Jon DeBell's Blog

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Location: Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

Sunday, July 30, 2006

So much to do... little time! A tired group of travelers arrived in Quito late Thursday, got situated in our hostel and apartment and had a good night's sleep. Friday we explored the city a little. On Saturday Laura, Morgan and I went by bus to Otovalo, a town north of Quito located in a beautiful valley surrounded by extinct (we hope!) volcanos. The trip was an experience in itself. The ride was two and one half hours through varied landscapes--mostly mountainous, in a bus that became SRO. On Saturdays the town is filled with natives of the surrounding province who set up stands and sell about anything and everything you can imagine. Local crafts as well as produce, livestock, food and so much more are hawked at every turn. We were accompanied on our trip by a man from Boston we met at the hostel, Michael. We all had a great time shopping and bartering. It was fun for me to compare this experience with shopping in old Jerusalem. We were exhausted when we got back to Quito after dark.

This new week we plan on visiting Mitad del Mundo, taking a tram up the side of Pichincha (the volcano that towers over Quito), and traveling to Banos 4 hours to the south where Tungurahua is now said to be safe to visit. There will be lots to explore there--waterfalls, ATVs down a river gorge, hotsprings and if we're lucky a visit to the jungle.

Also there are many more 16th and 17th century churches to visit and be amazed at the artwork and craftsmanship seen in them. One church with twin spires that reach to heaven is awaiting me and whoever is able to tackle the steep climb up the narrow stairwell to the belltower above (sound familiar to anyone?)

I hope to be able to post some pictures, but as for now I have some compatability problems with the internet cafe computers I'm using.

More later. This is definately third world and helps us appreciate home. But we are enjoying ourselves!


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Off to Ecuador

Thanks again to everyone who has been tuning in to my sabbatical updates. It seems that almost every day since I've been back from Israel I've learned of people in unexpected places I never had a clue were looking at this blog. A fair number of them I've never met! And yet last night I was told of more such people keeping up with us and praying for us while we were in Israel.

Megan, Laura, Evan, Erin and me (Can you tell I'm proud of my family?)

So if I ever manage to get packed tonight and make my flight in Atlanta once again...please, whoever may glance in this place over the next couple of weeks, pray for my daughter Erin, her son, Evan, my youngest daughter Laura, Erin's friend Morgan, and myself as we journey to Ecuador. Who knows what may be waiting around the bend for us?!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Home Sweet Home

After an uneventful flight home we touched down in Atlanta at 5:30 am Monday morning. I managed to just beat the rush hour traffic through town and arrived back in Charlotte before lunch. There was no time for long goodbyes at the airport. I will miss my new friends. Each one is special in their own way:

-Gordon Franz, our tour leader, has an amazing knowledge of the Bible and made the Word truly come alive as we visited the places where it all happened. Thanks for your insights Gordon. Many will remain with me for life.

-Larry Fuller, board member of ABR. A rock. Quiet, confident and strong. An amazing testimony of coming to faith in Christ later in life and how nothing is the same after you meet the Savior!

-T.J. Betts, a professor at THE Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. It makes me feel good to know that we have men like T.J. teaching future generations of church leaders. There is nothing pretentious about T.J. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with him--his open and positive spirit, his passion for giving his students practical insights into the scriptures, and his love for Christ. Did I mention that he is also a fan of the Buckeyes?!

-Elise Bosse, a grad student now living in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, Michael. (Well, actually she's now stuck in Amman, Jordan and is having difficulty getting out of the country and back home!) Elise is studying ancient history and was in Israel for several reasons--not the least of which is searching for that special something God wants her to do in life. In Elise I found a kindred spirit in one who loves to explore, climb and see what's around the next bend. People like Elise help me to feel young (except when my muscles are aching from trying to keep up).

-Michael Lassiter, a lay student of archaeology, paeleantology, Hebrew and so much more. Michael had several nice finds on the dig. He also is gifted vocally and in playing the guitar. Michael blessed us by sharing his musical gifts with us on several occasions in worship.
Thanks Michael for the picture DVD. The pics will bring lots of memories to recollection.
-Joyce Morrill realized a longtime dream in being able to take part in our trip. She has 5 daughters, #s 4 & 5 adopted! Joyce obviously has a heart for the Lord and was a joy to be around. Her husband operates a commercial fishing boat off the waters of Alaska.

-Jim Muehling, an algebra teacher from California, is a seasoned world traveler. He has participated in numerous overseas mission trips and regularly uses his summer vacations for that purpose. Jim left us early Sunday to head for Turkey with another stop in Egypt before coming back to the states.

-Brendon Witte is a student at Bryan College in Tennessee. At 20 years of age it is amazing what Brendon has read and studied. It will be interesting to see where the Lord leads him in the future and what plans He has for Brendon's special gifts. (BTW--Thanks Brendon for putting up with me as your roommate!)

