As you will know from a previous report, we booked a 'trip of a lifetime' with New Creation Church to visit the Holy Land during Easter/Passover 2010. This is the first in a series of reports from our trip.
Monday 29th March - Qatar.
We flew Singapore - Qatar - Amman with Qatar airways and, as there was a 6 hour stopover in Qatar, the travel company, Omega Tours, arranged a city tour in Qatar. This included the camel market, fruit and vegetable market, the Asian Games stadium, the Royal Equestrian Centre and one of the souk/central market areas. Whilst this excursion brought back memories of working in Kuwait for me, it was Shanhong's first visit to the Middle East and so very new for her.
We left Singapore around 2.00am, so on arrival in Jordan, it was a case of having a good shower, change, evening meal, and heading to bed! In case anyone is really interested, our first night was spent at the Ramada Hotel and Suites in Amman.
Tuesday 30th March - Jordan - Mount Nebo and Petra.
Tuesday saw a change to the original plan - one of many that occurred throughout the trip! So, rather than the advertised Bethany, we went to Mount Nebo, where, according to the Bible (Deut. 32:49), Moses was given a view of the promised land. Certainly we could see a long way - over the Jordan River, including parts of the Dead Sea. We also saw the 'brazen serpent' raised up for the tribes of Israel, so whoever looked at the serpent would live. Whilst on the top of the mountain we had a time of Praise and Worship led by Bob and Kathy Fitts, and some sharing from the Bible led by Pastor Daniel of New Creation Church.
Thus the trip had truly begun. Like the Israelites of old, we had looked over the Holy Land, given praise to our God, and were looking forward to entering and exploring the land together. There were 78 of us in total, split across two buses ('Grace' and 'Favour') - mostly from our own Church (but as the church has approximately 22,000 attending the English services, we knew nobody), but also from other churches in Singapore, Australia and even Hawaii!
After lunch we headed to Petra, a spectacular ancient city nestled away in mountains south of the Dead Sea and made famous as the 'rose-red city' for the stone structures carved into the rock. This was also the set for the hiding place of the Holy Grail in the movie 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"! The following are just some of the photos taken in this amazing city.
Wednesday 31st March, 2010
We had an early start, traveling to the Red Sea Border Crossing to pass from Arava, Jordan, into Eilat, Israel. A slow process, but made a little more lively as Teddy presented his passport for an Israeli Stamp! After much giggling from Israeli Security guards – and photographs being taken, he was duly given his stamp! Three cheers for China, Singapore and Israel.Now can someone tell me why England is so boring and refuses this bit of fun.
Timna National Park
We started the day in Timna National Park, where we were given a guided tour of a reconstruction of the Wilderness Tabernacle.It is amazing to see how every element in the Old Testament Tabernacle points to Jesus; the Menorah – the light of the world, the table of Breads – the bread of life, the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat – God’s promise and way of salvation.
After Timna, we drove past Mount Sodom (where Lot’s wife was turned to stone) and on to Ein Gedi. Translated ‘the spring of the kid’ this is an oasis near the Dead Sea where David hid from King Saul and wrote some of the Psalms. We had lunch in a Spa on the Dead Sea, and then drove up to the hilltop for a time of Praise.
From Ein Gedi we drove up to Arial, capital of Samaria, north of Jerusalem for an overnight stay at the Eshel Hashomron Hotel. The hotel is well known for its Biblical Garden, where international groups have sponsored the creation of statues depicting Old Testament Scenes.
Thursday 1st April, 2010
We started the day with a drive up to Caesarea Maritima, a great harbour city built by Herod. This is where Peter preached the good news to Cornelius' household and where the first gentile baptism took place. This was also home to the apostle Paul - unfortunately imprisoned here for two years before being taken to Rome to stand trial. Our day started with a time or praise and teaching in the restored amphitheatre before talking a walk along the seafront to watch the chariot races (and enjoy an ice-cream!).
