So to get started, I have wanted to go on this trip for the past 3 years, but something was always coming up. OK to be honest it was mainly me being scared of leaving the country and not knowing what would happen to me. We I finally grew a pair ad realized that I needed to grow both as a person and as a Christian (YEAH ME!!!!)
As time went on and as I went to the meetings I came to know some of the people I was going with. I knew a few of them from my parents and from being involved in the women's bible studies and the scrapbooking group at church. I was so excited to get the itinerary and to see everywhere we were going! OK to be honest once again, I had no idea where or what the significance of a lot of the places we were going to be visiting. I just knew that they were in the bible and incredible things happened there. I mean why would we be going all the way over there to see some place that had no significance? Never the less, I was stoked.
April 30th and the trip:
I was so excited to go that it took me 5+ hours to pack. Yes that is right! I laid out everything that I was planning on taking only to come to find out that once it was all packed, my bag weighted 58 lbs! We were only allowed to take on 50 and no extra bags going over there. The reason was because we were taking over humanitarian aid to some missionaries and I had put my name down to take a bin. So after the 5 hours of packing, weighing, repacking, reweighing (etc.) I finally got it down to 48 lbs. I called that it! I was done lifting and moving things in that suitcase!
May 1st rolls around and after a night of only 2 or 3 hours of sleep it was time to get up and head to the church. Once we were there I needed to reweigh my bag.....53 lbs, NOOOOOOOOOOOO! I was not the only one though and luckily there were only 19 bins and 20 people going to me and the other person, Lala, were able to throw our extra things into the bag, and we were off.
Our pimp ride!
The group from Calvary Chapel Oceanside
We saw our ride to the bus and it was a marine bus! There was not enough room for all of the luggage as well as the bins, so one of the pastors from church offered to take the bins down with us. Once on the bus, the butterflies started fluttering. I am not the biggest fan of flying and since I am a huge fan of Lost I just kept thinking to myself, "Well everyone who ended up on the island was not planning on crashing." I know I'm crazy, but hey I have an active imagination.
We arrived at Lindbergh field and got all checked in. Once we were at the gate, I crashed! Wonderful Lala came and woke me up to check on me to see if I was OK and to let me know we would be leaving soon. This made me feel so good! Knowing that we are only a few hours into our 2 week trip and I already have someone watching out for me. So onto the plane we go and we fly to Atlanta. My seat was a window seat which I was pleased with, but I was not pleased with the person that was sitting next to me. He was a very large man who kept leaning into my space! I had no where to go! I was literally between a rock and a hard place. Once we arrived in Atlanta we were on our own for dinner. We go in around 6pm their time and were not scheduled to leave until 10:45pm. The Jr. High Pastor Matt and I decided to venture out to grab some food and see what all was going on. We were 2 of the youngest going from our church, Matt 24 and I 27. It was nice to get to talk to someone who was kind of on the same page as I was age wise. Well we grabbed some food and then sat down with a few other people from our group along with our very free spirited Pastor, Mike Reed. This man is a kid trapped in a grown mans body! He was a youth pastor for quite a few years and last year was named as the head pastor at Calvary Chapel Oceanside. So as to the incident that happened at dinner. We noticed another group of tables with other people from our trip. Mike slyly said in a low voice, "Hey watch this." He wadded up a small bit of a straw wrapper and then shot a spit wad at the other table. No I have never really spent a whole lot of time with Mike, but I fell in love with his personality at that moment. Here is the spiritual leader and guide of our large church shooting spit wads at some of the elders and deacons of the church! At this moment I knew I was going to have a great trip!
May 1st- May 2nd
So we all got onto our flight without any hassle and we began our 13 hour flight through the night towards Tel Aviv! The only major thing that happened was that I realized that the seats on these long flights are so not meant for tall people! I finally got comfy, but in all honestly I probably only got about 4 hours of sleep on that flight, combined with my 5 or so hours of sleep the previous day. I tried my best to be cheery but in all honestly when we landed I was a total grouch!
Once on the ground and after we got all of our luggage and met up with the other people that were going on the tour with us we all headed out. We met up with Debbie from church (my roomie), Joe and Lucile (Andrea's uncle and aunt), and Reg and his daughter Sara from Canada.
We were starting to head out of the luggage claim area and I was stopped along with 6 other people in our group by an Israeli security guard who started barking at me in Hebrew. One of the guides who picked us up at the terminal started talking to her, and then she looked at me and in a very stern voice said, "What is in the box?". Now mind you these are large bright orange Rubbermaid containers that are screwed shut and have humanitarian aid in them. Vicky the leader told us that if we ever got stopped and asked what was in the binds to tell them that it was humanitarian aid and to show the person asking us the list of items that was in our specific bin. Well this lady was having nothing of it! I told her that it was humanitarian aid and started showing her the list. She told me to tell her everything that was in there and to tell her how much the entire bin was worth!!! All I knew was that there were socks, sporks, cold medicine, and some other items in my bin, and all of these items were donated! I had no idea. The other people who got stopped with me said to tell her that the bin had about $50 in it. We all had bins that all contained different items and I started having a mild panic attack. I was thinking, that my first time out of the continental US and I will not be let out of the airport. I haven't slept and this lady was very large and very intimating!!!! Luckily for me the guide stepped in and talked to her and then he told me very quickly to go! I wanted to run outta there as the rest of our group was way ahead of us. We caught up with them and were taken to our bus. There we met our guide Tesha and our driver, Shy.
