Arab altar was put there when they took over.  This is just the traditional location.  The upper room is traced  back only to the Byzantine period, hence it cannot be real.

We went to Mount Zion, King David’s tomb.  Muslim and Byzantine architecture was observed here also, hence this location is probably also traditional.  We observed the Hinnom Valley off in the distance.

We entered Caiphas’ Palace, which was located below a Catholic Church.  We saw a prison where prisoners were dropped through a circular hole.  Could Jesus have been kept here?  More prisons and dungeons were located below.  This was definitely the main prison of the House of Caiphas.  There were even holes in the walls where the prisoners were strapped into place when they were whipped and beaten.

Caiphas’ Palace was a great archaeological site.  Wonderful views were observed of the Kidron Valley, the Tyropoeon Valley in the lower city in Old Jerusalem, and the ruins of Caiphas’ Palace located outside the Catholic Church.  David’s city is located on Mount Ophel, the original Canaanite stronghold of Jerusalem.

Note:  Since traveling to Israel nearly thirty years ago, there is another school of thought regarding archaeology in Jerusalem.  The “Wailing” Wall is now thought to be from the Fortress of Antonio rather than from Herod’s Temple.  Bob Cornuke’s book Temple is the watershed book regarding this new discovery.  I believe Bob is correct in his assessment.  

 

Jordan/Israel ~ 1987-1988 ~ Part 5

Day #5

In Galilee we had cheese and fish for breakfast.  Ramat is located on the north end of the Sea of Galilee, on the northwest corner of the Golan Heights.  Gadara is at the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee.  [We left Gadara by boat and crossed the Sea of Galilee.  The previous evening, my pastor Bill Grimes, assigned me to preach the Gospel on the boat as we crossed over the Sea of Galilee.  I selected the title:  “Jesus Walking On The Water, A Challenge To Our Faith.”  Matthew 14:22-33.  12/30/1987.  Interestingly, our Jewish boat and tour guides, peeked around the corner and took in every word I said.  The Jewish people from Israel are often curious about the Gospel, observing firsthand how born again Christians drop millions and billions of dollars in order to visit their land!  This caption is typed in red because it was not in my original journal.]    As we left our hotel and entered our boat, we proceeded clockwise around the Sea of Galilee, to the east, and we encountered a rocky area full of cliffs.  It came to mind that Jesus sent the swine over the cliff in an area that must have looked like this- where the Gadarenes lived.  Sure enough, we were approaching Gadara!  Every place we come to matches up perfectly with the Bible, and it should, because the Bible is God’s Word.  When we went out on the Sea of Galilee, we looked around and could see the following:  Gadara, Chorazin, Bethsaida, Magdala, Capernaum, the Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha the seven springs church (location of the feeding of the five thousand), and Tiberias.  Our boat left Gadara and arrived in Capernaum.  Capernaum may have been the village of Nahum the prophet.  Simon Peter, of course, was from Capernaum.  Capernaum is best known perhaps, as being the home base or headquarters of Jesus’ ministry in the Galilee region.  We saw another ancient olive press here.  Capernaum was owned by the Romans.  We were blessed with the opportunity to observe three different time eras of the town.  There was Capernaum at the time of Jesus.  Another time era was represented by a Muslim Synagogue in the city.  Finally, further archaeological remains depicted Capernaum at a later time, the 5th century under the Byzantines.  We left Capernaum and passed through Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene.  Now, we left the Sea of Galilee, and headed for the boyhood home of Jesus- Nazareth.  Along the way, we passed another of the many Crusader strongholds which were taken over by the Muslims.  The drive towards Nazareth was very scenic, with rocky gorges and mountains.  We drove through lower Galilee.  We passed through Cana, where Jesus performed His first miracle in His ministry, turning the water into wine.  Cana kept its name for two thousand years.  The Roman Catholic Church has the “alleged pot” which Jesus used to perform this miracle.  In a postcard I have of the “pot,” it looked in very good shape for its age.  We then passed through Reina, a suburb of Nazareth, near Gath-hepher, the home town of Jonah.  We arrived in Nazareth, which has a population of forty five thousand Arabs, Muslims, and Christians.  There were many crowded streets.  Remember Nathaniel’s comment:  “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”  We visited the Nazareth Baptist Church whose pastor was of Arab descent.  The Baptist Church had a dynamic Christian School, and ALL of the many, many students, like the pastor of the church,  were converted Arabs.  Next, we visited the Greek Orthodox Church in Nazareth.  It reminded one of a Catholic Church with all the icons, paintings of Mary, the candles, etc.  “Mary’s well” was inside.  This was the only water source of the city.  This church dates to Byzantine times.

