A Travellerspoint blog

Day 6


I'm a little behind in posting - most of our days here are long and full and my access to wifi is limited.

On Sunday, we all got to sleep in a bit and then attended church at St George's Cathedral. The service was in English and Arabic and we worshipped with pilgrims from Hong Kong, Florida and some local folks too. After church and lunch, we traveled to the museum of Israel, where we saw the Shrine of the Dead Sea Scrolls and a model of the Old City.
We had a visit from a local Muslim man who gave a great talk about Islam. The kids were talkative and engaged, and asked terrific questions. They're preconceptions are being challenged and they are like sponges soaking up new information.

Looking forward to a walking tour of the Old City tomorrow, a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where we'll be able to touch the stone of Calvary, among other things.

More to come as I'm able to post. Our youth remember you each morning during morning prayers and share their ongoing gratitude for being able to be in this place.

Peace to all of you.

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Day 5


We visited Shepherd's Field and visited first century caves. Then we visited the Separation Wall at Rachel's Tomb, which divides Israel from Palestine in the West Bank. We heard stories of how the wall has divided families and starved commerce in the area.
We also visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in Manger Square. This is the oldest church in Christendom and the traditional site of the Nativity. We waited in a loooong line and visited the site of Jesus's birth. We each got to take a moment touch the stone and pray at the site.

Next stop was visiting the palace fort built by King Herod, King Herod's tomb, and exploring the tunnels under the palace.

Several youth led the evening devotional, talking about the theme of trust and faith... recalling the stories of the shepherds in the fields, the angel appearing to Mary, and the story of the disciples following Jesus to the top of the mountain for the Transfiguration. The kids have seen all of these sites and it was moving to see them making connections between stories of the Bible and applying them to their lives.

We ended the evening with a long discussion about the sites we've seen, reactions to them, what reverence means, and what prayer looks like for each of them.

Good stuff is happening for all of the youth. They're making new friends with youth from other churches and caring for one another in sweet and tender ways. Our youth have formed a loving family among each other. Learning is taking place on many levels - social, emotional, and religious. Being in the Holy Land is an amazing gift and it is amplified by watching these young people develop such caring relationships with one another. I have no doubt this will be something that continues to impact their lives in the years ahead.

You can see photos on the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles Facebook page, my Facebook page or follow us on Instagram saint.marks.youth

Posted by stmarksyouth17 22:58 Comments (0)

Day 4

It's actually early on Saturday morning (day 5) as I'm writing this. On my way to meet the kids for breakfast. We're now in Jerusalem proper at St George's College.

We started the day yesterday bright and early with breakfast at 6:15 and on the bus by 7am We passed through our first military checkpoint as we entered the West Bank. First stop was the church at Burqin where Jesus healed the lepers. We all had the chance to climb into the cistern where the lepers would've lived and received food and water lowered to them from a hole in the ground above them. I'll post photos of this in the following post, or you can check them out in the photo gallery.
Second stop was the church at the site of Jacobs Well where we drew water and drank from the well. We met Fr Justinius, who blessed us. He painted all of the icons in the church, including an icon for his predecessor who was brutally murdered defending his church.
Next stop was in Nablus, where we watched sweets being made. While we were there, some people drove up to the store next to us with a sheep in the car. They let the sheep out of the car and made a sacrifice using the sheep right there in the parking lot as a way of saying thank you and celebrating their new car.
There was a visit to the ruins of a Byzantine church in the city of Taybeh, one of the few Christian cities left in the area. We also visited the Taybeh Brewery where we heard first hand accounts from the owners about what it is like to be an American Palestinian Christian living in Israeli occupied Palestine. We're starting to get an understanding of the politics in this region. It's mind blowing.

We ended the day with a night walk into old town to the Holy Sepulcher where we explored the site in silence and then watched the ritual of the closing and locking up the site for the night.

It was an emotional day for the kids. They are all tired and feeling lots of things. Being in Jerusalem requires much more vigilance and being able to really listen to our guide and follow directions the first time. For a few of them, this is hard because it is so different from their life in the US. They are also being bombarded with the sight of many different religious groups/people and practices. It's a challenge for a lot of them and they are uncomfortable. I can almost see the little seeds of personal faith and understanding and intimate relationship with God being planted in our kids and it is an honor to witness their processes as they experience this.

Posted by stmarksyouth17 20:58 Comments (0)

Photos from Israel

Captions coming soon




Posted by stmarksyouth17 13:43 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Is it really already day 3?

