Weekly Newsletter 6.25.17

Newsletter 6.25.17

Weekly Newsletter 6.18.17

Newsletter 6.18.17

Weekly Newsletter 5.24.17

Newsletter 5.24.17 sc

Weekly Newsletter 5.17.17

Newsletter 5.17.17 sc

Weekly Newsletter 5.10.17

Newsletter 5.10.17 sc

Weekly Newsletter 5.3.17

Newsletter 5.3.17 sc

Yearly Medical Permission Form 2017-18

Yearly Medical Permission Form 2017-18

Day 9 It is finished

At 10 PM Thursday, Feb 2nd, the Houtzmobile pulled into Calvary parking lot with 5 Calvary Pilgrims safely returned.  It was about a 28 hour trip with a long layover in London but it went smoothly.

Thank you for your prayers for that memorable trip.   We hope that you enjoyed following us on the blog and we look forward to sharing that experience. It needs to be more than just pictures and memories.   The experience will mean little if we do not use it to glorify God and further his kingdom.

This is the Calvary Five signing off.   Out.

Lynda, Melanie, Nadine, Tom, Tyler

Random Ramblings from the Holy Land

The most essential part of driving a bus is knowing how to use the horn.

Shippensburg needs to work on their dessert bar.

I wonder when the other half of the shower door will arrive?

Is the water cutting off in the middle of my shower a sign that my showers are too long?

Elvis is not on the UFO with Bigfoot, he’s driving our bus!

Mmmm, this is good!    What is it?

Eyes straight ahead – do not make eye contact with the street vendors.

No doesn’t mean no, it means let’s negotiate a lower price.

Keep up (hubba hubba), you’re on your own.

If you get lost, remember 3 things:

1) Jaffa Gate    2) Be sure the taxi driver turns on the meter      3) Olive Tree Hotel

Mesh Moshkelty – Arabic for ”Not My Problem”

For lunch you can have:

  1. Falafel       2. Shawarma   3. Schnitzel

Hamburger – no cheeseburger

5 for $10, 5 for $10, no wait 6 for $10.       How about 7 for $10?

I will never get used to eating salad for breakfast.

What’s the weather, how many layers today?

WC – if you see one, use it, even if you don’t have to.

“I still love you even if you don’t buy” – Charlie Brown – shop owner in Old City

I think we’re all a little tired.

Day 8 The Temple and Old City.

So they brought Tom to Jerusalem to do the Code Purple.  Windchill?  Seriously.  We would be dropped off at 8 in the morning and picked up at 4:30 with almost the entire day outdoors.   First stop, security checkpoint then up to the temple mount.    This place is big!  Pictures and maps do not truly convey the size.  Herod was indeed the master engineer.  We learned a ton of history and how Islam has built the beautiful Dome of the Rock on top of the Temple mount.

St. Anne’s Church is directly next to the pool of Bethesda.  This old church has near perfect acoustics and we praised God in song.  A moment you did not want to end.  And there was no wind blowing.  On to the Via Dolorosa.  There are times you can feel the pain, the sorrow of Christ on his way to crucifixion.  At other stations it was all you could do to avoid the shop keepers from yelling $5, $5 special. But in the yelling, one had a sense of the culture of that very intense, loud jeering that Christ must have felt.  The path to Calvary is steep with many steps.  Perhaps the designers of our own church recognized that.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the traditional site of Calvary and the tomb.  It is jammed packed. Climbing many very steep steps we made our way to the foot of the cross where one by one we kneeled and touched the rock.  The church is under heavy renovation.  Somehow it loses a little something walking away into scaffolding and piles of 2x4s.  When do they have time to actually work?  Jesus tomb is right around the corner.   That doesn’t quite fit the mental image.   The garden tomb we visited yesterday seemed to fit better.

At lunch we prepared our prayers on small slips of paper.  We again went through tight security and on to the Western Wall.  Men to the left, women to the right.  The women’s side was packed.  We had our opportunity to stand where millions of prayers have been lifted before us.

Our final lessons were on the archeology of the Temple.  Recent excavations have uncovered original first century roads, most likely where Jesus walked.  So we walked in his footsteps.  We finished on the teaching steps where Jesus finished his public ministry. Yes these exact same steps.


At 3AM Thursday morning, about the time Wed night studies conclude, we will be awakened and load our bags on the bus at 3:45 AM leaving behind Jerusalem.  7:50 AM is wheels up on British Airways from Tel Aviv to London.  A half a day layover allows time for fish and chips before heading across the Atlantic.  More than 24 hours after departure we are finally back in Newark.


