An Israeli adventure: part 1

We spent our last couple of days in Greece just chilling around campus and taking a couple of quizzes.
I’m amazed at the facilities and the people we were blessed with while staying in Porto Rafti at Harding’s campus – The Artemis. The hotel-turned college campus was the perfect setting for our 10 days in Greece.
The staff at the Artemis completed the circle, though. The Beasons of Searcy are the directors of the program, along with their dog Bella. Their love for the students and the campus is so evident. Their hospitality is something I’ll always remember.
Our campus cook, Natasa, was nothing short of a blessing from God. Her food always left our stomachs filled and our hearts happy. Vicki, who worked at the front desk, was always full of jokes, joy, and laughter that would uplift any homesick soul.
Yianna and Mietech were always willing to help with laundry or fix a broken faucet. Their small, but important jobs make the program run seamlessly.
As Saturday, our last day, came to an end, we found ourselves finishing up our last loads of laundry and packing our things away for our next leg of our journey – Israel. We walked along the coastline one last time as we headed to dinner and basked in the beauty and glory of the Aegean Sea.
We loaded our luggage aboard the bus and headed to the Athens airport. With flying to a country like Israel, security takes longer and was much more extensive than that in the States. The agents asked questions like “why are you traveling here,” or “who had access to your luggage.”
It was a tedious process, and one that made me feel a little uneasy at times, but it’s a process that I’m thankful for.
Our flight left Athens around 12:05 am and we landed in Tel Aviv, Israel at 2:00 am sharp. Our bus ride to the hotel was a groggy blur, but once we arrived I was out like a light.
We started our day (Sunday, June 21) with breakfast at the hotel, then a departure into Jerusalem.
Our first stop was at the top of the Mount of Olives. As we looked across the city, we could see the Garden of Gethsemane below us and the hustling, bustling nucleus of Jerusalem directly ahead.
It was all so much to take in. I had finally made it to this country I would have never dreamed of visiting. I was overlooking the city in which Jesus’s ministry expounded and expanded, but also where it came to a screeching halt and glorious resurrection.
After gazing in the beauty of the city and the awe of wonder, we made our way down the mountainside into the Garden of Gethsemane.
Our time in the Garden was the most defining of this trip and easily the most impactful of my life so far.
As we descended into the garden, the sounds of the city faded away and the spirit of the Lord filled their air.  We gathered around a bushel of olive trees and stood amazed in the moment.
Was I standing where Jesus could have stood? What was Jesus thinking whenever he visited this place before his death?
All of these thoughts consumed me and overran my threshold of spiritual consciousness.
We took communion and sang a hymn. We were given five minutes of alone time for reflection. And in that moment – a moment where the worries of the world faded away and the Holy Spirit filled the air – I have never felt closer to God.
I could’ve stayed in the Garden all day, but our tour guide insisted we carry on. It sounds bad to say, but the rest of the day barely made a dent in my thoughts in comparison to the Garden. Nevertheless, the rest of the day was extraordinary.
We got to see the Western Wall and the underground tunnels of Jerusalem. We ate lunch in the middle of the marketplace that was filled with the smells and sounds of a religious melting pot. At one moment you’d hear the echo of the Muslim call to worship followed by the ringing bells of the Christian quarter of Jerusalem. It’s such an intense melting pot, and it’s obvious to understand why the tensions are so high here.
I can’t even put into words how I feel about Jerusalem other than to say that it feels as if the Bible is unfolding right before my eyes.
On another note, I expected the city to be more calm and quiet than it is, but the loud songs and bells, coupled with the honking cars horns (because you’re not driving if you’re not honking your horn here) proved me wrong.
It’s around 5:30 pm here right now, and I would usually wait until bedtime to post, but I’m going straight to sleep after supper. Tomorrow is a full day again, and I need all the sleep I can get.
I’d also like to wish my dad and the men our there a very happy Father’s Day from halfway across the world.
Please be in prayer for our safety while we are here.

Until next time, keep smiling.

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