June 23, 2010

Trip to the Holy Land - Day 2

First Day of the Tour – Thursday 15th April

We woke up in the morning not knowing exactly when the tour bus would arrive to collect us due to an admin mistake by the tour company. I rang them and was told that it would be there in 30 minutes! We rushed downstairs for breakfast, and Doron Hoffman the tour guide eventually found us and we jumped aboard! We joined a tour group that had already been together since the previous Monday. After picking up a few more people, we drove up to the summit of the Mount of Olives for a postcard perfect view of the Old City. If you ever see a photo of Jerusalem, it is most likely from this spot, showing the Temple Mount area from the eastern side. Doron gave us an overview of the rich history of the city up until the present time. The most memorable point for me was when he explained the topography of the city and described how it was always from the northern side that the city was ever taken as the other sides had a great height advantage for defense. He then described how the Jews took the city from the eastern side during the 1967 war. We took some photos and all packed into the bus again. The next stop was the Church of All Nations located next to the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane. (Note the “tradition” word, as this was mentioned throughout the rest of the day!) I must say Gethsemane was not like I imagined, of course Jerusalem looks little like it did back in Jesus’ time. I had imagined taller trees but Olive trees are not that big. I don’t mind being corrected there, but the whole valley and mountain would have had olive trees according to Doron, and they have no idea where the garden was! The church which was only built in the 1950’s had a large flat stone near the altar and when we went inside there was a bunch of people kneeling down before it and kissing it. This was supposedly the place where Jesus knelt to pray “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” in Matthew 26. Does God want us to kiss this stone??
From there, we went on to a place called King David’s tomb, and again, it was admitted not where King David’s bones are kept. We were told that that place was kept secret so that the bones weren’t stolen. Besides that, the room was not anything special. In the same area was a place they called the Upper Room, even though it was again admitted it wasn’t the real site and was hopefully close by. I agree that how is anyone supposed to know really, but why call this place the Upper Room and bring us there then!! (tourism of course!) If there is anything I was glad for, it was that I’m glad I have the 100% true and accurate word of God to trust in! Going to Jerusalem was an experience of a lifetime, but if you “only” have your bible to picture these places, you have more than enough! (Matthew 24:35)
We entered the old city through the Zion gate which is still riddled with bullet holes from the 1967 Six Day War and perhaps some others. We passed a group of people celebrating a boy’s bar mitzvah. Four people held a small canopy emblazened with the star of David over his head. Another two people were playing what I’d describe as djembe drums and everyone was singing this tribal like song and clapping to the beat! They were on their way to the Western Wall perhaps to read the torah and pray. Doron took the opportunity to describe the bar mitzvah a little and we walked down into the Jewish Quarter of the old city. There was some excavations of a Roman street called a cardo that dated back to the Byzantine period (324-638). This would have been the main street in the city where business was conducted. We also saw the local synagogue, and some old pavement that dated back to the time of Jesus. At a certain vantage point, we stopped to view the Western Wall from a distance and Doron talked about it from there before we actually went down to it.
Nearby, there was a massive gold Menorah (seven-branched Jewish candlestick) and I went over to have a look. Funnily enough, this hassidic Jewish guy came up to me and put out his hand and said Shalom emphatically! I smiled and shook his hand, but suddenly as he shook my hand he bowed his head and started to pray in Hebrew. I could only laugh, and after a while he looked up at me and asked my parent’s names (he is still shaking my hand at this point!). He repeated the question so I went ahead and told him and he continued to pray and then stopped, looked at me, and put out his hand gesturing for money! I said that I had no change and he quickly retorted saying, I can give change! Ha, I just said sorry and he walked off coldly. However, I still enjoyed his swindling attempt :-) For about the 4th time, we saw the Western Wall and I think everytime I went to see it something different was happening. Today, there were a lot of boys, perhaps all having their bar mitzvah like the other one we see earlier. They were all reading the torah, and we saw so many people coming and going with a little procession of sorts from the large wardrobe sized ornate wooden containers that stored the scriptures (called Torah Arks I think), either putting back, or taking out the massive scrolls (approx. 3ft tall) encased in beautiful metal containers.
