Monday, February 18, 2019

Israel, Here We Come!

We're going to Israel on Wednesday!!  Want to come?!

Just typing those words feels a bit surreal.  It's rather like, "We're going to the mall on Wednesday.  Want to join us?"  Or maybe, "We're going to eat at a new restaurant Wednesday.  Can you come, too?"

My inside self is anxious and excited all at the same time.  Anxious because this will be the first time in many years we've led a group of people on an overseas trip.  I hear someone say, "But Sheri, you guys travel overseas all the time."

Yes, we travel with teams from our church often.  But those trips are organized and led by our amazing missions directors, the Buccafurnis.  All I have to do then is be the best team member of all time.

Being in charge, knowing everyone is counting on you to know what you're doing when sometimes you know you don't know exactly WHAT you're doing, is most definitely different!

The first leg of our journey begins Wednesday morning at 4:45 in the A.M.  We drive from Winter Haven to Miami International and must arrive 2 hours before our flight which departs at 12:45.  Once we have all the luggage through security and get everyone safely to the gate on time, I plan to take a Deep Cleansing Breath!

Thankfully, our group is rather small with only 10 travelers.  That will make it nice for the overall tour. The Holy sites in Israel are always crowded and the lines can get very long.  10 people should be able to make it into and out of those locations so much more quickly.

10 Pilgrims.  10 Days.  10 Different Views.  10 Open Hearts.

All the preparations have kept me rather busy.  That's why I'm just now posting in the middle of February.  And I'm not sure I'll be able to post while away.  Although, I'll certainly give it the ol' college try!

Our first trip to the Holy Land was three years ago this April.  We had never visited Israel before and my cup was full to overflowing!  It was a life-long dream for me.  Our church sent us as a gift, marking our tenth year as their pastors.  (Just realized that's a lot of 10's in this post. LOL)

It was a gift topped only by the secrecy and joy that surrounded the time they presented us with a vehicle!  Yes, as a matter of fact we DO pastor the most amazing congregation anywhere.

Frank and I traveled alone that time.  We met up with three other intrepid souls in Tel Aviv.  A couple from Canada and a lady from South Africa.  We five made up the first tour group zipping in and out of all sorts of sites with our guide, Alex.  After three days, Alex took us to Jerusalem where we were blended into another group of eleven bringing our total to sixteen.  Elijah took us on from there.

The final day of that trip, we were picked up at our hotel by a tour guide, Benjamin, who spent the entire day with just Frank and I.  We visited numerous off-the-beaten-path sorts of sites.  Enjoyed a relaxing lunch at his favorite restaurant.  Drove to the top of a hill overlooking the Valley of Elah. (David and Goliath.)  Enjoyed the sunshine and breezes as Frank read aloud the story of their famous encounter.  Stood for some time imagining that scene.

Finally, Frank turned to the young man and said, "This was the perfect finish.  I'm ready to go home now."

As Benjamin drove us the remaining hour and a half to Ben Gurion Airport, he told us of the recent loss of his much loved father.  I sat quietly praying in the back seat as Frank worked his people skills magic and conversed with Benjamin.  He was roughly the same age as our sons.

When we pulled in to the airport, Benjamin got out of the car and asked Frank if he would mind giving him a hug.  Frank gladly obliged and Benjamin held on for a long time, weeping in the comforting arms of a father sent from far away to remind the young man he was still loved.

I'm not sure who we are going to Israel to encounter this time.  But we're eagerly watching for them.  Will you pray for us as we go?  Safety and open eyes!

Next time we go, you should plan to come with us.  Shalom!

(How about you?  Have you visited the Holy Land?  What was your experience like?  We'd love to read about it in the comment section.)