Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wild Camels and Sweaty Checkpoints

I have been having sooo much fun with my two girls and two grandsons that I haven't blogged in over a week. I wanted to share a few sentences and a couple of pics until I could sit down and really write.

Last Wednesday we rented a van and struck out on an adventure. We left Jerusalem and drove down by the Dead Sea, past Jericho, En Gedi, and Masada. We drove through the Negev desert all the way down to the southern tip of Israel and crossed over the border into Egypt. Here we are after 2 long, hot hours of border control nonsense. Egyptian border control and customs is definitely archaic. It took two hours and 6 passport checkpoints to travel the length of a football field, but we survived! (It had to have been at least 110 degrees in buildings that had no air-conditioning.)

As we headed to our hotel about 20 kilometers away we saw camels roaming in the city. We even had to stop for a random camel that was standing in the road. Who knew camels ran wild in cities?!!!
There were even baby camels! This was such a fun adventure, tense at times but fun....a memory with my girls that will last forever. We crossed back over the border on Friday and headed back to Jerusalem victorious!

God is so good and faithful. We had friends email us before we left with encouraging words and scriptures that increased our faith and let us know that we really were hearing Abba's voice. Where would we be without a community of people who love us?!!!

Thank you to everyone who had a part through prayer in our latest adventure. You are loved so much!

I'll write more about our adventures when I have the time. Now I MUST go play with my grandsons! They're so cute I can't stand it!
Shiloh Navee Benjamin Vandeput (in the shuttle on the way to the Egyptian hotel)

Judah Reign Watkins (at the Egyptian hotel right outside our door)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Most Wonderful Surprise of My Life!

I don't know how they did it, but my family and a many of my friends kept a secret from me for over a month. Courtney & Judah and Destiny & Shiloh surprised me yesterday by walking in my front door here in Jerusalem! Gary said he had to go get someone from the airport for our friend Steve Carpenter who is in Haifa right now. Actually I don't even know if that was a lie. He might not have left Jerusalem. Anyway....Gary said he had to bring this couple here to our house until Steve could come pick them up. Well, when they walked in the door, I went into shock. It wasn't registering in my mind what I was seeing before my eyes! Then I just burst into tears....sobbing-out-loud tears! There is no way I can describe how much I have missed my children and grandchildren over the last 3 months. I wake up every morning with a terrible ache in my heart. For all of their lives we've lived just a few streets away from each other. We were together all the time. I could go over and see them any time I want. They spent every Friday night and Sunday afternoon/evening with us. This has been my only culture shock....being away from my kids. It's literally painful. My heart hurts. It's worse in the mornings. Maybe because I get up early and spend time praying and reflecting and journaling. Most mornings consist of tears of homesickness for my kids. And to see two of my children walk through the door yesterday morning was more than I could take. At last I could touch them and hug them. There are no words to describe that heaven on earth! The only thing that would make it better is if all 15 of them could come. But I know that is out of the question. I am so enjoying them, I didn't even want to go to bed last night, and woke up at 5:45 this morning ready to get the day started! But, alas, it is 10:00 and they are still sleeping. Oh, that dang jet lag!

Just moments after I sobbed like a baby.

Preston is LOVING having his nephews here!

Anyway...I wanted let everyone in on my wonderful, beautiful surprise! We will explore Israel and have fun with them for the next two weeks. And we'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pool of Siloam (recently excavated)

"The rest of the events of Hezekiah's reign, along with all his might and how he made the pool and the tunnel and brought water into the city, are written about in the Historical Record of Judah's Kings." II Kings 20:20

My last post was about my recent trip through Hezekiah's Tunnel with Preston, Rickey Augustus and his friend, Sam. I can't leave you there. I have to let you see what's at the end....the whole reason for the tunnel. Hezekiah channeled the Gihon Spring through the tunnel he dug and into a beautiful pool at the south end of the City of David within the walls. The pool is thought to have been the size of 2 olympic swimming pools. It has just recently been discovered and partially excavated. Recently meaning in the last 2 or 3 years. That is VERY recent in Israel! When you're talking about archaeology dating 4ooo years, 2 or 3 years is a drop in the bucket!

This might be hard to imagine, but think of Rickey, Preston, and Sam as standing in the pool. All the earth behind them is gone, and the pool extends many meters to the right. The corner that has been excavated (above where Rickey is standing on one leg) is the southeast corner of the pool. Here is one mention of this pool in the New Covenant. "After He said these things He spit on the ground, made some mud from the saliva, and spread the mud on his eyes. "Go," He told him, "wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means "Sent"). So he left, washed, and came back seeing." John 9:6-7 The blind man that Yeshua healed was right here in this place!

