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 As I traveled to the Holy Land, I carried with me my Star Word for the year, “home.”  Since I picked the word, I find it interesting how the word “home” sticks out in sentences and conversations, and signs. It seemed fitting that I started my sabbatical at the home of Jesus, exploring where he was born, the places he walked, and the places where he developed his identity. Jesus chooses to live on the edge, a small fishing village on the sea called Capernaum. Capernaum was a trade route and a place where Jesus’ message could spread quickly. This was one of the first areas we visited that was full of life and growth. 

 The exact place of specific moments of Jesus’ life wasn’t as important to me as being in the Holy Land, walking in the places that are written in the Bible, and building new insights and connections to the stories. Now I have a memory of being on a boat on the Sea of Galilee as the sun was setting, which brought me a new interest in last Sunday’s Gospel as Jesus invited the disciples to follow him on the same sea I experienced.   

 What unexpectedly hit home to me, was on the Road to Cana where we remembered the story of Jesus turning water into wine. As we walked a crooked street with cobblestones the story was pictured along the wall. We walked into a church and down into a basement where we found ruins and a replica of a stone jar that would have been at the wedding feast. The story was read from the Bible by one from our group, and Reverend Jenny Sung shared her reflection with a group of hard-working, extraordinary pastors, deacons, and lay leaders who were on this trip for many and varied reasons. She asked these questions: 

 What do you need to be emptied from you?

What burdens are weighing you down?

What are you carrying on this journey that you need to let go of?

What do you need to be filled up? 

 She kept asking questions and I found myself deeply touched. Her words hit home. It was clear that those questions were hitting home with the whole group. I imagine the questions might hit home with most people.  I have been carrying much and it was time to be emptied and let go. It was time to really begin a time of rest and rejuvenation, and accept the gift, you have given me of a sabbatical. 

 My journey continued to River Jordan, Bethlehem, Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture, the Dead Sea, the Mount of Olives, Augustan Victoria Hospital, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Wailing Wall, and so much more. We even took a little nighttime adventure to eat some shawarma and go to the Walled Off Hotel. 

 What I hadn’t thought about before this trip is that Israel and Palestine have a blend of three Abrahamic faiths Judaism, Christianity, and Islam intermingled everywhere you go. In all the places we traveled you would see and hear all three. All three of these faiths found this place home.  I found it beautiful and compelling, especially, the call of prayer throughout the day.  I took those moments to stop and pause and think what a gift that tradition is to remind us also of the power to stop everything and direct our thoughts and prayers to God. 

 There is so much more to tell, and I know as God’s Spirit leads me, the experiences and learnings in the Holy Land will bring me new insights and thoughts as I continue to lead as God has called me. 

 Thank you for the prayers as I traveled. It’s good to be home again. My next adventure will be to Carefree, Arizona where I will be attending a conference called Leading Well. I am thrilled to find out that Reverend Jenny Sung will also be a leader with others at this conference. 

 Until I come back home to Bethany and we meet again, I hold you in prayer. Blessings to you. 

 Peace and Love,

Pastor Cathy Daharsh