Water is always the bottom line in any potential dwelling area:  1) Where Moses smote the rock near Petra, 2) Where Elisha turned the bitter waters sweet at Jericho, 3) Mary’s well in Nazareth, 4) At the Megiddo tunnel, 5) In Jerusalem at the Canaanite Well, and Hezekiah’s Tunnel which empties into the Pool of Siloam (in Jerusalem is also the Pool of Bethesda), 6) And at En Gedi – the spring where David hid from Saul, also known as David’s Spring or David’s Wadi.

We passed the cliff where Jesus disappeared from the angry people.  Then we came to the eye catching Valley of Jezreel or Valley of Armageddon (Revelation 16:14-16).  Some people think the battle will actually be fought here, such as Hal Lindsey and other literalists of Bible prophecy.  Personally, I believe that “Armageddon” is a symbolic term due to all the battles fought there, just as “Sodom” is symbolic of homosexuality, and “Babylon” is symbolic of spiritual whoredom.

We passed Mount Tabor, where Barak and Deborah the judges had their military base.  Next we approached Megiddo, the strategically located fortress where many famous men died, among these was Josiah.  We were also approaching Mount Carmel.

We observed other fruits in Israel in this area, namely strawberries, grapes, olives, oranges, avocados, cantelopes, etc.

We went by picture perfect Nain, a pretty hamlet on a hillside.  Then we went through Afula.

We came even closer to Megiddo and Mount Carmel (Megiddo is actually a part of the Carmel Mountain Range).  Megiddo is a tell of   about twenty towns which were destroyed.  As mentioned, Megiddo was in a strategic place – blocking the Carmel mountain pass.  Megiddo goes back to 1500 B.C., and Canaanite kings before Joshua.  There is a model of the Megiddo tell on the scene.  The importance of Megiddo lies in the fact that it is the only pass through the mountain range, for the invasion of Jerusalem from the west.  Ancient Megiddo goes back from 4000 B.C. to 500 A.D.  The source of water was an underground tunnel and spring which was camouflaged so the enemy could not poison it.  Mount Carmel is easily scene from Megiddo.  The Catholic “Elijah Church” is seen on Mount Carmel, and is the alleged place where Elijah called down fire from heaven and slew the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal.  From Megiddo, one can see the mountain of Ahab’s Palace to the west, the Gilboa mountains, Mount Tabor, and the Nazareth mountains.  The oldest feature known in Megiddo is a center for Baal worship which dates back to 4,000 B.C.  There were many huge grain silos at Megiddo from the time of Jeroboam.  Ahab had a “chariot city” at Megiddo in the 9th Century B.C.  Also featured in Megiddo are horse stables and a feeding trough from the time of Solomon and/or Ahab.  We went through the water tunnel which leads to the spring, the water source of Megiddo.

Upon leaving Megiddo, we noticed anti-aircraft, Israeli tanks, and military installations everywhere.  We went down the narrow Megiddo pass upon exiting.  We passed one of the largest Israeli Arab settlements in Israel.  During our travels, Pastor Grimes and our Jewish guide Naphtali were talking about King David.  Naphtali said he came from Bethlehem.  In response, Pastor Grimes said that David HAD to come from Bethlehem because he was a type of Christ.  It seems that the best way to witness to Jewish people is to reveal prophetic truths in the Old Testament, show them how the Old and New Testament fit together, show them how the New Testament completes the Old Testament, and show them how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the entire Word of God, and the law, the psalms, and the prophets (Matthew 5:17, Luke 24:44).

We approached Caesarea where Philip the evangelist lived with “his four daughters who did prophesy.”  Caesarea, as you can probably tell by the name, was a Roman settlement.  The town featured all of the attractions of Roman life – an amphitheater, race tracks, administrative buildings, and a regular theater in the round.  Our guides informed us along the way that the Byzantines took over the east after the time of the Roman Empire; the Byzantines came out of Turkey.  This brought to my mind the many empires that have risen and fallen during the ancient history of man.  Here is a list of just a few of the empires that I thought of:  1) Sumerians 2) Babylon 3) Assyria 4) Syria 5) Egypt 6) Neo Babylon 7) Medo-Persia 8) Greek  9) Roman 10) Byzantine 11) Muslims (Arabic) 12) Crusaders 13) The Ottoman Empire of the Turks in 1500.  All of the aforementioned empires had a heavy influence on Israel in the past.  If we thought even more, we could probably add several more to the list such as the Canaanites, Philistines and others.  It is no coincidence that Israel is a “land bridge” where many nations crossed in the past.  In this way, other countries could learn the gospel, and Israel could be humbled by other nations when she stepped out of line.

