Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 8, 2018

Gaining Insite Onsite

For the past year, Kingsland’s high school seniors have studied apologetics in their respective Sunday night Life Groups. This is part of our strategy to raise biblically literate students capable of intelligently articulating their biblical world view. These students are culminating their year of study on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

We arrived in Israel on Friday evening and have been on the move ever since. We’ve only got a few days so we are not wasting any time. Our students have already enjoyed two full days of touring and study. What I had hoped would happen in the lives of our students is indeed happening — they are gaining new insights into the biblical narrative as a result of being onsite.

Capernaum | We started our tour in the place Jesus chose as His base of operations when He began His ministry. The ruins here tell a story. Homes were built around a common courtyard known as an insula. When a male child married, he added a room to the family insula. When the room was ready, his father gave him permission to bring his bride home.

Jesus used the image of the insula in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms … I am going there to prepare a place for you.” And then one day, when the Father says all is ready (see Matt. 24:36), Jesus “will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).

The Jordan River | The Jordan River figures prominently in the biblical narrative. Our students learned about the Jordan by rafting down the river. This gave them new insight into various biblical stories that happened around this renowned river. On our second day, many of our students and sponsors chose to reaffirm their commitment to Jesus by being baptized in the Jordan.

Sea of Galilee | We enjoyed two nights at kibbutz on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus performed the vast majority of His ministry in and around this well-known lake. We took a boat ride on the lake where we enjoyed a panoramic view of the places where Jesus taught and performed so many miracles. This geographical context gave our students insight into the movement of Jesus from place to place.

Caesarea Philippi | Caesarea Philippi was a pagan city built by Herod Phillip, a son of Herod the Great. This city was a religious center where people worshiped the Canaanite god Baal. Later, a shrine there was dedicated to the Greek half-man and half-goat god Pan. Worshipers expressed their devotion to Baal and later to Pan without moral restraint.

One of the most interesting things about Caesarea Philippi is the cave that is located there. At the time of Jesus, pagans believed that caves were a door to the underworld — or the gates of Hades. Jesus took His disciples to Caesarea Philippi, a place that represented the worst evils of the day. It was there that Peter acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (Mat. 16:13-16). In this context Jesus said to His disciples, “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt. 16:18).

Beth Sh’ean | We visited the only city of the Decapolis located west of the Jordan River. The ruins of Beth She’an are a compelling advertisement for Hellenism — a people-centered worldview that glorified human knowledge, accomplishment, and experience. The heroes in Beth She’an were athletes, entertainers, and thinkers. So, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine what life must have been like in this impressive place. Sadly, God got edged out by all of the personalities and stuff that made life very comfortable in this ancient city.

Mount of Temptation | The temptation of Jesus is one of the best know stories in the gospels. Actually seeing the arid and unbearably hard place where Jesus fasted and prayed put this story into eye-opening perspective. Temptation often comes when we are in a weakened or vulnerable state. Like Jesus, we can resist the evil one by properly understanding and applying the Scriptures.

Jericho | Jericho is the oldest continuously inhabited city on the planet. For 10,000 years, people have called Jericho home. Zaccheus, a citizen of Jericho, had a life-changing encounter with Jesus. Jesus did what no self-respecting religious leader of his day would ever do — He entered into the home of this tax-collector. As a result of this compelling act of grace, Zaccheus opened his heart to the truth and his life was changed. We too should be people filled with the grace that enables us to love people in need and ready to share the truth that transforms lives.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death | Not far from Jericho is a hard place known as the valley of the shadow of death. In that valley is the St. George Monastery. The monks who live there are deeply devoted to God but personally disconnected from a hurting world. This site provided us the opportunity to consider how to best engage the world as Christ-followers. Like the monks in the monastery, we must develop our inner spiritual life. But, we must go beyond that by being the hands and feet of Jesus in a messy world.

A Big Mitzvah | One final thing. As we were leaving the baptismal site at the Jordan River, a woman approached our guide and tearfully asked if he knew of a pastor who could baptize her and her children. She was from Colombia and had been planning her pilgrimage for six years only to face the prospect of not having anyone to baptize her and her two kids. Even though we were about to depart, I agreed to take the time to perform the baptism. She was beyond grateful.

Afterwards, another guide turned to me and said, “You have performed a big mitzvah” — referring to the charitable act I had performed. Although, the Hebrew word mitzvah does not mean “a good deed” in that sense, I understood what she was trying to say. This became a teachable moment to talk with our students about the people God puts in our path and to not see those people as interruptions but rather as divine appointments.


Responses

  1. Omar,
    I am enjoying reading your blog about this trip to Israel……I loved the paragraph where you described the lady from Columbia wanting to be
    baptized (along with her 2 children). How beautiful to describe them as not an interruption but rather a “divine appointment”! What wonderful, beautiful, extraordinary moments you share with so many! Reecie and I were talking last night and we both hope & pray to go on a trip with you in the near future!
    I am so happy Cheryl went this time! What a moving photograph of you baptizing her (and on our Mother’s 90th birthday) I look forward to her beautiful FB posts and pictures! The Bible truly comes alive!!

    Love to you & Cheryl and safe travels!

    • Thanks, Cindie. Yes, hoping that both you and Reecie can join me on a trip sometime soon. So happy to have Cheryl here. Students are amazing. Having great time learning together. Love from me and Cheryl.

  2. Omar, as always, I love reading your adventures and encounters with people all around the world. The last paragraph as you talked about Devine appointments brought tears to my eyes. We are in Seattle visiting our son. After breakfast the other day In The area we are staying, we encountered a divine appointment. We were trying to figure out directions and a man came up and asked if he could help us. He noticed Keith’s shirt which had our alma mater icon on it and began to tell us he was from the same area. He called to mind several places In Our town of Shreveport so we knew he was the real deal. He was homeless, a veteran but had gotten way off track and lost everything due trauma from being struck with shrapnel in Kuwait and drugs. He said he had been drug free now for two years. We walked with him for a bit and listened to his story and then we had opportunity to pray for him. It really was the best part of my trip here. There is so much homelessness here either by choice or just tough circumstances but as I recall all I’ve learned from serving with you at Kingsland I’m always reminded that God loves all people and we are instruments of that love. Sometimes we just need to “walk slowly among the people”. Thankful for your servant leadership and love of God. Miss you much
    Janet

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Auntie. Love it. And love when God trusts us enough to put those in need in our path. Thanks for being the hands and feet of Jesus. Miss you and grateful for your friendship.

  3. Good evening. I am trilled to read about the blessing my family had when we met you, Pastor Omar Garcia. I am the woman who asked you to baptize my kids! I waited for 6 yrs to go back to Israel in order to baptize my kids since my little son just turned 12. Unfortunately I ended up in a tourist tour instead of a pilgrimage. God answered my prayers! I was asking Him to provide the person with Spiritual Authority to baptize my kids! They were prepared since they had taken the classes at church but I had asked our Pastor to allow them to be baptized in Israel since that was the purpose of our trip. So you could imagine how I felt when we arrive at the Jordan river and God provided Pastor Garcia. God is good all the time!! I can’t thank you enough Pastor Garcia. May The Living God Almighty bless you, your family, and your congregation in The name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Chirst.

    • Dearest Irma, it was both my privilege and honor to baptize you and your children in the Jordan River. God allowed our paths to cross for a reason. Thanks for leading your children to know and to love God. May He continue to richly bless and care for you all.


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