Greetings to all of you who are eagerly anticipating the return of your loved ones! Today we are cleaning up and packing out to get ready for the bus that will be here at 5:00 PM this evening to take us to Tel Aviv to catch our flight to Philadelphia and then on to the TMI Base in Florida. The team members have mixed feelings about the end of the summer so rapidly approaching. On one hand they are sad to say goodbye to Palestine/Israel and the good friends that they made over the summer, and on the other hand, they are almost giddy to see you guys again.
The last couple of days have been quite eventful. Wednesday was the last day on the work site. The team worked a total of 142 hours each this summer. Multiply that number by 11 and the bigger picture becomes evident that they did accomplish quite a bit over the summer. All the painting in the classrooms was completed, as well as the brick wall around the sewer pipe started (we never did get the rest of the sand and cement to finish) and 328 feed sacks filled with dead grass and junk (Also some stray rocks and dirt, making it rather laborious carrying them up the hill) from cleaning up around the school. The last day we had some extra time so the team started working on one of the office walls. They knew just what to do, some of them grabbed scrapers and started scraping old paint and others began mudding ( “The process of applying joint compound”), sanding and painting some of the sheet-rock that had been installed earlier. Wednesday ended with a whoop and a bang after work was completed. Thursday, (Yesterday) was rather diverse. In the morning, the team worked on presentations for Debrief. The first one is the video presentation that will (obviously) be performed in front of a camera. Each team member will receive a a copy of this as soon as the editing is finished. The next presentation is one that will be performed for the other teams at Debrief. This one is a bit more informal and will portray some of the highlights from the summer. Then at 11:00 AM, we all hopped on a bus and went sightseeing for the rest of the day!! The first stop was for lunch at the Bethlehem Bible Collage, in Bethlehem of course. We were invited for pizza by the president and founder of the collage, Bishara Awad. The team did some shopping in the gift shop and then we moved on the Shepherd’s Fields just outside of Bethlehem. Here we got to see the supposed place where the shepherds were tending their flock when the heavenly host of angels appeared to them (Luke 2:8). The park which we visited also had some old, or should I say ancient, Roman ruins of some buildings. But the most fun was exploring some of the caves that had been dug in the limestone. There were only a few lights inside so we had to do most of the exploring by flashlight. Some of the passages were small enough that you had to lay down on your stomach and wiggle your way threw. By this time it was nearing 3:00 and all too soon it was time to leave and head back to the bus. The next stop was the Herodian Mount. This place was where Herod The Great built a palace fortress and the ruins are quite magnificent. Then the last stop of the day was the cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The history of this place is quite rich and involves plenty of wars and control of this area is still disputed. The quick rundown is that Herod built a grand structure over the tomb. Muslims took it around 1200 A.D., turned it into a Mosque and the Jews got part of the the Mosque in 1968 and they worship in part of the building now. Normally westerners would be aloud to visit the mosque but because of Ramadan we were not permitted to enter. However, we were permitted to go into the Israeli side of the building and got the opportunity to see the tombs that commemorate the burial of Abraham, Sarah and Esau. The actual cave that contains their bones is below the building. Finally around 6:00 PM, we headed back to the school and had a traditional meal of Falafel sandwiches (you will have to look them up to find out what exactly they are made of, but I can tell you they are truly amazing) and an Arabic dessert which consisted of a small pancake folded in half with goat cheese inside. The taste was splendid if you like goat cheese. And after that scrumptious meal, was our S.P.P (Secret Prayer Partner) “reveal ceremony”. Each of us had randomly drawn names at the beginning of the summer and specifically prayed for that person all summer, and this was the final night where we all found out who was our praying warrior for the time spent in Palestine. Gifts were given, a couple tears were shed and plenty of hugs to go around to round off the end of a fabolus day.
Breakfast this morning brought a delighted surprise when Mr. Rock (the school’s director) brought some traditional Arabic bread, olive oil, and some kind of strange seasoning. I don’t really know what it was but I can tell you it sure tasted good. when breakfast was finished Mr. Rock gave us all a mug with our names painted on the side as a parting gift. After breakfast was personal devotions and then to packing. Currently it is 1:00 P.M. and the team should have all of their duffels packed and in count-off order, all ready to go. And then we will clean every crick and cranny ’till there’s nothing left to clean.