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Week 19 Monday: Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Sermon on the Mount/Plain, Feeding of the 5,000/4,000, and Mountaintop View

Hello from Jerusalem!  I am trying to write down everything that we are seeing and experiencing, but there’s a lot.  So, I decided to break it down by day.  You can click on words in blue to get more information from Wikipedia if you’d like. Thanks for reading.

We used 3 categories for everything we saw to distinguish how plausible it was that something actually happened in a particular location.

Categories

1.    Category 1:  There is archeological proof that this is logically the place where “it” occurred.

2.    Category 2:  Somewhere in between Category 1 and Category 3.

3.    Category 3:  Tradition states that this is where “it” took place.  However, there is no archeological proof and usually there is 20 more feet of dirt on top of the location then there was during Jesus’ time (or whatever time we talking about).

Monday

Monday morning, we got up bright and early and took the bus to the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  There we read John 21 where Jesus comes to the disciples after the resurrection, sees that they can’t catch any fish, tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, and then fish galore.  If you haven’t read John 21 recently…you should, it’s interesting to say the least.

Me with a hand in the Sea of Galilee
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Seminary group on the shores of the Sea of Galilee
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Next, we went to Capernaum.  Matthew 4:13 tells us that when Jesus found out that John had been arrested, he left “Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea.” This is where Jesus heals the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12 which is every Austin Seminary students favorite pericope because we spend our entire Greek exegesis course on this pericope.  So, when our guide asked if anyone knew Mark 2:1-12 everyone moaned “yes” and had grumpy faces.  It was surreal to see Peter’s house where the story I spent hours studying took place.  Over Peter’s house there is now a beautiful Catholic church with a opening in the middle so you can see Peter’s house.  This is a category 2 I believe.

Peter’s house
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We then went to a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church that was in walking distance from Peter’s house.

Next, we went to the traditional place where the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5 took place.  This is a category 3 site, but we were told that it probably occurred a stone throw from where we were.  However, this raises an interesting question because in Luke 6 it is the Sermon on the Plain.  Where we were was definitely not a plain…  It could just be that Jesus preached it twice with different words at different places.  Well, there’s only one thing to do…put it into my God question box.

Sermon on the Mount Video:

From there we went to Korazim which was a city that Jesus condemns in Matthew 11:20 along with Capernaum and Bethsaida.  Apparently, it worked…because none of those cities exist anymore.  Seriously, what could be worse for a city than Jesus condemning it?

We had lunch at a fish place which served fish like Kenya, head and eyes included.  I scarfed mine down because that’s what I lived off of for 2 weeks when I was on Mfangano Island, but I’m not sure everybody liked it.

We then traveled to the Church of the Multiplication (every math teacher’s dream) located at Tabgha.  This is traditionally where Jesus fed the 5,000 (not counting women and children).  Under the Table there is limestone sticking upon which tradition says the baskets were placed.  Here is where the famous mosaic of the 2 fish and 5 loves is located right in front of the limestone beforementioned.  This is a category 3 I believe.

Limestone and Mosaic
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Across the Sea is another site where Jesus fed the 4,000 (not counting women and children) with 7 loaves and “some fish” in Matthew 15 and Mark 8.  We did not go there because 4,000 isn’t as impressive as 5,000…and because it was on the other side of the Sea.

We concluded the day with a mountaintop view of the Sea of Galilee.  From there we also saw Magdala which is the town in which Mary Magdaline was traditionally born and raised.

Video of Mountaintop view of the Sea of Galilee:

(For those reading who were on the trip please correct or comment with your thoughts.  Thanks)

Week 19 Sunday: Leaving Cairo, Caesarea, Tel Megiddo, and Sea of Galilee

Hello from Jerusalem!  I am trying to write down everything that we are seeing and experiencing, but there’s a lot.  So, I decided to break it down by day.  You can click on words in blue to get more information from Wikipedia if you’d like. Thanks for reading.