We've had another fun, full day here. We were on the bus by 7:00 am and on the road to explore Galilee. We started the morning by renewing our baptismal vows while standing in the Jordan River, followed by a trip up the road to experience Mount of Beatitudess, were we read the Sermon on the Mount and had a silent hike to the spot where it is remembered. We visited Tabgha and viewed the site of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes. THe kids were able to wade into the water there and spend time at the church commemorating this miracle. From there we visited Capernaum, and saw the excavated site of Peter's house along with the ancient Synagogue on the same site. We've learned the difference between Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman times historically and have seen how the different eras have built over one another to remember and commemorate holy sites. After lunch, we swam in the Sea of Galilee and then took a boat ride out on the lake, where we spent some time with the gospel stories of Jesus calming the storm, and what that means for us today.
The kids have each entered a personal pilgrimage as well... I've have conversations with each of them about where they are in there experiences here and what it means to them. They are each experiencing themselves in new ways. For some of them, they are learning how to be in a group and to be part of a bigger system. For all of them, it is a time of questioning and searching... Some of the comments that I have heard have been:

"You know, I'm really understanding how Jesus was all about community and that we do community really well in the Episcopal church. Jesus taught us a lot about how to care about each other and be good to each other even when it's hard."
"I'm having trouble making the switch from understanding the bible stories as stories in a book to understanding hat these things most likely happened and I am standing in the same places where this stuff happened. I'm not sure how to feel about it. "
" I keep thinking I'm going to feel something really big and important, but I think God might now work that way."

We are all enjoying our guide, Iyad. He is full of information, has a quick sense of humor and loves the kids.

Tonight after dinner, Iyad took us below the place where we are staying and showed us the site of a Roman home. This is the first time that we have been able to actually stand inside of an excavated site. We saw where the family would've slept, stored food, kept animals and stored water. Blow the home, we saw a tomb that would very much have looked like the tomb where Jesus was buried. Because we are in Nazareth, and are across the street from the site of Mary's home and the assumed site of Joseph's home, it is very possible that Jesus may have stayed in the home that is below the convent (where we are staying) or at least have spent time here. The faces on the kids as they took in this information and actually stood in a real Roman home was one of awe and curiosity. I know they have more to share when they get home.

Tomorrow we make our way to Jerusalem where we will stay at the St George's college. We'll be visiting the site where Jesus healed the lepers in Burqin, we'll visit the church built over Jacob's Well and then get settled into our new accommodations.

Happy to report that my luggage arrived safe and sound at the end of the second evening, and I have never been so excited to put on clean clothes!

The kids are doing well. They've all made new friends and the group as a whole is strong. I continue to be imporessed with what good travelers we have and how kind they are to one another. You can see in some of the pictures that they are becoming a closer knit little group.

I'll post more from Jerusalem. I'll post pictures soon!

Posted by stmarksyouth17 12:57 Comments (0)

We made it!

Greetings from Nazareth!

Our kiddos are terrific travelers! Our flight into Istanbul was delayed which caused us to miss our connecting flight to Tel Aviv. It was quite a process to get tickets issued and get to our gate (imagine 22 people following a guide in a red shirt as we run... yes run! Across the airport and between gates and security checkpoints). The kids were great sports and so good about being flexible with the nuances of security and getting to our gate. No complaining was heard and lots of laughter and good natured joking. We arrived in Tel Aviv to find all luggage arrived except for 3 of the leaders - including me! Yes, I'm still wearing the same clothes I was wearing in California on Sunday... luggage should be arriving any moment now though.
We arrived at Sisters of Nazareth around 2:00am where we got our room assignments and hurried off to bed.
We were all up (on time!) and at breakfast at 7:30am. After breakfast and a brief meeting with Iyad, our tour guide, then we were off to explore Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
We visited the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, saw the site of Mary's home, traveled the footpath to the Latin Church of the Annunciation - the traditional site of Gabriel's appearance to Mary, and then on to Mt. Tabor and the Church of the Transfiguration.
Tonight we're going to a barbecue hosted by Christ Church Nazareth and will get to spend time with youth from the area learning about their lives as Christians in this part of the world.

Check our Instagram feed at saint.marks.youth for pics!

Posted by stmarksyouth17 07:05 Comments (2)

Countdown continues...

As the date for our departure draws ever closer (as in 2 days from today!), we've been busy making all kinds of preparations... We've collected prayers from parish members, family, and friends that we'll take with us to deposit at the Wailing Wall.


And there have been many phone calls and texts taking care of all kinds of details...


See our itinerary in the post below and follow along with us here and on Instagram. You can find us on Instagram at saint.marks.youth.

It promises to be a rich experience and an unforgettable journey! We're thrilled to share it with you here.

Andrea and the Saint Mark's Youth pilgrims... Bella, Jane, Russell, Tyler, and Henry

Posted by stmarksyouth17 19:22 Comments (0)


On our way to the Holy Land

We arrive in Tel Aviv where we meet our guide, Canon Iyad Qumri.

Introductions. We begin our visit to Mary’s Well, the site of the only spring-fed fountain in the city, and most likely the place where Mary would have gone to draw water. We then visit the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation where we will have an opportunity to have an introduction to the Icon, we then follow on foot the path to the Latin Church of the Annunciation, the traditional site of the Angel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary, telling her she would conceive Jesus, the Emmanuel. Lunch, Mt. Tabor and the Basilica of the Transfiguration ‘And he was transfigured before them and his garments became glistering ...’
Meeting with Fr. Nael Abu Rahmoun and youth at Christ Church in Nazareth Dinner with the local youth

Depart for Sepphoris the capital of Galilee in the first Century where we explore the excavations of the Roman/Byzantine city. Lunch at the Druze village, then to Masaadeh on the Golan Heights. Depart for Caesarea Philippi (Banias) 'And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “ Who do men say that I am ? “

Today we depart for the Sea of Galilee-Lake Kinnereth. Stop at the Jordan River from the Northern side for the renewal of Baptismal vows. We then visit Capernaum where we see the Ancient Synagogue and St. Peter’s House. We continue to the Mount of Beatitudes, Lunch
is by the Sea of Galilee, followed by a visit to Tabgha (Heptapegon), The Loaves and Fishes Church, and the Chapel of St. Peter’s Primacy, where we will celebrate Eucharist. Swim in the sea of Galilee.

