Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Trip That Changed My Life


I have been off the grid for a while now. It was over a month ago that Ballet Magnificat Alpha left for our trip to Israel on February 5th. We spent two weeks there. The organization who we partnered with and who was responsible for bringing us in was Helping Hand Coalition, a ministry that reaches out specifically to Russian Jewish Holocaust survivors. They had us stay in a missions house in the city of Caesarea, and we performed for Holocaust survivors in 5 different surrounding cities. It was the most AMAZING tour EVER! 

But back in the States now, we dived straight back into daily routine... forget taking time to readjust from jet lag *nobody’s got time for that*. On only our second day back from the trip we hit the ground running, returning to our daily grind of taking our technique classes to stay in shape, and rehearsing. I meant to update my blog sooner about our trip to Israel, but the reason I haven’t posted about it just yet, besides the excuse of busyness, is because it has taken me about this much time to completely process all that I experienced in Israel, but now I am ready to share! The trip to Israel I am about to tell you about was truly a transformative experience for me. I came back from Israel with a strengthened faith and a deeper love, compassion, and zeal for God, Yeshua, the Jewish people, and their country. I hope you enjoy reading about it in this post!


Here is a view out the window of our little Caesarean missions house. Company laundry hangs out on the patio all in a row.

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I don’t think I have ever, in my whole life, been on my feet as much as we had been on them for, during those two weeks spent in Israel. We were tourists by day and performers by night! We had performance bookings in the cities of Tzfat, Netanya, Haifa, Ashdod, and Nazareth.

With the long travel days behind us, we spent our first full day, February 7th, in Israel sightseeing. Some might have guessed that we would have wanted to get some rest, but being in the Holy Land we felt that we didn’t have a moment to “waste” with resting! On our first day we visited the city of Capernaum which was the base of Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 4:13), we visited the Mount of Beatitudes where the Sermon on the Mount took place (Matthew 5:1-12), we visited the city of Magdala which was the hometown of Mary Magdalene and there we saw some recently discovered excavations of a synagogue and some historical residential homes. We went on a boat ride on the sea of Galilee, the largest freshwater lake in Israel where most of Jesus’ ministry took place around, and also got to visit Galilee’s Miracles Center where we saw The Ancient Galilee Boat Exhibit which presented the remnants of an authentic 1st-century wooden fishing boat that sailed the sea of Galilee around the time of Jesus and was discovered in 1986, the same year Ballet Magnificat was founded! It was so exhilarating to take in all the scenes and walk the places where Jesus walked.


Capernaum 

A map of the villages surrounding the sea of Galilee

The Alpha company striking a pose from our ballet "Arrival" in a green grassy field atop the Mount of Beatitudes!

An excavation of a recently discovered synagogue in Magdala.

A constructed replica of synagogue discovered in Magdala featuring a beautiful mural of the encounter between Jesus and the hemorrhaging woman.




Maggie and I with the sea of Galilee behind us

Snapped this picture of Maggie, Margot, and I on the boat ride on the sea of Galilee right before dusk.



The next day February 8th, we had our first performance in Tzfat. For the first show, we ended up having to improvise and wear some make-shift costumes, dresses Kathy found in town. This was because one of the airlines along the way lost our luggage that had some of our costumes in them and it took them a couple of days (too late) before returning them to us. We made due.


Take a look at these impromptu make-shift costumes. Not bad Kathy!

What the costumes were supposed to look like! (A group shot from our performance in Haifa )
 Make-shift pig costumes



February 9th we visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, which truly was life-changing.

Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, is the ultimate source for Holocaust education, documentation and research. From the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem's integrated approach incorporates meaningful educational initiatives, groundbreaking research and inspirational exhibits. Its use of innovative technological platforms maximizes accessibility to the vast information in the Yad Vashem archival collections for an expanding global audience. Yad Vashem is at the forefront of unceasing efforts to safeguard and impart the memory of the victims and the events of the Shoah period; to document accurately one of the darkest chapters in the history of humanity; and to grapple effectively with the ongoing challenges of keeping the memory of the Holocaust relevant today and for future generations. ~As seen from: https://www.yadvashem.org/about/yad-vashem.html


Most times important memorials cost money to see, but I am so glad that this one was free to enter which I interpret to mean that this museum is so important that EVERYONE NEEDS TO SEE IT! Coming off from some exhausting travel days which means I’m prone to get emotional, I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to handle this museum, but I surprisingly didn’t cry. I was left stunned and bewildered, and went through a range of emotions:


The scenic view from the car on our way to the museum.

  • The museum gave me a point of reference as to the amount and kind of astonishing evil and sin mankind is capable of.


  • It was unbelievable how many people were deceived, brainwashed, led astray and made susceptible to give in to what Hitler stood for and believed, he professing to be CHRISTIAN! A sobering reality. Prior to going to the museum, I struggled to understand why the Jewish people often times seem hostile towards Christians, but now I understand that Hitler’s facade among, I'm sure, other events in history are reason enough to make them that way.
  • Extreme sadness was felt remembering what the Jewish people went through. The museum gave me a point of reference to the amount of extreme torture and pain that is possible for one to endure. I learned about World War ll and about the Jewish Holocaust years ago in school but somehow, perhaps in all of the blessing and complacency of the present day that I find myself in, I’ve forgotten the intensity of this grotesque event.



A model of an underground concentration camp








Actual beds retrieved from concentration camps

  • And to think that Jesus, also a Jew, innocent, endured a torturous punishment, the punishment we deserved, baring the weight of the sin of the Whole WORLD... is an EXTREMELY sobering thought...
  • And in the heaviness of it all, I found myself astonished and somewhat encouraged when trying to comprehend the unfathomable, admirable amount of resilience displayed in the Jewish people in their will to survive and live. Life, to live, it is SUCH A GIFT and it is mind boggling and convicting to think that the people of our day, including myself, who struggle with discontentment in life when we have it so good; That women actually choose to starve themselves, and that people actually choose to take their lives, the suicide rate being the highest it’s ever been. When I think about what the Jewish people went through I wonder, do these people today really know what suffering is?




  • Learning of the Jewish Holocaust victims that were able to take things to the next level and forgive their persecutors left me breathless.
  • It gladdened my heart to see that in the midst of a time of so much suffering, creativity endured, used as means for survival, as well as an outlet of joy from all the suffering.

A knit glove

Woven crafts made from telephone wire to earn income in a labor camp 

A chess set made from paper. (Image Source)

  • The museum was so well done, even the architecture of it spoke to me. It had you walk through a triangular hall, zig-zagging back and forth through rooms with stark, gray, grim walls, and by the time you got to the end it opened up to a spectacular outdoor view as if symbolizing light at the end of the tunnel. 



A refreshing picturesque scene at the end of the tunnel speaking breath, life, hope, peace, and newness to my heart.



A powerful scripture is left with us as we leave the Holocaust museum; Ezekiel 37:14 inscribed on the archway

I’ve always had a reverence and respect for the Holocaust survivors and it was only deepened after our visit to the Holocaust museum. I’m so glad we were able to visit the museum earlier on in our trip because it prepared my heart for interacting and performing for the Russian Holocaust survivors for the rest of the trip expanding my heart with love for them.



Jumping ahead for a moment, on February 16th a few of us had the opportunity to visit the Temple Institute in Jerusalem.