To be honest, I got a little bored for the next hour as we walked along the Via Dolorosa, said to be the route Jesus took to Calvary, and is marked by the Catholic stations of the cross, well, at least the old ones as Pope Benedict apparently adjusted them when he came into power, removing Veronica and something else I think. It’s true this route would have looked much different back in Jesus’ time as Jerusalem was smaller, the Bible says He “suffered without the gate” in Hebrews 13:12. But now everything is within the newer walls which are only 500 years old. The other thing I don’t like about the stations of the cross is they say Jesus fell three times, but I can’t find so much as a stumble my Bible! Anyways, we ended up in a church called the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which contains the hole in the ground which Jesus’ cross was put into, the slab on stone His body was laid on when He was taken down off the cross, and a nice wooden sepulchre where Jesus body was laid, all according to tradition of course! The wooden sepulchre was falling apart with age, so there was a steel structure erected around it to clamp it in place and keep it standing. Perhaps they should just stick with the “sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid” (Luke 23:53). Notwithstanding, I still appreciate going there: the pictures of the people kissing the slab of stone where Jesus' body was laid, and rubbing their garments on it so that the garments would somehow become holy stay clear in my mind. How sad this was.
Next, we walked through the Muslim quarter and enjoyed a nice middle eastern schawarma for lunch. This was a tortilla wrap with shaved meat (who knows what kind!) and salad. We might call it a döner kebab from any Turkish fast food place in Europe. From there, we walked out of the Old City north through the Damascus gate. The final port of call for our whistle stop tour of the Old City was the Garden Tomb (the other place in town that has Calvary and the tomb of Jesus!). That being said, I agreed more with their hypothesis for the location of the tomb as it was based heavily on Bible evidence. They argued the evidence that it was indeed Joseph of Arimathaea’s. The site is owned and maintained by the Anglican community, and they were sure also to give the gospel in their presentation so I got to throw in a few amens while salvation through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ was preached. If you aren’t saved yet, the Bible says in John 14:6, Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. And again in Acts 4:12, Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Confess and forsake your sin and call upon Jesus and ask Him to apply the blood of His finished work on the cross to your heart! For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:13
It was late in the afternoon when we got back to the hotel, so we went for a quick swim, and looked around the hotel a bit. But we weren’t going to stay put in the hotel when there was still so much to see and so much of the day still left! They say that you should definitely go visit the Holy Land when you are younger and it can be quite physical walking around everywhere in the heat of the day, and I agree! The whole trip we went non-stop and I barely had time to write my journal at night we were so busy! We headed out to see Absalom’s Pillar in the Kidron Valley. This is on the eastern side of the Temple Mount very near the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane. It was fun to explore it, although it turns out that according to scholars it is not actually from David’s time (approx. 1000BC) but around Jesus’ time! I read that people would throw stones at it because it represented Absalom and his rebellion, and parents also were said to have brought their naughty children there and taught them what happened to Absalom!! Right next to the Pillar is a place I originally thought was called the Tomb of the Prophets. But researching it later, I found that it is the tomb of a priestly family called Bnei Hazir, and next to those tombs is a monument called the Tomb of Zechariah (from 2Chr. 24:20-21). Although, again, this is a traditional presumption, with no evidence to suggest it to be true. As we finished exploring the area it began to be dusk, and an adhan, or Islamic call to prayer began to be broadcast from a nearby mosque in the Siloam area and it echoed hauntingly throughout the valley mixing with another adhan coming somewhere from the Old City, perhaps the Al Aqsa mosque. We walked up towards the Old City and tried to go see Omar Schindler’s grave nearby but the cemetery was closed. From there, we entered the Old City through the Zion gate and headed down into the Jewish quarter for some kosher food. From there, we went into a nearby shop, and Noel and I were talking to the shopkeeper for a good while, asking him all sorts of questions. He was quite the character, saying he was a Levite with an extra gene than others normally have, and he talked about standing up as a Jew against their enemies and talked about how Arabs would be scared of him when he was working out in the fields where he was from! As I said, quite an interesting guy, Noel and I would have stayed talking to him for ages but the shop got busy so we took our leave. From there, we got a few more photos of the Western Wall and then took a cab over to the viewing point on the Mount of Olives for a night shot of Jerusalem before we headed home. The cab driver was Arab and he spoke honestly about his struggles to understand the Jewish people from his Islamic point of view. We got back to the hotel absolutely wrecked, we laughed a little together about the day and then got some much needed rest. Check out the pics here

