Thursday, July 3

Jericho, Galilee, and Ibillin!

We checked out of the beautiful Intercontinental Hotel this morning and were on the road by 7:30 a.m.

First stop was the banks of the Jordan River at the site where John baptized Christ.  The pastors led a brief service including the special opportunity for each of us to have a personal baptism-renewal in the waters of the Jordan.

There was purpose to arriving so early before the other tour buses.  It was so peaceful and quiet — a truly memorable experience.  Three doves were spotted flying around our group as was a monarch butterfly. It was all very moving.

From there we headed to Mt. of Beatitudes, with stunning views of the Sea of Galilee and an octagonal church — one side for each of the Beatitudes in Mathew, Chapter 5.

Our band of Pennington Presbys next headed north to “rock” Capernaum, the home base of Jesus’ ministry.  There we visited the house of Peter’s mother-in-law, the site of one of Jesus’ first miracles of healing.

After a lunch-stop, we drove to Tabgha, the site associated with the Lord’s feeding of the 5,000. It featured an ancient mosaic of the loaves and fishes on the church floor.

Later in the afternoon, we waded into the Sea of Galilee and then took an hour-long boat ride. After a full week of high-heat, the strong breezes on this magnificent lake were refreshing and appreciated!

The day ended with a scenic bus ride through the lush hills and valleys of Galilee — quite a contrast where we began today in the arid plains of the Dead Sea.

We arrived safely this evening in the Galilean town of Ibillin about where we were warmly welcomed.  We also said goodbye to our beloved tour-guide, Johnny Nastas, and bus operator, Akil.  We enjoyed a great dinner and group worship before heading to bed.

Tomorrow, Friday morning, we begin our first day of service projects, education, and side-trips, on the campus of Mar Elias  (Arabic for Saint Elijah) Educational Institution. Everyone looks forward to finishing this year’s 4th of July with a swim in the Mediterranean Sea near Haifa.

— George White