Journey Up The Mount of Olives

Being in the old city of Jerusalem has been such a blessing to our team.  As we prepare for our time in Tel Aviv, I have tried to write down all the incredible things we saw in Jerusalem.  It’s pretty amazing to walk the streets because the Bible starts to come alive.  Mike and our guide Aaron will say things like, ” that is where Simon of Cyrene took the cross from Jesus and carried it for him” or ” that is the place that Abraham offered up his son Isaac as a sacrifice.”  I know that I will always read my Bible a little differently now!

Small things have really stood out to me as we have passed in and out of the gates to the old city.  We exited the Lion’s Gate yesterday heading toward the Mount of Olives and Aaron pointed out that this particular site is where Stephen was stoned for his faith.  ” At this they covered their ears and , yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.”  Acts 7: 57-58.  Before I could move on with the group, I just stopped and stared at the gate.  The Bible goes on to say that after this occurred, the early church was heavily persecuted and as a result scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  Christianity then began to spread across the world and as a result, you and I have heard the Gospel!!

We later hiked up the Mount of Olives and facing us was the Eastern Gate.  As you stand on the Mount of Olives, you look across the Kidron Valley to the Eastern wall of the city.  The Eastern Gate is significant for Christians, because we believe that Christ will return on the Mount of Olives and walk through the Eastern Gate.  What a great day that will be!  Mike will often say that if death separates us, he will see me at the Eastern Gate – that will be our meeting place.

After we finished our hike up the Mount of Olives, which is the steepest hill I can imagine, we came to the Garden of Gethsemane.  This was a very peaceful place and the spot where Jesus prayed and wept for Jerusalem.  The view as you look across at the city toward the Temple Mount is absolutely beautiful.  Our team sat in this spot for several minutes just gazing across the valley praying for the same city that our Lord wept over so long ago.

Another interesting site nearby, was the massive grave yard that spreads across the Mount of Olives and Kidron Valley.  This is a prime burial spot because Jewish people believe that at the resurrection, those on the Mount of Olives will go up to heaven first.  The grave lots go for about 1 million dollars – wow!

I will always remember our days in Jerusalem and long for the day when there will be a new Jerusalem!  Until then, we will sing of our sweet Savior and tell about the peace he brings.  We will praise his name in the streets and tell of his saving grace!

The Apostle John in the book of Revelation says, ” I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying ‘ Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  they will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’.  ”  Revelation 21: 2-4

 

Please continue to pray for our team as we begin to share the Gospel in Tel Aviv.  Pray that the Holy Spirit would show us the divine appointments that he has made for us and that we could be bold in our faith.  Pray for energy and hydration because it is HOT!

Much love – Tabitha

 

The Lion's Gate

 

The Eastern Gate

 

Entering The Garden of Gethsemane

 

The Garden of Gethsemane

 

Tomb site on Mount of Olives

 

View from the Mount of Olives

Life on the Biblical “Times Square”

Hello all. So we just finished our second full day here in Jerusalem. What an amazing place. One thing that really took me back was the number of different people groups that are here. This is truly a melting pot – Northern, Southern, and Central Europeans are all over this city too along with the Jews and Arabs. We have met some Americans here as well. There’s such a bond when you see people in a foreign land that you have something in common with. I can only imagine how Jesus felt when he was here. He was so relational to the people that he interacted with. I guess I’d have to say that’s one (of the many) things that God has been putting on this teams’ heart – to be relational with the people we encounter so that we may be Jesus to those that don’t know Him.

One thing you can pray for us about is that God helps us do just that. We need to find common ground with the people we’ll encounter so that they’ll be more receptive to our message – that Jesus is the Son of God and that He saves! Being in Jerusalem can be overwhelming in many aspects: cultural, religious, and even the heat. Despite these things, we definitely know that God brought us here for a reason.

As you’ve probably already read, we’re staying in an incredible place on the Via Dolorosa where Jesus walked on His way to be crucified. Also close to us is the Dome of the Rock, which is an absolutely gorgeous building, but is also a spiritually dark place. By seeing such a building, I can’t help but think of what a stronghold this place is for the devil. We’ve been to some “significant” spiritual places while we’ve been here, but honestly, the spirit of some of those places was pretty dark. I can’t think of a better way for the enemy to take ahold of people than by disguising himself in “holy” places and leading people astray in false beliefs under the guise of “religion.” Please pray against this.