On our way to our hotel, The Dan Panorama, we were able to watch the sunset into the Mediterranean Ocean! It made me miss home but at the same time, I was so excited to be seeing the sunset in a foreign place!
Sunset on the Mediterranean Ocean
View outside of our hotel room
Once in the lobby we were greeted with a grapefruit type of drink and were assigned to our rooms! Debbie and I ran up and saw that we had a gorgeous view of the ocean! We quick grabbed our cameras (as we are both scrapbookers) and started snapping away. Once we got that out of our system we headed down to dinner. For Friday nights after sundown is Shabbat. This is the end of their work week and they go all out for dinner. They stay up until 1-2 in the morning partying and celebrating. At dinner we had this great bread called Hala bread. It is a very light egg bread that is braided. We came to love it and looked forward to it each and every Friday night.
After dinner Debbie and I decided to venture out into the city of Jaffa. Jaffa is one of the world’s oldest cities, and its ancient harbor has been in use since the Bronze Age. The city’s history is that of successive conquests through the millennia. In antiquity, Jaffa was under the rule of Ancient Egypt, and in Biblical times, as mentioned in the Book of Joshua, Jaffa was noted as the domain of the Tribe of Dan, and its descendants lived and engaged in the maritime trades along the coast. (Yeah I'm not really this smart, I copied this from a website, hehehe. I just thought you all might like to know a little bit about Jaffa.) Anyways, Tesha told us as we were pulling into the hotel that Jaffa was only about a 10 minute walk from the hotel. Debbie and I felt like a nice short walk after stuffing our face on Hala bread and everything else that they had to offer for dinner. We set out and a nice 10 minute walk turned into a nice 30 minute walk where we had no idea where we were going or what part of the city we were in. Once it looked like we were in the main area, we settled down and did not feel so "lost". Walking around we saw some mosques, the tower that calls Muslims to pray through out the day. They had some green lights on them and were actually quite pretty. There was a clock tower in the middle of the street and it had some stained glass on it. I am not 100% sure of what it was depicting, but it was very interesting. But I will have to say the highlight of the trip for Debbie and I was a game we saw on the sidewalk by a store. It was one of those claw games and it read "Baby Party". It had Pokemon all around the outside and was very kid oriented. But once we looked inside, there was nothing but packs of cigarettes in it!!! We could only laugh.
The next morning, we woke up early and headed down to the beach to put our feet in the ocean and collect shells. It was so beautiful! The only way to describe it was a combination of a lake and a harbor. There were no big waves like the Pacific Ocean, but there were little waves like at a large lake. All along the walkway there were people camping or what looked like living there. When we got on the bus we asked Tesha if the people living on the each were homeless and she replied that on Friday afternoons when they are all finished with work, they start getting together and that more than likely they just spent all day at the beach and then stayed there overnight.
Our first stop for the day was Ceasera. This was a roman city that was built be King Herod to be a busy harbor city. He built a huge palace on the ocean and had fresh water pools on top of the ocean! He also build a harbor that allowed him to compete with other ports in Israel. And his spot was very strategic! He was only 3 days away from Rome by boat. But besides how smart and how grand his city was, the major significance there was that this was where Paul visited and stopped here on 3 of his 4 missionary journeys (see Acts 15:36-18:22, 18:23-21:16, and 21:17-28:31) and was also the place where Paul was held and tried. In Acts 23-26 it talks about the capture and trial of Paul. To actually be standing where he was tried and held was an overwhelming experience! To see the things that were there in his time, to be sitting in the theater looking down onto the floor where he would've stood talking up to King Agrippa telling him about his trip on the Damascus Road and confessing that he was in fact a Roman citizen, made the Bible finally jump to life! I had read this scripture many times before and even sat in sermons on Sunday mornings, but nothing like sitting there could have made it so real!
The outside of the theater
Some statues standing outside the theater
The cut out area is where King Agrippa sat while Paul was telling him about trip. Also where any royalty sat during plays or trials.
The theater. During the time when the city was still alive, this had 2 more stories on it full of seating!
Walking along into the actual city was great! Man, this is the place I would've wanted to live if I was around in those days! It was beautiful. The ocean is so blue and I can only imagine what the palace and the city looked like in it's glory. As well as to be there when Paul was around and just to listen to him.