Herod built Caesarea for the Romans only.  Augustus Caesar made Herod “King of the Jews,” hence Herod named the town Caesarea in honor of the emperor Augustus.  On the way to Caesarea, we passed through the large, modern, contemporary Israeli city of Tel Aviv, where Naphtali our guide is from.

Caesarea was built in the first century by Herod the Great.  We observed an aqueduct built by Herod.  It had two large ducts on top in which to transport water.  The water came nine miles from Mount Carmel and into Caesarea.  We passed the hippodrome (hippo means horse), or Roman race track.  Caesarea also has a “Crusader City” or castle.  The thirteenth century Crusader’s castle is complete with walls and a moat.  The castle was in very good condition.  Caesarea, like many places in medieval times in the Holy Land, changed hands several times between the Muslims and Crusaders.  We stopped and looked at the semi circular Roman theater in Caesarea.  Next, we looked at the remains of the Herodian Palace.  (How many palaces and fortresses did Herod the Great have?)  All of the statue heads were hacked off by Muslims, who despised Roman pagan practices of nudity.  Caesarea is still one gigantic tell – most of which is still uncovered.

We passed through Hadera, on our way to Tell Aviv.  As we again approached Tell Aviv, we observed a beautiful sunset.  Tell Aviv was built in 1909 by Jews from Istanbul.  It is the largest city in Israel, and very modern.

We passed through the city of the Ottomon Empire, which was 500 years old, founded by a Turkish Sultan – New Joppa.  We then arrived in the older part of town, Old Joppa.  This, of course, is the home of Simon the tanner (Peter).  Jonah also went to Joppa, attempting to flee from God’s will.  It is interesting that when we tie Joppa in with Peter and Jonah, with both men the city is significant because it had to do with their respective commissions of taking the gospel to the Gentiles.  There were many narrow streets and shops near the water.  Excavations revealed the third century B.C. Greek occupation of Joppa.  It is a very quaint and pretty town, it reminds one of a fishing port.

Onward, for our one hour drive to Jerusalem.  On our way south, we passed the place where the sun stood still for Joshua’s army.  As we went towards Jerusalem, we gradually ascended.  Hence, even though we were going south, we were going “up” to Jerusalem.  The ONLY way to Jerusalem is a narrow, rocky canyon road.  The Arabs blocked this road in 1948.  Jerusalem is a town of vast hills and valleys.  Jerusalem is over 3,000 feet high and has a population of 450,000.  It has an old city and a new city – our attention will be focused on the old city.  When we arrived for the night, we stayed at the Shalom Jerusalem Hotel in the new city.

 

Jordan/Israel ~ 1987-1988 ~ Part 4

Day #4

We were told that we would go near Gilgal when we crossed the Jordan River this morning.  This is where Elisha and Elijah crossed the Jordan River prior to Elijah being taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot, and the beginning of the ministry of Elisha.  Our tour guide in Jordan, Jack, will take us to the border of the Jordan River, where another guide will pick us up and show us Israel.  We were informed that the inspection station at the Jordan, Israel border was very strict because of the tense situation in the Middle East.  Along our way, Dr. Grimes passed along some valuable information to us about Jericho, one of the first sites we will see on this date.  He said that the Jericho of today, or New Jericho, is at its present location because of Elisha’s Spring, where the bitter waters were made sweet.  It is amazing to observe how God’s blessings from thousands of years ago still bless and affect people today.

As we approached Israel from Jordan, we noted more trees, grass and hills.  We approached Mt. Seir which was both high and long.  This is where Esau settled, and Seir means red, the color of Esau’s hair.  Beyond Mt. Seir, we saw the beautiful Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea.  The scenery was spectacular.  We passed by Mt. Nebo, from where Moses saw Israel before he died.  We could really appreciate how easily Moses could see the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo.  As we quickly descended the mountains in Jordan our ears popped, and we were whisked to an entirely different atmosphere.  We passed banana trees, and tropical palm trees could be seen as we approached the Dead Sea.  The descent to the Dead Sea became more slow and gradual, and now we observed orange trees and cactus.

We finally reached the border inspection station, and we were advanced in front of other larger touring groups because of our small size.  So far so good.  Then we ran into the biggest snag and disappointment of our entire trip.  We were held up about two hours because we had to wait for a “regulation wheelchair” for Steve Abbott.  Steve’s wheelchair could not be taken into Israel in case someone planted a “pipe bomb” or something else inside it.  Finally, after a lengthly delay we were off again.

