Today we had an early start with a dance party under the sunrise in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. The crew raised an American flag next to the Israeli one while our National Anthem was playing. Then they played a bunch of music for us that we decided to rock out to and had our own little dance party. The favorite song was Hava Negila since our tour guides taught it to us and it has kind of become our theme song for this trip. This was a fun time, but it was also a time that really touched many of us as it really hit home all the stories from the Bible of the fisherman out early in the morning on their fishing boats trying to get the catch of the day, Jesus calming the storm and walking on water and calling his disciples. I can say many of us have tried to walk on the water the last few days and it is not so easy.
From there we headed into Beth She’an which is one of the ten cities of Decapolis. This city was an old Roman city that in those days was a totally pagan city. This place had all of Rome’s culture that they would go nowhere without. They had the big theater, huge bathhouse, gymnasium, tall pillars, and much more. It was amazing how just by us coming into sight of this place we were all stunned as it was an amazing work of human art, but when it came to things like the desert, we were significantly less impressed. That brought up the point of how worldly and human-focused we are as we talked about how our God is the God of the Desert the place of trials not these frivolous cities that were so easy to live in. We all kind of looked at our shoes for a while after that, knowing full well that he is right.
The next stop in our journey was another city of the Decapolis called Susita (some people called it Hippo, which was funny). Susita was most likely the home town of the man who carried the demon(s), Legion, whom Jesus cast into pigs that ran into the Sea of Galilee. He told that man to spread the news about God’s works in his life. Later, Jesus came back and fed four thousand people while teaching them, possibly due to the man who spread the little bit of good news that he had. The city later became one of the centers of the Christian faith and the home of the Nicene Creed. The newly-excavated parts of the city show several churches with beautiful mosaic floors (some of which we uncovered ourselves) and simple marble decorations, all from the Byzantine age. Rich reminded us that we each have a story, like that of the Legion-possessed man, to tell people that will be a testimony to who Christ is, the Living God. And, of course there are no promises that our lives will affect as many as that man did, but Isaiah 55 does say that God’s word does not go out without bearing fruit, bringing a harvest.
Our final destination, the Jordan River, the very river in which our Lord, the King, Jesus Christ was baptized awaited its new recipients of Maim Chaim, living water. Here, 25 of our students were baptized, brought into the loving arms of our family and prayed and rejoiced over. Even one of our own staff was baptized today. For me, I wanted to acknowledge Christ as not only my savior, which I have known Him to be since He first picked me out of the crowd, but today, I welcomed Him as my Lord, my Leader, my King (Rachel). It was an incredible experience for all of us, even the ones who were not baptized, having already been before. They got to applaud Y’shua for His majesty as they stood and acknowledged each head bobbing to the surface of the water with new life, new enthusiasm. For me, as I wrote on a rock at the top of Qumran, I used to go nowhere; now I plan on moving FORWARD; I want to do the things that He has excited me to do (Rachel). And tomorrow will bring new teachings and passions and life-giving experiences for each of us. Click here to check out some photos from our day, or click here to see past blogs.
-Ashley Chaudoin & Rachel Stugart
[media id=41 width=250 height=150]
[media id=39 width=250 height=150]
[media id=40 width=250 height=150]
[media id=38 width=250 height=150]
A quick word from Rich
Hello everyone, I just wanted to take a second and tell you all what an incredible privilege it is to be able to baptize some of your children. This past year has been an amazing time of growth and to be able to share a moment like this with them in Israel is truly a blessing. I look forward every year to the Jordan River day and the chance to watch Joshua students make a public statement that they choose to follow Christ. Anyway just wanted to say that I am proud of them just like I know you all are as well.