After Caesarea, it was on to lunch in Nazareth, at the city where Jesus spent his childhood. We visited the Nazareth Biblical Village which is a restored farm, very much like farms would have been in Jesus' day - and literally 500m from where it is believed he lived. The farm had a grape press, olive press. and even a small synagogue. Lunch here was perfect - a simple chicken kebab (marinated in something) with an equally simple cold cabbage/sesame seed salad, with hot soup and Arabic bread - delicious!
After Nazareth we went to the small town of Cana, famous as the place where Jesus turned water into wine - and hence full of wine stores! We went into the church erected in memory of the wedding feast - and underground into an area where a much earlier building has been excavated. Here Pastor Daniel shared the story of Jesus' first miracle, stressing how it's happening 'before His time had come' at a wedding showed the importance of marriage to Jesus and to God. He then invited all married couples to renew their marriage vows - even declaring 'as a minister of God' that grooms could kiss their wives!
That's all for now - more in part 3.
Love n Hugs,
Trevor, Shanhong & Teddy
Friday 2nd April, 2010
Having arrived at our hotel in Tiberius (http://royalplaza.co.il/index.php/english) the evening before, it was another early start for a day exploring the region around the Sea of Galilee. We started by visiting the Ancient Boat Museum, where the oldest wooden fishing boat (dated to the first half of the first century) was found and recovered in 1986. This was also the one and only 'tourist shop' that sold polo shirts as well as t-shirts, needless to say I bought a couple! Shanhong also bought a pair of very attractive pendants.
Having seen the original 'boat of the time of Jesus' we boarded a much more modern wooden fishing boat for our own trip across the lake. This was perhaps the highlight of the whole trip for me, as the boat is run by a Messianic Jew who has a worship ministry translating popular worship songs into Hebrew as well as writing original material.
Hence, we were on the boat, singing praise in English and in Hebrew, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee! The picture on the left shows Shanhong with Bob Fitts, our own (American) worship leader, and Daniel Carmen, the boat captain and Israeli worship leader. Yes - we did buy CDs! Details of Daniel's ministry can be found at www.SeaOfGalileeWorshipBoats.com Daniel's music also forms the backing to the photo slideshow available from the homepage here on mrhughes.net.
After our boat trip we crossed to Capernaum. This town was the centre of Jesus' Galilee ministry after he left Nazareth; a place where he healed the sick, preached in the Synagogue and performed miracles such as the healing of the paralytic that was let down through the roof. We visited remains of a 4th century synagogue believed to have been built by the centurion whose servant Jesus healed, as well as excavations of a property believed to have been the house of Peter.
After lunch we went to the Mount of Beatitudes, a hill at the North-Western point of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus is believed to have delivered the famous Sermon on the Mount. The hill has a hollowed slope that serves as a natural amphitheatre, amplifying any speaker's voice. Again, as a special moment - half the group climbed the hill and read the Beatitudes - whilst the other half stayed below to listen. It was obvious that words travelled very easily and you could almost imagine Jesus preaching to the crowds below.
A nice slow walk trough the banana plantation brought us back to the road and to Tabgha, the location along the shore of the lake where Jesus called Peter and Andrew to follow Him and become 'fishers of men'. This is also traditionally held to be where the miracles of the loaves and the fishes or the feeding of the 5,000 took place. We went to the Church of St. Peter's Primacy, built to remember the place where the resurrected Jesus showed himself to His disciples as they were fishing, and went on to restore Peter who had denied Him before the crucifixion. As a place of restoration, we gathered as a group to share Communion.
The following photos are from Mount Arbel, one of the highest points in Israel, giving panoramic views over the Sea of Galilee and surrounding areas. More to follow!
Trevor, Shanhong & Teddy.
Saturday 3rd April, 2010
Saturday started with a visit to Caesarea Philippi and the old city of Dan. This is the place where Jesus asked the question "Who do men say that I am?" and Peter confessed "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God". I have to mention the lunch this day.... Lebanese barbecue with Hummus and Arabic breads/salads... yummy!
