At breakfast this morning, I was greeted by 28 sun-kissed faces, the result of a full, sunscreenless day spent in Jerusalem yesterday.
We travelled by public transport from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to attend a Sunday service at Christ Church. The church is located inside the Old City, just a short distance from the Jaffa Gate. It is said to be the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East. It was founded in 1849 and is a center of prayer for all nations with worship reflecting the Jewish context of the Gospel. It was filled to capacity with visitors like ourselves and regular members. The service was in English for the most part, which was such a blessing for us non-Hebrew, non-Arabic speakers! There were some prayers in Hebrew which definitely helped remind us of where we were worshipping the Lord: in Israel!
After church, we dined on shawarma and other goodies some purchased at cafes surrounding the church before heading to Zedekiah’s Cave, one of Jerusalem’s most fascinating and ancient sites. It is the largest artificial cave ever to be uncovered in Israel. It has an approximate area of 30,000 square feet and has an average height of a four-story building. The rock ceiling above-between the interior height of the cave to the rock face upon which the foundations of the Old City structures are built-is 32 feet thick of solid rock weighing 1/2 a million tons! It runs under the Muslim Quarter of the city for about 754 feet. It was a very dwarf-like experience exploring the cave. It seems almost unbelievable that such a huge “hole” through solid rock could be man-made from so long ago and left many of us asking the question, “how did they do it??!!” Even though more than 150 years have elapsed since its discovery, much of the cave’s history remains shrouded in mystery. Some believe King Solomon was its first miner. It would have been an easily available quarry to produce the stones necessary for his many building projects. Others believe that King Zedekiah, used the cave to hide from the Chaldean enemy troops who were attempting to capture him, which they eventually did. This belief has resulted in many folk tales concerning the cave. For example, water seeping through the cave’s rock ceiling and draining into a small pool at its far end has earned the name Zedekiah’s Tears, because of the tears he shed upon seeing his children executed after his capture.
After about an hour, we left the cool depths of the cave and crossed the street to a bus depot, where we hopped on a city bus that took us to the Mount of Olives. From there, our eyes were given the pleasure of seeing the incredible panoramic view of Jerusalem, with the Old City at its forefront. The Temple Mount, set apart by its golden-domed mosque, seemed out of place amongst a sea of graves and much smaller and simpler buildings and edifices. This is definitely where we earned our “tans”. We stayed up there for almost two hours, purchasing camel rides and taking a BUNCH of pictures.
Before heading home, we spent an hour shopping inside the city. Those shekels are “burning holes” through some of our teammates pockets!
Today, we are back at work. We are forming a new section to pour and are laying block for the big flower bed we are constructing. We are also digging out a huge pine stump and chiseling rock down with a big hammer drill. We are continuing to clear grass and pick up trash.
We are having such a lovely time here. We have grown as individuals, and most importantly, we have all grown closer to God. His hand of provision is always present and daily we are reminded of His ever-pursuing love for us. Thank you all for praying for us and making this once-in-a-life-time opportunity happen! We are FINALLY mostly all healthy, except for a few lingering coughs that can be heard once in a while.