Prayer at the Wailing Wall


Today we are going into Bethlehem. Bethlehem is part of the Palestinian land. To enter Bethlehem from Jerusalem, we had to receive authorization first. Our first order of business was shopping for souvenirs. We went into a wood shop, where the business creates wooden crosses, nativity scenes, and other artifacts. Their operation was impressive.  
We soon started our walk uphill towards the Church of the Nativity. This is the site at which Jesus was born. The Church of the Nativity stands in the shadows of a mosque and a shopping center. Inside was a long line of tourists here to pay homage to the birthplace of our Lord. I must admit, I did not quite enjoy this visit. The line was so long such that we could not stop to see, take pictures, much less reflect on the meaning of the incarnation.  
We left to go for lunch in the middle of Bethlehem. Fish has been the most popular menu item for us. As with all our other meals, the lunch was delectable and palatable; finger licking good! 

Our journey led us to the most anticipated visit – the visit to the wailing wall. The Wailing Wall is a small part of the old Jerusalem Western Wall. As I walked towards the wall, I was overcome by a great sense of the presence of the Lord. This is sacred ground. I saw many people leaning against the wall in various postures of prayer. Everywhere were many devout men wearing black hats, black clothes, and long beards. These pious Jews read the Torah while rocking forwards and backwards, reciting some inaudible words. The sounds were in sync with their movements. It was a beautiful, saintly sight. 

I chose an open spot on the wall. I prayed, starting with confession. I had written various prayer requests on small pieces of paper. After I prayed for each person or situation, I would fold the little piece, and then insert it in a crevice in the limestone rock. I prayed for my relationship with God, my family, my friends, ministry, the corps, and many other things God brought to mind.  

I did not want to leave. I was in the presence of God. Why leave this Holy moment? Why depart from such a powerful experience? Well, we had to leave. So, I reluctantly left, taking mental pictures of all my eyes could see. I want to keep this sensation, this sacrosanct event alive in my life forever. So help me God! 

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Jesus Wept, So Did We


As we drove up into the City of Jerusalem, Commissioner Francis sang a heartwarming rendition of the song “Jerusalem.” My heart started to beat faster and faster as the view of the city came into sight. We got off the bus near the eastern wall of the old Jerusalem. We began our advent into the city through the Lions’ Gate. The little marbled street called “Straight Street” is filled with vendors selling various souvenirs and artifacts. 
We arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, located in the Christian quarter of the city. This is the place traditionally considered as the place where Jesus’ tomb is located. I admired the glamorous decor. The sweet scent of burning incense enhanced my desire to pray. I was a man conflicted, though. While I wanted to reflect on Christ’s work, I struggled with the appearance of worshipping the stones and idols.  
We left to follow Christ’s road to the cross – the Via Dolorosa, stopping to pray at various Stations of the cross. It was disheartening to see how the whole area had now become Muslim. I reflected on our Lord’s suffering, carrying the wooden cross up the steep hill. How painful and difficult that must have been.
After completing walking the Via Dolorosa, we left the city through the Java gate. There we boarded the bus to head for lunch at the Olive Tree Restaurant. Lunch was delicious, comprising a rich selection of vegetables, then bread, rice, chicken, fish, and other meats. 

From there, we headed up to the Mount of Olives. We paused to take a picture in front of the Mount of Olives Church. Behind us was the picturesque view of the City of Jerusalem. Towering of the ancient walls and buildings was the Temple Mount, with its bright, golden dome. 

We started the steady, slow walk down the hill along the Palm Sunday street. This is where Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem. We stopped at the place where Jesus prayed for Jerusalem. A beautiful church sits on the site. The church is designed to look like a tear drop. It is called the Church of Dominus Flevit, situated on the upper western slope of the Mount of Olives. I was overcome by emotions as I reflected on our Lord weeping over Jerusalem. 
We walked further down to the Garden of Gethsemane. There were old olive trees in a fenced area. We were greeted by a stunning church, whose architectural design left me speechless. The front was decorated in eye catching designs and icons. The windows had purples colors that formed a cross. The inside of the church was enchanting. The ceiling formed glamorous cross, while Jesus, the Shepherd watched down on His flock. I felt a chill down my spine. I was standing in the place where our Lord spent the night in prayer.  

Rutendo and I started singing the hymn whose words go something like this: “In the garden Gethsemane, in Darkness a voice was heard. The voice of Jesus praying to His Father.” We both wept, as we considered the suffering our Lord endured to set us free. Salvation is free but not cheap. It cost God His son. It cost Jesus His life. We should never cheapen the work He did for our salvation. Thank you Jesus.

