Hopefully I can post some thoughts and pictures, if nothing else, that help share the trip with the rest of you--and more so for me to have a digital memory of it!
Let me back up a bit to before the trip...I did not have time to prepare mentally or spiritually for this trip like I wish I would have. I had been back and forth between Illinois and Kentucky multiple times in the weeks before and my sister had a big surgery and my mind was in a billion places that even Christmas didn't seem like a big deal this year. I was excited to go to Israel, but I don't think I knew quite what I was getting myself into.
We left, all 72 of us, on December 28th, in 3 departure groups. My group arrived in Israel the earliest and we basically had a full day that the other 2 groups didn't get to experience. We landed in Tel Aviv and our bus and tour guides took us up the road to Joppa (aka Jaffa).
Several things happened here in Jaffa. (I'll probably call it both Jaffa and Joppa. They call it Jaffa now in Israel, but in the Bible you'll read it as Joppa.) One of the coolest things about it goes all the way back to the Old Testament where, somewhere around the eighth century B.C., these words happened:
"Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me."
But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
And if you're anything like me, sometimes you wonder if these stories really happened. Some debate if it was a literal or figurative fish. I've always had a little part of me think "was this really real?" or "How on earth could this have happened?" but the more I process this story now it is so obviously real. I have walked alongside the very port that they used for business in the eighth century, long before Jesus, and I've felt the same breeze that Jonah felt as he questioned God's call and chose to run.
I can't help but think about all those who hear God's call today and instead of doing what he asks, they run. There have been things God has asked me to do that I have run from. It takes great courage to follow and be obedient to God.
As I re-read the intro to the book of Jonah in my Bible it says this: "The book also depicts the larger scope of God's purpose for Israel: that she might rediscover the truth of his concern for the whole creation and that she might better understand her own role in carrying out that concern."
God's purpose for Jonah's life and for this book in our Bibles today was to show him (and us) that his care is for all of creation--even those who are far from obedience. I love that it's reminding me today that His word is so real, and He cares so much for the world--even those who are far from him. My role is to be obedient, just like Jonah, and carry out his mission for all to know the truth of Jesus.
But I can't do that unless I realize that it's REAL, so I'm so thankful for this experience to remind me that the story of God is so very real. Our hashtag for this entire week was #thisisrael and that is one of the things that has impacted me the most--recognizing that every place my feet walked and everything my eyes saw was, and is, very real. And that should change me forever.
Just for fun, here are a few more pictures from Joffa and some scriptures that go along with things that happened right there:
More posts to come soon!