Of course you can't go to the Holy Land without witnessing conflict and its cost. It seems that Jerusalem, the city of peace, has never had a moment of peace. Seeing the dividing wall, and the contrast of life on the two sides, is sad. Hearing the stories of people on both sides, their deeply-rooted feelings and historic grievances is heart-breaking. And then people eating, drinking, laughing, praying, dancing -- living rich full lives in the shadow of all this. For us, who come from countries that are so much younger, but where there are also histories of conflict, there may be some lessons. We should do everything we can to reconcile with one another so generations ahead don't need to have uncertainly and fear chewing at the edges of their lives. Are we not told to "love your neighbour as yourself"?
But the places we saw! Petra, carved out of rock -- bleak and beautiful at the same time. A secret city of tombs. Jerusalem and Galilee, city and country. The agricultural areas. Cairo and Giza -- dusty and crowded, but with awe-inspiring ancient treasures. The beauty of the Nile and overwhelming temples at Edfu, Karnak and Luxor. But most of all, feeling the old familiar stories come alive as we walked where Moses and Jesus and all the others walked, saw what they saw, breathed the air they breathed.
I want to express our gratitude to the EO reps in all three countries who made sure everything went smoothly at airports and hotels; to the drivers and security people who carried us safely through all these adventures; to our guides Kusai, Ibrahim and Mostafa who made it come alive; to the 28 people who slowed their pace so we could keep up and experience all this; and to Pastor David and Nanci Branson who shepherded us all. It was all just wonderful. Thank you!