Shalom! Welcome to Israel


Step onto Israeli soil. Check! It was a bright, crisp morning. A cool, salty breeze blew around us as we got off the cruise ship to take our first steps onto the Israeli soil. I felt like I was stepping back in time – back to where it all began. A big sign read “Welcome to Haifa, Israel.” Yes, I was finally here. Praise God. Haifa is Israel’s 3rd largest city.
As the bus drove on the highway, the guide told us the hill we saw was Mt. Karmel. It was on this mountain the the Prophet Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal. This is surreal. Am I really here? 
From there, we drove past the Sea of Galilee. We arrived in Tabgha, at the Church of the Beatitudes. The church overlooks the Sea of Galilee. The slopes from the church down to the sea made a natural theater at which the multitudes sat to listen to Jesus as He taught the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7) The breeze from the sea, and the curvature of the slopes created natural acoustics that carried the voice of Jesus to the audience. The manicured landscape welcomed the visitor to the church. Like many of the churches we have visited, this church was well adorned. I sat on the pew to pray and reflect.  

From there, we drove a short distance to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Before reaching the shores, we were greeted by an antic little church. Surrounding the church were big rocks. Inside the church, towards the front was a big rock that lay across the altar. This little church is the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter. This is said to be the rock at which Jesus said to Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19)

Outside the church was the Northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. After listening to the reading of the Scriptures, we went to touch the water. I sat on a rock, while reflecting on the ministry of Jesus. This is where He walked on water. This is where Jesus told the disciples to cast the net onto the deep end. On these shores, Jesus made a fish fry for breakfast for the disciples. I feel blessed, honored, and humbled to step my foot here. Praise God! 
We had lunch on the dock at the Lunch the “Docks Restaurant” in Tiberius. The restaurant sits at the edge of the Galilee Lake. The glassy, blue water of the water glimmered in front of us. Most of us ordered the mouthwatering Peter’s fish, salad, and fries. The dessert was a plate of fresh, cool dates. Probably, the fish Jesus grilled for the disciples on that early morning tasted as good. I wondered. 
To cap off the day, we went to the Jordan River. We witnessed various baptisms taking place. Many of the people being baptized have been baptized before. They are getting baptized as a sentimental and significant act of following the example of Jesus Christ. 
The river was peaceful. Eucalyptus and other types of trees lined the banks of the river. The river was leaner yet cleaner than I had imagined. I paused to reflect on the evangelistic ministry of John the Baptist. He preached on these river banks. He preached repentance. He paved the way for the coming of Christ. His dedication led him to live in the desert eating locusts and honey. His attire was far from fashionable – camel skin! 

I also pondered in the words of God at the baptism of Jesus. Earlier, John had pointed to Jesus while saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” (John ) As John concluded baptizing Jesus, the heavens opened up. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove. God the Father spoke, “This is my son, in whom I well pleased. Listen to Him.” There, at the Jordan River, we see the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit! 
What does baptism mean to me? Who is Jesus to me? Do I let Him take away my sins? Do I listen to Him? 

Beauty on the Roads of Rhodes


Before ending his 3rd Missionary journey, the Apostle Paul visited Rhodes. We learned that Rhodes is the place where the Colossus of Rhodes stood. This was once one of the wonders of the ancient world. It is said that the Apostle Paul probably saw remains of this statue during his visit.
Upon our arrival on the island of Rhodes, Greece, we rode the bus into the city of Rhodes. As the bus followed the meandering road up the hill, we were greeted by a picturesque, breathtaking sight of the Mediterranean Sea on one side, and the Aegean Sea on the other.
We disembarked inside the enclosure of the old city wall. The mid centuries’ imposing structures paid homage to the architectural prowess of the people of old.  
These are ruins of the structures built by the Knights of Saint John. He knights also built various castles and other buildings during that time. It was in the middle of the city that Commissioner Don Bell gave his devotional. He shared the characteristics that made the Apostle Paul rise to the top of the leadership chain.  


After lunch, we visited the ancient Acropolis of Lindos. The Apostle Paul is said to have landed here on one of his mission trips. One of the images of Greece I have always seen is various white houses on a hillside at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Lindos had such houses. As we climbed the steps up to the Acropolis, I paused and posed to take pictures of this beautiful setting. The rocks at the edge of the island seemed to embrace quiet, quaint and clear sea. Breathed in deep, to take it all in.  
Though we had to leave in a huff and puff to catch our voyage out of Greece, I wanted to stay. My soul wanted to linger in this peaceful place. My mind wrestled to comprehend such beauty.  

Most Beautiful Sunrise


As has been our custom, Rutendo and I go for an early morning walk around the track. Today was special. We witnessed the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. In front of the cruise ship was a true portrait of the heavens. The sun was about to break forth over the eastern horizon. Fluffy orange and yellow clouds floated just above the horizon. The shape of the clouds was as if God’s hand had stroked gently with a cosmic brush across the great canvas of the sky. 
As the cruise ship sailed more, I watched as the big orange ball begin to ascend so ever gracefully. The ascension was slow, as if the earth was grasping and holding onto the big orange ball about to float into the atmosphere. Some clouds streaked across the bottom half of the big orange ball, partially covering it.  