After Dan, it was a quick visit to an old Army base with fabulous views, before heading on to Gideon Springs, where Gideon chose his army according to the way they drank water, defeating the Midianite army of thousands with just 300 men (Judges 7). Apologies for the one photo - I couldn't resist capturing this sign in the coffee shop window!
The last two photos above (not including teddy) are of Bob Fitts, a worship leader who led us in times of Praise and Worship and Pastor Daniel, a Pastor of New Creation Church, who shared God's word with us at each of the main sites. A trip to the holy land, at any time, must be special, but to be there in the company of these two really made the trip one that can never be forgotten.
Sunday 4th April, 2010
Sunday 4th saw us at Qumran, famous as the location where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, ancient manuscripts with copies of almost every book in our current Bible. Although we did go to the Dead Sea Scroll exhibition, and learnt a little about the Qumran fellowship, this day was better known for giving us an opportunity to "float" in the Dead Sea! Knowing how good Dead Sea mud is for the skin, it was also time for a free treatment!
From the Dead Sea it was then the drive up to Jerusalem and to Mount Scopus for our first view of the Holy City.
More from Jerusalem in the next report. Hope you are enjoying our travels with us!
Monday 5th April, 2010
Today started on the Mount of Olives, so named for the many olive trees growing on its slopes. This is where Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19) and where He ascended to heaven after his resurrection (Acts 1). A small church on the Mount marks the place where Jesus wept and has been built in the shape of a teardrop.
At the foot of the Mount is the Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus sweated great drops of blood as He faced betrayal and the cross. A larger church, known as the Church of the Agony lies beside the Garden of Gethsemane and contains bedrock believed to be the site where Jesus prayed.
From the Garden of Gethsemane, we crossed the Kidron Valley to the Pool of Bethesda ('House of Mercy') where a large number of people sat by the waters waiting to be healed (John 5). The depths of the pools are incredible and are located in the grounds of the Crusader Church of St. Anne. Designed and built for Gregorian chants, the acoustics are phenomenal and so it was the perfect opportunity for Bob Fitts to lead some worship.
After Bethesda, we followed the 'Via Dolorosa' or 'Way of Suffering' believed to have been the path that Jesus walked on the way to His crucifixion. 14 stations signify different points on the journey, including the 'Ecco Homo Arch' where Pilate is believed to have presented Jesus to the Jews after He was scourged. In modern Jerusalem the 'Way of Suffering' is now the 'Way of Shopping' as tourist and other shops have opened along this major route to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Church of the holy Sepulchre was built to cover the spots where the crucifixion and burial of Jesus took place. Home of Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Syrian, Copt and Catholics, all have their own sections of the Church, and the impression is of 'organised religion' rather than one of Christ - but it is impressive, even if ugly! The pictures in this gallery have been stolen from the internet as this church is so dark and so crowded that it was impossible to take photos inside.
After lunch we went to visit the "Garden Tomb', a possible alternate location for the place of crucifixion and burial. Discovered in 1884, the tomb is near to a prominant rocky crag which looks like a skull and has all the requirements to match the gospel stories concerning the tomb. In complete contrast to the Holy Sepulchre, this site is kept as a quiet garden, without any religious paraphernalia as a place of dedication, where groups are invited to take Holy Communion together.
It is unlikely that there will ever be agreement over which site (if either) is the true site - the debate continues and is well recorded in the book, 'The Weekend that Changed the World' by Peter Walker - highly recommended as a great read to anyone who is interested. I know which site I prefer!
Well, enough for this report - there is still too much to finish the trip here... so another report beckons... more from Jerusalem to follow, and a trip into Palestine to visit Bethlehem too!
Trevor, Shanhong & Teddy xx
Tuesday 6th April, 2010
Today was to be another day in and around Jerusalem. We started at the Church that marks the home of Caiaphas, the High Priest who was involved in the trial of Jesus.