June 08, 2010

Trip to the Holy Land - Day 1

Travelling to Israel – Tuesday 13th April

I worked a little in the morning at the church office, while also tying up a few loose ends of preparation before we left. I charged the video camera and backed up my hard drive and after praying with Pastor I went to collect Noel from his house! We went down to Carrigaline to get my luggage and Dad also made some chicken for my lunch. I had to eat it in the car as we were already running a small bit late. When we arrived Barry was already there and his family had already left. It didn’t take us long to check-in and we went upstairs and had some coffee and talked about the trip. Going through the security check point, Barry got frisked which I thought was funny! The flight to London was very short and I got talking to a guy next to me who was heading back to Newcastle, Australia, but originally from Co. Kerry. After we landed, we eventually found Terminal 5 after taking a first class train there :-) We ate some dinner (I had some nice chilli con carne), and wandered around for a while as our flight wasn’t for a few hours. Went into the Apple store and also read and studied a bit before our boarding gate number was announced. At B44, there were Hassidic Jews praying out of the windows which was strange to see. The wore hats and black suits, and had long locks growing at the sideburns while the rest of their head of hair was much shorter. Some would pray out loud, and all of them moved rhythmically, either bobbing forward and back at the waist, or swaying side to side, or both! In time, we would see this sight again at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. I slept well enough on the 5hr flight and noticed that British Airways are a little more comfier to travel with than the United Airlines plane had been the year before.

Arriving in Israel – Wednesday 14th April

We touched down to a round of applause at 5.30am local time and then disembarked and headed through customs. Ariel from Diesenhaus Tours was there to meet us and talked with us while we were waiting for our bags. It turned out, he actually wasn’t waiting for us at all and was supposed to be meeting an American couple named Mr. And Mrs. Rushling!! So he left us with a cab driver and we headed straight to Jerusalem. Though we were tired (we arrived 3.30am on our body clocks), it was beautiful to see the morning sun glowing in the horizon and to look out of the window of the cab and see the landscape of Israel. Although it was nice and quiet on the roads, the cab driver assured us it would get busier and later on he would weaving around traffic like a madman and overtaking on inside lanes and things. We would come to learn that this was normal! It only took about 35mins I think to get to hotel, as we got close to Jerusalem we were looking up at Jerusalem and I was reminded of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew saying, a city set on a hill cannot be hid. When we arrived, we checked in to our room, got our things together and had a lovely breakfast and headed straight for the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Old City

We entered on the western side of the city through the Jaffa gate and headed through the Armenian quarter. The descending streets were narrow cobblestone with a step down every now and again. The shops on either side belonged to Arabs selling various trinkets, souvenirs and even archaeological items. We soon saw a sign for the Western Wall and after a security checkpoint much like the airport, we stood looking at the Wall and beyond it the Temple Mount area. The section of the wall used for prayer by the Jews was a little smaller than I expected, but as we passed through into the Men’s only section (it’s pretty much men only!) it was an intrigueing sight! The Jewish men, some with their long hassidic locks, were wearing items like kippahs and black hats, prayer shawls and phylacteries. Some were looking into their Hebrew prayer books were praying out loud and moving rhythmically as they recited them. The whole place was alive with prayer, some men with their faces pressed against the wall, written prayer requests were pushed into the cracks of the wall as high as a person could reach. Some of the white limestone blocks dated back to the days of Herod the Great! The whole area has been treated as a holy place for the Jewish people since the time of Suleiman the Manificent in the 1500's. Though I’m not sure as to the actual reason as I heard officially (on a tour) that the area is the closest place the Jews can get to the spot where the Holy of Holies was when the Jewish Temple stood in the Temple Mount area.

As we walked about staring and gawking at the Jews, they were very tolerant with us Gentiles as we took pictures though they didn’t want to talk to us! I thought it would have cool to have had enough Hebrew to be able to understand what they were praying about.