Soon, the clouds parted, making way for the sun to rise majestically. Behold, a big orange ball hovered at the edge of the horizon and the sky. It announced the dawn of a new day. A day of new opportunities. A day of new mercies.  
God is good. He paints a portrait of His new mercies every morning. In my hurried and busy life, I rarely stop to reflect on His goodness. I praise God I am on this study tour. I praise God, I received a great blessing watching the rising of the sun – the arrival of a new day. I was reminded of Lamentations 3:22-23, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Hello Ephesus 


Wow!! I know the Bible events are true. However, I have always had a disconnect between reality and what’s in the pages of the Bible. The ruins of the city of Ephesus brought the Bible alive. Our guide’s explanation of the city’s history and culture made the Bible stories real and vivid. It was like watching a 3D, maybe 4D movie. I, literally, walked where Paul and many of the church’s early fathers walked.  

Though now in ruins, one could tell the architecture had been amazing. The streets and buildings were made of marble. The various columns, buildings and statues told of a successful era. My mind traveled back to 2,000. I wondered what it meant being a citizen of Ephesus in those days. Revelation 2:1-6, “To the angel[a] of the church in Ephesuswrite:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have testedthose who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstandfrom its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

I wondered what God would is saying to me today. Am I still in love with Jesus as before? Have I wandered away from the passion? What things have I allowed to pollute my faith? Am I compromising my faith to fit in? What do I need to repent of?  
On our way back to the cruise ship, we witnessed the creation of magnificent masterpieces of handmade rugs. The host was gracious and yet proud of his family business. We were offered drinks, included a small potent cup of Turkish coffee. It was so strong it grows hairs on one’s chest. The rugs were beautiful, depicting various cultures and backgrounds of the stylists. I could have bought a few save for the exorbitant price tags.  
We clocked 10,000 steps long before the end of the day. That took away my guilt as I dove into the steak and vegetables dinner meal. It was an early night for us. Tomorrow, we go to Rhodes, Greece. 

Day at Sea


I woke up sensing the bed move. I heard a low, rumbling sound. The air smelt fresh and salty. For a moment, I struggled to comprehend where I was. Then it dawned on me, I had just spent the night on a comfortable bed, in a “moving city” – the Celebrity Constellation! What an experience. God had taken this African boy on many an excursion. The gratitude to God deepens with each experience. 
Rutendo and I had a delicious breakfast that included bacon, baked beans, eggs, grilled tomato, and strong coffee. How do they keep their food so fresh and tasty this far from land?! From the restaurant, we went to deck 11 to walk it all off. We walked briskly on the ship’s running/walking track. The ship was moving on, at about 20-22 nautical knots an hour (about 35m/hr). We walked towards our 10,000 steps a day goal.

Our first pilgrims meeting took place at 1:00 pm. Dr Birch taught on the subject entitled “How did we get the Bible?” His fascinating and informative lecture included the canon of the Old Testament, the Law, the Writings, up to the canon of the New Testament. The powerful lecture set a base, becoming the diving board from which we spring to commence our Study Tour in Ephesus, Turkey tomorrow. 
Our bodies are still adjusting to the new time change, and schedule. A long afternoon nap was in order. For dinner, we had to dress up. I wore the grey suit I purchased a few weeks ago, for my University graduation. I walked down towards the restaurant with Rutendo by my side. She looked stunning and exquisite in her black dinner dress. Her face beamed. Her smile stole my heart all over again. There I noticed, she was more beautiful than I could remember. The hectic lives we live rob us of the gift of observation and reflection. The busyness which has become my routine, denies me the eyes nor time to appreciate her. There she was, looking as stunning as ever. I am in love. 


Following the dinner, we were treated to a “Hollywood” night musical in the theater. The performers were right on cue, singing and dancing like the professionals they are. In particular, their rendition of six James Bond songs was magnificent. They won me over. 

I look forward to the tour of Ephesus tomorrow. I am ready for God speak to me through this experience of Biblical proportions! 

First Day of Study Tour


My mind was confused. My body was struggling to figure out when bed time is. After a long, 10 hour flight from LAX, we arrived in Frankfurt, Germany. As it was my first time on German soil, I thought of my friend, Michael Blumenstock. I hoped to send him a message. We were in Germany for only a couple of hours, before our 2 and a 1/2 hour flight to Athens. 