The Calvary 7

On the teaching steps of the temple where Jesus taught.

Thank you Pastor Dan and Sue for the great trip. 

Day 7 Jerusalem

How can we write a blog about today? This day has been so intense and special that words of the English language are totally inadequate.

Starting at the Mount of Olives, Jesus mounted a colt and rode into Jerusalem. Like the disciples, today we followed that path on footstep. It took little imagination…Hosanna!

Nobody can say for certainty exactly where the Upper Room is. But we were there. It is another thin place. The olive trees in Gethsemane may be some of the same ones to witness the Lord sweat blood in his prayers. As our Savior was taken to Caiaphas and bound, beaten, lowered into the pit, we could feel his pain. A rooster was crowing as we walked today. What would we have done?

At the place they call “The Skull” we looked up and cried, and God sent another rainbow. That hole in the rock that use to be a quarry for Herod, is where they laid his body. We went in. But the tomb is empty! We lingered in the garden, and we felt his presence right there with us. So we sang songs, and worshiped as Pastor Dan lead us in communion. We were one with our Savior one with each other. Tears and more tears. We have stood in the presence of our risen Lord. Words are inadequate.

Some Random Pictures

We lucked out tonight and got a decent internet connection so we are sending some random pictures.

The land of milk and honey. 


Near Bethlehem.

In Bethlehem


Calvary 5 From Mount of Olives


Makes delicious mid day coffee break.


The hill of the Skull and another rainbow.

Day 6 Around Jerusalem

Monday Jan 30

Lynda, Melanie, Nadine,Tom,Tyler….The whole gang is here.

We spent Monday around Jerusalem. Today was the Herodion, birthplace of John the Baptist, the Holocaust Museum, Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity, the shepherds field and this evening the sound and light show of the Jews, followed by a late dinner. The weather was pretty nice, but it got cool.

Lynda: I liked singing the Christmas carols inside the church of the Shepherds field. It was like we were joining the angels and we were worshiping where hosts of angels worshiped. It would be really neat to spend Christmas Eve at this spot.

Melanie: What really touched my heart today. Herod moved a mountain with laborers to build his Herodion fortress. Since Jesus could have seen the Herodion from Jerusalem, perhaps this is the root of Jesus saying if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, move from here to there and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.

Nadine: I enjoyed the Church of the Nativity where three churches are combined into one. The work of the archaeologists is impressive. The Holocaust Museum is too sad to talk about.

Tom: If you think the traffic in Newark is bad, you should see the traffic in Jerusalem. My mental image of Bethlehem was way off. I need to reshape Christmas.

Tyler: I felt more connected at The Holocaust Museum here in Israel than the one in DC. It felt more real. Is it because I’m surround by people who have a direct link to the Holocaust?

We all have so many thoughts spinning in our heads and it’s so hard to process all that we have seen. We look forward to sharing thoughts and pictures when we return. We are all holding up well, just very tired. Our whole group is doing well. Another long day around Jerusalem tomorrow.

Day 5 Galilee to Jerusalem

Tom Parkins

Moving on down the line. Going up to Jerusalem. We leave Galilee today and head south basically paralleling the Jordan all the way to the Dead Sea. Despite elevation changes and map directions it was customary in Jesus time to talk of going up to Jerusalem. That is certainly true for the last few hundred meters. But first we have to get there.

Our day started with a brilliant sunrise over the sea of Galilee. As much as we enjoyed the rainbows, that sunrise was pretty impressive, and welcomed. On our way south we stopped at a well preserved Roman city, Bet Shean. It is not Biblical and in fact was not built until the 4th century which is pretty late in the game for the Romans. We got to do a sound check in the amphitheater. Oh my, it really works. You could hear clearly even in the cheap seats up top in the back.

Moving on south from the land of honey to the land of milk. We were all somewhat surprised to learn that it’s not all milk and honey like you might put on cereal. It’s actually two different regions. Milk is in the north and honey is in the south. We were told to watch for changes. Sure enough cattle were replaced by sheep and green was replaced by brown. The transformation becomes stark in the wilderness. As our bus rolled on, we were all singing familiar praise songs. “Lord I lift your name on high….” We are blessed with a great group of people, and we are now beginning to bond together.

