When we visited the Holy Land ...

 Nine memories from people who have visited Israel    

Approximately 2000 years ago, at this time of year, on a rubbish dump outside a city in a small Roman province, an innocent man was executed by crucifixion. 

Executions were not unusual, but the death of this man, Jesus Christ, changed the physical and supernatural universe for ever. 

Why was he killed? 

Because he told the Jewish politicians and religious authorities that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. He proceeded to demonstrate this by returning to life two days later. By doing this he conquered death and enabled anyone who believes in him  to become a child of God and to receive forgiveness for those things we have done wrong.

Like so many Christians we had a desire to go to Israel to walk where Jesus Christ walked and to visit locations described in the Bible. We had planned to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary with a visit to the Holy Land. 

But this became impossible. However, 12 months later I had a job working for a Christian Jewish company and part of my interview process was a two week all expenses paid visit to Israel for my wife ,our daughter Mary,and I. Thank you Lord.

One pllace which I will never forget is Tabgha. Tabgha is a village situated on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. It is the place where Jesus cooked breakfast and challenged Peter "Do you love me" three times. It is quiet and peaceful place. Underneath a tree is a small statue symbolising Jesus forgiving Peter. As we walked along the very stony beach we noticed that there was a boat fishing about 200 metres. 

Just like the gospel story.

     

   

Nazareth, Can anything good come from there?  Sandra Lemming

Nazareth is a small town near Galilee in the north of Israel. It has a large percentage of Arab Christians living there. In the centre is a very imposing structure, a Christian basilica dedicated to the Annunciation commemorating the occasion when an angel visited a young girl called Mary and told her she would be the mother of the Jewish Messiah. We know Him as Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

The inside of the basilica is just as imposing as the outside. Its walls are covered with paintings, tapestries and works of art from all over the world depicting the annunciation. As grand as it was, we were not impressed. 

So our Jewish guide decided to take us to another place that Christians seemed to appreciate; a Greek Orthodox church. 

Again, the inside was festooned with icons covered in gold and jewels. By this time, the guide knew that opulence did not impress and gestured for us to follow him behind the scenes.

He led us to a small building round the back. It was nothing to look at, mainly damp brick and covered with moss in places. 

In the middle was a well that was made of stone and, by the look of it, it had not been used for quite a while. Our guide told us that the well dated back to Roman times and would have been used by all the women in Nazareth to draw water for their families.Mary would have come here to collect water for Joseph and their son, Jesus. 

 

Of all the sights in Nazareth, this was the one that touched our hearts and brought tears to our eyes. It reminded us that our Maker had chosen to become a man and, for the most part of His life, lived in humility among His people.

Nazareth has another and amusing claim to fame;  one that still makes us smile. Whenever the text John 1 verse 46, ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ is read, we reply, ‘Doughnuts!’ Our guide took us to a baker’s stall in the middle of the town. Their only produce were small doughnuts swimming in local honey. Delicious!  

     

  

Throwing out the money changers – so commercialised     Eric Doyle

Eric and Eve are church friends going back 40 years when we worshipped together in Luton

I was on the island of Cyprus in 1995 for a short visit staying in a hotel in Limassol, when the opportunity to take an overnight sailing to Israel for a one-day tour arose.

Having docked at Haifa, we were whisked away by coach, first to Bethlehem, then to the Mount of Olives before going to Jerusalem.

In Bethlehem, we were taken straight to the birth place of Jesus, a cave only 35ft long and 10ft wide, lit by 48 lamps, with a silver star marking the place of Jesus’ birth. There was no stopping. One had to move through quickly, emerging in the Church of the Nativity.

We were next taken to the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem and it was here that we had time to reflect. I was reminded of the time when Jesus wept over Jerusalem. 

No longer do you see the temple that Jesus would have seen but the Dome of the Rock built by the Muslims. 

A reminder of the divisions that exist in Jerusalem, Jew, Christian and Muslim: a time to weep. No time to linger any longer, back on the coach and into Jerusalem itself. By now the crowds had begun to arrive and the pressure was on not to lose your guide. I cannot remember the exact route we took, but we visited the place where Jesus was crucified, Calvary, and the tomb in which he was laid. Everything around was decorated with lanterns, censers, icons, images, paintings, a far cry from what it would have been in Jesus day, bustling with people, but the sense of His presence was not there. It was so commercialised for the tourist. Perhaps this was why Jesus threw out the traders and money changers from the temple courtyard?  So sad to see.