After visiting the wall, we found the queue for the Temple Mount Area, which was actually right next to the Western Wall site. I thought there might be an entrance fee but there wasn’t. We ascended a wooden ramp structure that provided access to the gate in the wall which was maybe 30 feet from the ground below. We got some good shots of the Western Wall and also took some funny photos with some riot shields we found stacked there! We were greeted by a group of security guards kitted out in full riot gear as we entered through the gate in the wall. Noel asked for a photo but they flatly refused! Immediately, we saw the Al Aqsa Mosque directly ahead and over the trees to our left you could see the gold leaf covered Dome of the Rock. Unfortunately the Dome was closed for renovations and also we could not enter the Al Aqsa mosque as we weren’t Muslim. We took some photos as we passed by a group having some sort of Koran study and to the right was a circular area for washing feet, perhaps ten taps or so. The Dome of the Rock was ornately tiled with portions of the Koran in blue and white. It had four doors one facing North, South, East and West. Next to the Eastern end was a smaller open dome which was called the center of the Universe. I heard that according to Jewish tradition, this was the place God began to create the universe!

After leaving the Temple Mount area, we found our way back to the Western Wall area and headed down towards the dung gate. Outside the southern part of the Temple Mount wall was a place called the Davidson Center, I think we paid something like 30 shekels to get in there. I didn’t really know what exactly was in there but we saw a walkway going across the top of the Old city wall and we wanted to go up there! It turned out to be more fun than we expected as we got a spectacular view looking south out of the Old City towards Siloam and the City of David, and you could also see the massive wall in the distance dividing Israel from the West Bank area. As we walked along the wall eastwards we saw the Mount of Olives which is basically a big graveyard! Some people said that one reason why is that they think they will be first to be resurrected when Jesus comes back! As we came off the wall, there was old houses preserved from Ottoman empire times, I think perhaps a couple of hundred years old. The floors were beautifully mosaiced and there was also another area nearer the Huldah Gates (now bricked shut, it was the entrance to the temple area in Herod’s time) where there was remnants of ritual baths that were used for cleansing before entering the temple area.

By this time we were quite tired, but one more site needed a quick visit just before we finished up for the day! The pool of Siloam! Siloam is situated towards the south-east just outside the old city of Jerusalem. We left through the dung gate and passed by the City of David ruins where there are excavations that date back to the Jebusites which inhabited Jerusalem before David took the city in battle. Now, all of a sudden, going down a steep hill we found ourselves in what Barry called the “real Jerusalem”! The streets were plain and simple houses lined both sides of the streets. Dusty, old run-down vehicles were parked here and there, and we even passed some pro-palestinian banners which denounced the City of David tourist site we just passed further up. We passed a mosque on the left and reached the bottom of the hill. We knew we should have seen a sign for it on the hill so Barry took out his guide book and looked at the hebrew phrases in the back! I saw a guy, probably muslim at a bus stop so I said, “efo (where, according to the book) pool of Siloam”? I wasn’t sure how he would react to us dumb tourists but he very nicely pointed back to the nearby mosque and told us in english! However, it turned out that we didn’t quite enter the pool through the right entrance. All the same, an old arab man said he would show us the “real siloam pool where Jesus “healed the blind man” for a “donation”! He showed us the exit section of Hezekiah’s tunnel and said that this the genuine spot and the other place was a lie! We took a few photos and gave him 10 shekels and then headed back to the hotel for some rest! On the way back, we picked up some pizza and then got some sleep before we headed to a nearby baptist church for some preaching!

After a cab, and then some walking we found the church on a side street off of another street called Salah Eddin street. It was called the First Baptist Bible Church of Jerusalem. Excited, we went in to find that we had missed the Bible study, as they had recently changed the time from 6pm to 5pm!! Disaster! Well, praise God after a few moments with Pastor Abdullah, he suddenly said, sit down, we will have an extra service! He preached in arabic from John 6:17-24 while another man translated after each sentence or two. I had never heard preaching through a translator but I don’t think it hindered in any way the delivery of the message. The sermon was about how we can get away from God, yet He is never far and never leaves us. He actively seeks us, and when we are back in the light, we are stronger for it. Stronger in love (as we are forgiven much), and stronger in faith (as He has delivered us). I am very thankful that we went, and although we could not make it Sunday as we would be in Galilee, we determined to go back again the next Wednesday. After much fellowship and testimonies after the service, we headed back home, through the Damascus Gate on the northern end of the Old City and passed the Western Wall, and out the Jaffa gate (on the east side) towards the hotel. What an amazing day!

