Reflections and Thanks!

Now at we are home, we are adjusting to life in Kalamazoo. As we reflect on our experience in Israel, we are reminded that God always gives us what need. All through our journey, God always provided – the hand to help us up and down steps, the water station with cold water, just enough Internet service to connect with home, air-conditioning on the bus, and friends to encourage us. There are so many examples of God’s protection and care. When we were in Jerusalem we check the blog stats and found out that there were over 12,000 views (to date there are over 17,000)! We felt so blessed knowing the tremendous support we had back home.

We want to thank Jeff, Karen, and Tim Blamer. Their organization was impressive! We will never read the Bible quite the same. The pictures and lessons have changed each one of us. The challenges to live out our faith and tell our story will not be forgotten.

A special thanks goes to Parchment Christian Reformed Church. At their last service, the members left that church to be “living water” throughout Kalamazoo. As we enjoyed the refreshing water at En Gedi, we were reminded that we too need to be “living water” in our school, our churches, and our communities. Without their generous gift, we would not have need able to have this amazing experience. We are so grateful for this gift!

So our trip to Israel is over, but it is just the beginning of the flow of living water! There is much more to come in our story.

Blessings to All,
KCSA Israel 2013 Parchment Legacy Tour

Our group on the south steps of the Temple.

Our group on the south steps of the Temple.


Home – Finally!!!!

We are finally home! It took many flights, an overnight stay, and lots of prayers, but everyone has made it to Kalamazoo. The Chicago group arrived on schedule. The Detroit group left New York heading off in many directions – Buffalo, Columbus, Baltimore, St. Louis, Boston and Raleigh! There were cheers going up as, group by group, we arrived at luggage claim in Detroit. After boarding our bus, we arrived at KCES around midnight. The Vissers found themselves stranded in Buffalo when their flight to Detroit was cancelled. After an unplanned, overnight stay, they arrived in Kalamazoo early this afternoon.

All trip long we have talked about God giving us we need, not always what we want. When we arrived in New York, we wanted a quick flight home, but instead God wanted us home safely. After our initial frustration, we were able to be thankful that it was on our way home, not as we began our journey. As we look back on our experience, we know God was watching over us and protecting us every step of the way.
(There will be at least one more post later this week.)

On Our Way Home – 17 Flights to Detroit

Our group made it safely through the security in Tel-Aviv Airport. After our 11 hour flight we arrived at JFK only to find out our flight to Detroit had been cancelled. Part of our group was already scheduled to fly to Chicago and their flight was fine. The flight to Detroit was cancelled due to the severe weathering Michigan. God provided an amazing ticket agent who found different flights to Detroit for all 28 Detroit bound passengers. There will be a total of 17 different flights, but everyone should be in Detroit by 9:00 tonight. We should arrive in Kalamazoo around 11:00. Keep praying for all the flights and connections to go smoothly. Despite the disruption, we know God is watching over us and will bring us home safely.

Jersualem – From the Mount of Olives, to Golgotha, to the Empty Tomb

Our morning began at the Temple Mount. It is currently a holy place for Muslims. It is also where the Temple stood. After that we stopped at St. Ann’s Church where we were able to sing several meaningful songs. It was amazing to hear our voices echo with the great acoustics.

We then went on to the Mount of Olives. We heard the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem just before his crucifixion and death. As we looked over the valley at Jerusalem, we recalled the events of that last week. Our next stop was Gethsemane. We listened to the story of Jesus’ arrest and then spent some quiet reflection time.

Next we visited two sites where the crucifixion and resurrection are traditionally believed to have happened. We spent time singing and reflecting on the great sacrifice that Jesus made for each one of us.

We are now waiting for the bus to take us first to dinner, and then to the airport. It has been an amazing experience. We have laughed, cried, sang, and hiked through this land and have truly been blessed by God. Thank you for your prayers. Please pray for safe travel. If there’s internet at the airport, we will add pictures. Otherwise, we will see you all back home.

the Jerusalem Tour – Above and Below

Our day began in the Rabbinic Tunnels underneath the Western Wall. We were able to see the huge foundation stone put there by Herod the Great.

After a stop at the Western Wall at street level, we went to a museum that showed the ruins of Jerusalem after the Roman invasion around 70 A.D. The experts think it may have been the home of Caiaphas, the High Priest.

Our next stop was Hezekiah’s Tunnel. When Hezekiah was king he had a tunnel built so that the water from a spring outside the city walls would flow into the city. With flashlights in hand, we walked through water that was about 2 1/2 feet high. The walls were narrow and many had to stoop to make it through the 1/2 mile long tunnel. The tunnel ended at the Pool of Siloam.

To return back to the Temple grounds we hiked up the Herodian Tunnel. This tunnel was a secret passage used by King Herod that recently opened to tourists. It was a tight, uphill squeeze. The tunnel brought us to the Western Wall at the street level of Jesus’ day.