Sunday

Sunday morning we woke up at 4 AM in Cairo so we could be at the airport extra early to fly to Tel Aviv, Israel.  It is very different traveling with 31 other people than by myself, but our group is full of incredible people so it was actually easier to get through everything with the group than it would have been by myself.  It also helped to have the travel agent take all our passports and check us in as one instead of 32.  They took my swiss army knife (even though it was in my checked bag)…which means no more opening pop in Kenya or Speghettios cans…no bueno.  Any who, we left Cairo and arrived in Israel. The airport in Tel Aviv is one of the nicest airports I have ever been in (and I’ve been in a lot of airports).  We met our guide, Peter, and we were off to the Sea of Galilee where we would stay for the next several days.  However, we had made such good time we decided to stop and see some sights.

My first impressions of Israel were formed by their airport (which as I said was amazing) and then by the wall which they are building to separate Israel from the West Bank.  Israel is not a very large country so we saw the wall many times as we were driving. It seems to me that walls haven’t worked out so well throughout history…and it was just sad to see people building walls to separate themselves.

Any who…

We used 3 categories for everything we saw to distinguish how plausible it was that something actually happened in a particular location.

Categories

1.    Category 1:  There is archeological proof that this is logically the place where “it” occurred.

2.    Category 2:  Somewhere in between Category 1 and Category 3.

3.    Category 3:  Tradition states that this is where “it” took place.  However, there is no archeological proof and usually there is 20 more feet of dirt on top of the location then there was during Jesus’ time (or whatever time we are talking about).

Our first stop was Caesarea Maritima where we saw the double Roman aqueduct of Caesarea and the Amphitheater of Caesarea.

Aqueduct of Caesarea:
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Amphitheater of Caesarea: (Check out the line of Nigerians at the lower left)
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The coolest part architecturally was that Caesarea had a protected harbor which was one of the engineering marvels of its time.

Me looking out at the Mediterrean Sea where the Harbor of Caesarea used to be:
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In Christian history, Caesarea is where the only secular record of Pontius Pilate was found.  Furthermore, it is believed that Peter started the church in Caesarea and that Paul was imprisoned here and wrote his letters from prison.  I believe that the Biblical bo-jazz is a category 2.  So, that’s pretty slick.
We then journey to Tel Megiddo (Tel is Hebrew for “hill” or “mound”).  Tel Megiddo is a city that was inhabited from 7000 BC to 586 BC and is where the word Armageddon comes from.  It is the place that Revelation is referring to when it speaks of Armageddon (good way to start the tour).  The city was located at a major crossroads and was therefore, a very important place strategically.  As our professor described it, one army would be traveling one way and another the other way.  They would meet at the crossroads and then fight.

The most interesting architectural aspect of Tel Megiddo was that they dug a tunnel to their water source.  Their water source was outside the city walls.  So, when they were under attack they couldn’t get H2O.  Therefore, they dug this tunnel through limestone (?) to the water and then closed off the other end.  I wouldn’t want to attempt this today with our technology, so to do it back then is beyond amazing.

A Panorama video of Tel Megiddo:

Jesus’ manger – An example of what Jesus’ manger looked like at the stable of Megiddo:
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We then drove through Tiberius to the place we were staying right on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  The first time I got up to leave the hotel room, I walked out and looked at the Sea of Galilee and was dumbfounded.  This continued for the next 4 days we stayed there.  Thus concludes Sunday…

(For those reading who were on the trip please correct or comment with your thoughts.  Thanks)

Week 18: Memphis, Pyramids, Camels, Copticness, & Such

Hello from the Sea of Galilee in Israel! I will write more about my experience in Israel later, but for now I want to tell you all about my time in Egypt.

Wednesday

The other 31 people in our group arrived very early in the morning after experiencing a nice unexpected 12-hour layover in Germany. Yep, that’s no fun. So, they spent the morning trying to sleep. When they had rested, I got to see everyone which was really nice. When Andy (our Professor) introduced me to the group everyone cheered and I felt all warm and fuzzy inside and missed seminary and the community there. Furthermore, my seminary neighbor, Mary-Elizabeth, brought me some things I wanted from the States and asked everyone else on the trip to bring me essentials from the States (M&Ms, Reeses, and Head & Shoulders). So, it was good to see everyone on multiple levels. We then met our tour guide, Heba, and traveled to the city of Memphis.   Memphis has mostly been covered by another city being built on top of it repeatedly, but they do have an open air museum with a sphinx and a Statue of Ramses II (questionably) which was used in the 10 Commandments movie.

