We just finished our first En Gedi Experience to Israel.  What an incredible journey!  If I could transport you for just a moment to sit at the back of our bus as we made our way through the sites, smells and sounds of Israel you would have been amazed along with me at the amount of laughter you heard, the vulnerability of sharing that took place, the transformation of lives we witnessed, the uniqueness of the experiences we had together, the beauty and excellence of the hotels and food we tasted, and the on-going fruit we are still experiencing from that time.  It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience that will never be forgotten by an of us.

From beginning to end, the Father showered His blessings on each of us, and our response was joy–lots of joy.  We started with watching a sunset together over the Mediterranean, and then proceeded on to Galilee where we walked the steps of Jesus and His disciples and experienced Mt. Carmel with Elijah.  We left Galilee to go to the region of John the Baptist, Abraham, and the temptation of Jesus in the desert, stopping at the Dead Sea and then we finished our time in and around Jerusalem where so much of our spiritual history began and will finish as Jesus comes back!

Some of the specific blessings we experienced were the two hour dinners each and every night with fun and stimulating conversation, the time of worship and Jewish dancing that we had together on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, the lunch we had with “Abraham” after riding camels to get there, the walk through water up to our knees in Hezekiah’s water tunnel in the dark, and our “float” in the Dead Sea finished by a spa treatment.  All of these unique adventures were experienced with an incredible sense of “family” in the sweetest sense of the word.

We had a guide and a bus driver that also became a part of our family and both were Jewish and are still searching to know Jesus as the true Messiah, which we talked about with them quite a bit.  They were both such a gift to us, and as we left them, we had a chance to pray over each of them and bless them, giving them gifts of appreciation and words of blessing.  During our last evening together as an En Gedi family, we shared what we had learned, and blessed each other in prayer, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room because we had grown to love each other in a way that is only explainable by the Spirit.  I had several people along the way ask me where I “got these people,” as it was such a delightful group to be with. Jesus said that “they will know you by your love for one another.”  That was so true of this special group of people.

Though all of those things were profoundly impacting, the most significant part of the trip was watching the transformation of our minds and hearts as we each encountered Jesus in different ways.  Whether through the incredible teaching of “When God came Near” from Dave Patty during our retreat time around the Sea of Galilee,  or through time with Steve who was a counselor that met with each of us, or through the times of reflection such as the one on the Mt. of Beatitudes in the early morning, or through fellowship over dinner, or in teaching times about Jesus as Dave taught us at significant sites along the way, or through unique experiences like the refreshment of En Gedi (a VERY special place to me) after hiking in the dry and barren land, the Lord spoke to each and every one of us in specific ways, transforming our hearts and lives to reflect His character and nature.  It was truly amazing.

We finished our time at the Garden Tomb, taking communion and celebrating a Messiah who IS NOT HERE but is risen!!  What an absolutely beautiful and appropriate way to finish our time together, and even there, among our group, our Jesus, the Risen Savior brought His resurrection power.  One of our En Gedi family needed to experience the freedom of forgiveness, and Jesus brought that freedom in those last moments as we shared in the “death and resurrection” of Christ at the Garden tomb.

It all ends there, really.  Anything of value was purchased in ultimate victory at that spot–forgiveness, life that’s truly life, intimacy with our Father, eternal riches and rewards, the righteousness of Christ, reconciled relationships with those we love, good gifts that we can freely enjoy, and His reign and final victory when this world as we know it is done.

Jesus rose as a victor at the Garden Tomb, and He will come back, riding on a white horse, claiming for His own all that He purchased that one glorious day.  As we entered the city of Jerusalem, Hana, our guide, played this song, and tears ran down several faces as we were reminded what awaits us someday in Jerusalem.  This is OUR future that was purchased at the Garden Tomb.  Rejoice with me that it all ends at the Garden Tomb if we know Jesus.  We are victorious, and we say “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

Then once again the scene was changed,
New earth there seemed to be.
I saw the Holy City
Beside the timeless sea.
The light of God was on its streets,
The gates were open wide;
And all who would might enter
And no one was denied.
No need of moon nor stars by night
Or sun to shine by day,
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away.
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away

Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
Sing for the night is o’er;
Hosanna in the highest,
Hosanna for ever more.
Hosanna in the highest,
Hosanna for ever more.