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Some things were lost and some things were found while we were in the Holy Land.

October 16, 2017

j49Dr. Hudson and I are sitting at the breakfast benches in the Wombat Hostel in Munich and I have fifteen minutes before the throng comes downstairs to feed.  Last night we landed in the airport and took the Metro for forty minutes to get here before hiking through town to find the hostel.  We threw our stuff down, went across the street to stuff a slice of pizza in our face and then came back and fell into bed.  The students are weary  – although happy – from the entire week’s events.  Ethan was asleep on the floor of the airport.  Morgan kept blinking slowly as we glided along in the Metro.  Brooke kept nodding off and Simon kept answering all my questions very slowly.  But then again, Simon usually does that in class as well.

I’m kidding, Simon.

Dr. Hudson is nursing a coffee while he types away at his laptop.  He is tired, I can see, but he has never slowed down on this trip.  His passion was to show us the Holy Land, and brother, did he ever give us a tour.  Down to the exact minute or the precise location, he has been leading us and directing us all the way though the week, to this final day of travel.

The students are now shuffling in, yawning, and helping themselves to a breakfast table that gives them a selection of anything from Swiss Cheese to yogurt to oranges.  The week has not been with some things missing:  a ticket to Herod’s estate, suntan lotion left in a hostel, toothpaste left at the last hotel, sunglasses mislaid, a room key gone.  We are all fallible people.

We are all readying ourselves for the long flight back to Charlotte.  Even though many of us smell from wearing clothes we have rotated throughout the week without washing, (One student admitted that they had not bathed since Monday.  I will not say who.) we are still enjoying fresh memories of the Holy Land’s many sites.  Some of the group members opened up about some of the more powerful discoveries of the trip.

Emma shared with me that Masada had an impact on her.   “It’s a place of sadness, of great cruelty by the Romans.  I also thought that the people who lived in Masada may have thought at one point that they were invincible.  I came away with a lesson about pride.”

Simon told me that he was deeply touched by the Wailing Wall.  “I looked around and saw many people seeking so hard for answers, but many seemed to be involved in just, well, rituals.  It was sad, to me. And another memory was when I was able to share my beliefs about Jesus Christ with a total stranger who was swimming alongside me in the Mediterranean Sea. He was open and actually very interested, asking me a bunch of questions.

Linda thought for a moment and nodded.  “It has to be Magdala.  Magdala was special.  Knowing that we saw the very temple that Jesus taught in, that was amazing.”

And I myself found a special memory  – not of a site, but of a flight – in the Lufthansa journey yesterday.

Last night’s plane ride was a fitting end to the day.  A group of German tourists – all in their twenties and thirties – ended up sitting in the seats in front and beside me.  We got to chatting whenever they noticed my Steeler T-shirt and grinned; some were familiar with the team and liked them.  They were, for some reason, impressed that I was born in Pittsburgh.  Immediately to my left was Justin, a twenty-five year-old  who is studying to become a teacher.  His hometown is Steele, so he was delighted with my shirt.  When he found out I was a teacher, he immediately initiated a quick friendship.  “You should come to Germany,” he said.  “Teachers make a lot of money here.”  It sounded intriguing, but I am sure that Germany is not exactly yearning to get the talents of a fifty-eight year-old Bible teacher who is fighting nasal congestion and cannot speak the language.  All the same, the administrators of Grace Christian Academy should be put on notice:  Germany has made me a pitch.  I’m bringing up this fact whenever my contract renewal comes up.

But back to our little gathering on the Lufthansa flight…

Justin warmed up to me and nudged his seatmate, a young lady named Rosa.  She leaned in to listen, and her intensity, along with his, took me aback. They drilled me with questions and filled me with conversation!  He asked about our government (“…it is three branches, isn’t it?”), our school system (“In Germany, the school testing is very disjointed between states…”) and our way of life (“… the American football sports league and basketball, I don’t quite understand…”)

He spent a good portion of our three hour Tel Aviv-to-Munich flight asking about gun control.  “Why do you have so many guns?  Why can people just own guns and there are shootings?”  I assured him that it was not the Wild West but that we are saddened by the Las Vegas shootings as much as we were distraught over the Aurora, Colorado violence years ago.  “But I live in a nice neighborhood in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  It is quiet and the neighbors all know each other.  We talk every evening as we stand in our yards, and some people across the street brought over cookies when we first moved in.  America has places like this all over.”

Two of his group leaned over from the front and listened to our conversation, facing us.  Justin nodded, but then tapped me on the arm.  “Then why not get rid of all the guns?  In Germany we have no National Guard, and the security forces do not have guns.   Get rid of the guns and you will have no more problems, so why not vote that in?  You see, we believe to get to the end of a problem you must go below the surface, and get to the root.”

I nodded.  “You have hit the exact point of America’s problem, Justin.  It is the root of the problem; the misuse of firearms is merely a symptom.  You see, we find it a puzzling problem that people want the safety and security of a nation protected by God but want nothing to do with living for Him or, really, with Him.  The principles of Christianity of peace, love, joy, sharing, caring are all want Americans want, but the thought of submitting to the God who can make all people come together is too much,”

“You teach Bible?” he asked.  I told him that I did.  He nodded and asked questions about our school and our direction as a private Christian Academy.  The others asked questions of how we faced the uncertain future in the face of so many challenges.  We became animated and energized but nobody became agitated.  It was a spirited conversation and I found it a great way to share my faith with some wonderful people who were taking everything in and incubating each thought with great gravity.  I found a renewed energy in sharing the blessed Gospel, something that I had hoped and prayed for at the beginning of this week.  It was a wonderful flight.  This has been a wonderful week.

Except that one of the hostels kept my driver’s license by mistake.

I hope I don’t get stopped on the way home from the airport.



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