January 10, 2010

Carrauntoohill Climb

Last week, we got the opportunity to climb Carrauntoohill, near Killarney, Co. Kerry. Bro. Eric brought us up and kept us safe, teaching us what to do if we slipped and started falling down the ice! The climb was not only beautiful, you wouldn't think it was in Ireland(!), but also challenging as we had to kick through the ice to get a foothold.
Coming down was fun sliding down the ice at first, but as we started down a place called the Devil's Ladder we had to cut each step out of the ice and took so long trying to get down it started getting dark!
Spiritually, there were plenty of illustrations about the Christian life to be learned, about the staying encouraged in Christ and enduring hardness (2Tim. 2:3), knowing that our struggles work in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2Cor. 4:17). Also about walking circumspectly (Eph. 5:15) as Christians, being careful about every step and being sure we have sure footing lest we fall!
Check out more pics here

September 06, 2009

Men's Meeting at Lighthouse Baptist Church, Swords, Co. Dublin

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to bring a few guys up to a men's meeting at Pastor Pittman's church up in Swords! Missionary Keith Hamilton, Barry Keating and Josh Ledbetter came with me and we had a time just travelling up there in the car!
It was great to meet with brethren from around the country and we also got to hear Dr. Roy Thompson preach a message called Four Things Men Need to Believe.

Download an mp3 of the preaching.

August 23, 2009

August 2009

This month was also very enjoyable! We took a small break from weekly discipleship on the Saturday even and began watching some preaching from the Youth Conference in California.
We visited a local Nursing Home and sang to the people there and I also got to give my Testimony of Salvation.
On a less spiritual note (!) we just had some fun activities like a visit to the Cliffs of Moher, Paintball, and also after our Church Getaway we went surfing at Inch Beach near Dingle in Co. Kerry! (pics here)

July 2009

We made a visit to the Logos ship when it docked in Cork!
But the highlight for July was Victory Youth Camp 2009! We all went over to Waterford for a week of preaching, singing, fellowship, sports and bonfires! It was so much fun! Check the pics here!

WCBC Youth Conference 2009

Some of the church teens went to Lancaster, California in April to the West Coast Baptist College Youth Conference. We had an awesome time!! Check out the pics here. The guys also went to Yosemite National Park after for a camping trip (pics).

Here is my day-by-day journal from that time:

Barry had stayed over in my house and both of us didnt get much sleep as we were thinking a lot about the upcoming trip, the flight, and all that God was going to do! Dad dropped us to the airport and we met the teens there. Spent a while chatting with Tommy’s parents and Pastor stayed with us too, discussing the technical details and we were wondering about complications with Josh re-entering the country as an American without proof of residency in Ireland. The flight over to London was short, we saw the millenium wheel out of the window as the plane descended into London Heathrow. After arriving, we looked around (saw a Ferrari!), ate some food and left for our gate. Our boarding passes had to be re-issued but the Lord gave us the opportunity to talk to a lady named Andrea. Gave her a tract and praying that she has read it. The 11 hour flight to LA was standard, watched a James Bond film called Quantum of Solace but it was ridiculously sensational, with a bad story, and a sorry main part. A heartless man, who can’t sleep because of his past, and although is good at his work, is addicted to drink and is very rebellious. Unfortunately I was smack-dab in the middle of the centre 5 seats (so was Josh). So when I asked to get out, I had to make sure I stayed out and got all I wanted to do done so I wouldnt bother the people sitting next to me. I got to witness to a Vietnam veteran named Robert. He was a 6 day a week church-going Roman Catholic who seemingly knew about the need to get saved but didnt seem too interested. He changed the subject a lot but he took a tract anyway. On a side note, bro. Bob Zemeski was also on the flight with his wife. She said that they were going to see his brother for about 2 weeks. We didnt talk much as I didnt want to bother them. On arrival, it took an hour to get through all the checks, and we got a shuttle over to LAX Rent-a-Car, where Nico (and Paul) was waiting for us. Got a lovely 8 seater Ford E-150 Econoline van! Since Johann, Basie and the girls didnt arrive for another 5 hours or so, we drove around LA, and visited the Universal walk area. There was a sky-diving tube, the car from the latest Fast and the Furious film, and many sights and also beautiful weather, with not a cloud for a good 100 mile radius! We tried to find the Hollywood sign, which wasnt far away but I had gotten the wrong GPS address so we got lost (kinda!) and then just headed for some Taco Bell :-) When the others arrived, Gina collected her car from Enterprise and we headed off to Lancaster and dropped the teens off at West Coast.


