“On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist..and stayed with him…While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, “This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”’ When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’” Acts 21:8-13
We are in Caesarea. I’m not intending to be melodramatic, but when I read these words I couldn’t help thinking of the number of people who expressed such great concern over the safety and security of our group during this trip. And while I understand that being in this region might make us a little more cautious, we are not afraid. While I do not WANT to be imprisoned or to die, I am not afraid of being imprisoned, and I am not afraid of dying – what we are doing here is the same thing that Paul was doing here 2000 years ago: we are just using a different medium. But it is still the same message with the same urgency and the same importance about the same Savior – and we are so excited and feel so blessed to be participating in this project.
(This post turned out longer than I expected…so if you simply want to know if we are okay and where we are – Yes, we are fine, and we are in Caesarea! You can stop reading now. But if you’d like to hear more about the last 24 hours – read on!)
After our comfy afternoon yesterday, we left the hotel heading for our Lufthansa flight to Tel Aviv. We admired some of the architecture in the Frankfurt airport:
We already had boarding passes, but no gate number, though we had been told we would be departing from terminal C (and why do they have to use the word “terminal” in an airport??) When we found Terminal C, we could not find a board anywhere indicating which gate was ours. After wandering in very empty Lufthansa hallways (which made me think of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness…) we found someone to ask. He took John’s boarding pass, said “follow me!” and we did – to a security checkpoint. Here we unloaded all of the very loaded backpacks, and a nice German woman said “GIF me your COMPUTER before you FALL it!” Apparently she was worried I would drop my laptop. Then we sent all of the backpacks through the video screener, had to explain Clif Bars and my individual peanut butter portions, and Micah was dragged, screaming, to an exam room with his neck pillow in question (just teasing about the dragging and screaming part. But he WAS scared.)
ONLY to wander more empty hallways and discover – there is apparently a separate secret screening room for passengers bound for Tel Aviv. *sigh*
Unpack the backpacks again, unload the computers again, explain Clif bars again (don’t Europeans like protein bars?) Endure a VERY thorough frisking (but don’t get me wrong, I’m glad for security!) and FINALLY! We had a few minutes to relax at the gate, while live streaming the swine show at the Houston Rodeo and watching some girl named Lauren show Micah’s pig Skunk to the judge. We did keep the screen tilted down a little bit…since we were likely sitting amidst a number of people who aren’t so fond of pigs.
Our last flight left Frankfurt at 9:30 p.m. and we arrived in Tel Aviv at 2:30 a.m. Yes, that’s A.M. I just know I looked as fresh as a daisy. And then every single passenger on that aircraft crammed into a little bus, where we all stood nose-to-nose for the quick ride to the terminal.
Inside, all of the people went running for these little passport machines, so of course, like cattle, we followed them. Then stood there with our passports, wondering why we didn’t have the little card that the machine required.
The nice man behind us patiently said – “You haf to go to foreign!” Ahhh, so we turned to see, plain as day, the passport control booths for us foreigners.
We were met by the one who would drive us to Caesarea. His name was Chaim, a native of Israel, whose parents had immigrated from Morocco back in the 1950’s. The drive took about 45 minutes, through a very high-tech looking Tel Aviv. We fell into bed at about 5:00 a.m. and didn’t wake until 10.
When we woke up, we discovered we had this beautiful view from our balcony: the Mediterranean Sea on the coast of Caesarea. There is a beautifully gnarled tree in the front yard of the hotel. And on our walk we saw mesquite bushes everywhere – I wonder if Jesus’ crown of thorns was made of these terribly sharp mesquite thorns?
Caesarea is on the coastline of Israel about 30 miles north of Tel Aviv. (Incidentally, I have heard several who live here pronounce it like “KaySAReeya” – as opposed to how we say “SesaREEya”.) We caught a ride from a man named Gaday in a Mercedes taxi (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one!) to a nearby mall. I couldn’t believe I came all the way from the USA to go to a MALL. And with our big backpacks and camera bag, you might as well have stamped a big “TOURIST” on our foreheads. But they had a grocery store, and we needed lunch supplies for the group. Micah, already suffering from severe culture shock, was not AT ALL excited about a trip to the mall….but we stuffed some McDonalds French fries and Coke into him, and he pulled it together.
This afternoon we walked from our hotel down to the coastline, where Herod the Great built a great city and an artificial harbor. This city became the administrative center for the Roman Empire from which they ruled Palestine during the time of Christ and beyond. Tomorrow Gary will be telling us more about this beautiful city. Here the Roman Centurion Cornelius – a Gentile – “a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms to the people, and prayed continually to God” lived. It was here that Cornelius had the vision where God instructed him to bring Simon Peter to Caesarea. Here Peter spoke the good news to Cornelius and his household, and here they were baptized into Christ.
I think I will be seeing a lot of instruction going on between John and Micah for the next couple of weeks!
Micah and I saw an absolutely gorgeous sunset over the Mediterranean Sea tonight – I couldn’t get my camera settings right, but trust me, it was breathtaking!
Almost all of the rest of our group arrived tonight: Mat, Doug, Rick, Phillip, Jon, and Gary. Dewayne is due to arrive on the 23rd. We enjoyed supper at the hotel with Lindy, who owns Blue & White Travel here in Israel.
Later we sat down to meet and pray about our efforts. John told the group about the difficulty Lindy encountered trying to obtain the necessary permits from the National Park Service that we would need in order to film inside the parks. John sent texts to all of the team members and to our elders, asking them to pray about this in particular. 48 hours later, the permit was granted. John read Acts 10:31: “Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.” Perhaps sometimes we don’t pray specifically enough, but we know that our prayer has been heard. Gary prayed for us to have creativity, wisdom, and insight in our presentations, and that we would maximize our opportunities, as well as have patience to deal with anything unexpected. I couldn’t help having another lump in my throat as we sat together and realized the beginning of what we pray will become something useful in the Kingdom of God.
As I write this entry, this is my view (I think we wore him out!):
We will have a very early morning – I can’t wait to hear John talk more about Mount Carmel, and listen to Gary’s lesson on Caesarea. Good night! Shalom!