I was overwhelmed by the thoughts of what Greece represents. I thought of the Greek’s influence on the world culture. Thanks to Greece, every four years we witness the world’s best athletes at the Summer Olympics. The Greeks are known for their mythology. Stories about Zeus, Apollo, Hermes, and others are familiar names. How about Greek food. The gyros, grilled chicken, and the salads have always been some of my favorites. When I think of philosophy, I think of Greek philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Aristotle. He Apostle Paul carried out some intriguing philosophical and theological discussions in Athens. While helping my daughter prepare for the Spelling Bee, I learned that a good number of today’s English words are derived from Greek. After the four Gospels in the Bible, the rest of the New Testament is written in Greek.  

I am honored and humbled to set foot on such a majestic soil that produced such a dynamic world influence. Thank you Jesus. 

Soon, we arrived at the cruise ship boarding station. Is this really happening? The moment seemed so surreal. Although, I have always wanted to go on a cruise, I have always thought I could never afford it. Whenever people have asked me which countries I would want to visit, I have always mentioned Israel. Now was my opportunity to step onto a cruise ship. A great blessing. Now, I was about to see my dreams become reality – visiting Israel.  

We were still numb from shock and a sense of disbelief when we checked into our cute, immaculate room. Thereafter, we had dinner. I chose a stir fry chicken vegetable meal. It was fresh and delicious. Rutendo and I sent at a table by the wind. The night view of the city of Piraeus provided a romantic, quaint background. I was experiencing the realization of dreams together with the love of my life. Beautiful. 
We attended the mandatory evacuation drill in a theater as big as any on land. We capped off the evening by walking around the deck. We admired the ship’s imposing structure and beauty. We walked round and round to reach our 10,000 steps a day goal. We did. 

The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

 

terry-graduation

“The mind is a terrible thing to waste.” (UNCF) Last Friday I graduated with a Master of Science in Leadership degree from Grand Canyon University. Praise God! This achievement would be just normal to many, but not to me. My journey to the graduation was not easy. The road was full of obstacles and discouragements of various forms.

I have always had an insatiable appetite for knowledge. I have always had a deep desire to achieve the highest levels of education. After high school, I forfeited pursuing my university goals to provide for my siblings, who were in my care.

I earned an AA Degree in Ministry at the College For Officers Training. A few years later, I attended Arrow Leadership in Canada. Arrow Leadership resuscitated my passion for education. It was at an Arrow Leadership residential that I got the inspiration to enroll at Nazarene Bible College. I graduated from NBC with a BA in Leadership and Ethics. I saw how the education transformed me into a more effective leader and pastor.

Still, I wanted more. I went on to enroll at Grand Canyon University. Graduate classes were tough. The studies demanded more of my time and attention. The library and local Starbucks stores became my hanging out places. Often, I read. I typed. I paused to take a breath and a sip of my favorite java fix. The investment of countless hours away from my family was worth it all. I carry scars of battles lost and won on the battlefields of textbook pages. The act of balancing work, parenthood, leisure, and study was brutal a warfare.

I am glad it is all behind me now. The graduation ceremony was the icing on the cake of victory. I sat there, in tears, reflecting on the tough journey. I sat there, with a smile on my face, praising God for His faithfulness. I sat there, in gratitude for all the teachers, mentors, and family members who helped me get to this day. I sat there, grateful to The Salvation Army for supporting my education goals. “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.” (UNCF) My mind wants more. What’s next? Stay tuned.

http://www.crestmont.edu/

http://www.nbc.edu/

https://www.gcu.edu/

 

What’s Your Life Verse?

psalm-27-4

Most people have a Bible verse to which they go for encouragement and inspiration. For most people, this is a verse or passage that we highlight, memorize and quote often. This is a Scripture God uses to minister to you directly. It holds a sentimental and personal meaning for you.  My life verse is Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”

After I got saved at the age of 16, I heard someone recite this verse.  I started reading it and ended up committing it to memory.  I personalized it.  I owned it.  It was mine.  It still encourages me at those times I am low;  when I feel far from God.

I have this verses on sticky notes, on my computer, in my phone, on the mirror, etc.  I know you won’t find the phrase “life verse” in the Bible or in a theological dictionary. I do not know if Jesus did or did not have a “life verse,” but He did let Scripture “dwell richly” in Him (Colossians 3:16). And that’s what I encourage you to do as well.

What’s your life verse?  Do you have a verse you read when life is going well?  Do you have a “comfort verse” you go to when life hurts?  Do you have a Scripture you call upon when you are ready to do battle? If you do not have one, here is a suggestion:

– Pick a Scripture that is ministering to you right now.
– Commit it to memory.
– Place it somewhere you can see it often.

It doesn’t matter how you do it, but if you want to change the things in your life you need to change, begin by putting the reminder in easily accessible places.

life_verse_main2

Here are some recommendations:

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Jeremiah 29:11-13, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Psalm 19:14, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart  be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Psalms 28:7, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”

Psalms 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalms 118:24, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Isaiah 40:31, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”