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The Holy Land Experience

I have just experienced the most rewarding and soul searching trip of my life. I am 2 days back from our church sponsored Israel Trip to the Holy Lands. This was an 8 day, fully packed trip with so many things to see and experience, that I’m sure I’ll leave some things out. For me the hardest part was the plane ride to and from New York and Tel Aviv. I don’t like to fly, so to agree to go on a trip that takes 10 ½ hours one way, I surely was not thinking that through when Bud and I signed up.

There are so many wonderful sites to see in Israel. We started our visit in Bethlehem with Herod’s tomb, Shepherds Field, a cave where Jesus was born, and the Church of the Nativity. We went to the Jordan River, where several of our travelers were baptized.  We went to Jericho and the Dead Sea, in which several members of our group floated in the water, and covered themselves in “skin softening” mud, and visited the Mount of Beatitudes, which had a Roman Catholic Church on the grounds. We enjoyed a lovely boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, taking us to a fish restaurant where you could order fish, deep fried and with the head still attached.  If you who know me well, you know that wasn’t what I was having for lunch! However, Bud did partake of the fish, but I had him cover the fish head with a napkin so I couldn’t see it. Jerusalem was amazing The Western Wall (aka Wailing Wall) was a very moving experience, as well as the Temple Mount, where the teaching steps on which Jesus stood and taught were located. Rachel’s Tomb was located just outside one of the restaurants where we had lunch. We walked the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Via Dolorosa. We ventured down and saw the pit where Jesus was kept overnight before being crucified. This place brought sadness to me as I thought about how our Savior was kept in such a dark and lonely place, and treated so horrifically by those he loved. I know I have not covered everything that we did, nor every emotion that I felt. It would not be possible to do that, in one blog post, as there was just so much to see and experience.

The plant life was abundant in the desert and mountainous places we visited. There were vegetable gardens everywhere, and beautiful flower beds, Olive trees and Palm trees with dates in the top. So much to see and do, and really not enough time to do it all in one trip.

At one point in the trip we were asked “what is the one thing that stood out to each of you?” For me, there were so many but being in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus went to pray and wait for them to come and take him away. Just knowing that he could see the soldiers coming with their lighted torches for miles and staying there. He could have run away into the wilderness knowing what was going to happen and yet he stayed waiting willing to die for me and my sins. We each have free will to do what we want and lots of times that doesn’t play out to be the right thing, but Jesus stayed and paid the ultimate price for you and for me.

It was a trip that will be with me the rest of my life and will make me more aware each day of the sacrifice that went into my being forgiven and the privilege of having eternal life with Jesus.  

If you ever get the opportunity to go and visit this part of the world I urge you to go, it’s a life changing experience.

Blessings,

Debbie

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Saying Goodbye

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Yesterday we said goodbye for now to a wonderful woman of faith. Beverly Kennedy lived and died sharing her faith every day. She will never know how many lives she touched as a school teacher for OCPS, as a Sunday school teacher for Church On The Drive, as a mentor and as a friend. I met Bev on September 9th1979, when she joined College Park Baptist church, as the church was then called. She and her husband Dan had moved to Orlando from Gainesville for Dan’s work. What drew me to her was her radiant smile and sweet spirit. It didn’t take anyone long to know what a special person she was and how just talking to her could change your life.

Bev loved her Lord and wanted everyone she met to know him as well. She spent time with children in her classroom at school and in her classroom at church. She got to know each child personally, what was going on in their lives and what they were having trouble with. She prayed for each child in her personal prayer time, for each family that was involved with that child.

Not only was Bev a gifted teacher, she was also a gifted artist. She did sketches of each child in her class. The drawings that are posted here are some of her work. The detail of each child shows the love she had for each student and how she saw them. In her home she has sketches of her own children at different stages of their lives. What a wonderful gift for a child to have a sketch of themselves from someone who loves them very much.

When Bev’s cancer came back she never asked, "why Lord?" She faced the situation head on and started the fight that she had already beat once several years ago. She showed God’s love to each person she had contact with during her treatment. And when those treatments weren’t working anymore she faced the reality that her life here on this earth was going to end. She told those that she loved how much they meant to her and how she wished she could have won this fight, but that she was ready to go be with her beloved Dan and the Jesus she served her whole life. I grieve for her family. For her daughter, two sons, and grandchildren. For her mother who won’t always remember that she is no longer here and might wonder why she hasn’t come to visit her. And for her students, who loved her so much and a few who knew she was so sick went and visited with her a few days before she died and told her how much she changed their lives and how much she meant to them. Yesterday we cried for what we have lost in her not being here but we rejoiced in where she is at now.

Bev, you were and will always be loved by us and will be missed, but your spirit will live on in each person you touched and each child you taught. I will see you again someday and I know we will pick up our friendship right where we left it the last day we spoke. Love you, my friend.  

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