We were informed that the Dead Sea is rapidly sinking.  Potassium is the main product used from the Dead Sea.  One can see mountains all around the Dead Sea.  In America, I believe the Shennandoah Valley looks similar to the topography in this area – a low area that is surrounded by mountains.

The name of our new guide in Israel was Naphtali (one of the twelve tribes of Israel), and he was from the Levite Tribe.  It is amazing, I thought, for an unbelieving Jew to “guide” people who know Jesus Christ.

We passed through New Jericho.  The people in New Jericho are not Israelites, but citizens from Jordan.  Arabs also occupy the West Bank (1,200,000 of them), a section of Jerusalem, and other parts of Israel.  Jericho is an oasis or green spot.  We passed the Mount of Temptation on our left.  This, of course, is where Jesus was tempted by Satan for forty days in the wilderness.

Next, we visited the palace of the Islamic Muslim ruler Hisham, who ruled from 724-743.  The palace was destroyed by an earthquake only four years after it was completed.  In the realm of architecture, the Muslims copied the Corinthians, Byzantines, Romans, and Greeks.  Hisham stole the ruins from Herod’s palace at Jericho, in order to make his palace.  This place was furnished with bath houses, steam rooms, and spas similar to the Romans.  The palace had mosaics, a mosque, and an ornamental pool.

Now we proceeded towards historical Jericho, passing a couple Refugee Camps for Nomads and Bedouins along the way.  Jericho is the oldest city in human history, dating to about 7300-8300 B.C.  There are various cities in Jericho differing in age – 8000 B.C., 2000 B.C., etc.  The Jericho from the time of Joshua dates to about 1300 B.C.  Despite legendary folklore, the famous walls that tumbled down in Joshua’s battle have never been located with complete certainty.  Finally, in Jericho, we saw the spring of Elisha where he made the bitter waters sweet.  Fruits were plentiful in the area, including tangerines, pomegranates, figs, and dates.

We left Jericho northbound on a long ride towards Galilee.  We could appreciate the good shape that Jesus and the disciples were in to walk such a distance on foot.  Immediately, after we left the oasis of Jericho, the landscape once again became brown, barren, and dry.  As we moved toward Samaria, we saw grapes, fruits, and other crops.  On our left, we passed the mountains of Samaria.  Naphtali pointed out the mountains where the Maccabees hid.  Then we went by the Gilead mountains on our right.  We passed a road to Shechem, which was noted from Jacob’s time for his well.  We passed Jerash, Jordan which was one of the Roman Decapolis cities.  Next, was the Brook Gibok, where Jacob met God.  There is never a dull moment in this incredible land.  We passed a couple of tells, which are mounds containing the ruins of ancient cities.  One tell we passed, may have been Makula, where Elisha came from.  We finally left the Jordan River Valley, noting the Gilboa mountains on our left, where Saul fought the Philistines and killed himself.  We went through Bet Shean, and passed Afula on our way to Tiberias.  We went by another Crusader’s fortress, and fortified mountains on our left as we went north.  The Jordan River is sixty miles long from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea.  Finally, we approached the Sea of Galilee.

We entered Tiberias, a Roman town noted for its hot springs.  It was a Muslim town and walled only one hundred years ago.  Tiberias was of importance to the Romans as a place of relaxation and therapy.  The Jewish Talmud was completed in Tiberias by 200 A.D. by Herod Antipas.  Herod built Tiberias in honor of the emperor.  All of the Herods were always trying to placate the Romans, since it was through them that they received their power.  Jesus never witnessed or preached in Tiberias, probably knowing that the gospel was not ready to be received there.

We passed a Jewish stronghold used against the Romans.  Then we passed Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene.  Next, we went by Ginnosar (Ginnessaret).  We saw bananas and olive trees.  It is 600 feet below sea level even at the Sea of Galilee.

We then went to the traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount, or the Mount of Beatitudes.  We then approached the area where Christ fed the multitude of five thousand.  We saw an olive press outside the church called Tabgha, right off the Sea of Galilee.  Again, this is where it is thought Jesus fed the multitudes.  The Basilica of Tabgha was new.  The original church was built in the fourth century.  The Crusaders built a church on this site, then the Muslims ripped it down.  The Crusaders built it again, and once again the Muslims tore it down.  There were many icons inside the new basilica.  We then proceeded to the Golan Heights region on the north shores of the Sea of Galilee.  We saw barbed wire and many evidences (foxholes, bunkers) of modern warfare.  Nightfall came rapidly and we stayed at the beautiful Ramot, right off the shores of Galilee, opposite Tiberias.  We had fish for breakfast.