The Temple Institute (in Hebrew, Machon HaMikdash), founded in 1987, is a non-profit educational and religious organization located in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. The Institute is dedicated to every aspect of the Biblical commandment to build the Holy Temple of G-d on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. Our short-term goal is to rekindle the flame of the Holy Temple in the hearts of mankind through education. Our long-term goal is to do all in our limited power to bring about the building of the Holy Temple in our time. Thus, the Institute's efforts include raising public awareness about the Holy Temple, and the central role that it occupies in the spiritual life of mankind. The many areas of activities conducted by the Institute combine research, seminars, publications, and conferences, as well as the production of educational materials.  ~As seen from: https://www.templeinstitute.org/about.htm


Though the temple Institute offers presentations from a non-messianic standpoint it was a very interesting experience that gave insight as to what the first and second temples mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible may have looked like. There could have been potential for getting overwhelmed at the TempleUS to be living temples, at the death and resurrection of Christ; vessels for his Holy Spirit to dwell,) but it did not bug me so much. I was excited, not for what the Jews were excited for, but simply by the fact that the rebuilding the temple by the Jewish people is fulfillment of prophecy in the Bible happening before our very eyes and is a necessary step leading up to the coming of our Messiah!




The Lord really used this trip to Israel to bring me to a more complete understanding of the Jewish people, their lineage, and why they are so important. God highlighted to me His heart for them, which then became contagious. I became excited about God's plans and purposes for them and for all of us, Jews and Gentiles alike! It was cool reading about the Jewish people in the Bible during my quiet times in the mornings, recognizing that God selected the Jews as His chosen people since the beginning of time. As I read about them in my Bible it was notable that the Jewish people, the Israelites had always been objects of persecution, target, and opposition. Their predictable pattern of the way they operated in life was also notable: seeking God, then wandering off, then repenting, this sequence happening over and over again, reminded me of the reality that history tends to repeat itself.

As one picks apart the Bible from the Old Testament to the New, as I have been spurred on to do since [my trip to] Israel, you will see and also be reminded that a day is coming when the humdrum of life will cease and great things will happen! God’s plan for his chosen people and all of mankind will come to pass and restoration and blessings will be reaped by all who chose to surrender themselves in faith and in humble obedience to the lordship of Jesus Christ and to his plans, which is exciting business! 


 
Keith Thibodeaux, my boss at Ballet Magnificat would always say, “The more you love God, the more you want to know about and love Israel and the Jewish people too.” I was never able to fully understand what he meant by this statement until now.

On February 10th we spent our off day visiting Masada and the Dead Sea!


Masada from a distance





The view from the top of Masada

Walking down was fun

Ballet Magnificat Alpha floating in the Dead Sea

We performed in the City of Netanya on February 11th. A fun fact I learned there is that the name Netanya means “God gave”. I just think that is SO BEAUTIFUL. The ballet we took to present to the different cities of Israel was the story of the Prodigal Son, essentially a story about forgiveness, a fitting topic to present to the Jewish people. Initially, one might think it nonsensical to present a New Testament story to the Jewish people who typically don’t even accept the New Testament, but with a deeper symbolism of the Prodigal son representing The Jewish people, a people who strayed from their father, in need of forgiveness, that will one day return; we thought it was a good idea.





February 12, we spent the morning taking fun ballet pictures at an aqueduct nearby our missions home, and also visited an old palace of King Herod’s by the sea that was only 8 minutes away from where we stayed before performing in Haifa that evening!


Maggie, Sam, and Ingrid are so cool!

Everyone needs a ballet picture for their Mom! :)

Abbey and Sam put on an impromptu performance at Herod's Amphitheater

Abbi Jean and I

The remnants of King Herod's seaside palace in Caesarea




February 13, we performed in Ashdod. 










Aside from a few passive Anti-Christian protesters that showed up to our show to make their stance known, overall it seemed that our performances were well received by all the audience members all of the nights.




A language barrier did not stop the audience from attempting to express their enjoyment of our production. The way they tried to express their thankfulness was so powerful, maybe even more so than if they would have used English words. Their responses were more powerful than the responses we often get from audience members in America who usually hold back or just settle for saying a simple ‘good job’, or ‘can we have a pic?’. It was truly a blessing to receive the appreciation from the Russian Holocaust survivors via hugs and kisses and crying and them shaking us. It would be hard to believe that God didn’t touch their hearts in a special way through our ballet... which was SO encouraging considering when we first left the States, I honestly felt so unprepared and under-rehearsed. I guess it goes to show that God really does use us in our weakness.