Statue of Ramses II at Memphis:
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Afterwards, we went and visited the Step Pyramid (Pyramid of Djoser) and another Pyramid (Tomb of King Titi) which looks just like a sand hill, but we all went inside of it and it had incredibly beautiful hieroglyphics everywhere.  Who’d a thunk it?

Tomb of King Titi:
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Step Pyramid and I:
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Thursday

Thursday morning we headed to the Giza pyramids bright and early which are right by our hotel. The Pyramids are different than I thought they would be because the Great Pyramid is not in the middle, but is the bigger one on a side.

A short video standing on the Great Pyramid:

Isaac and I standing on the Great Pyramid:
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The Pyramid in the middle was just built on higher ground and still has its shell at the tip top. It’s actually amusing because the middle Pyramid was built by the Great Pyramid builder’s son.  So, rather than build a bigger pyramid than his dad he just built it on higher ground.  The Giza Pyramids were very impressive and something I have wanted to see since the 6th grade and thought I would have to wait until I was retired to see, but the opportunity arose at 25.  Take that world!

The group drove to get a good view of all 3 which was also where we all had a camel ride which was amazing.

A view of the 3: (the Great is on the left)
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A view of the 3 with me:
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When a camel stands up it is very awkward and unusual. My camel’s name was Bartholomew or that was what I called him. It was very surreal to see all 32 of us riding along on camels with the Giza Pyramids in the background.

A video of the camel ride:

A picture of me and Bartholomew:
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Then we all went to see a boat that was buried with the Pharaoh of the Great Pyramid (Great idea!). My seminary neighbor, Mary-Elizabeth, and I left early because we were the only ones that wanted to go inside the Giza Pyramids. So, we got to go inside the middle Pyramid. I found that walking backwards down the very short passage was easier and less strenuous on my back so that ‘s what I did. We went down for a while then level for a while and then up for a while. Then we arrived in the tomb which was unreal.

Video of inside Pyramid:

It was very humid. On our way out I was walking down the short passage and once we came to a place where I could stand up, so I did and there was a very long line of Asians who laughed at me each one in turn as I passed them because I am too tall to be walking around in Pyramids.

We then drove to the other side of town to see a Mosque, called the Citadel.

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Afterward, we had lunch at a boat on the Nile and the meal was very nice. We finally made our way to the Egyptian Museum. I was very excited about this because I distinctly remember in 6th grade learning about Egyptian History.  Even more precisely I remember how captivated I was with the discovery of King Tut’s Tomb. I remember staring at the large picture of King Tut’s face in our textbooks.

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So, when I actually got to see the 28 pound solid gold mask of King Tut and saw my reflection in the protective glass I could visualize the 6th grade me staring at the picture of it at my desk in Broken Arrow, OK. It was a surreal moment.

While at the museum, we also went to see the Mummies. The coolest was Ramses II. It was really crazy to see this 5,000 year old Pharaoh with hair, finger nails, and skin. He was very well preserved, lived to be possibly 100, and had 80 or so children or so the legend goes. Thursday was a very full day.

Pic of Ramses mummy.

Friday

Friday, we drove north halfway to Alexandria to visit a Coptic monastery in Wadi Natrun. We had a very interesting monk show us around who had a wizard beard. He was very knowledgeable and shared his views with us about the Coptic church and theology. It was a good visit.

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Saturday

Saturday, we journeyed to Coptic Cairo, the Ben Ezra Synagogue, which is tradition ridden with Biblical history. The tradition is that this location is one of the possibilities of where Moses was found by Pharaoh’s daughter on River Nile, also where Jeremiah came when he was exiled, and where the exiled Holy Family came when Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt with Jesus because Herod was killing everyone 2 and under. So, it is traditionally a very historic place. When I say “traditionally” it means that there is no archaeological proof, but it is believed/this is an option where it might have happened.

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We then visited the Presbterian seminary in Cairo, the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo (ETSC).  An APTS graduate is working at the seminary and we were invited over to meet with other seminarians.  It was a good last night in Cairo and it was nice to interact with other seminary students from another country.

Goodbye Egypt!
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Israel/Palestine & Egypt Trip

Week 16: Mom’s Second Post

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Robert had made arrangements for his host family, Eustace and Priscilla Mbogo, to spend the day with us.  The Mbogos are a delightful couple, and it was especially fun to be driving around Nairobi rather than walking.  We saw parts of the city we had not seen before as we drove to the Nairobi Safari Walk.  As Mr. Mbogo said, this place offered us a chance to see some wildlife we would not see on a regular safari.  I was especially interested in the albino zebra and the pygmy hippos.