We came out from these places to find ourselves in a hot blazing sunshine at the Wailing Wall. Here it was relatively quiet, probably because of the heat! Who should we meet but King David with his stringed instrument (well an Australian gentleman dressed up as King David!).

From there it was back to the coach and on our way back to the ship for another overnight sailing.

  

  

 Our faith rooted in facts.    Graham Patrick

Christian friend in our village

It’s over 40 years since I visited Israel. I probably wouldn’t have gone if my 2 farmer friends hadn’t persuaded me to join in. Looking back, it was one of my most memorable holidays ever. 

Our first few days we stayed just inside the Jerusalem city walls and could get straight out into the narrow streets of old Jerusalem with its market stalls, then catering largely for the tourist market at whatever prices they judged the approaching customer could afford.

Bartering was essential and in the end I was getting asked to accompany others too, just to bring that Yorkshire edge to negotiations... From here it was easy to imagine the temple in Bible times and why Jesus would have been so upset at this sort of trading in God’s house. 

Almost every conceivable site where Jesus might have done something... anything... was marked by some sort of shrine. 

The crucifixion site with its elaborate adornments below current ground level. The shrine on the hillside where Jesus is thought to have organised that amazing picnic. Eventually I became thankful for these places. Without them, who knows what development might have been plonked on top?

However it was the places which seemed relatively untouched which moved me most. 

The hillside around Galilee, where I could imagine Jesus teaching, healing, and feeding the crowds. 

The sunrise over Galilee (about 4am), and reflecting on that dramatically unsuccessful fishing trip transformed by Jesus’ intervention ‘as the sun was rising’.

The garden tomb, thought to be similar to the actual tomb where Jesus was laid. The Garden of Gethsemane with its olive trees including one particularly knurled example which was thought to have been a youngster in bible times and might just have witnessed those prayers of Jesus first hand.

Our faith is rooted in history with real, historical, verifiable events! Undoubtedly it is a luxury to be able to go and see for myself (‘blessed are those that have not seen...’!), but I feel fortunate to have had that luxury.

 

 

Encounter on the Mount of Olives.    David McGuire

Missionary friend in Romania - link through AMEN

Going to Jerusalem was a life-changing journey that was unasked and unprayed for. I believed what the Bible said without the need to go there although it is not a bad thing to do but I just hadn’t thought of it. A Christian friend from Holland and his wife said that the Lord had put on their hearts to take two people that He would show them on their trip to Israel. I was one of those two people. So, in the late Autumn of 2015, I and another person went with them on a four day visit to Israel.

We spent two days in the Holy City of Jerusalem and all I can say is that as I walked, looked, talked, thought and prayed, I experienced the holiness of God. I could not joke as I usually do. My jokey side only returned after we left the city. 

   

I remember a non-Christian who worked as a home-help in Glossip saying to me after their visit to Jerusalem that there is only one thing you can say, even if you don’t believe in God, that walking in Jerusalem is Holy. I thought and felt the same reverence and experienced the same holiness of God as you visit the places

 mentioned in the New and Old Testaments; Gihon Spring, the field where Judas hung himself and may more. Most of all, it was the visit to the Mount of Olives and thinking of the events the Bible mentions about it, especially Jesus’ ascension into Heaven whilst His disciples looked on (Acts1 verses 9-12). 

As I walked down from the Mount of Olives, I saw a limping beggar coming towards me holding out his hand.

Over his head, I could see the actual steps where, in Acts, Peter said to the beggar, “Silver and gold I do not have but, in the name of Jesus, rise up and walk.” I realised I had no cash with me and I didn’t have enough faith to pray for him then. I do now.

 So, I told him I had no money but asked if I could give him a hug and he said ‘Yes!’ When I hugged him, I cried and so did he. All the hardness in me was broken up. I needed the hug as much as he did.

