Saturday, April 12, 2008

Goodbye Jordan

WE'RE COMING HOME!!!! We'll try to clean up a little first : )

We ended the trip yesterday at one of Herod's many desert fortresses located in Jordan - Machaerus. From the top of the mountain, you can look out across the Dead Sea into Israel. This is the palace where Herod imprisoned John the Baptist before beheading him in his banquet hall. It was a pretty powerful way to tie things together. Something that hit me was the fact that John lived everyday boldly doing what he was put on earth to do. I've always just looked at the day of his death as his sacrificial obedience, but he was that way every day.

Last night was went to a fancy fish restaurant. I love the way they eat here. They serve food communal style bringing out lots of dishes of olives, cheeses, hummus - all sorts of good stuff and you put what you want on your plate and dip your fresh yummy pita bread into it and eat up. I don't know what all we ate, but it was good. About the time we thought the meal was over, they brought out the main course - fish, lamb and chicken. We stayed the night at the most fancy hotel of the trip - luggage was put through x-ray machine before we could go in.

Camel conversations . . .

So we're sitting at the airport in Amman waiting to board. We are starting to say goodbye to film crew and audience group as some of us are already flying different directions. One more hotel in Chicago, then God-willing home to SA tomorrow afternoon.

Thanks for sharing the trip with us!
Cathi & Scott

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Leaving Jerusalem

It is with mixed feelings that we leave Jerusalem. It would be an amazing place to live for 6 months - to really dig in and learn where things are - to FEEL the city. We've had a fast and furious 3 days here. We ended tonight on the Mount of Olives talking about Christ on the night of His arrest. It was amazingly beautiful to film outside under the moonlight in a garden full of olive trees. From there you can look across the Kidron Valley into the Old City and see where Jesus was tried and crucified. It is such a privilege to walk in such an ancient place, see the old stone roads and just imagine. Did you know that where Abraham caught the ram to be sacrificed in Issac's place is practically in the same place as where Christ died? It is as if God is telling the same story over and over again - same story, different characters and everthing coming to fulfillment in Jesus. Hmmmmmmm......

We leave in the morning for Jordan for one last day of filming. Then on Sat. we head to the airport to come home!!!!!!!! Very much looking forward to seeing the kids, our family and all of you. We have missed you dearly - but you have been with us!

God is good and His love endures forever,

p.s. Scott went back to the Western Wall tonight for one last visit - he's hooked.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Gan

Alive and well from Qumran yesterday.

Today we spent a lot of time looking at the terraced "gardens" of Israel. They are called gans and they teach powerful lessons. They are small and don't look like they would produce a lot - and they don't- they provide just enough. Olive trees, grape vines and fig trees- part of the land flowing with milk and honey that God promised the Israelites.

Each gan has a retaining wall to keep top soil from getting away. Your wall is below your garden. You see the picture of community in that each level of gan effects another. If your neighbor's retaining wall has a problem or hole, it affects all other gans below it. And likewise, you have to maintain yours for the benefit of others. Look at the picture and see if you can see the terracing. It made Scott & I proud of Riverside's Hope Center- that is definitely one way our community reaches out and helps others who need help with their gan.

We are about to have dinner and then go for a quick walk into the Old City before it gets too dark.

Love and blessings,
Cathi & Scott

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Qumran and Jerusalem

This morning we woke up on the Dead Sea. It has been strangely cool this trip. We usually begin our day in long sleeves. A strange feeling in the desert. But, a welcome relief from the 120 degrees that we have experienced before.

Today we visited the Essene community of Qumran. This is where many of the Dead Sea scrolls were found. The settlement at the bottom of the mountain is completely excavated and really powerful to study.

We did a great study on Mikvah, Conversion Ritual Cleansing, and Baptism. Really cleared up a few things. Look forward to sharing....

A prominent peice of the day included an exporation of an anaqueduct that brought "living water" (water brought by G-d) from the wadi in the mountain down to the ritual baths (mikveot) in Qumran. It is an incredible structure running along and even though the dolomite mountainside. The moving realization about the aqueduct was that it was not the most practical and definetely not the easiest way to move water for use. But, it was the only way to get "living water" which was needed to be obedient.

How far are we, am I, willing to go to be obedient?
What would an explorer find out about us 2000 years later?
What would it say about our community?
What would it say about the intensity of our faithfulness?

This evening we drove into Jerusalem. There are few words to describe the feeling of coming over a hill, or in our case out of a tunnel, to see the city laid out in front of you. The busload gasped and then went dead quiet.

There is so much to share personally. There is so much to share about our community. There is so much to share about Jesus. There is so much.

Cathi and I are not sure how this will all come out. We will need some time to digest it all.

Our next two days are here in Jerusalem. More tomorrow night!

Scott and Cathi

Monday, April 7, 2008

En Gedi

How fitting for us to be at a place called En Gedi and talking about living water only to come back to the hotel to find letters of encouragement from our community! Ya'll are an like living water to us! How perfectly timed - or could that be God's little love note to us as well?!

We had a beautiful hike today all around Wadi David. These are the same mountains David hid from Saul and possibly where Jesus faced his temptation. RVL did an amazing teaching correlating lessons learned in the Exodus and Christ's temptation. (Can't say too much and blow some of Scott's future sermon's!) We actually stopped early today - had lunch at 3:30 and finished the day by 4:30 - very unlike RVL - we weren't quite sure what to do with ourselves!

