Road Trip

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We hit the road yesterday with some 20 friends to travel the “spine” of Israel, the mountain range running north and south through the middle of the country.  This is early Old Testament bible country, the places Abraham and his … Continue reading

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Our team

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Greetings from the COD, this is a quick post to say that we are well, thriving, learning so much, meeting some great and interesting people along the way of this pilgrimage that continues from one day to the next.  This … Continue reading

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A Prayer for You at the Wall

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Praying at the Western Wall The Western Wall of the Temple Mount is as close as the Jews can get to the site of David’s and Solomon’s temple to the Lord. Built nearly 3000 years ago, it was the place … Continue reading

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Holiday in Shehkanya

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We returned last night from a few days with our friends the Gerassy family in the north of Israel.  You may recall that we met Shay last December when she was waitressing in a restaurant we went to. We subsequently … Continue reading

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The Olive Tree

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This Olive tree caught my attention recently.  Olive trees are everywhere around here, but this particular olive tree is on the temple mount, on the east side and hugging the wall, as close as it can possibly get to the … Continue reading

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these days…

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Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives Julee and I are nearly three weeks now in Jerusalem, and settling in to patterns, habits, likes and dislikes. Actually very little to dislike: the calls to prayer (not because they are loud and … Continue reading

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Alive and well in the COD

Thanks to those of you who have been thinking of and praying for us during this past week!  Maybe you have read of the increased tensions in Israel connected with the anniversary of Israel’s formation as a country in 1948?  Last week saw demonstrations and casualties at the Lebanon and Syria borders as well as in the West Bank territories, even close to where we are living.  We never felt threatened, but we did take some precautions about when and where we went Friday through Sunday.

I would love to write about our feelings regarding the situation here, however I need to be careful about what I say on a blog that could be read by anyone doing a google search.  Thus even the place we live is in acronym form in the title above.  The City of… and my youngest grandson’s name is Dave!  I want to write a blog in the near future to give you a bit of a history lesson regarding this place.  It is amazing, and gets more amazing each day as archaeologists uncover more and learn more from what they uncover.  So stay tuned!

Getting back to the “situation” here, let me just say that we don’t choose sides, except God’s side, and He makes it clear that He loves all people of all nationalities and colors. And I will say also that I don’t believe that there will ever be a political solution to what is essentially a moral problem.  Or a humanistic solution.  We tried “Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now” in the 60’s and found that we couldn’t do that very well on our own.  But there is one who suffered and died for us to redeem us, to show us the way, and to give us His spirit so that we can, through his transforming power in our lives, see one another (of all faiths, ethnic backgrounds, color, etc.) as precious and valuable.

So here are some pics taken from near where we live, to give you some idea of our circumstances just outside the old city of Jerusalem:

looking east toward the Mount of Olives

And the opposite direction toward the western hill…

Julee on the roof, a nice place to sit in the cool of the evening, and the place we hang our laundry.  There are many fruit trees in the courtyard, giant lemons, at least a couple different varieties of oranges, grapefruit, and other yummy fruit we never had before or know the name of.

Our long time friend Jacqueline Wilson is here in Jerusalem visiting her Mom and participating in the local activities.

My lovely wife, dressed up and ready to go out to dinner last night with friends at a popular and very nice Jerusalem restaurant where we sat outdoors for hours enjoying some good food and a talented jazz trio!

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Spain to Jerusalem, Israel

We have now been in Jerusalem for a day and a half, we are getting settled in and catching up on some rest from a long day of travel (we flew through Brussels, Belgium with a 4 1/2 hour layover to get here, cheaper than a direct flight).  We are both feeling amazed that we are here, and living where we are living near the Old City, and serving under the people we are serving with here.   We are continually humbled and grateful for the opportunities afforded us, first in Spain working with the amazing Hollanders, and now in Israel.

We will have more on what we are doing here in Israel in the days ahead, but for now we take a look back at our time in Spain, and a blog to let you know that we arrived safely, Julee is 100% healthy again, and we miss our family and friends back in the USA…

our farewell party, with three newly arrived volunteers to replace us.  Josie made an amazing dutch apple pie (center) for the party!

almost too beautiful to cut into…but not quite.

Niels and Josie and us during our mid-morning coffee and cookies (our reward for cleaning up after the pilgrims!)

Bert, undoubtedly romancing the lovely Betty, during our trip to the Irache winery and nearby monastery.