One interesting observation of our trip thus far, is the heavy Roman influence, all the way from Petra in south Jordan, to Tiberias in northern Israel.

The Jordan River is a very powerful river from Mt. Hermon to the Sea of Galilee, then tapers off from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea.

Another thought is that I believe we should be wary of “traditional sites,” such as 1) Moses smoting the rock at Rephidim, the Wadi Feiran.  2) Where Jesus taught at the Mt. of the Beatitudes.  3) The feeding of the five thousand at the Tabgha basilica.  4) Aaron’s burial place at Mt. Hor, etc., etc.  5) The place of ascension by Jesus on the Mount of Olives.  6) The rock where Jesus prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane.  7) The place of the upper room on Mount Zion.  8) David’s tomb.  9) The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem – the place of the birth of Jesus Christ.  All of the traditional locations show the weak faith of man.  The important thing is that they happened.  In many cases we are just not sure where they happened – and it really does not matter.

I was surprised by the fact that you can see all the shoreline on the Sea of Galilee.  I thought it was larger.  At Lake Okeechobee, Florida, for instance, you cannot see all the way across.  This just added to its’ quaintness.  We could see Tiberias across Galilee from Ramot; at night the cities’ lights were beautiful.  Just as in the time of Jesus, the region of Galilee today is noted for health resorts, spas, saunas, etc.

Note:  I do not agree with the aforementioned dates of Jericho’s age as a city.  I do not believe the world dates prior to about 4000 B.C.  This is what the Bible tells us.  Radio Carbon dating methods are totally unreliable.  Furthermore, since this paper was written in 1988, there is much more archaeological proof about the location and discovery of the famous walls in Jericho that fell down during Joshua’s conquest. 

 

 

 

Jordan/Israel ~ 1987-1988 ~ Part 3

Day #3

Our hotel is in the capital of Jordan-Amman.  Amman was the southernmost Decapolis city, which explains why there are many Roman ruins there such as a Roman theater.  The population of Jordan is four million, one million of these people live in Amman.  Much of Jordan is three thousand feet above sea level.  When we left Amman for Petra, we saw many things.  We saw olive trees, artisan wells, sheep, military posts, and Palestinian Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) Refuge Camps.  The exports of Jordan are cement, and phosphates from the Dead Sea.

Amman was a very clean city, with white cement buildings, it was a hilly town, very scenic with no advertisements, and there were army and police men posted in many places.  In ancient times Amman was known as Rabbath-Ammon, chief town of the Ammonites.  Later it was rebuilt and renamed Philadelphus by Ptolemy Philadelphus (245-246 B.C.).  Rabbath means “great,” i.e., the capital.  Amman is at the headwaters of the Jabbok, 23 miles east of the Jordan.  The ancient background of Amman is as follows:  When David was king, the Ammonites defied Israel, prepared for war, and hired auxiliaries from the Aramaeans.  The hired army marched to the town of Medeba (I Chronicles 19:7; or perhaps “waters of Rabbah”).  Joab and the Israelites were encamped before the gate of Rabbah, and presently the Aramaeans  pitched camp behind them in the open field.  The Israelites were beset before and behind (2 Samuel 10:8-9; 1 Chronicles 19:9).  By dividing his forces, Joab met and defeated both enemies (2 Samuel 10:13-14).  The next spring, Joab besieged Rabbah again.  During a sally from the gate, Uriah the Hittite was killed.  That part of the city lying between the citadel and the river, and called the city of waters, fell into the hands of Joab, but the citadel held out.  David was sent for to complete the conquest and associate it with his name.  He came, took the city, and condemned the inhabitants to forced labor (2 Samuel 11:1; 12:26-31; I Chronicles 20:1-3).  In time, the Ammonites recovered the city.  Judgments were denounced against it by Jeremiah (40:2-6) and Ezekiel (21:20).  It was embellished by Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.), and in his honor named Philadelphus.  The city was the eastern limit of Peraea (War III:3,3).  The commercial highway between Damascus and Arabia, which skirted the desert passed through it, and there was also a trade road from Philadelphia by way of Gerasa and Pella to Scythopolis.  The modern name is Amman, an echo of Ammon.  So much for the rich history in the city where our plane landed.