After little sleep from jet lag, I managed to make it to first hour at the college and found all the teens up as well. Bro. Keeley taught on the life of Christ from Matt. 12 and 13. He explained the unpardonable sin and other doctrines too. Headed back to collect Barry and Tommy and eat some breakfast afterwards and then made it for chapel at 10.30am. Bro. Kenny Baldwin preached up a storm and all the teens were blessed from his preaching on being in the way from Gen. 24. We spent the afternoon travelling around Lancaster looking at shops and also got some supplies for the trip to Yosemite next week. The lads really enjoyed Wal-Mart and bought root beer and beef jerky and other things! In the evening, we headed back after Taco Bell to the preaching. They did a game called Youth Pastor’s Feud (like Family Feud), and also a cool thunderstorm sound effect thing with the congregation. The skit this year was called M.A.D. and had Jeremy Whitman as a Janitor-turned-Secret Agent! Then Dr. Goetsch’s play was staged and he summed up the message from the play in a short address. Unfortunately, we were all dying from jet lag and trying our best to stay awake.

After some breakfast, we headed from our Days Inn hotel to the campus. While the teens had a much-talked about and enjoyed session with Bro. Baldwin and Bro. Skelly, we went to a Youth worker’s session with Cary Schmidt and Jurt Skelly. Boy was this a blessing and I have many things to try and implement when I get back home to Ireland. At 10.30am, we all headed off to Six Flags: Magic Mountain. The teens were so excited about that. We only managed 3 rides (some 4), because the queue for the X2 rollercoaster was almost 2 hours long! But, it was certainly a crazy experience! I was feeling sick even after we got back to Lancaster at 6pm! We got something to eat and played a bit of soccer before we headed home. In the evening, we looked around at the gym and the bookstore while we waited for the session to start at 8pm. We watched another episode of M.A.D. and Bro. Skelly preached on making a difference from John 5. We weren’t too tired this time but still a few signs of jet lag left. Poor Josh had lost $100 somewhere, and also had a chapped that seemed to really get him down during the day.

In the morning, we went to the morning sessions for Youth workers. Gina, Ruth and Lydia came too. Dr. Goetsch preached the cancer that is infiltrating our society and the cure from the Bible! After that there was a Q&A session where he answered a question I had about difficulties with giving parents advice about their teenagers while still being young and unmarried myself. Basically both Bro. Skelly and Bro. Schmidt told me the same thing Pastor has told me and that I am really handcuffed not being married! Dr. Chappell preached the final session and really preached up a storm! There were loads of decisions made to turn to the Lord for not just salvation, but putting away sin and choosing to answer a call to full time Christian service. For the afternoon, we just relaxed and the boys worked out in the gym and kicked around a ball. I read a bit and rested in the van! We went to IHOP for dinner, unfortunately Nico and Johann didnt make it cos they were out looking at motorcycle parts. Luke, Sharon and Ruth were there though as they had went shopping with the girls. We had a good munch and went home for an early night.

We went on bus visitation and also door knocking in the morning! I got to go with Oliver and we had great fellowship despite it being quiet at the doors. Afterwards we got packed lunches and headed for Santa Monica beach! It was lovely to swim in the pacific ocean and also play some soccer and tag rugby on the soft sand. I think it was about 70 oF which is about 20 celsius outside in the sun. We drove down places like Sunset Boulevard and took some pictures with the Hollywood sign in the background before heading home and eating some pizza. Josh stayed over with myself and Barry at the Days Inn as Tommy has an early start tomorrow on the bus at 6am!!

