Stopping in Malenovice, Czech Republic on his way north from Slovakia, Matthew picked-up Amber (who walked out of the Team Debrief meeting for the EMERGE Conference and straight into the car) and we drove to Włocławek. We were able to grab a few hours of sleep before we were up and off to take cars, trains, planes and taxis to get to Jerusalem. The annual Eurasia Conference is a requirement for all P.A.O.C. workers in the Eurasia Region, but even if it wasn’t, it’s still a high priority on our life list. There is a genuine family dynamic to the team working across Eurasia and we feel so excited to be a part of such a diverse team. Together we have a lot of fun, have great conversations, delve into some business like budgets and how our work furthers the strategic plan of the region (we’re not all out there just doing our own thing – there is an overarching strategy in place), and take some time for teaching and worship (which may be our last in English for awhile).
We weren’t sure what to expect from Israel. We’ve heard so many stories from so many people. Honestly, we did not feel like heaven was oozing out from between the cobblestones. When you walk down the Via Dolorosa, you’re actually walking 3 meters above where street level was in Jesus’ day and so many of the sites are more spiritual tourist traps based on conjecture. That said, understanding the layout of Jerusalem and Israel has helped us to better understand Biblical stories. For example, when Jesus told the blind man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam, we had no idea what a trek that was for that man and how much faith he would have needed to stumble his way there (John 9).
Israel is stuffed full of history and cultural experiences. We were able to cover ourselves in mud at the Dead Sea, drive through Armageddon, listen to the fervent prayers at the Western Wall on Sabbath, touch the Masjid Qubbat As-Sakhrah (Dome of the Rock), explore the Temple Mount (also known as Bait-ul-Muqaddas, the Noble Sanctuary, to Muslims), stand at the grave of Oskar Schindler, and drive with friends into the West Bank to see Masada and Qumran. Like many ancient cities that have endured to modern times, the mix of historical, modern and sometimes just old, in Jerusalem is amazing. Walking through the Jafa Gate, past a luxury mall, while seeing very armed soldiers patrol the streets is a reminder that this piece of land truly is one of the worlds greatest crossroads.
We really do believe in the work that is happening in Eurasia and as some of the newest members of the family, we’re looking for how we can be an asset to the team in addition to what we do locally. It’s something we’ve been talking to God about and we’re asking for insight. So when you think of us, don’t forget that we’re part of a larger team creating change around the region.