We head for Qumran tomorrow - amazing hike - and then to Jerusalem. We are enjoying the opportunity to be here and study - I've only once accosted a mother with a newborn for a quick cuddle - did my heart good! Thank you again for all your sweet support - love & blessings,
Cathi & Scott

Sunday, April 6, 2008

At The Dead Sea

We are at the Dead Sea tonight and tomorrow. Brooke, Ben & Karl - you were with us in spirit today. RVL was explaining that this last year, Israel got little to no rain. Tribes of Bedowin's have been having to send their flocks via trucks to more northern areas of the country for adequate grazing grounds. Just when we thought we wouldn't see any flocks - our friend Kylen spotted some - which means the bus immediately pulled over and we all RACED off the bus, down a hill, over a hillside to try and catch up with them. (I was personally relieved that the flock slowed down - RVL would have followed them all the way back to the Red Sea!) The flock did turn back and the film crew arrived just intime to capture the sheperdess calling out and singing to them. They know their sheperd's voice - perfect picture of God being our gentle shepherd and His desire for us to know His voice. It was stunning to watch them graze on the paths of righteousness - yes that is what they are really called.

Started off the day at Timna where the Egyptians ran a copper smelting slave camp. You can see examples of their worship at different points including worship of Hathor - which includes a calf. Sound familiar? Imagine smelting copper in 120 degree heat! They also have recreated the Tabernacle. Scott won't let me give away the teaching on the Tabernacle - huge insights and oh my gosh - I've never been interested or cared before, but I'll say it is another way God is trying to tell His story.

We have 2 big hiking days to come then off to Jerusalem. Trying to post some more photos later tonight. Love to everyone - God is good and His love endures forever.

Cathi & Scott

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Few Pictues Too!

Our Bedowin friends -served as guides and chefs! They made fresh bread for us - cooked in the ground by covering it with hot ashes. Can't wait to try this at home - bread anyone?

Today just after crossing border into Israel. Gulf of Acuba behind us- beautiful!

Israel At Last!

We made it! Yeah- we all feel so good to be here. Better food, better accomodations and a lighter feel all the way around. We have a new appreciation for why God brought the Israelites out of Egypt! The scenery there was beautiful, but it is a very dirty, dusty, grimy place. So much air pollution that you couldn't completely see the sun set at night. We all laughed at dinner tonight that at our Egyptian hotel, they were rotating the meat around as and presenting it as a new dish - we were all sustaining ourselves with hard-boiled eggs, rice and bread.
Communication will be much easier now too. In Egypt the entire group had to share one computer placed in a smokey, urine-smelling lobby. So we would all just take turns checking emails from home.

So what are we doing each day?! Laughing a lot, learning a bunch and hiking everywhere. There are about 22 pl. in the audience group and another group of 25 make up the film crew. They are incredible- they have been carrying gear everywhere we hike! Only once on Jebul Catrina did they have help from camels. We get to a teaching spot, lay out where RVL will teach from and where we will stand, they set up their cameras then we re-hike in. They film the teaching and film us hiking out. Then we have to repeat the walk ins and outs a few times for different camera angles, etc. There are always 3 camera's going. 2on RVL and one catching our reactions. It's difficult sometimes to keep engaged when there is a camera right in your face. The team is incredibly gifted. They sense who is moved when and they are on it! It's fun to watch it all.

The main teaching theme of the trip is about how God is telling a story. He started it with Adam & Eve and it has continued throughout history and includes us today. Same story just different characters. If you remember our Isreal trip 2 years ago, we studied Herod quite a bit and how his "kingdom" juxtaposed Jesus's kingdom. We see that same theme in Pharoah. The world keeps trying to sell us the "anti-kingdom" (power and might are what's important) versus God's kingdom of love, mercy and compassion. It has been fascinating to see what the Israelites picked up from the Egyptian culture and how God is so patient and loving as He tried to re-teach them and as He tries to re-teach us today.

I'll write more tomorrow. We have the best community ever and we love you all!
Cathi & Scott

Friday, April 4, 2008

Leaving Sinai

Well, we've had 4 nights in the Sinai! I think we've climbed every mountain here and gone through every wadi as well. (valley created by flood waters.) RVL has some amazing footage from the Egyptian desert, so tomorrow, we head for Israel's desert. More mountains anyone?! Egypt has had a very different feel and look and we're all looking forward to a change.

Our biggest day here was climbing Jebul Catarina. It is the highest mountain out here standing at 8,652 feet. It took us 6 1/2 hrs to get to the top, but God got us all up there! 3 hrs. to get down and some wobbly legs too. Amazing that Moses climbed it 4 different times - God could you speak to us on our first time up?! Great analogy for how much effort we will put into hearing from God.

One of our girls got dehydrated on the mountain today. A camel came up to help take her down. She was not impressed with the ride, but I kept reassuring her that even though she was miserable, she'd look back at the day and smile. She's running a fever - we're praying she is better by morning - prayers for Andrea, 17.

We are so excited to head to Israel tomorrow. We love you all and hope all is well at home. While hiking, we share stories of Riverside and our amazing community and all the powerful ways God is moving. Ya'll are famous!

Thank you for your continued prayers! We can't post pictures here, but our friend can on hers- she's putting one of us on it - - so kids if you read this go give us a smile back.

Blessings and peace,

Thursday, April 3, 2008

At Sinai


We have been in the desert of Sinai for the last few days. The lessons we have learned here will last a lifetime. It will also take us a while to digest it all. We are already planning to share in a few different ways, but we won't be in a rush. More on all of that later...

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