08/06/2017 - 08/06/2017
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