Depart for Burqin. Jesus had passed through Burqin on his way to Jerusalem from Nazareth, And as he was passing by the village he heard cries for help from ten lepers who were isolated in quarantine in a cave. To Nablus to visit St. Photini the Greek Orthodox Monastery. (St. Photini lived in first century Palestine, she was the Samaritan woman who Christ visited at the well asking her for water) and then to the church built over Jacob’s well where we will tour the church and drink from the Well. Lunch in Taybeh. Visit Taybeh, the only 100% Christian town in the Palestinian Authority. In the fourth century the Emperor Constantine and his mother St. Helen built the church of St. George in the village, the ruins of the Church are still found on a hill in the town.

Depart for the Shepherd’s Field 'And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night’, visit 1st century caves at the Shepherd’s field. Lunch at Ruth’s Restaurant in Beit Sahour . Visit Church of the Nativity, located in Manger Square. It is the oldest Church in Christendom, constructed by Constantine in AD 326 and the traditional site of the Nativity. Herodium, visit the palace fort built
by King Herod, overlooking the Judean Desert and the mountains of Moab to the east and the Judean hills to the west

Sunday Eucharist at Saint George’s Cathedral. The liturgy will be celebrated in English and Arabic, the language of our Arabic Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land and the whole Middle East. Lunch. Israel Museum and the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed. We will also visit a scale model of the Old City of Jerusalem, describing the city as it would have been during Jesus’ time.
Guest Speaker: Lecture on Islam

GROUP PHOTO, Walk the Cardo to the Constantinian Entrance to the Church of the Resurrection to the Holy Sepulcher. Lunch and continue afternoon Holy Sepulcher walk to the Armenian quarter where we will be able to observe the Armenian Vespers.

We depart for the Western Wall near Elharam Esh Sharif (The Dome of The Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque) St. Anne’s Church and the pools of Bethesda. Free afternoon.

Wadi Qelt early morning to get the feel for the desert. Breakfast in Jericho.Take the cable car to the Temptation Monastery, a living reminder of the 5th and 6th centuries when the Judean Desert was home to Christian monks and nuns and over 200 Monasteries. Lunch at the Qumris. Float in the Dead Sea -- Rocky Seashore

Depart for Bethphage, walk the Palm Sunday road down the Mt. Of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane with its ancient olive trees and the Church of all Nations. Lunch. Visit church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, this church was built over the palace of the High Priest Caiaphas, where Peter denied Jesus three times. Walk the ramparts from Jaffa gate to Herod’s gate.

Stations of the Cross. Silent reflections at the Empty Tomb. Later in the morning we will depart for Emmaus Nicopolis. We celebrate the Eucharist at the ruins of the Byzantine Church. Lunch. Free Afternoon

Return home

Posted by stmarksyouth17 18:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Pilgrimage Countdown

We're getting ready....

Hello and welcome to our blog! Follow along with us -- five Saint Mark's youth (Bella, Jane, Henry, Russell, and Tyler) and their youth minister (that'd be me, Andrea) -- as we join other youth and chaperones from around the LA diocese on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from July 29 - August 12. I will be sharing the thoughts, observations, experiences and photos here with you, so you can follow our journey. Feel free to leave comments for us below - we'll check them as often as we can! No doubt, we will have much more to share when we arrive home August 12, and I hope you will join us at our forum on Sunday, September 24 at 9am, to hear more about it!

Here's a brief outline of our journey - I'll include a more detailed itinerary once we have it. Our fifteen day trip will be broken into two geographic areas. Half of the pilgrimage will be spent in Nazareth, exploring the Galilee, Tiberias, the Mount of Transfiguration, the Via Mara, among many other historic and biblical sites. The remainder of the trip will be spent in Jerusalem at St. George's College. While in Jerusalem, the pilgrims will explore the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Dome of the Rock, Western Wall, Mount of Olives, the Judean Desert, and other sacred places. Our youth have an opportunity to touch every body of water in the region-- whether it be swimming in the Galilee and Mediterranean, floating in the Dead Sea, or standing knee deep in the Jordan River to renew their baptismal covenant. It promises to be a moving experience for us all.

A special thanks to the parents and youth who worked on getting our Giving Tree fundraiser from concept to reality.

A heartfelt thank you, thank you, thank you, to those who helped make our Giving Tree grow with your generous financial support. To date, we have raised close to $5000.00 to offset the cost of our trip!!
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Thank you, as always, for your prayers and support on our journey!


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