Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I thought Easter was about eggs!

We are a little late posting this, but it is a great story.

Yesterday (Monday), we had one of our family friends come and visit us forEaster. It was a pleasure for us to have them in our home for they honoured us and our Easter holiday. We always enjoy visiting with this family. While their children (I boy and 2 girls) are younger than our kids, they find ways to play together. One of our family traditions during Easter is to have a basket that is fullof Resurrection Eggs. We go through the various stories of the Passion Week and discuss their significance to our faith. When our friends came over,they asked about the eggs. We proceeded to open each egg and explain the significance of each symbol to our faith. Our discussion was interjectedwith statements like: "Oh, I didn't know that about the Easter story" or "I thought that you believed this or that", "Yes, I've heard that before, but Ididn't understand why" "I thought Easter was about eggs!" "I thought youChristians just decorated and ate eggs at Easter". What a joy to see the lights go on in the lives of this precious couple. They were open and receptive to hear the stories and in the end took The Book home with them to read the stories themselves. Pray with us that the stories of J. and the words written in The Book would penetrate theirhearts.

Posted by GT

Monday, April 09, 2007

80% Chance of Sand

Trying to get accustomed to new weather patterns when you move to another part of the world can be tricky. Having moved from New York to Florida years ago, I had to get used new types of weather and weather patterns including severe thunder storms, tornados, and even water spouts. In Florida one day, it could be 90 degrees and then 35 degrees the next morning. Another strange thing about the weather in Florida is that it can be raining cats and dogs across the street and bright and sunny right where you are standing. (Here it just rains cats.)

However, living in Florida never prepared me for the forecast the other day that called for “sand.” The Weather Channel even had an icon of the sun, which normally has clouds or rain transposed over it this time of year, with a little picture of swirling sand and the word “Sand” where normally the words “sunny” or “rain” would be.

The “sand” is from the start of the Khamaseen season when much of the area will be affected by warm dusty winds. The Khamaseen is a cyclonic-type wind that originates in the Sahara and affects North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant. The wind occurs during a 50-day period from March until early May and is characterized by hot and dusty conditions. The name is derived from the Arabic khamsen, meaning 50. You can actually see the sand suspended in the air, which gives the sky an eerie yellow hue. You can also feel the sand when the wind blows.

Over all I do like the weather here better than Florida because of the absence of humidity and hurricanes in the summer and the winters are mild, but it will take some getting used to. Just days before the “sand” it was 80 degrees here and then it snowed, then rained, then sand, then rain again. Every morning before I leave for school I check the weather on the Internet to see if I should bring my light or heavy jacket, an umbrella, my sunglasses, or a respirator mask.

Posted by LR who is still battling sand.

God Surprises us with the Little Things

The thing that surprises me the most about the Holy Land is how small and close everything is. I guess I just expected the Sea of Galilee to be much larger or the old city of Jerusalem to be much bigger. When reading about the Holy Land in the Bible things seem to be so much larger in our imaginations, almost bigger than life. However, of course, they are bigger than life, but not for size but for the things that were accomplished there. God often uses a remnant or something of little significant in size to accomplish His great work. The boy David slaying the giant Goliath or the 300 troops of Gideon come to mind. It is amazing that the tiny old city of Jerusalem could have such an impact on history and on our salvation. The old city now is surrounded by walls that were constructed for the most part in the 17th Century. I am told that this is much larger than the city even existed in the 1st century, and larger still than the original city of David. I guess it is easy to make judgments on its size based on the large cities we are accustomed to today. Maybe that is what is so awe inspiring about Jerusalem that so many things of significance were done there that has an everlasting impact. The city is venerated by three of the major religions and is the center of attention around the world even today. God does use the small things to accomplish his plan. My prayer for all of us is that we do not think that we are too small for God to use. He has shown us time after time that he uses the small things as well as those who are far from perfect.

Posted by LP.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter in Jerusalem

Spending Easter in Jerusalem is something I never expected to do and I admit that I thought it would be full of the Easter spirit but I soon learned otherwise. Because Jerusalem is such a diverse city (Jews/Muslims/Christians), it is a new experience altogether to be here the week that Jesus' death and resurrection are celebrated. One of the major observations that I have made is the impact of the Jewish Passover on this week. As I was walking through the Old City on Friday evening with a couple of friends, we noticed that many Orthodox Jews were headed towards the Western Wall for Sabbath prayers. This was particularly interesting to us because it was the Passover Sabbath and Jews from all around the world come to pray at the Western Wall for this occasion. The area next to the Temple Mount was full of people, singing and praying and reading the Torah together. As we watched and observed, the call to prayer sounded from a mosque next to the Temple Mount. The air was full of both Hebrew and Arabic, from two completely different religions that both claim belief in One True God whose followers are so similar yet at such odds with each other. They are neighbors but many are enemies. But I was struck at the sincerity in which followers of both religions seriously seek to know God, yet they are both so far from the Truth. Especially in a city like Jerusalem that is full of history of the life of Jesus Christ! It was a strange combination of Judaism and Islam and I left with a new sense of how hard so many people in this region of the world are trying to please God yet they have no idea of what this weekend really represents. Pray for the people of Jerusalem, that they may one day celebrate the Resurrection with us!

Posted by SH, a new member of our team.