Along the way to Petra, Pastor Grimes told us that the best stance towards the Arab/Israeli conflict is one of neutrality.  This sounds like wise advice.  They do not like each other, and they both have no hope for salvation unless they turn to Jesus Christ.

We already mentioned the intense security check upon entering the airport.  They also had several security checks along the highway.  Jordan has goats, mules and burros, we noticed along the way.  It is a very hilly and barren land.  We crossed a large mountain range.  As we mentioned, phosphates are mined in Jordan and exported for fertilizer.  We saw many shepherds and their flocks of sheep.  There were also many small cement homes for miners, dwellers, etc.  There did not seem to be the danger in Jordan that the recent United States news media attempted to portray (especially P.L.O. factions at the Gaza Strip and in Bethlehem).  We also noticed that many people in Jordan just stand around doing nothing out in the country.  A tourist bus is one of the few things which makes them move – they will attempt to sell just about anything, including the right to take their picture.

We drove on the famous King’s Highway which had an expensive tax on it in Bible times.  We saw many Bedouins after we left the main road.  Finally, we arrived at our first attraction on our way to Petra.  This was the Crusader’s Castle Shoubak.  This castle goes back to the sixth century, and is noted for guarding the crossroads at the King’s Highway near Petra.  It sits up very high, it has steep ravines and canyons around it, and looked impregnable.

The pace of life in Jordan seemed very slow and we noticed many grapes growing upon terraces.

Next, we entered the area of three main attractions:  1) The rock Moses smote in the Wadi of Kadesh, 2) Petra, home of the Edomites and many other settlers later on, and 3) Mount Hor, the traditional burial place of Aaron.  The rock Moses smote accounts for all the water in this area even today.  It is called Wadi Musa, and it supports the modern city of Petra.  Petra is one of the most incredible places on the face of the earth.  The inhabitants there dwelt high, among the clefts (Obadiah 3-4).  This was originally a place in Edom, where the Edomites lived.  The Nabataeans, however, were a group of desert tribesmen (a Semitic, Thamudic people of Arabic descent from Yemen) who may have encroached on the territory of Edom as early as the sixth century B.C.  According to the Greek historian Diodorus, these invaders from the eastern desert eventually captured all of the territory of Edom, including the capital city of Petra.  The Nabataean Arabs raised Petra to its highest glory before they came under Roman control in A.D. 106.  The ruins in Petra we saw were Nabataean ruins.  The Roman influence on the Nabataeans can be seen in the buildings, columns and arches.  Petra is surrounded on all sides by precipitous sandstone cliffs.  A rivulet traverses the whole length of the city, accounting for the variegated colors of the rock – red, brown, purple and yellow – adding to the beauty of the spot.  I picked up some of this rock for our four children.  The only entrance to the city is a narrow ravine with steep, high cliffs on each side.  Petra is surrounded by mountains.  There are some things that have to be SEEN in order to be appreciated and believed – Petra is one of these.  From a distance, the Petra mountains are like nothing you have ever seen – they are purple, eerie, mystic, out of place, like lunar landscape, majestic, steep and towering.  The rock in Petra is the easily cutable soft sandstone.  In Petra, there are Nabataean tombs, Obelisk tombs, remains of temples, an amphitheater, a triumphal arch, and dwelling houses in adjacent cliffs.  On the height above, overlooking the ancient city, is the great high place, and other altars standing on neighboring lofty sites.  There are also areas for blood sacrifices and many other things.  Petra received water through a small aqueduct.  Petra is at the center of a network of three roads – 1) The Kings Highway to the north, 2) a road to the south, 3) and the Desert Highway to the east.  1) Transportation and 2) water are needed for the city.

Mohammed, a popular Arab name in an eastern land, was the name of about a thirteen year old lad who led my horse into and out of Petra.

In the realm of culture, we noticed that in Jordan the music sounds very wailing and full of mourning.  It is even depressing, and almost reminded one of a funeral.

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The two most fascinating places that I have ever been to, are Machu Picchu, Peru and Petra, Jordan.  They are both listed among the seven wonders of the modern world.

Although I formerly agreed with Pastor Bill Grimes’ recommendation to stay neutral in regards to the Arab/Israeli conflict, since learning more of God’s plan for the nation of Israel, I have had trouble doing this.  Genesis 12:3 tells us the Lord will “…bless them that bless thee and curse them that curse thee.”  The Lord also calls Israel the “…apple of His eye.”  Although I see both Arabic people and Israelis as largely both lost without faith in Christ, Israel is a specially chosen nation of people for whom the Lord has a plan.  I also carry the underdog mentality.  Americans love the underdog, a role that Israel carries, as she is surrounded by innumerable Islamic nations and radical movements who have desired for this nation to be exterminated since May, 1948.  One day the Lord God will thwart the efforts of Gog and Magog, when they gather a huge coalition and mutually attack Israel.  Many students of prophecy believe Gog and Magog are Russia, Iran, and other like minded nations.  