On a lighter note, we went to the Garden of Gethsemane and once again up the Mount of Olives. The garden was truly peaceful and had olive trees that were 2000 years old. I could see why Jesus would go to such a place when going through so much mental and emotional torment before being crucified. Praying there was truly an amazing experience.

Tomorrow – Tel Aviv! And we start doing street evangelism. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers, and we’ll keep you all updated on how the evangelism goes.

– Jeff

God of the City

” and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”  Acts 1:8

Our first day in Israel was such a moving experience for me and I feel I can say this for all of the team.  The Gospel was sent out from this very place, and we get to be a small piece of the movement to bring it back to Jerusalem!  I am so thankful that we are able to stay in the Old City of Jerusalem – there is so much history of our Savior right here.  In fact, the Austrian Hospice is located on Via Delorosa.  This means ” the road of pain” and it is the very street that Jesus Christ carried his cross to his death.

As we walk the narrow cobblestone streets, I am trying to take in all that is around me.  We walked to the Western Wall yesterday morning and saw the Temple Mount.  This is the place that Jewish people come to pray and it was once known as the Wailing Wall – they also believe that no matter where they are, their prayers come first to the wall and then go up to God.  There is a tradition of writing prayers on a piece of paper and sticking it in the wall.

Next, we saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  For a moment, I felt like I was on the set of Indiana Jones!  The church was very dark and parts were underground with lots of twists and turns.  Many Christians believe this is the place of Golgotha – the location of the crucifixion and resurrection.  There are sections owned by the Roman Catholic Church and some by the Greek Orthodox church.  Mike pointed out an old piece of a Roman column that was once part of a Roman temple and mentioned that this gives possible proof that this could be the location because the Romans tried to stamp out Christianity and would have built a temple over a place that Christians gathered to worship.

Our highlight of the day was definitely visiting the Garden Tomb.  This is another possible site of the crucifixion and resurrection and honestly, the Spirit was all over this beautiful garden!  Scripture tells us that Jesus was buried outside the City, and this location was the spot once known for executions.  There is a huge face of a skull in the rock which some believe it the true Golgotha, or place of the skull.  The garden was once a beautiful vineyard and as we walked and listened to our guide talk about Jesus, my heart was smiling.  Seeing the tomb was an experience hard to describe.  There was a very different feeling here than at the other site.  I had a chance to go inside alone and look at the burial plot.  As I stood there speechless, I noticed the sign on the door that said ” He is not here, He is risen”.  Amen!  I was overwhelmed with tears and for a moment even lost my breath.  I don’t know if this is the spot or not, but my heart was so moved for my Savior that I like to believe it was!

Our last stop of the day was The Mount of Olives where we enjoyed fresh fruit and beautiful scenery.  As sunset approached, we looked out over the city of Jerusalem and our team prayed together.  One of the songs we will be singing this week is God of the City.  If you come to Green Hills Church, then you will recognize this song.  I can not tell you how moved I have been over the lyrics and how much hope it gives me as I look out on a beautiful city that doesn’t recognize its Lord.  3% of Israel is Christian.  This is why we are here – to proclaim the good news and tell of our wonderful Jesus!

 

Take a moment and listen to this beautiful song.  I hope it blesses you today!

Christ is All,

Tabitha

Some Pictures of Jerusalem

Our first day in Israel

Hi friends!! After nearly two days of travel, we are in Israel. We journeyed from Nashville to Chicago to Poland, and after a 8 hour layover in Warsaw (where we got to see the city and eat cool food) we made the last trek to the Holy Land. Everything has been smooth and I can literally feel the Lord’s hand over top of us, underneath us, and cupped around our sides–this is His trip, His city, His people, and we are honored to be His servants.

Until Thursday, we are in Old City Jerusalem. Our hotel, or “Austrian Hospice” is delightful! Complete old architecture, big windows, breeze from those windows for AC, really tiny showers, a wide spread rooftop accessible to us to hang out on over looking the city, olives and tuna included on the breakfast buffet, and very loud roosters to wake us in the morning. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we wouldn’t change a thing.

We are learning and experiencing so much!! The area we are staying in is a mix of Jewish and Muslim people, maybe with a few Christians here and there (Israel is only 3% Christian in its entirety). However, this is unique to this part of the city because most of it is segregated and problems arise when one group enters the other’s territory. Jerusalem is a divided city–but no matter what the state now, we know one day every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess. Please pray with us for this land!!!

