Saturday, July 21, 2012

Where David and the Son of David were born

Last night I got to Bethlehem, the "original" City of David and where our Lord Jesus Christ was born. I'll be careful what I write from here since there is always tension and I want to take care of friends that I make and not make it harder on them.
The trip from Amman to Bethlehem included a taxi to the border (10JD each [$14], an hour going through Jordanian passport control (and paying an 8JD [about $12]) exit fee. Then we purchased a ticket for the bus to take us across the Jordan River (3.5JD [$5]) and another ticket (1.3JD [$2]) for our luggage. The trip across the Jordan was about 3 miles but for various checks and unknown reasons the trip took about 3/4 hour. Then there was a long line as three or four buses unloaded at the Israeli passport control area (before when I have been with a tour bus we have proceeded to a different terminal). Bags and passports were checked, questions asked and answered, waiting was required but an hour and a half later we were through. Then we purchased a ticket in a shared bus (we ended up taking all 10 seats in one bus) for $10 each. This bus was supposed to drop us off at Damascus gate in Jerusalem but because it was Friday AND the first day of Ramadan the Israelis closed all the streets leading to Damascus gate. He dropped us off 1/2 mile away and we walked with our luggage to the bus station beside Damascus gate. However, no buses were running until after the Muslim prayers ended up at al-Aqsa mosque on the "Temple Mount" which Muslims call "Haram al-Sharif" ("The Noble Sanctuary"). Although Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink for about 15 hours each day during Ramadan, they still sell food and so were were able to purchase some bread and humus for a light lunch.
Entering into Bethlehem
We were able to get a bus (a Palestinian bus which cost us 5shekels [$1.25] each) that took us to the border "wall" between Israel and Palestine (occupied territory) and after going through light security we entered into Bethlehem. Some friends arranged some taxis for us and were got to where we are staying. Eight hours after we started we arrived! On a clear day, from the top of Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem, you can see tall towers in Amman!
Outside our kitchen balcony
Our accommodations are very pleasant and clean and our building is built on a hillside just outside where the "little town of Bethlehem" used to be. Today it is a busy, modern city filled with Muslims and Christians (non-Jew, non-Muslim) and only the Church of the Nativity reminds us of the place were Christ was born. The hillside that I look out on to could well have been were David once took his sheep to graze. I plan to take a walk to the top of a nearby hill from where I am told I can see Jerusalem probably 6 miles away (to the Old City).Wish you could be here enjoying this with me!
Remember, if you are wanting to join me in Israel this December, the bus is filling up. Take a look at the brochure and sign up today!  Take a look:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Facinating Amman!

Sometimes serving our Lord in a distant country without your family is hard. I miss my wife Sharon, my grandkids (Madelin, Soren and Marlow) and my adult kids and their spouses. But it is a privilege to serve our God and I sense that right now he wants me over here in Jordan. I'm having a great time teaching some YWAM students (with some interesting discussions at times), I've enjoyed speaking at chapel at the Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary and at the Nazarene Church.
I also enjoy traveling around Jordan. The driving can be an adventure (I just about ran out of gas along the Dead Sea and there were no gas stations until the north end! The last three days have included:

Touring Central (Hesbon, Arnon, Machaerus, Madeba, Mt Nebo, Dead Sea
Touring North (farm, Deir Alla, Pella, Um Quis, Jerash, Jabbok)
Touring South (Kerak Castle [think "Kingdom of Heaven" movie], Bozrah [main city of Edom], Sela [10,000 Edomite men killed here by King of Judah], Lot’s Cave [incest from which we get the Moabites and Ammonites], Muja River [outlet of Arnon River but all the water is captured before it can reach the Dead Sea)
And I enjoy the experience of living and driving in Amman, a city of over 2 million people with too many cars and not enough streets! As I was sitting here looking out the window (a conference call I was having with the Board of Directors of Insight for Living had just been dropped due to the weak signal here) I decided to take a picture of a "normal" scene outside my second story window at 7 pm in the evening on the main street in the downtown of Amman.

#1 A man is pushing a cart loaded with something slowly down the street.
#2 A van pulled up behind him. As I kept looking I realized this van had decided to stop and buy/do something on the other side of the "fence" along the street. This fence is to protect the pedestrians from the cars (See picture below).
Downtown Amman at 7 pm, 15 seconds after above picture
#3 A van is stopped, double-parked and is now backing up.
#4 A mini-van is delivering a number of bags and a man from the store is coming out with his cart to unload the van.
#5 A couple of men have apparently decided the sidewalk is too crowded (it often is) and so they are walking out in the street.
#6 A man is about to enter an oil-covered crosswalk and it is my experience no one will stop for him so he will have to dodge his way across the street (I do this at this exact spot a couple of times each day and it increases my prayer life each and every time.) If you step in front of a car they are polite not to drive over you but you have to step out in front first to find this out (and hope it is not some tourist who will run you over)!
Skype is a wonderful invention and I enjoy seeing my grandkids (hint to Joshua and Haleigh) every few days.
Notice the mannequin standing in the street in front of the parked silver car and the sugar cane stalks standing just behind the white truck ready to be squeezed into sugar can juice.
Friday we leave for Bethlehem. Today they closed the central crossing (across from Jericho) for some reason so I'd appreciate prayers for our crossing this Friday. Friday is also the first day of Ramadan, the month-long Muslim holiday so I'm not sure how all the details will come together. Praise God we serve a God who we can trust.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Bad Fall at Tel Hesbon

Tel Hesbon
On Saturday we rented two cars and the ten of us started off on a day's touring on the Medaba Plateau area of Jordan. We saw Tel Hesbon (captial of the Amorites in this area at the time of the conquest), the Arnon River Gourge (the "Grand Canyon" of Jordan, and the natural border of Moab), Dibon (where the Mesha Stele was found), Machareus (where Josephus says John the Baptist was beheaded)
The shore of the Dead Sea (Jordanian side)
the mosaic map of the Byzantine Near East in St. George's Church in Madaba, Mt Nebo, and finally a "float" in the Dead Sea. We did all this but I took a pretty good fall at Tel Hesbon.
I was climbing up the edge of an excavated part of Tel Hesbon (check your Bibles! It was the capital of the Amorites, where King Sihon ruled). I had just found a piece of Roman glass and as I stepped on a stone sticking out from the side (I had used it as a foothold on the way down) it gave away. I fell
YWAM students floating in the Dead Sea
maybe 12-15 feet, hitting first some ground and landing on some 12-16 inch rockpile. I laid there for a moment or two to make sure I wasn't seriously injured. Nothing with my head! I have a badly bruised heal, a cut on the other ankle, a very badly scrapped elbow, puncture hole in one hand and scrapped the skin off a 1/2 inch area on the other hand. I landed hard but so far nothing appears the worse for wear other than what I have mentioned. I did this at about 9 am this morning. I washed it out at the next stop and 10 hours later I have put antibiotic cream on it. My elbow has been
One of the reasons why I didn't go in the Dead Sea
"weaping" all day.
I just went to a pharmacy and bought some gauze to wrap it in for tonight and again tomorrow.
Not a bad view from my hammock! It was over a hundred degrees F, very humid and I was hurting from my fall but how could I not enjoy this beautiful creation of our God?