Jordan/Israel ~ 1987-1988 ~ Part 2

Day #1

We departed from Stafford Baptist Church (Stafford, Virginia) at 9:30 A.M. for New York.  We passed the Washington monument, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State building, and the World Trade Building on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport.  At the airport I encountered a security official at Israel Airlines and he said no one could enter their waiting area due to “tight security.”  The security is mainly because of bomb threats, etc. from Arab, Third World countries.  No other airlines had such a policy and a security guard as did Israel.  The “Zionists” have many enemies.

We met Jo Anne and Steve Abbott at the airport.  They just flew in from Oregon, and were joined by their son Mark, in the Air Force, and on leave from the Philippines.  Their other son, Paul, is a missionary from Africa and will join us in Amman, Jordan.  What a place and what a time for a family reunion!

I was quickly exposed to the culture of the Middle East on the airplane.  The gentleman seated next to me was born and raised in Damascus, Syria; he moved to the United States and raised a family of five children.  He told me he was returning to Damascus, and then he gave me some history of the city.  He said it is the world’s oldest capital city, and the world’s oldest inhabited city.  He claimed the tomb of John the Baptist is there, and there is a castle left by the Crusaders from about 1100 A.D.  As a Christian, I know Damascus was once part of the Hasmonean Dynasty.  Even of more significance, the Bible (Acts, Chapter 9) reveals that it is the place where Paul went to persecute Christians.  However, due to his conversion along the way to the city, he ended up preaching the gospel message of Jesus Christ there.  Paul now ended up as the one being persecuted, and his friends had to lower Paul in a basket outside the walls of Damascus so he could escape with his life.  No one promised that it would be easy to follow Jesus.

We lost seven hours of time as we flew towards the sun.  We will gain the seven hours back when we are going home.

Day #2

While still on the airplane, we saw some very scenic, desolate, hilly and craggy terrain about one hour and one quarter prior to our arrival in Jordan.  We guessed that it was probably Turkey that we saw.  I saw another sign of the tension in the Middle East while still on the airplane.  While glancing at a map of the various flight routes which Royal Jordanian makes, I noticed that Israel was not even listed on the map in the airplane!  On the plane I tried to speak with a Jordanian to ask him about this, but he could only speak Arabic.  We ate several meals on the airplane, and I had trouble figuring out if it was day or night- jet lag.  After thirteen hours of flying time we finally set down in Jordan, and after a very scrutinizing passport/visa/luggage check and frisk, we were carried away to our hotel.

I did not care for the Jordanian food at the hotel.  I also noticed that Arabs engage in close body contact, and do not observe the “space” that Americans are use to having.  They elbow, poke and push.  Arabs commonly have body odor.  I was glad that we were going to spend only one night in Jordan.  I already found that some things in other countries make me appreciate the United States of America all the more.  How many things we just take for granted.

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***   Dear Folks,  I am embarrassed to read the last paragraph of my own journal above.  It reveals my immaturity in regards to other people around the world.  Since then, I have learned to appreciate the food given to me, whatever it is.  A Christian should adapt to the customs and environment of the lands we visit, just as long as it does not compromise our faith.  I included it because it is my journal.  On the bright side, it reveals spiritual growth.   ***

Blessings, Pastor Steve 

Jordan/Israel ~ 1987-1988 ~ Part 1

The entire narrative for this trip was taken verbatim from my journal.  This was my first overseas trip, and taken on the threshold of my first pastorate:

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Note:  The purpose of this paper is to give a day by day account of a ten day trip to the Holy Land.  Well over one hundred pages of notes were taken on this trip, many post cards were obtained which picture the key places visited, and over eighty photographs were taken.  Notes, post cards and pictures can be kept for a lifetime, and greatly enhance the learning potential of such a trip.  By no means does this paper claim to be totally inclusive of everything seen.  It is based on the viewpoint of the author, and it is his interpretation of what he has seen, and is backed up by what he knew before going on the journey.  What was learned on the venture can be divided into three different categories:  1.  Bible lands, places and people that we can associate with the holy scriptures.  Many things we saw were supported by modern day science, history and archaeology.  There is Bible history throughout the Holy Land, and when one visits Israel he should always be asking himself:  “What happened here?”  2.  We should examine the culture of the people currently living in Jordan/Israel.  So often, the culture of modern day dwellers is similar to, or even exactly the same as that of the people during Bible times.  Walking into modern day Israel is truly walking into the past.  Many examples will be cited in this paper.  3.  Topography.  Israel is an amazing country with its diversity in landscape.  Although it is only the size of Vermont, every part of the land reveals a different kind of beauty.  Among the beautiful features of Israel is the Jordan Valley, the scenic Sea of Galilee, towering mountains and deep valleys, picturesque hamlets perched on hills, various oasis (Jericho, En Gedi), the Judaean Wilderness, the Negeb Desert, and the Dead Sea Area (over 1200 feet below sea level, the lowest place on the face of the earth) which has a topography all of its own and is one of the most interesting places in the world.  Not only is there diversity in landscape, but also in climate.  Although Israel winter temperatures are relatively mild with a high in the 60 degree range, the Dead Sea reaches 80 degrees due to its lowness and tropical climate.  It rains at the Dead Sea very rarely.

This trip was planned for a long time and how the tension and anxiety mounted as the day grew closer!  Would the trip have to be cancelled due to illness, emergency, snow, etc.?  What a boost this gave to my prayer life and what a relief it was when the departure time finally came.  When it was time to go on this “once in a lifetime journey,” I could hardly believe that I was going.

Preparation for the trip included packing the essential items needed, securing a passport and a visa, obtaining a few travelers checks in case of an emergency, and making the usual arrangements for a departure from home, such as securing leave from work, etc.

We departed for Jordan/Israel on 12/26/87, the day after Christmas, and we were scheduled to come home on 1/4/88.  We were scheduled to fly via Royal Jordanian, with a brief stop in Amsterdam, Holland.  Our host was Dr. James Bill Grimes.  Accompanying him were James Taylor, Dawn Presti, Steve Thompson, Jo Anne Abbott, Steve Abbott, Mark Abbott, and Paul Abbott.

2012 Mission Trip To England/Uganda, Part 6

We all had a great sense of fulfillment following our 2012 mission trip to Uganda, yet we did not yet feel closure.  Jessica and I felt burdened to invite Daniel Lugumya to our area of service.  We arranged for Pastor Daniel to come the following spring.  Daniel and his family lived in Boston during this time, and Daniel flew to our area in the spring of 2013.  Jessica’s church had a mission fest emphasis during the time that Daniel came, and they had a booth set up for him in order to promote his home country of Uganda, and his ministries in Kampala!  Daniel lacked entrepreneur skills in promoting the needs of his home country.  This was due to absolutely no fault of his own, and is best understood as a cultural divide and lack of understanding.  Some mission funds were nonetheless collected and given to Pastor Daniel for the needs in Uganda.  I took Daniel to a lunch meeting with my fellow pastors in our local association and he really enjoyed the fellowship.  Daniel was well received by all, and shared his personal testimony of salvation.  Arrangements were made for him to visit three more churches, including the one where I served as pastor.  Pastor Daniel spoke at all three churches about Uganda and their needs.  He showed us a brief film that displayed the ministries of their church (Jesus Commissioned Ministries) and school (Mercy School).  Daniel shared with us all about the importance of the Great Commission.   Together, the three churches collected a great amount of offerings, and Daniel was able to use the mission funds to build better and more extensive roofs over Jesus Commissioned Ministries and the Mercy School in Kampala, Uganda.  I will forever be grateful to the pastors and their respective churches who gave so generously.  Southern Baptist Churches are often not receptive in giving to causes outside of our denomination, yet the pastors told me that they trusted my judgment.  I was humbled and grateful.  Later on, Pastor Daniel sent us e-mail photographs of the new roofs that were placed on the aforementioned buildings.

Uganda is very poor.  I call it the Haiti of Africa.  Daniel Lugumya represents a non charismatic Protestant church deep within Africa.  It is one of the few churches in the entire nation that is absolutely square with the Bible.  If you feel a burden to help these saints who live in a country stricken with poverty, I would encourage you to contact Pastor Daniel Lugumya.  Daniel is now based in Houston, seeking contacts and assistance for his people in Uganda.  He can be easily reached through Google, and the following references:

Daniel Lugumya

Daniel and Lydia Lugumya (they have three children)

Houston, Texas

Jesus Commissioned Ministries

Mercy School

Uganda

Kampala, Uganda

 

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Blessings, Pastor Steve