Today we went first to the Western Wall, AKA the Wailing Wall.  The Jewish people believe all of their prayers arrive at the wall before they make it to the ears of God. Directly behind the wall stands the Temple Mount which now supports the dome of the rock. It is here that Solomon’s Temple once stood but is now under Muslim control. This is the major point of contention between Israel and Palestine. We then ventured to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is presumed by many Christians to be the place of Jesus’ death and resurrection. While the decor was grand, there was a solomn feel in the air. After that we experienced what became, to many of us, the most moving part of the day: The Garden Tomb. This is different location that gives biblically based reason to believe was the place our Savior died and rose again. It was so peaceful and quiet and you could feel His presence walking with us through the glory of the garden. Seeing a real tomb that is probably the very one our Lord conquered is something unforgettable. It was intense and heavy but grace overcame us and filled us with gratefulness and joy. The truth that really matters is what happened, not where it happened but there was certainly significance in what we saw today. We had a near-perfect evening on the Mount of Olives with our guide, Aaron. We ate fresh fruit from the local market, prayed together, worshipped together, and started preparing for the rest of the week..preparation for telling people about the One who shines light into the dark places and makes new creations out of …well, all of us. We will keep you updated! Thank you for reading and praying for the mission of this trip!

Love,

Calla

Missions Team to Colombia

Green Hills Church has sent a missions team to Bogota Colombia to help start a church in a town called Pacho. You can follow their journey here: http://liftmyeyesup.wordpress.com/ Please be praying for them!  Here is their 1st post.

The time is finally here! Tomorrow morning, the team flies out for Bogota, Colombia to spend 10 days getting to know the amazing people of this country and planting the seed for a future church in a small city 2 hours outside the capitol.
We will be spending part of the time in the actual city of Bogota, in a small community called Prada Veraniego where we will graciously be staying with Jorge and his wife, Ginny. Jorge is the lead paster of a church plant founded in the community about 4 years ago called Comunidad Viva. We will have the opportunity to worship here 2 Sundays in a row! Something about hearing the Word of God in a different language makes me realize just how awesome He really is and I’m so excited to get to worship the same God alongside the people of Prado Veraniego!
After spending some time in Bogota, our team will travel 2 hours outside the city to a town called Pacho. Once a vibrant area, thriving off the presence of drug money, Pacho is now a forgotten town. We will be meeting with a group of people from Bogota who have given up everything to plant a church in this area and minister the name of Jesus to the people of Pacho. Our time in Pacho will be spent putting on a Vacation Bible School (or SuperVacas) for the children in the morning followed by afternoon outreach programs for the women and children. Our hope is to plant the seed of Jesus’ name in Pacho so that all the people there can one day know his incredible love!
Prayers, Prayers, Prayers! Please pray for the health and safety of our team and for God’s will to be done. But most importantly, pray for the people of Prada Veraniego and Pacho. Pray for their ears to be opened and their hearts to be willing to hearing the Word of God!
More updates to come soon so keep checking back!

How to Practically do Missions

As Christians we know certain truths. God loves the world. God loves people. Jesus commissioned his followers to go to the ends of the world right before he went to heaven.

Although we know these truths intellectually we often struggle on how to accomplish them practically. How do we do missions well? How do we practically go on mission? What pitfalls are out there that we may fall into if we are journeying through the morass of modern missions unaware of our surroundings? Today I am going to lay out an easy step by step plan of how to prepare a mission team in hopes that it will help you go on mission with a game plan that is achievable and reproducible.

Step 1: Pray.

I know this step may seem really intuitive but it is a lot harder than it seems. You need to bathe your mission trip with prayer. You are going on the front lines of the conflict between God and his enemy Satan. You need to make sure you are hearing from God concerning where you should go and what you should do. Start by praying for a burden for a people group and a country. Often we approach missions by trying to do what others have done. That is a poor way to start the process of following God. Every great missionary movement has started by people asking God what they should do and then having the courage to follow God’s calling.

Step 2: Partner

Missions can be a daunting task. If you try to do missions alone you can find yourself  trying to pull off a huge vision with minimal resources. You need to find 2 different types of partners. First you need to find companion partners. That means finding people who will take the task on of going and doing the mission with you. I think it is helpful to have several churches taking on a project or mission together than one church or individual taking on a mission by themselves. Choosing to be a part of a denominational missions organization, church network like Acts 29, or the Impact Church Network allows you to do more in less time. Our church has partnered with the Impact Church Network and the IMB and has allowed us to do church planting and missions at a level far beyond our financial ability as a church plant.