On the way to the By Grace church and school compound, we stopped at a grocery store so that Priscilla could pick up a few items.  There were a number of street vendors operating in the parking lot.  Mr. Mbogo bought Tom a red chukka (what the Masai wear) and for me a piece of fabric which I wore as a skirt over my slacks for the rest of the day.  We then proceeded to the Mbogos’ home where we were served a traditional African dinner.  After the meal, the Mbogos showed us By Grace church and school which they founded.  They have accomplished much during their lives.

From Family Visit

Sunday, December 21, 2008

We took a taxi from the AACC to St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.  It was good to meet several of Robert’s friends before church.  The church building was unusual in that everything about it was completely traditional, except for the fact that all the huge windows on both sides of the sanctuary were completely open to the outside and everyone was very comfortable.  Robert’s Young Adult Volunteer coordinator Rev. Phyllis Byrd preached a very eloquent sermon.

After church, we all (4 Quirings, 4 Byrds, and 6 YAV’s) made our way to an Ethiopian restaurant.  The Ethiopian meal experience was extraordinary.  I have no idea of the names of the food.  Anyway, what happens is that three or four people share a large platter covered with what looks like (but is not) unbaked pie dough.  Scattered on the platter are maybe ten different food items.  Rolls of the dough are provided as silverware.  The diner tears off a bit of the dough, scoops up whatever she wants to try and then consumes the whole thing.  Much of it tasted very good.

From Family Visit

And Shelvis who missed the picture:

From Family Visit

After lunch we returned to the church for their Christmas program.  The music was fabulous, but it was a bit of a pain not to understand what was said in between.

Monday, December 22, 2008

This was the beginning day for our safari.  Our driver/guide Christopher picked us up at 7:30 a.m.  Christopher said he had worked as a guide for forty years, and I do feel we profited from his experience.  We traveled in a white Toyota minivan with a pop-up top.  We headed out of Nairobi toward the Masai Mara Animal Reserve.  The drive to the safari area includes a panoramic view of the Great Rift Valley and roads that alternated between standard quality to extremely poor.

From Family Visit

As we got closer to the reserve, we observed many Masai villages, homes, and stockades and the Masai themselves herding their cattle.

We arrived at Sopa Lodge around noon and were greeted by servers offering us rolled up damp washcloths with which to remove the dust of the journey from hands and faces.  We were also served fruit drinks.  We found our rooms to be large and comfortable.  We especially liked how each room had a little porch with chairs so that a person could sit outside and enjoy the outside air and the views.
Since sunset is a prime time for animal viewing we ventured out at 4 p.m.  As we drove into the reserve, I was reminded of the pastures in Kansas and also of the scenery on either side of Highway 40 as a person travels west in the US.  Far different though was the variety of animals visible everywhere.  We first saw many zebra, wildebeest, impala, gazelles, and buffalo (according to Christopher, the most dangerous animal in the reserve).  Our first sighting of big game was a large number of giraffe grazing along a creek bed.  We kept driving and came upon an even more imposing sight–a herd of about twenty elephants.  The group included a bull elephant and several baby elephants, which were kept in the middle of the herd.  It was quite a thrill to see so many elephants.  We had to head back to the lodge before dark, but we felt fortunate to have seen so many animals.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We left the lodge at 7 a.m., eager to see what our second day on safari would bring.  Christopher seemed to think we had been quite fortunate to see all the animals we had seen the previous evening.  We hadn’t seen any lions though, so his focus for the morning was to hunt down this elusive prey.  He went to several locations where the lions usually are, but no luck.  Then all of the sudden we could hear great excitement in the men’s voices that chatter continuously on the two way radio.  It seems a rhinoceros had been spotted.  Christopher said he had not seen a rhinoceros in the park for six or seven years.  Sure enough, after maneuvering over the trails, we came upon the rhinoceros having his or her breakfast and quite unconcerned with all the attention from several vans of tourists.  According to the guide book, it is rare to see a rhinoceros on safari.