My volunteer buddy Martin…thanks for all the laughs, Marty!  All the Spanish girls are still mourning your departure…

Julee, with the original pilgrim Saint James, in Puente le Reina.  Goodbye to Spain, and an emotional goodbye to our friends from Holland, who didn’t hesitate to welcome us, embrace us, and love us.  We will miss you.

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Puente la Reina

Bert and Betty wanted to take us out for a few hours, to go replenish the wine supply, and to see a little of historic Puente la Reina, a very old Spanish town where two rivers come together, flowing under an original Roman built bridge.  But first, as we do every morning, there was a devotional time.  This time up on the rooftop patio to enjoy the sunshine and the view.

The devotional times have been sweet, and I look forward to them each day.  Many pilgrims come hurting, either physically or emotionally/spiritually (or both), and it is such a privilege to meet these precious people and to be able to encourage them, pray for them, and just serve them.  Our family style dinners are always so much fun as everyone visits and shares their stories of how they came to be on the Camino.  We have had families with young children as well as pilgrims in their eighties.  After dinner at night we offer a “Christian meditation” time, which many elect to participate in.  It lasts about a half hour, with mostly no talking while listening to some nice instrumental music, and we take turns leading it, speaking a few short verses out of the bible, and praying a blessing on the pilgrims.  Many share with us what a blessing our albergue has been for them.

Walking the narrow streets of Puente las Reina

Inside the 12th century cathedral in Puente la Reina during mass.

A view of the bridge, still used and in excellent condition, while local fishermen work on catching dinner.

Then, on to the Irache winery, also the site of a very old church and monastery.

Tour guide Betty telling it like it is to Julee…

Meanwhile, we are getting our half dozen 5 litre wine bottles filled, straight from the tank.  The very decent wine is sold in bulk like this for 87 cents a litre, but Irache gives us a 10% discount…

The camino trail goes right by the winery, and there is a fountain for the pilgrims built into the wall.  The spigot on the right provides fresh water, the one on the left provides wine!  Notice the bandages on this pilgrims leg.  This is early on in the camino, and after 3 or 4 days, it seems like most people are fighting blisters, swollen knees, bad ankles, and just stiff muscles from carrying backpacks they are not used to.  Word of advice to those of you considering the camino:  START SLOW!!!

Beautiful architecture at the old monastery… Is all of Spain as incredible as the parts we have been in?  Maybe my new favorite european country…

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The Castle: Part Two

Yesterday was Labor Day in Spain, I think.  They called it “Work Day”, but nobody worked, so…

In this village, everyone goes up to the Castle for “Work Day”, attends a church service, then hangs out together outside the old church and has some food and drink and while visiting.

The Catholics in this part of Spain are very particular about how they practice their faith.  For this special day, they bring in a Polish priest (the Spanish priests are evidently second rate), and they bring in a special silver cross, which each congregant files up to the front and kisses as they leave.  I think nearly the whole village attends this service, except for many of the men, who wait outside smoking cigarettes.

Bread, peanuts, some salami type stuff, potato chips and several types of wine from the local wineries was set up on the benches.  We went to the store and bought some nice cakes and brought them, and they were a hit, scarfed up in no time!  There is a slight tension between our albergue and the village.  Although the Dutch have been here for 13 years now, they are still a “foreign” organization, and not Catholic, and most of the local people have been here many years, many related to one another, and maybe 99% catholic.  So this is a great opportunity to mix with them, contribute to their festival, promote understanding and trust, etc.

The Princess of the Castle

Betty, from Holland, with a local admirer.  He brought her flowers this day…

Our leader Bert, from Holland, conversing with one of the locals.

A pleasant diversion from the routine, then back down the hill and back to work.  It was my turn to be the “hospitalero”, registering the guests, learning about some of them.  This day I made friends especially with Klaus from Austria, and Regina from Oakland CA.  We had mostly Germans, Austrians this day, with a few from Slovenia, a couple of girls from Holland, and two men from the UK.  No one from France, but the day before, the majority were from France.  It is a unique group with a unique personality each day.

That is Regina from Oakland to my left, and one of the Brits shirtless in front of me.  I am looking through his pilgrim passport for his name to register him and to stamp his passport with our unique albergue stamp.  He will need that when he gets to Santiago to prove that he has indeed walked the camino.

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