The second type of partner you need to have are your “on the ground” partners. You need to have trusted people that you can serve. Usually these people handle most of the logistics for your team and handle the tasks that you will do. I think a key mentality you need to have concerning missions is that you serve your missionaries and help them. Often churches bring their own vision to a project and try to shoehorn missionaries into that vision. A church will have an idea that they become infatuated with but has nothing to do with what the missionary is already accomplishing. Although the missionary may accommodate their partner church, most mission trips like this are a waste of time and money.

It is really important when selecting a mission partner to know them well enough to trust their character. Unfortunately there are many unsavory characters out there that operate under the guise of being social workers and missionaries. It takes time to really distinguish if someone is trustworthy.

Step 3: Plan

It is really important to have a plan for your trip. If you have no objectives for your team you will likely be doing nothing but wasting your people’s time. It is my personal belief that mission trips should be focused on one of two objectives. A mission trip should be focused on either church planting or ministry to the least of these. You may ask what about evangelism. I believe evangelism should be done in both contexts. Evangelism is the reason for any trip.  If you are on a mission trip that does not share the gospel you seriously evaluate if this trip is worth doing.

Evangelism isn’t just going through the Romans Road or EE with people. There are many aspects of evangelism. I believe that a trip that creates contacts for a missionary or a church plant is a vital part of evangelism. We have had great success in gospel resistant countries by creating events that draw unchurched people into relationships with our church planters.

Mission projects that serve the underserved and do primarily humanitarian service opportunities are great first serve opportunities for people. Some of the projects our people have have done are construction, health clinics, well building, and orphan care. These trips are always really rewarding and usually our people walk away realizing how blessed they really are. I think the trick for leaders to is to make sure that people realize that humanitarian aid is not the end game. The gospel is what is most important. It is very important to teach your people that our good deeds should point people to Jesus. All the help we do for others is not because we are good people but because Jesus has changed our lives.  Matthew 5:16 says,In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Good works are not for our glory; instead they are signs that God has transformed us.

Step 4 Prepare

Preparing your team takes a lot more effort than most people realize. Here are some things you need to do to prepare your team.

  • Interest meeting: Have a couple of these meetings before you finalize your team. Its best to do them right after your church service.
  • Deposit: Sometimes people struggle with committing to a trip. I give people a deadline to sign up and I also ask for a deposit of $200 before they go.
  • Fundraising: your team likely has no idea how to fundraise. You are going to have to teach them how to do it well. A support letter followed by a phone call to close friend is a good way to start fund raising. I operate under the premise that if God wants people to go on a trip, he will provide the finances to go.
  • Deadlines: I like to give teams deadlines to get their money in. These are more of suggestions of when their money needs to be turned in. I like to get enough money to cover their plane ticket in by the end of the first month. That allows us to purchase the tickets at a group rate in advance.
  • Team Meetings: have 3-4 meetings before you go on your trip. Pray for your trip. Pray for the people that you will meet and share the gospel with. Teach your people how to share the gospel. Communicate what you are doing. Personally, when I am leading a trip, I like to host these meetings at my home. It allows me to invite my team members into my life and start bonding our team together.
  • Discipleship: you are discipling people on your trip. Give them stuff to lead. Make them lead a team devotional on the trip. It will allow them to learn how to lead a Bible study in a stress free environment. I also encourage you to give your team some books to read before they go on the trip. A great suggestion is the book “Brutchko” by Bruce Olsen.
  • Logistics:  Plan out your transportation, Plan your meals and lodging. Create budget for all your expenses. Make sure you have money for the airport taxes when you leave the country. Check on visas. Make copies of all the passports for your team. Check on security issues in your country and make sure your register your team with the state department before you leave.

Step 5 Play

Enjoy your trip. I think it is important to have fun on every trip that you go on. Make sure you plan 1 day to see the country that you are serving in. Many times people will fall in love with the country as they are enjoy the culture on the off day. If people fall in love with the country chances are they will return and serve again.

Step 6 Begin the process

Ok, I couldn’t come up with another word that came started with a P. I was on a roll there. The most important part of missions is doing it. It isn’t primarily a process or a plan. It is a lifestyle. I am so grateful to be at a church where God’s people are passionate for missions. A lot of what I do is just get out of the way and let God work in people’s lives. I find that when I serve as a cheerleader and champion for missions, people accomplish far more than I could ever imagine.