We then went to the 'Upper Room' believed to be where Jesus shared the last supper with his disciples (Matthew 26). Located on Mount Zion, just outside of the walls of Jerusalem, the Upper Room was rebuilt by the Crusaders after it was razed to the ground by the Muslims. This was also the room in which the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples during Pentecost after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
The Temple Mount Complex
The rest of the day was spent on the famous 'Temple Mount'. The temple mount is one of the most controversial and hotly contested sites in the world. Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, it has special significance to the Jews as it was the site of both the First and Second Temples. Many Jews also believe that this will be the site of the Third and Final Temple to be built in the time of the Messiah. The Western Wall, part of the retaining wall of the Second Temple is one of the most sacred structures in Judaism. Jews have been praying here for centuries, believing it to be the holiest site on earth after the 'Holy of Holies'. The site also has great significance to the Muslims, as the Dome of the Rock is thought to be the place where the prophet Muhammad ascended with the archangel Gabriel to be with God. The Al-Agsa mosgue is also situated here. This location is also where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac and where Jesus was presented in the temple by his parents. Excavations around the area have unearthed the Southern Steps, a first-century street, a series of public bathing wells, and the ruins of Solomon's stables.
We were also able to take the Western Wall Tunnel tour - seeing the original wall underneath the area in which the Jews currently pray. For those who are interested, an 'on-line' version of the tour is available at http://international.aish.com/seminars/tunneltours/westernwall.asp
So, there you have it - a full day at the temple mount in Jerusalem. After which we departed Jerusalem for Emmaus and Bethlehem. Take care and keep in touch! Trevor, Shanhong & Teddy xx
Wednesday 7th April, 2010
Today we left Jerusalem, and travelled 'on the road to Emmaus' where the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples and revealed Himself in the scriptures (Luke 24). We then travelled on through open fields where David was believed to have challenged Goliath, to Palestine and the City of Bethlehem. The first photos below were taken at the Israel Museum, and show a scale model of the complete city during the time of Jesus. The Dead Sea Scrolls are also housed here.
The Fields of David and Goliath
After a winding uphill road and a border crossing, and a change of driver and crew, we entered into Bethlehem, birthplace of our Lord.
Bethlehem can be translated as 'House of Bread' (Hebrew) or 'House of Meat' (Arabic). Located in the West Bank, and believed to have been the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem was also where King David was born, and where the tomb of Isaac's wife Rachel can be found. The city is now home to one of the largest Palestinian Christian communities in the Middle East.
Bethlehem marked the last stop on our trip. We departed next day for the crossing back to Jordan, intending to see the site where Jesus was baptized by John, but queues for VAT refunds at the border meant time was short, and indeed, packed lunches met the bus en route for the airport! Flights back to Doha and to Singapore were all painless and we were soon back, having had a real 'trip of a lifetime'. Israel is a great place to visit on some many levels. The history is incredible, whether you have faith or not. If you are a believer, then there is even more to learn and experience - I highly recommend it!
This is the last of the Israel reports - hope you enjoyed 'being on the tour with us'!
The big news for us is that we have booked a 'holiday of a lifetime' for March/April 2010! We were originally hoping to do an Alaskan cruise in the summer with Michael W Smith, a Christian Singer, but Shanhong's change of job has meant the dates do not fit with our holidays. But, when God closes one door, he opens another - and we are now booked on a trip that should prove to be every bit as exciting! (Oops - can't find the 2010 advert - so you'll have to look at the 2011 one!).
We are joining others from New Creation Church in Singapore and worship leaders Bob and Kathy Fitts from USA for an Easter tour of Israel and Jordan, following in the footsteps of Jesus.
New Creation Church has become our home church here in Singapore and we have been attending for around 6 months now. The Senior Pastor, Joseph Prince, is a very humorous and charismatic speaker and his messages are entertaining, whilst also challenging. The church focus is on the finished work of Jesus and the unmerited favour and grace of God. Interestingly, services are recorded and shown throughout the world on Christian television. When I was home for Christmas I discovered that 'Destined to Reign' broadcast live from our church, was even available in the UK through Sky!