For the next 2/3 years, I thought on that visit about 5/7 days every week. Recalling the impact on me and thinking about the reality of the Bible events and the sites where they took place.

 

    

Profitable inter-faith discussions.       Sam Couper  

Nephew of one of the Elders at Priory Baptist in Hull

As a student who is passionate about global mission and serving the persecuted church, I was excited by the prospect of travelling to the Middle East.

In December 2018, I had the privilege of travelling to Israel and the Palestinian Territories as part of a student group, organised by the university’s Jewish society, in order to better understand the conflict in the region. 

The group was incredibly diverse- there were two devout Muslims, a couple of Christians including myself, some strong atheists, and a group leader that was a liberal Jew. As you can imagine, this led to some deep discussions on the coach trips.

!t would be fair to say that I was just as challenged by the group as by the place which we were exploring together. 

IAs we travelled from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, many in the group were quick to contrast the devout religion of the orthodox Jews with the compromise of those who were more liberal.

It opened up some wonderful opportunities to talk about how Christianity is set apart by the fact that our faith in Jesus is not about religion, but about a relationship!  

Throughout the trip I was praying that the Holy Spirit would lead me in opportunities to share about Jesus, and for eyes to see what he was doing.

The greatest testimony from the trip was that upon returning to Durham, five of the group engaged with a local church or the CU in different ways- one girl was even baptised a few months later! 

I love how the Lord used the trip, that was primarily centred on Judaism, to lead people into his kingdom!

One of the things that struck me most about Israel was the spiritual atmosphere, which a friend of mine accurately described as being ‘pregnant with expectation.

’ The Lord is certainly moving in the Middle East and I’ve been encouraged to pray for our brothers and sisters as they boldly declare the name of Jesus!

   

  

Prayer walking in Jerusalem.    Alison and Barry

Friend of Jackie Lygo

I live in Jerusalem and God has called my husband, Barry, and I to start a ‘one new man’ congregation of Arabs and Jews in the Old City. I emigrated in September 2019 and we are still waiting for Barry’s visa to come through! A pandemic can certainly slow things down! 

A key foundation stone of our vision is intercession. We have a vision to raise 100,000 people to pray for individual streets in Jerusalem. Three times a week, I ask God where He wants me to walk and He shows me a particuar route and off I go!l

I want to share a testimony of how God works when I go prayer walking. In 2019, I was walking along a Street in the Old City, when I stopped to check where I was.

A man came out of a shop and asked if I needed help.  He helped me reorientate myself and then asked if I had ever been up on the viewing platform opposite, where some of the best views of Jerusalem could be seen.   I had never been there, so I went up and he was right, there was a fantastic view over the Old City.  When I came back down, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper that I should go into the shop and thank him. 

He was a Bedouin Arab, and he owned a shop. He offered me mint tea and we sat down to talk.  I was able to share that I was a Jewish believer in Jesus, and he shared that he was an Arab Muslim. It became a habit that every few weeks I would pass his shop and go in and take tea. And then Covid hit. 

Israel went into a very strict lockdown and I was unable to prayer walk in the Old City.  I was concerned that this nascent friendship would stall.  Of course, I should have known that God had a plan.  My Bedouin friend and I had already swapped numbers and so a couple of weeks into lockdown he rang me to check I was ok.  He knew that I was on my own and he wanted to offer his help. During lockdown we chatted each week and he shared of how he struggled in lockdown, his concerns for the future and I was able to share more of my faith and eventually my testimony of how I came to know Jesus.

We now have over 40 people praying for the Street and for my Bedouin friend, in particular, and it is wonderful to see how those prayers are impacting his life.

If you want to know more about this ministry please email chris@amentrust.co.uk

  

   

The Bible coming alive.     Mick Corringham

Contact through David Fletcher, a close friend who was part of the chaplaincy team

After seeing a presentation on a Pilgrimage to Israel, I signed up to join a party of 29 in May 2019. We boarded a flight from Manchester to Tel Aviv on the 6th May, spending Six nights in the Golden Walls Hotel Jerusalem and  four nights at the Ron Beach Hotel  by the Sea of Galilee before returning home on the 16th May.

What was I looking forward to the most? “The Bible coming alive”. 

