July 3, 2013

A Journey to Israel: The Final Reflection

Greetings Friends and Family,

As promised, we wanted to share one last reflection on our amazing adventure to Israel. It has been almost three weeks since we have returned from our trip and we have hit the ground running...

It has taken us a while (and we are not done yet) to really process and internalize the many different places and experiences we had while we were on our adventure. The 10 day trip is so intense you reach a saturation level of emotion and experience each day. Then, when we returned, the demands (and joys) of life with three kids and ministry and summer have swept us back into the current of 'normal' life.

What is interesting to me, however, is that 'normal' is now different. For me (Ryan) every day when I sit down to read the Scriptures it is different. In my post-seminary recovery phase of life I have been trying to recapture a love for Scripture and not just a trained and analytical reading of the biblical text. Until our trip to Israel I was failing miserably. But something 'unlocked' in my heart and my mind when I was sitting or standing in the places where these stories took place and it has reignited a passion and love of Scripture and ultimately, a deeper love for the One who reveals Himself through all of these stories and teachings. Now, when I read Scripture, I can feel and see those places in my mind and I am there within the story, participating in the unfolding drama of God's redemption of the world. I will never read the bible the same way again.

For Kealy, she rediscovered that she was truly a person! After three years of selfless parenting and being willing to step out in faith multiple times in discovering God's will for our family, in Israel she was able to stop, reflect and simply enjoy life. It was remarkable to see the spark of vibrant joy and grace that is always there in my wife to fan into flame once again. I loved watching her interact with others because she has a unique way of bringing joy and encouragement to each person she meets, whether it was people on our travel team or random kids or adults in shops in the old city, Kealy was truly a light shining in the darkness and it was so meaningful to see her discover that she is still the same person she has always been.

We are so thankful for Educational Opportunities and for our tour guide and for my Dad and Dr. Larry Porter for making this trip possible, and for the many family and friends who generously supported and encouraged us to make this trip a reality. We had an opportunity on Sunday at our church in Corvallis to share with over 60 people pictures and stories from our time in Israel and it was so amazing to have so many show excitement and interest in our adventure there. Words can never express our gratitude for the many, many ways each of you has shown your love and support of us on this adventure. Thank you especially to family who loved and cared for our kids while we were away!

At the risk of going on and on for pages, I'll share one final thought. Our guide in Israel shared with us during our trip that the number '40' in Scripture is the number for purification. The flood in Genesis lasted 40 days, to cleanse the earth of its evil, the Israelites wander the desert for 40 years to prepare them to enter the promised land, Jesus was tempted in the desert for 40 days at the beginning of His ministry. All of these times of purification and testing were to prepare them for something that was coming. Our guide then shared with us that our trip, like the Israelites, like Jesus, was a journey of purification and that, as meaningful and amazing as it is to be in Israel, we are to wait and see what God is going to do AFTER we return home, what God is preparing in us through our trip to do for His Kingdom in the world.

So, it is with great anticipation and great hope that we step into our new adventure. After tasting, seeing, touching and being in the places where creation's redemption story was written on the hills, the valleys, the mountains and the cities of Israel, the promised land, we begin a new chapter in that story, becoming a living testimony of the amazing grace and incredible
salvation of God in our world. Amen.

Grace and Peace,

Ryan and Kealy