The orchard with all the trees is above the rest of the pool. "...He also made repairs to the wall of the Pool of Shelah (Siloam) near the king's garden, as far as the stairs that descend from the city of David." Nehemiah 3:15 The "king's garden" was in the same vicinity as this orchard is today. (It wasn't exactly where the orchard is now, because it would be in the middle of the pool.) It is owned by a Greek Orthodox church and they are refusing to sell or to even let anyone dig on their property. So, for now, we have to be content with a little section of this ancient pool.

There are many steps that lead down to the pool. I was so interested in the pool itself that I didn't think about taking pictures of all the steps. Just trust me. There are a lot of steps

Ok...this is so cool. Remember the last verse I referred to about the king's garden? It mentioned stairs leading from the City of David? These steps are an even more-recent discovery. They aren't marked and you have to know where to look for them. Most tour groups don't go here. These steps used to lead up to the Temple Mount! There is no doubt that they were here during Yeshua's time. The Pool of Siloam was used for ritual cleansing (mikvah) before sacrifices were made in the Temple. This was a well-worn path, and I'm sure Yeshua walked here. The Temple Mount is straight uphill from the Pool and Hezekiah's Tunnel. It's a tough climb and at least 2oo-300 meters to the southern entrance of the Temple.

I took this pic from as far up as I could go (which isn't too far).

Underneath these steps runs an ancient drainage system from the Temple Mount. During the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. bodies of Jews were found where they had been hiding in these drains. They died while they were hiding. It is very touching to stand there and know that lives were lost right underneath you.

Tomorrow we are taking the interns to a prayer watch on the Temple Mount and then we will be seeing the recent excavations of David's palace. There will definitely be more pictures coming!

Have I ever said that I LOVE this place?!!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Twenty-four Years Ago Today

Twenty-four years ago today I gave birth to a 8 lb. 7oz. baby boy! At this moment 24 years ago his Dad and I were still in shock, because the sonogram lady 4 months earlier had said that she was 98% sure that he was a she. The nursery was pink and we had nothing for a little boy to wear! We were in shock but we couldn't have been happier! I started screaming when Dr. Fong said, "It's a boy!" I kept saying over and over again, "A boy?!!! A boy?!!!" Gary and I both cried. We couldn't believe it. We had our boy after having two girls. We didn't even decide on his name until a few days later. Austin Wayne Benjamin.....We named him after his dad. Wayne is Gary's middle name and it's also my dad's middle name.

Here in Israel I don't have access to all the baby pictures, but here are a couple I found online.
Austin is 3 here and Landon is 18 months. Aren't they cute?! Notice the white knee socks!

Here is Austin and Destiny at a Drama Banquet at the Academy over 10 years ago. He makes a cute frog! It looks like they went as the princess and the frog.

Austin has always been such a joy to our family. He is so sensitive and loving. He has the gift of discernment. He knows when someone walks into the room if they are having a hard time or if their feelings have been hurt. I love him so much. The room gets brighter when he walks in. And have I mentioned that he loves sports?! Oh my gosh. You name the sport, and he likes it. Specifically, football, basketball, baseball, soccer, golf, hockey and softball. Have I left anything out? Probably. Cowboys, Mavs, Rangers, Stars, Burn, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, and the list goes on. I'm so glad I like sports too, because I've been able to spend time with him watching all these games on TV. Great memories!
Austin and Courtney and her 4th baby, Judah Reign.

Destiny and Austin at his nieces' dance recital this past May. Notice the Rangers jersey and hat. He had just come from a Rangers game!

Preston, Austin and Landon at Hadassah's birth 3/20/09. (Landon's daughter)

This was taken at the airport when we left for Israel in April. Hannah Baker is Austin's precious girlfriend who we love so much (along with her WHOLE family!).

This is sad but sweet, and I couldn't help but include it in this blog. Austin and Preston at the airport dealing with the fact that they wouldn't see each other for 6 months. Ouch....

Most of all, I am proud of Austin's commitment to Yeshua. He has a deep love and affection for His Bridegroom, and he's not ashamed to tell anyone. I could listen to him sing all day long. I love his voice. He has a desire to lead others in worship and is very anointed at it. It comes out of his inner life with God. When we dedicated Him 24 years ago, we literally laid him on the altar and gave him back. He belongs to Abba and we have been given the gift of raising him. He is one of the End-time forerunners, who isn't satisfied to live a normal American Christian life. He wants to see his generation run after Yeshua with with all their hearts. He wants to make a difference, and he is making a difference.