We know the Bible is alive and Jesus Christ is just as alive today as he was 2000 years ago. 

But visiting places described in the Bible, and actually standing where Jesus stood was something to be excited about. 

Many lasting memories from the Pilgrimage remain with me. The Mount Of Olives where plaques of the Lord's Prayer in many different languages fill the walls of the Paternoster Church. 

As we were walking round, a group from Hong Kong burst into song, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. 

iWe stood in the River Jordan where John the Baptist baptised Jesus, walked along the Via Dolorosa following Jesus’s footsteps, and passing the stations of the cross. We went to the  Shepherds’ fields and the church of St David  at Bethlehem, the Garden Tomb and much more. All in all, it was a very moving spiritual experience!

As a result of being encouraged to walk and share meals with different people on the Pilgrimage, I spent some time with a lady from St Michael Le Belfrey. Although we had been at the same church for fifteen years, I had only previously known Alison to share a welcoming ‘hello’. We could never have imagined what plans the Lord had for us. We both had suffered broken marriages. 

Prior to leaving England, we had been asked to take a small stone or pebble with us. On our penultimate day, we were asked to take the stone or pebble with us as we were sailing across the Lake of Galilee.

The boat stopped in the middle and we were asked to take out our small stone or pebble which represented all our troubles and burdens. 

If we needed to get rid of our burdens, we were asked to throw the pebbles overboard. 

All Alison’s hurt from her marriage break up were instantly lifted. That same night, she shared with those who sat together at dinner table that she felt she could now move on with her life. As a result of a group email that came out from this, I contacted Alison and invited her out for walk. She excepted and we went to Aysgarth Falls. It was clear that we got on well together and our friendship quickly became a relationship. I proposed to Alison on the Holy Island in Northumberland. She accepted and we were married on the 25th July 2020.

   

     

 A brief glimpse of the Holy Land             Paul Hill  

Friend of John  and Chris Butt, members of HCF

The Jews and the Dutch share a similar saying, “Two Rabbis (Dutchmen); three opinions!”  Something similar applies to some significant sites in the Holy Land.  Some places, like the birthplace of Jesus in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, are undisputed.  There are three claimed sites for the appearance of the angels to the shepherds in Shepherds’ Fields.  To me, they may all be legitimate claims due to their very close proximity.  The same cannot be said of the Upper Room or Jesus’ Tomb.  The Upper Room that I visited in 2004 has the academic vote for authenticity, albeit that it’s now in a basement!  The movement of land and building development have changed much over the years.  Sitting there in silence on the floor of that ancient room, beside some large pots of that same time, we could think, imagine, meditate, pray and wonder.  

The Upper Room

Sitting on the Temple steps

One of the places that hasn’t changed, apart from some necessary repairs, are the steps leading up to the Temple area and its remains.  In 2004 this provided a very special moment for me.  Walking the steps briefly, I then sat for a while, absorbing the reality that there, within metres of where I was sitting, Jesus really did walk, and teach.  On to another basement, this time in a convent.  It’s The Pavement, referred to in John19:13.  If you know what to look for, there are chariot/cart wheel marks, but also a deeply scratched pattern in the stone.

` This pattern is effectively a Roman Soldiers’ board game, gouged out across the Empire.  The game?  “The Game of Kings”!  Think Monopoly or Risk; winner takes all.  Imagine the soldiers’ game being interrupted by the arrival of the prisoner Jesus.  “King of the Jews, Jesus?  King of Kings?  Come on!  Play with us!  Play by our rules and see how you get on; what sort of King you really are!” (John 19:3.)  

We know what happened after.  His truly horrific, torturous death on the Cross.  Then Good Friday passed and Easter Sunday came.  I’ve also been in both tombs where Jesus was said to have been laid.  I can tell you this:

Both are empty!

  He's in neither! 

“He is Risen!  He is Risen, Indeed!” 

Hallelujah!  Happy Easter!        

 

Shalom

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Pastor: Robert Templey Tel: 01430 860997 Email:robert.templey3@btinternet.com

Holme Christian Fellowship is an independent evangelical church,

part of the Groundlevel network and members of the Evangelical Alliance..

Registered English charity Ref: 1109666