We turn directly to the Jordan where Jesus was baptized. Here we held Sunday worship, but no collection plate was passed. We walked down to the river. Many of you have seen the pictures so you understand, that the Jordan makes the White Clay Creek look like the mighty Mississippi. I was really blown away at how thin the vegetation is. It always looks so lush in pictures, and it fact is. But don’t be fooled, it’s only a few yards thick and then barren wilderness begins. There were baptisms among us. Although Willis referred to this as another thin spot, and indeed it is holy, it loses something when you are told upon arriving not to venture beyond the parking lot because of the mine fields. The Prince of Peace was baptized here, but I am looking at armed Jordanian soldiers 50 feet way on the other side. The world is crazy. Jesus knew that.

Do you know that Jericho is the oldest city on the planet? So say the archaeologist. There is still active digging going on, which is neat to see, but they have not found the wall of Jericho. And they probably wont after Joshua and his men brought it all down, so now it’s just so much rubble.

And how far would you ride for a camel? Some of us indeed rode one. Riding is not so bad, it’s getting up and down on the camel that gets interesting. A neat experience. Oh yeah there are even pictures to prove it. Just wait until you see Nadine.

The afternoon was to the Dead Sea and the Dead Sea scrolls. Was John the baptist part of the community that wrote them? Interesting possibility. The Dead Sea is sadly shrinking. It is at least 20 feet lower than in recent times. It is dramatic at the “swimming” area where you have a considerable hike from bath house to the sea itself.

The wilderness is wild. Extremely barren, especially where Jesus spent his time. My mental picture was like the Arizona dessert. This is more like the Badlands of South Dakota. How did Jesus, or anyone, navigate across in just sandals. And no GPS! And no food or water. He had to be tempted.

We are now in Jerusalem and staying at the Olive Tree Hotel. Out hotels have gone from nice, to real nice, to wowie! I don’t think any of us thought this was coming. Yet it is the customary stop for EO Tours.

We mentioned buses yesterday. Our driver is “Elvis” and he is a most excellent driver. Your prayers may have been answered by having Elvis assigned. He has managed to avoid some potential accidents. Sitting in row 2, I saw enough crazy drivers, but Elvis was able to avoid the collision. There were some nasty mountain roads in the Golan Heights, and driving on a lane and half road up and down in the Wilderness is not an easy skill. Elvis is quite the driver when backing or today as he had to parallel park. All of this and he is a perfect gentleman making the ladies feel good when exiting the bus. We are told he gets no pay for this gig. He only works for tips. Perhaps I will reach a little deeper in the pocket.

And one last thing. We checked into the hotel on Sunday evening, and before going to dinner we caught the closing of Calvary worship. It felt like being at home.

The weather was much warmer today. It was in the low 50s, sunny and no wind. YEAH! On to Bethlehem on Monday.

More pictures from the Israel team

The Canaanite gate. It is said that Abraham may have walked here!

A windy walk on the path from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus would have walked.

Standing by a pool of the Dan River.


We visited several places today and took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Everyone has their favorites but mine were Capernaum and Magdala.

Capernaum was thought to be where Jesus lived during his Galilean ministry.  Matthew even called it ”his own city”, while Mark referred to people knowing Jesus was at home when he was there. The centerpiece of this site is Peter’s house. Historians feel they are on firm historical ground due to the items found in the house dating to before 50 CE (Common Era). They also found graffiti mentioning Jesus as Messiah and Lord, yes, graffiti. While we consider graffiti to be destructive, historians and archeologists view it as clues to the culture of the time. There is now a modern church built over the house, elevated so you can see under it, and with a glass floor in the center to view the house from above. The other houses of the town sit between Peter’s house and a partially reconstructed synagogue. It is the largest and most famous one excavated in the Holy Land.

This is a view looking down into the house from the church.

We had lunch at a restaurant that was considered “fast food” due to the quick service. Falafel anyone? It was here that I met my second friend in Israel.

Magdala was another site we visited, the home of Mary Magdalene. New excavations extended to the north when a new hotel/retreat was to be built. In 2009 archaeologists  unearthed a first century synagogue, which has a large rectangular stone with an impressive menorah. They have also uncovered many mosaics, including one that depicts a fishing boat like one that was unearthed not too far from there.  Below is the synagogue it was getting dark as you can see, but that is the box with the menorah on it

Tomorrow we leave Galilee for Jerusalem.

