"Speak Lord, your servant is listening." What an amazing position to enter into. Freely and continually, He pours into us, but how often are we truly, really listening?
Putting the middle east into (a concise amount of!) words has been harder than expected, but it is by far one of the coolest experiences of my life. I experience such incredible heights in such a short amount of time. I still have visions of rich sunsets, the scent of Turkish coffee, and the smiles of kids juxtaposed the alarming noise coming from competing minarets that is a constant reminder of the 1.5 billion unreached Muslim people.
1/3 of the world does not know the truth simply because it is hard. Hard to reach, hard to enter in, hard to gain trust. But God, only God, continues to open doorways into the souls of His people around the world. What an honor to be a small part in that vision!
This past trip was incredible for so many different reasons. I love how God is constantly surprising us, and working in and on our hearts in the least expected ways. It's no surprise the spiritual transformation that takes place on short-term mission trips, but still every single time it astounds me to see how much more God pours into me than I could ever serve in the role intended or into the supposed school/people/environment the trip is targeted to reach and invest.
I found myself grappling with stereotypes I didn't even know that I held about people that I had never served. I delved into a culture I knew nothing about, and asked questions in the most honoring way I knew how. How often would you imagine yourself getting ready for bed in the West Bank wishing, "I wish I had a good Muslim book to read!" (true story). While so much has not been revealed, it is clear that God opened my eyes to my brothers and sisters on the other side of the world. Never did I think I would have a connection with people so far from what I centered my life on - the one true God.
Our time in Palestine was replete with ah-ha moments and beautiful revelation of God's character - again such irony.
Biblically speaking, I gained so much perspective as I traveled through the lands of our Fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From attending church in Bethlehem, driving through the Judean hills, hiking the Mount of Temptation, and walking through the lands where David wrote, "I look to the hills, where does my help come from?" each time I my heart rejoiced in such a gift to be able to see this amazing place.
Some of the places we went:
-Church of the Nativity
-part of Nehemiah's wall
-Israel's current wall
-Mount of Temptation
-Herod's palace remains
Historical (vs. Biblical)
-Swimming, mud baths, and lunch on the Dead Sea
-Mount of Beautitudes
-worshipping on the Sea of Galilee
-walking through the Old City (both the Jewish and the Muslim quarters)
-praying at the Wailing Wall
-Garden of Gethesmane
-Walking where Jesus journeyed and where the people gathered to listen to his teaching
-Mount of Olives
-eating dinner overlooking the city at the Legacy hotel
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to truly plant seeds. It's such a freeing perspective to know that I don't have to save the world and that I am not called to convert everyone I meet because we have a perfect savior that already did. Part of His gift is allowing us to be a part of His redemption story. And for this, I am grateful. I saw beauty, experienced friendship, adventure, grace, brotherhood and confirmed my true dependence on God.