We walked around to the southern end of the Temple Mount. As we sat on the steps, our lesson was about Pentecost. This is where the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples as they came to God’s House for the 9:00 sacrifice. From there, men and women went out to spread the gospel to all areas of the world. We were challenged to continue to spread that message to the world today.

We ended our day a little earlier than usual, so we could then explore the city on our own. Tomorrow is our last day here in Israel. Depending on Internet connections, we not be able to update everyone until we return home. We are so thankful for all your prayers – it has been an amazing experience. Please pray for a wonderful last day and safe travels.

Jerusalem, Herod’s Palace, and Bethlehem

Our day began at an Israeli museum. Here we were able to see a model of the city of Jerusalem. It showed the Temple, the city walls, and areas of Jerusalem. We were also able to view replicas of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The next stop was the Herodium. It was another one of Herod the Great’s enormous palaces just outside Bethlehem. After we climbed to the top, we were able to look out across the valley and picture what Bethlehem would have looked like in Jesus’s time. Our lesson pointed out that Mary and Joseph probably walked past the Herodium when they traveled to Bethlehem.

We then stopped at a shepherd’s cave. Jesus was most likely born in one of these. After going into the cave, we realized how Jesus gave up to come to Earth for us. Then We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at a Beduin tent restaurant.

Our next stop was The Church of the Nativity. We walked down the steps to where the cave is traditionally thought to be. It is currently both a Catholic and Greek Orthodox Church.

Our final stop was at the wall dividing the Palestinian and Israeli people. We were able to meet a woman who was featured on Sixty Minutes because the wall separated her from her extended family.

Nazareth, Caesarea, And Jerusalem

Our morning began by the Sea of Galilee. We saw a 2000 year old fishing boat that would have been used during the time of Jesus.

We then headed to Nazareth. We climbed a precipice and overlooked the Valley of Jezreel. This is where the stories of Gideon, Elijah, and Elisha took place. From our spot we could see Mount Tabor and Mount Carmel. We made a stop at a first century tomb. It has a stone that rolls in front.

We then headed to the Mediterranean Coast to visit the ancient of Caesarea. This is where Herod the Great built a huge harbor and palace. From this harbor many disciples and Paul left to spread Christianity to the world. At the hippodrome (an athletic track) we were reminded of Paul’s challenge to run the race before us. We were also reminded of the many people encouraging us.

We finished our day at our hotel in Jerusalem. After dinner, we walked to the Western Wall in “Old Jerusalem.” This is the only remaining part of the Temple from the time of Herod. The Jewish community was welcoming the Shabbat(Sabbath). It was an amazing sight to see all those people celebrating their faith.

Capernaum, Dan, Caesarea Philippi, and the Mount of Beatitudes

Our morning began at Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee. Jesus called this his home town. We saw the remains of a Jewish synagogue as well as the place they believe Peter’s mother-in-law lived. Our lesson focused on the disciples and how they followed Jesus.

We then traveled to the northern part of Israel. We saw the remains of a city gate and heard the story of how King Jeroboam set up a golden calf for the people to worship in this city. At this same site we saw a gate from the time of Abraham. When Lot was captured by other kings, Abraham traveled here to rescue him(3rd graders do you remember this story?).

Our next stop was Caesarea Philippi. This was a center of Pagan worship. Jesus traveled here with his disciples and said, “On this rock I will build my church.” In our lesson we learned Jesus was talking about both Peter and the city.

We ended our day at the Mount of the Beatitudes. After we climbed the hill, we sat and listened to the Sermon on the Mount. As we read part of the scripture together, we could picture Jesus speaking to a crowd on that very hillside

Tomorrow we journey on to Jerusalem. We have a new appreciation for cold water, shade, breezes, and air conditioning. We also appreciate all your prayers for our journey.

Gamla, Susita, Beth She’an and a Boat Ride

Several of our group began the day watching the sunrise over The Sea of Galilee. After breakfast, we headed out to Gamla. This is the ruins of an ancient Jewish community. We sat in the synagogue (where scholars are pretty sure Jesus was!) and learned about how they worshipped. Some of us then climbed out to the far edge of the cliff. It was an amazing view of the Galilean countryside.

Our next stop was in a date grove. We learned about the Decapolis city of Susita. This was a worldly city founded by Alexander the Great to promote his way of life. We listened to the parable of The Prodigal Son, the calming of the sea, and Jesus healing the demon-possessed man. It was amazing to put real pictures to those stories.

At our next stop, Beth She’an, the temperature reached 110 degrees! We were so thankful for another breeze. Keep praying for the breeze to continue. We have been told there is not always a breeze, and we have been blessed with breezes everyday! We saw the ruins of another Decapolis city. As we reached a hilltop, we were amazed at the magnitude of the city, now in ruins. We spent some time wandering through the ruins.

Our final adventure of the day was a boat ride on The Sea of Galilee. We laughed, sang, and reflected on all we have experienced. One of the sailors threw a net over the side and even caught a fish!

It was another amazing day! Thank you for all your prayers. We can certainly feel God’s blessing and care as we travel through Israel.