As we continued our search for lion, we spotted a giraffe standing like a statue under a tree fairly close by.  We drove right up to this giraffe, taking all kinds of pictures and admiring this unusual animal.  Then behind the giraffe we noticed a young elephant moving along at a faster clip than seemed normal for an elephant.  Christopher thought the elephant was going to find water, so we left the giraffe under the tree and followed the elephant—all from the safety of the van, of course.  A little further down the trail, sure enough, there was the small elephant with his trunk in the ground, apparently getting water from a source we couldn’t see.

From Family Visit
From Family Visit

About this time our young elephant friend decided he or she didn’t like being stalked.  This young elephant got in front of our van in the middle of the trail in a challenging position.  Christopher then gunned the van motor and the elephant took off.  I am thinking if the elephant had been larger we wouldn’t have done all that, but all’s well that ends well.

The final big event of our morning safari was our encounter with the true king of the safari.  After hearing a lot of chatter on the radio, we noticed a number of other vans heading for this one clump of bushes.

From Family Visit

The first thing we noticed was a dead animal fairly close to the trail.  Then Christopher got off the trail (a no-no) and pulled around the bush so that we could observe the large male lion lying under the brush, yawning, licking his chops, and showing off his huge teeth.  This was at very close range.  We took our pictures and got out of there.

After lunch and rest at the lodge, we went out into the reserve one more time that afternoon.  We saw two female lion, but not at such close range.  We also observed a cheetah up in a tree, also at long range.  The big game was so overwhelming that I have forgotten to mention the ostriches, emu, and many unusual birds that we observed.  We felt that we had had an outstanding safari experience.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What an unusual way to spend Christmas Eve!  We got a fairly early start for our drive back to Nairobi.  Before getting totally out of the reserve, we had our last significant encounter with wildlife—a whole troop of baboons beside the road—quite entertaining.

Halfway back, we stopped at a trading post for a break.  Patrick saw a drum he liked, and Tom was attracted by a small piece of animal sculpture.  However we didn’t think these items were worth $60 each, which was the asking price, so we left with no souvenirs.  After getting settled back into our room at AACC, we walked up the street to eat at the Chicken Inn.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The big event of our day was our invitation to dine at Rev. Byrd’s at 3 p.m.  When we first entered the large living room, we went around and shook hands with all the other guests who were seated in sofas and chairs which bordered the room.  The guest list totaled twenty—four Quirings, six YAV’s and the rest were family and friends of our hosts.  After a bit, Tom and I (as the oldest guests) were invited to wash our hands first.  This apparently is a Kenyan custom, which of course makes a lot of sense.  Anyway, everyone present had to wash their hands before eating.  As the longest married, Tom and I were the first in line to enter the dining room where a large table was loaded with delicious food including pumpkin pudding with marshmallows and a turkey looking just like a Norman Rockwell picture.  We ate in the living room with the help of small tables strategically placed around the room.  Three kinds of desserts were available.  In the course of the evening, the YAV’s exchanged gifts, sang Christmas carols, and toasted the health of all with wine and fruit punch.  It was wonderful to be able to share Christmas Day with Robert, his YAV friends, and our generous hosts.

From Family Visit

Friday, December 26, 2008

Since many Nairobi citizens return to their villages for the Christmas holiday, the streets were quieter than usual as Robert and Rodgers drove us to the airport in the AEE van.  We made it in plenty of time.  It was very hard to part from Robert!

We considered ourselves very fortunate because the plane from Nairobi to London was almost empty.  We felt free to move around during the flight.  Both Tom and I took window seats, and I was surprised to discover that a person can actually see the Sahara Desert, the Mediterranean Sea, the Alps, and the English Channel including the white cliffs of Dover, from 30,000 feet.  As we approached the airport, flying over the city of London, I could recognize several famous landmarks, which was a thrill for me.  But by the time we landed and got situated in our hotel, it was too late to do any sightseeing.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time to face our nine hour flight.  The plane was full—every seat occupied.  We were thrilled to finally get to Houston.  The flight to Tulsa seemed to take no time at all.  Our thoughtful neighbor, Linda Newton, was at the airport to greet us.

We are still a bit incredulous that we actually have experienced life in Nairobi, Kenya, that we were able to go on a safari, and that once again all of our family was together at Christmas.

Helen

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