The tech crew guys were floured asking ‘What did you do in that auditorium [to cause the audience members to leave smiling]? People never leave this theater smiling!’ We thank the Lord for fruitful ministry! Bruce, a new friend we made that stayed with us in the mission’s house that often works with the Holocaust survivors observed a notable general change in the countenance of the survivors. He informed me that the ballet really got them talking and that he was even able to give away two bibles.



On Valentines Day, February 14th, we went to Nazareth which became my most favorite city in Israel, next to Jerusalem. Though the traffic was crazy to drive in, as a passenger, I can say that it was fun to ride in. I Loved getting to experience visiting a center called "Nazareth Village", a Christian establishment where they aim to recreate what life would have been like in Nazareth in the days of Jesus.

The city of Nazareth







We venture out to the recreated Nazareth city of the Biblical days.

A picture of Margot taking a picture, just because. :)

flowers, another 'just because' photo.

An olive tree! With shoots growing out from it!

These almond trees smelled good!

This is what Hyssop looks like!

There's Abraham with his sheep.

Sheep!

Here our tour guide explains to us how to use this contraption which separates the wheat from the chaff. Our tour guide was an awesome Christian who was originally from Russia, who could speak and translate many languages. We invited him to come see the ballet we were scheduled to perform that night and he ended up not only blessing us with his attendance but also ended up helping us with translation to the audience members at the end of the night! God’s provision was and always is so cool!

A wine press

Catherine trying out the olive press

This carpenter teaches adventurous Catherine how to use his tools to whittle wood.

My turn! Hannah the weaver teaches me how yarn used to be made. It was a tricky business.



Another replicated synagogue

We finish our time at Nazareth Village with an authentic Israeli meal including pita, hummus, and lentil soup just to name a few things! It was so delicious!

At the end of our show in Nazareth, the Mayor of the town came on stage and expressed his gratitude to us for coming. Our sponsor said initially, he thought the Mayor was going to get on stage and speak of his disapproval/ bash our presentation, which he said actually isn’t an uncommon thing to happen there. But instead, the Mayor proclaimed that he couldn’t think of any better way to kick off some jubilee year celebration they had coming up than to kick it off with a show like ours! We all felt truly honored to be appreciated, and thankful for the opportunity to provide hope to the people, and ultimately desiring that they'd be encouraged to give Christ more consideration.



February 15th and 16th we spent our last two days being tourists in The Old City of Jerusalem before heading back home. Seeing all the historical sights, trekking the places Jesus trekked, and taking in a wealth of new information about the Holy Land from all our tour guides on this trip was so enriching and faith building! Everything before seemed to be so ancient, unrelatable, prophetic, and out of reach. But now that 'I’ve seen', It is easier to believe. I know faith is the evidence of things unseen but I am so thankful to God for a little historical evidence to help us along.


Alpha Company group photo with our tour guide inside the Jaffa Gate of The Old City, Jerusalem

Sights on the streets of the Old City


Sights on the streets of the Old City

The following video is a sight we got to take in while waiting in line to go up to see the Dome of the Rock:






The Dome of the Rock

 


Just another "Arrival" pose picture looking east.

The Western 'Wailing' Wall

The Beautiful/ Golden Gate

The Mount of Olives

The view from the top of the Mount of Olives


I was so blessed to get to go on this trip. It seemed to be a very unifying, faith building, and effective trip. I'm believing in faith that our 'seeds sown' will produce much 'fruit'. Not to mention, God has done a really cool thing in me, bringing me to a place where ‘the spiritual’ almost seems to be more tangible for me now than ‘the physical’! My faith has been built up so high! Thanks to you all for taking the time to read my blog post. I hope it was an experience for you and that in some way you were encouraged, and maybe that your faith has been built up too! Thanks for all the love, prayer, and support! God bless you all!

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