Day 4 Jesus and Galilee

Tom Parkins

I encouraged Tyler to post some of her impressions of the day.  Hopefully she will add on to mine, or I add on to her, depending who is done first.

Saturday, Shabat

This is going to be quite a day.  When you step out of the hotel to go to the bus and the sun is shining, but you immediately see a rainbow over the Sea of Galilee, you know there are a lot of blessings ahead in this day.  Actually we would see more rainbows in one day than most of us have seen in the last year.

It would be pointless for me to write a stop by stop description.  That’s why we have Wed night gatherings.  The Calvary gang took over 500 pictures today alone.  Trust me, we won’t bore you with all 500 on a Wed night.  Some brief impressions of the day:

I don’t know how to describe the feeling that you are literally walking in Jesus footsteps.  You see the foundations of synagogues, the rooms, the hillsides and the lake where Jesus performed 90% of his ministry.  This is Capernaum where Jesus lived and preached.  The foundation is likely where Peter lived and Jesus stayed.  If only we could fine tune that time machine just a little more.  The mount of the beatitudes is impressive, but now it is a church and retreat home.  While you feel Holy standing on the mount, it is a little hard to picture today because of the physical build up.  I was surprised how close it is to Capernaum.   On to the Sea of Galilee for a boat ride.  My faith failed me.  I didn’t even try walking on water.  But I could have just sat there watching the waves break and watching the coast line.  I should say, that while not stormy, it was cold and windy with some rain.  But with that rain came another rainbow, a double rainbow that perfectly framed our view of the Mount of Beatitudes.  Oh to just stop the boat and let me sit here!  And it would be so nice to share a picture or two. But it won’t be happening.

There is a piece of shore line on the lake, where Jesus called Peter to be a fisher of men.  Jesus then issues a recall, to Peter, likely at the same spot, after the resurrection.  It just reminded that even after we screw up big time, and we are now back  unsuccessfully doing our mundane jobs, Jesus is waiting for us, with even a bigger plan for us.  On top he even fixes breakfast for you.  It is called a Thin Spot, a place where heaven meets earth.  That description is perfect.  My feet were on earth but my soul was in heaven for a few brief minutes today.

And I walked where Jesus healed the blind.  I picked up some stones and mud.  Can I rub that on my Aunt Shirley’s eyes and restore her sight? That original road is still there in Bethsaida. Roads didn’t need to accommodate big SUVs back then.

Magdala is a truly remarkable story today.  Construction started on a brand new resort and Catholic retreat center, when……  You all show up on Wed Feb 22 for “the rest of the story”, and a few of those 500 pictures.   It’s late and there is so much more to share.  Tomorrow we leave Galilee and head towards Jerusalem.  It won’t take us 4 or 5 days like Jesus, but we will stop on the Jordan, where John the Baptist located, and also the Dead Sea.

Just a word about our instructor. Rev  Dr. Willis Britt is an instructor with Jerusalem Center For Biblical Studies.  He is an instructor not a guide, so when we stop it is so much more than what are these relics and what happened here.  He is superb at using scripture to explain and even better at weaving in Old Testament passages to provide “context.”  Right Jim?

In coming editions, look for a piece about Elvis.  Yon know he now drives a bus in Israel.


Day 3 Far Northern Israel

By Tom Parkins

At 7:30 AM our bus was departing Tiberias and we were headed north.  Rain clouds closed in.  Our time machine would take us back   3000+ years as we found ourselves standing in Solomon’s throne room on a site known as Tel Hazor.  The excavations and preservation are so good here it was not at all difficult to envision Solomon.  As the rains fell we looked up from our lesson and a rainbow had formed not far out the back of the fortress.  It’s probably the closest we’ve ever been to a pot of gold.  I’m not permitted to tell you who claimed it.

On to Tel  Dan, not named after Pastor Dan.  Here we encounter the Dan River that is the source of the Jordan River.  In fact the word Jordan means “out of Dan.”  We collected a water bottle full, perhaps for a future Baptism.  We continued our journey on foot and saw relics of King Jerobaom.  Our journey on foot in the rain continued and the time machine brought us to one of those Oh Wow moments as we found ourselves standing in front of a Canaanite Gate over 4000 years old.  Scholars tell us that it is very likely Abraham would have walked through this gate on his way into Israel.   Oh Wow!  Speaking of scholars, do you know that 9 out 10 scholars generally agree with Jim Dunson?   What the scholars have to say is so very close to what Jim has to tell us on Wednesday night’s it’s simply amazing.