Tommy and Johann ended up getting up too early as they misheard the guy saying get up at 6am instead of be there at 6am! They had a good time on the bus all the same. The rest of us went to 8.30am service where Pastor Chappell preached an awesome message on the cross. Afterwards there were various Sunday school classes to go to. The guys, minus Josh, went to Dr. Rasmussen’s class and he was starting a study on 1 Tim, which was interesting. Afterwards, we went on Nico and Ruth’s bus route. They were having a Superhero theme and Bo Johnson was dressed up like Batman, and Ruth was a “Super Fabulous Fairy”. I think thety had about 33 kids come to sunday school. This was such a blessing because the area we went to was very rough. I spent the bus journey talking to a kid named Jonathan. This kid had 2 other brothers and each of them had a different dad. Afterwards, we ate lunch and headed out to get the rest of the supplies for Yosemite, which took way longer than we expected and we barely made it to 5.30pm church on time! Dr. Goetsch was preaching on the Valley of Bones in Ezekiel. A very polished message but he can quote so much scripture it is amazing!

Today we headed off to Yosemite after 6.30am breakfast at West Coast. The guys were real excited, and we drove about 5hrs or so, enjoying the ever chaging scenery along the way and getting excited to see lots of snow patches when in the park. We stopped off at a view of El Capitan where I took a photo I promised for Eric. Then we found our camp spot and set up. We headed off as soon as possible for the 3.4 mile 2700ft ascent to the top of Yosemite Falls! Unfortunately, Tommy got sick along the way (twice!), and Nico took him back down as we pushed for the top. Sounds like a K2 or Everest expedition! We also lost Barry and Josh along the way, so it was just me, Johann and Basie when we reached the snow-capped top and basked in the success the climb and beauty of the God’s creation. We took a few pictures, ate a bag of cheetos and headed back only to find Josh and Barry just arriving, so we explored a bit more, slid around in the snow and headed back down. Actually, along the way we talked to a lot of people, but in particular, two Jewish girls who were on their high school spring break. I managed to bring up the Old Testament stories about the Messiah and ask them about Hebrew and that, but never gave them a tract unfortunately. Talked to some more people from Michigan at the top and gave them a tract too. And the guy in the Yosemite supermarket was already saved when I gave him a tract so that was cool! When we arrived back, after a few people slipping and getting cut (Barry!) we ate some steak sandwiches and went to sleep! Poor Tommy wasn’t in the mood for food, so I was left contemplating the scenario that he wouldn’t want to do the 8.4 mile 4800ft Half Dome hike tomorrow, and was considering our alternatives. Prayerfully, we will still go as Nico says it isn’t as steep a gradient climb as the Upper Yosemite Hike. We’ll see!

Today, I got up a little early and had some breakfast. It was freezing outside so I spent a bit of time in the van having devo’s, and when everyone woke up, I found I needed to rally their morale to try and get everyone on board for another day of hiking! I managed somewhat, albeit a few faces were eyeing me bitterly and the rest of their body language showed by lagging behind the other. God must really hate my bad attitude too!! Tommy was still sick so we only just about made it to the first waterfall which I think was called Vernal falls. Unfortunately there were a ton of steps after that which equated to a stairclimber 4000! After waiting for a few people and the group breaking in two we finally made it to the second Nevada falls! Beautiful place as the pictures hopefully show! Nico cooked us some noodles and we all sat down to a comfy rest in the sun. It was between these two falls I noticed a cold coming on, but by that time it was to late to do anything about it so I just ploughed on with my first mission ... HALF DOME! We officially lost 3 unmotivated lazy lactose guys at this point! I’ve seen them have tons of enthuasiasm for other things but this challenge just didn’t seem interesting or worth it to them, ah well! Nico, Barry, Basie, and myself took off and had the best time ever, jumping around in the snow and enjoying the great scenery. Basie showed great character by walking with a good spirit despite chaffing off most of the skin on his heel the day before with unworn boots he had gotten from Leon before he left for South Africa. Barry was all gusto too which I was impressed to see. Nico of course loves all the hiking and I really enjoyed seeing massive growth in him since attending WCBC. We made it literally a few hundred feet from the base of the final cable climb, but there was no morale, nor time left and I was on my own to the closest point I could squeeze until we had to head back. We powered it down easily and when we got to the Nevada falls the others had already left so I headed as fast as I could to catch up with them as it was snowing at high altitudes and as we got lower, raining! I didnt want them waiting in the rain at the van, or walking to the tent on their own. I caught up, we headed down, the others came shortly after, we made it to the shop for some hot dogs just before it closed, we all had a lovely hot shower and sang gospel songs, and then Nico cooked our food in the shower room cos the snow was real heavy by dark! We cooped up for the night, but our tent was went, and we were wet and cold by the morn and I had developed a knockout cold!