Happy Birthday, son. It is such a privilege to be your mom! I love you and miss you terribly!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

One of My Favorite Things to Do in Jerusalem

A few days ago the job fell upon me to take our guests from Dallas, Rickey and Sam, to the City of David and through Hezekiah's tunnel. Now anyone who knows me knows that it is no "job" for me to take someone through the tunnel. It's one of my favorite things ever. The City of David is such a special place. Just being on that hillside where King David lived and set up the the tent for the Ark of the Covenant is enough in itself, but traveling through the tunnel that King Hezekiah's men dug out around 700 B.C. (approximately 2700 years ago) is an amazing journey! It is 530 meters long which is around one-third of a mile. It is pitch dark through the entire thing. You need a flashlight for the journey, especially if it's your first time through. And you definitely need your camera. At some places in the tunnel the water level is waist high, depending on the time of year. On this particular trip it was thigh high in one place and knee high most of the time. The water is clear, cold, spring water from the ancient Gihon Spring. (Many events took place here. King Solomon was anointed king at the Gihon. I Kings 1:33)

These are the foundations of two towers that were built by the Jebusites to defend the Gihon Spring from invasion. The Jebusites were an ancient Canaanite tribe along with the Hittites, Amorites, and Moabites. We're talking before King David. When I took this picture, I was thinking about how David probably stood right where I was standing when they were conquering this mountain and establishing the capital of Jerusalem. This is amazing. I'm still processing my thoughts on this.

Here is Rickey, Sam and Preston in the tunnel.

I was in the lead of our little group, and at one point I didn't hear anything behind me. I called out their names and there was total silence. I turned and started backtracking trying to figure out where they had stopped. They must have gotten sidetracked by something they found in the tunnel wall. Remember it was pitch dark and I didn't have a flashlight. I didn't know which way the camera was pointing, so I took the picture in order to see what was behind me. Nope. Nobody was there. Then I retraced my steps a few more yards and took another picture.
There's Rickey! I almost killed them for not telling me when they decided to stop and look at something! We laughed through the entire tunnel.
The tunnel begins at the Gihon Spring and ends at the Pool of Siloam. (The Pool of Siloam will be another blog.) Hezekiah's men started the tunnel from both ends at the same time and actually met in the middle. It was a miracle, because we're talking 700 B.C.. They had no high-tech equipment to help them. Ok...I'll stop. I could go on and on about this place, but I'll stop....for now!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

One of Many Things I'm Thankful For

We have been so so busy lately that I haven't been able to post one word about something really special that happened last week. My youngest son, Preston, turned seventeen on June 28th! Yes, folks. All five of my kids are now 17 and older.

Preston's birthday was especially great this year because 9 months ago we almost lost him to a random drive-by shooting in Grand Prairie, TX. He was shot in the mouth, and the EMTs and doctors said it was a miracle that the bullet did not ricochet off his teeth and go into his brain or spinal chord. (This happens in a majority of shootings of this kind.) He lost almost half the blood in his body because the bullet severed a couple of major arteries. God's protection and mercy was so real that night. We know that he was spared for a reason. He has a high calling on his life and the enemy is mad about it.

This is why the enemy is mad. Preston loves to play instruments and worship in the house of prayer. He loves to do his part in crying out over this city, crying out for Jerusalem to be made a praise in all the earth. He is doing his part in seeing that the fire on the altar of intercession at Succat Hallel does not go out. It's continual worship and prayer around the clock. And Preston has a big part in seeing that happen.

The view out the window is Mount Zion. "You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent. Give Him no rest until He makes Jerusalem a praise in all the earth." (Isa. 62) Preston is a watchman on the wall.

He is really loving being here. He's getting to meet so many people from all over many diverse ministries and precious saints who are giving their lives to see all Israel come to know their Messiah Yeshua. This is a dear friend, Arnie Klein, who is serving in the Jerusalem area.

Preston is also a very funny guy. He keeps us laughing with the unexpected.

He and Hunter Ward at the Dead Sea. When I took this picture it was about 110 degrees and they said the mud was burning their skin. They went immediately to the shower and washed it off!

Gary made him his favorite cake: strawberry with strawberry icing! He was a happy man.

His siblings had sent birthday cards with Rachel Baker, and it really made him feel loved. He couldn't get the grin off his face!

Preston, I love you so much. You make life so fun. Thank you for giving your heart and everything you have to the nations. You say you want to make a difference. Well, you already have.

Happy 17th Birthday, Preston!!!!