“… on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it”  After traveling to Caesarea Phillipi the words that Jesus spoke to Peter have taken on a much richer meaning.  But this is a blog about our travels and not a theological discourse.   Stay tuned, you might here and see more when we return.

Lunch on the Golan Heights.  It is pretty neat.  Our travels took us within yards of the Syrian border and our lunch stop used to be Syrian until Israel claimed it in the 1967 war.  It seems that you cannot separate current events from ancient history. Our bus driver pointed out that the road to Damascus is about a 45 minute drive.  And lunch…how about a Lebanese sandwich.  It takes a big mouth like Tyler to handle one of these. Or a schnitzel sandwich.  How did we suddenly get to Germany?

The food here is all very tasty.  It is very international. At the hotel breakfast and dinner is buffet style.  There are typically multiple tour groups staying in the same hotel.  Our hotel in Tiberias is exceptionally nice.  A cut above a typical Holiday Inn.  Just don’t drink the water.  Bottled water is available.

We stopped at Gamla after lunch.  Most of us know nothing about this place.  But it is spectacular, but probably even more so without a 30 mph wind blown cold rain.   Gamla is where Jewish Zealots held up against the Roman army.  The Romans killed 4000, but another 5000 Zealots threw themselves off of the cliffs of Gamla rather than be captured or killed. Today there is a large vulture population living here.  We left before anybody was blown off the cliff.

We returned to Tiberias but first a stop near Magdala on the road that Jesus would have traveled from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee. He would have been very familiar with the location. Even in the wind and rain.   I often pick up stones from the various sights that we stop at.  We had just finished learning the story of Jesus healing the son of the official and the servants coming to meet the official to share the good news of the healing.  Most likely that happened on this trail.  As our bus left the area we encountered a man on the road in great distress, unresponsive.  We stopped and some of our members assisted while our bus driver called for help.  We all prayed and waited.  I rubbed my stones and thought how Jesus healed.  By the time the ambulance arrived he was responsive.  We departed for our hotel.

Perhaps Saturday the sun will break through and the wind die down.  We travel around and on the Sea of Galilee.  We regret not sending more pics.   Our hotel internet service is not the most robust.   Don’t worry, there will be an opportunity to share some sights on our return.

Day 2: Nazareth, Cana, and more

Tom Parkins writing


We started Thursday looking out of our hotel room overlooking the Mediterranean. You can see there is a difference between this trip and a mission trip.

After a fine breakfast, we headed up the coast to Caesarea. This is the port city build by Herod the Great. It is a tribute to Herod’s incredible engineering skills. Caesarea is also where Pilate lived and governed. Physical archaeological evidence has been found here from Pilate. The Hippodrome is where the chariot races and games were held. If you saw the recent movie Ben Hur, this is it. It was impressive to walk where chariots ran and look up at the preserved stands. Herod build an aqueduct to bring in fresh water. This one is exceptionally well preserved and it does not disappoint.

On to Zippori (Sepphoris) a magnificent Roman city about 3 miles from Nazareth. It is possible that Joseph and Jesus may have actually helped with construction as stone masons, (not wood carpenters as we know them). Zippori is now a national park and still has active archaeological work going on. Some extremely well preserved pieces are on the site.

Nazareth is home of Mary and Joseph and probably Jesus for the first part of his life. Back then a small country town, today it is a city that is choked with traffic. We paused for kabobs and falafel for lunch with fresh squeezed pomegranate juice. Mmmmmm. The Church of the Holy Annunciation is built where Gabriel first spoke to Mary. It is believed to be a pretty accurate location. The current church was built in the 1980s but has done an unbelievable job of including pieces of previous churches. Mary’s home, and likely Joseph and Jesus, was nothing more than a carved out cave. You visit Mary’s next door neighbor’s house up close and personal. We had a special guided tour not open to all people. This was truly amazing to think this might be the real deal. Then it was back to traffic jams.

Cana is the site of Jesus first miracle changing water to wine at the wedding. True to form there was a wedding taking place in the church that commemorates this. Today the biggest business of Cana is selling wine in souvenir shops. It is sweet and cheap, but not assurance it taste like Jesus’ wine.

Off to a new hotel tonight for 3 nights in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee. Another beautiful hotel with good food.

We must all say, that the words that come to mind today…..ahhhh, now that makes sense. But then there are new questions.