Bob Fitts is perhaps best known for the song 'Blessed be the Lord God Almighty' but has been writing songs and leading worship for many years. We had the privilege of attending a worship concert led by Bob and Kathy Fitts while teaching at Prem in Chiang Mai in 2008.
The tour takes in the most famous biblical sites throughout Israel and Jordan with teaching and worship in each location. It is not cheap, but I believe it is a holiday that will stay in our hearts for a long time, and look forward to writing more reports with photographs once we return. For now, I can only supply the itinerary , but that in itself is pretty exciting, especially to anyone who shares the Christian faith with us.
No other news at present. I am busy at school - including a Grade 7 sleepover Friday night, and exam results being released on Monday. Shanhong has had a week in her new school setting up her classroom, meeting other staff and attending training - students start tomorrow. So far she seems much happier than she was at SJI, so I am hopeful that life is going to be good for both of us. I've finished two more modules of my degree - and submitted a dissertation proposal - so that is still moving forward too.
We are still enjoying the pool and having fun with the Wii - so, getting a bit of exercise at last. You never know, we might lose some weight - but maybe not when you see all the chocolate and snacks in the fridge.
Trevor, Shanhong and Teddy
In the Footsteps of Jesus – 29th March – 9th April.
Mon 29th March
Fly from Singapore via Qatar (with a 3 hour city tour in Doha) to Jordan.Visit Mount Nebo, where according to Deuteronomy 32, Moses was given a view of the Promised Land.
Tues 30th March
Visit Bethany, where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, and Elijah’s mount, where the prophet Elijah ascended to heaven in a whirlwind on a chariot of fire. Drive on to Petra, a spectacular ancient city nestled in mountains south of the Dead Sea.Enter the city by donkey into the ancient land of the Edomites, and enjoy the spectacular structures carved into the rock, made famous in the movie ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’.
Wed 31st March
Cross over into Israel at the Red Sea and visit: Eilat – referred to as Elath in the Old Testament, this is a port and holiday destination on the Red Sea.Timna National Park – including the Wilderness Tabernacle, a reconstruction of the Old Testament tabernacle, King Solomon’s Pillars, and other sites. Mount Sodom – One of the prominent cities of old destroyed by Yahweh with fire and brimstone. Ein Gedi – an oasis by the Dead Sea which was David’s refuge when he fled from King Saul. Today we also get to swim in the Dead Sea – where anyone and everyone floats!
Thurs 1st April
Jewish history day – with visits to the Israel Museum, Holyland Model, Holocaust Museum and the caves of Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947.
Fri 2nd April
A visit to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed, was betrayed and arrested. Visit to the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the paralytic. Visit to the Garden tomb, believed to be the site of Jesus’ resurrection
Saturday 3rd April
A Day in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus and of David.A visit to the Upper Room where Jesus celebrated the last Passover with his disciples and a visit to the house of Caiaphas where Peter denied the Lord three times.
Sunday 4th April
A visit to the temple mount to see one of the most sacred sites of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic religions – including the Wailing Wall – which is broadcast live on the internet 24 hours a day – maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of us!
Monday 5th April
On the road to Emmaus – where the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples – and to Joppa where Peter raised Tabitha from the dead
Tuesday 6th April
To Nazareth – where Jesus spent his boyhood, and to Cana in Galilee where Jesus turned the water into wine.
Wednesday 7th April
A visit to the Mount of the Beattitudes where Jesus gave the famous Sermon on the Mount, and to Capernaum, located on the Sea of Galilee, home to Matthew the tax collector
Thursday 8th April
A boat trip on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus rebuked the storm and walked on water – followed by the retun to Jordan, for an afternoon flight back to Oman, and onward to Singapore.