Our plans for the Sequoia Tree park or San Fran or Fresno for evening church went out the window once we woke in the morning freezing, with our stuff all wet and the snow covering everything! We packed up (well I didnt I was incapcitated in the van!) and Nico drove back to West Coast. I took some Nyquil and went to bed when I arrived back. I couldn’t bring myself to go to church either that evening and slept the whole van journey, the evening we got back after dinner, and also the whole night! I dont really know what the guys did other than church and watching a basketball tournament that Luke Miller was playing in.

I was starting to recover at this stage, we got up, ate, went to chapel where Bro Ball preached an awesome message on Luke 16. Then we headed out after lunch to visit an Air Museum. It was pretty cool, then we needed to bring a few people for present shopping before we got back for dinner. We had a get together in the evening, for our going away and also Basie’s upcoming 16th bday! I spent a bit of time resting while the others messed about. We had room devos and 10.30am and then I slept until the morning.

We had 6.30am brek, said our goodbyes, headed for LAX Rent a Car, and then LAX. Checked Johann and Basie on our flights, flew 10hrs and now I’m here in London Heathrow :-)

Later on Johann and Basie didn't get on our flight to Cork and had to wait a couple more hours for the next flight as their seats had been cancelled due to a mix-up after I switched their previous flights from LAX. We all got home safely in the end, praise God!

February 26, 2009

Death and Hell and My Part ...

I'm sitting here in the office with a Subway sandwich and musing about Soul Winning! Today one of my guitar students who is about 10 years old was reading this 5 inch thick book called DEATH by Terry Pratchett! He explained that the character was humourous and the storyline went something along the lines of death being a good guy who translates people to another place. The onus was on the person's beliefs as to where they would go! Not heaven ... or hell, but wherever and whatever they believed would happen afterwards! Apparently one fella thought if he had a potato or something blah blah then he would be okay. Or another lady went somewhere nice cos that's what she believed would be.
To make a long story short, i could only ask him whether it was fictional or true! Would it have been okay for me to witness to him on the job? Is giving him little bits of truth or things to think about okay? How far does Christ want me to go? How do i apply verses to my life properly like ...
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. Heb 9:27
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men. 2Cor. 5:11a

February 18, 2009

Youth Group Update!

Boy, it's been a long time since I've updated this page but that doesn't mean that there was nothing going on! I've also added two preachers to the forum in the hope that it will become much more active!
Bro. Dan Eberly has retired from his job in America and is working with our church now, he has been an awesome blessing and already made such a difference to many souls here.
Bro. Keith Hamilton is a missionary to Ireland who just finished 4 years of deputation and just granted a years stay here despite the recent changes to immigration laws here in Ireland, praise God!

So here's a brief summary of the last couple of months! Prayerfully I will be able to keep up to date with all this in the future and not have to gloss over too much!
At the end of October '08, the teens went to the Irish Naval Base here in Cork. There was a lot of interest in this trip and we had 16 teens in total! Since then I tried to book a tour of the Collins Army Barracks but our church insurance couldn't provide the €6.5 million in indemnification they required!!During November we went to Mitchelstown Caves. The caves themselves aren't that great to be honest, especially if you have gone to Alliwee Caves. They say the same thing for Doolin Caves! BUT we had an awesome time travelling to and from there, we also had a nice munch at SuperMacs :-)At the end of December I took some of the guys down to Camden Fort for an adventure! It is an abandoned fort that goes back to the mid 16th century. We explored all these underground tunnels and had a great time together!But the highlight since i last wrote here was the Teen All-Nighter we had in January this year! We had an awesome time, Bro. David came down and helped us with the sports and we had about 24 teens there! Here is a ton of pics of the event!Just this week, we went down to Gougane Barra, the source of the River Lee that flows through Cork to climb the mountains! It was a good laugh!
Last night we had a get-together at the Eberly's house, we ate some GOOD food and played Guesstures, that is a crazy game!

We have now started a weekly discipleship study in the place of Teen Night to train up the teens so that they will have a better and closer walk with Christ, so that they are grounded in the faith and so that they will have answers for their friends and others AND get out soul winning!!

Upcoming events include a trip to the WCBC Youth Conference in California, and Victory Youth Camp 2009 (stay tuned for more video promos!!)