-Jessica Zeidler, just graduated from high school and wants to be an archaeologist. What better way to chase your dreams than by jumping right in? Jessica celebrated her 18th birthday while on the trip. It happened to be the Thursday the rocket hit close to the dig and we packed up and moved south to Tiberias. Talk about fireworks for your birthday! Jessica possesses great maturity for her age, is a good sport and is fun to be with (and make fun of).

-Frank Zeidler, accompanied his daughter because 17 year olds were not permitted to come on their own. Frank's love for his daughter was apparent every step of the way. He made no bones about not being particularly fond of the digging or the Israeli food for the most part...but Frank enjoyed himself because Jess was happy. Frank works with a prison ministry and has an awesome testimony of how God called him out of the business world and into this particular ministry vocation.

Geography, circumstances and God's will may mean that some of us will renew acquaintances in the future, but in all likelihood most of us will never cross paths in this world again. Isn't it good to know that one day we will meet again, not in a place where Jesus walked (past tense), but in a place where everyone will bow down and worship Him! That will make our trip digging in and exploring the Holy Land pale in comparison. But for now I'll cherish the experience and the memories...

FYI: I'll be leaving for Ecuador with Erin, Evan, Laura and a friend of Erin's from high school on Thursday, July 27th, God willing. News of the eruption of Tunguruaha greeted me on my arrival home. We had planned on spending several days in Banos at the foot of that volcano. Oh well! Not the first explosions we've had to deal with this summer. Future blogs will begin to focus on this trip for those who are interested.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bet She'an, Jerusalem, and Bombs

Today's blog is dedicated to Elise. We miss you and will be praying for you as you make your way home!

We worked our boots off!
(Use your photo shop to lighten this)

After a pleasant stay in Tiberius we left this morning to return to Jerusalem. We stopped at a site called Bet She'an(think Saul's death) in the OT which became the Decapolis city of Scythopolisby NT days. The Roman ruins are quite impressive and give a clear picture of what was important to the people living there (worshipping the one, true God was not among them).

We enjoyed seeing the city and climbing the adjacent tell to the top of the OT tel. Climbing that tel, climbing The Cliffs of Arbel, and swimming in the Sea of Galilee were things I didn't get to do on my first trip to Israel that were high on my wish list for this trip. I got them all accomplished if going down Arbel counts.

A view down the Cardo(the main street of the city)

The threatre which seated 7,000!

From Bet She'an we journied down the West Bank toward Jericho and Jerusalem. Once we arrived in Jerusalem we were escorted through the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I saw some interesting and inspirational sights that I will certainly use in future teaching and preaching.

Perhaps my favorite part of the day was climbing to the top of the bell tower of The Church of the Redeemer. It offered a panoramic view of the old city and the Temple Mount. It was well worth the 176 step climb and having to wrap a skirt around my waist to hide my knees!

Tonight we had dinner on the terrace of our hotel with a pleasant breeze and a beautiful sunset. After dinner we shared about our experiences on the trip. As we each talked about meaningful things we have experienced the last several weeks the sky occasionally glowed to our north. We noticed jets flying overhead and once again heard the sound of explosions. We soon concluded that Israel is probably bombing the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Haven't heard that confirmed on the news yet--but it was rather strange to be in the city of peace, to be praying and sharing, and to have our inspirational time interrupted by the sights and sounds of war. We do know that after leaving Tiberius this morning 5+ rockets hit the city. I'm ready to come home!

So much more I'd like to share, but no time. We'll have a service with our dwindling group in the am and then get in a few more hours of touring before catching our flight in Tel Aviv tomorrow night.

Thanks for reading & God bless!


Friday, July 14, 2006

War and rumors of war...

have dominated our lives here in Israel the past few days. As long as the hostilities were focused in Gaza we felt far removed from the conflict in our northern location. Things have certainly changed! We've been relocated to Tiberias the past two days. We returned to our former hotel long enough this morning to pack all our things and get out. So we've been making do at a seaside hotel with great food and a not so bad view...

Today was supposed to have been the last day on the dig, but things did not turn out the way they were planned. Before I left on the trip I replied to Erin's concern about my safety with a flippant, "What's the worst that could happen?" This may be one of those times when I have to eat my words!

But there is great comfort for those of us who believe. We are in the Father's hands. I made that decision a long time ago to trust my life to Him. I believe He will take care of me. But if even the worst does happen from a merely human/physical standpoint, I know that still I will be taken care of. Even if the worst happens I will be ok!(Please don't read too much into these comments. I don't expect anything bad to happen--but the truth is no one knows what the future holds.)

Tomorrow we're off to Bet She'an and Jerusalem. We'll be leaving to come home Sunday night at 11:30pm Israeli time. I arrive in Atlanta Monday at 6am.

Please pray for one of our team members who is flying out early tomorrow. Elise will be returning to Australia, but first must get to Amman, Jordan. I'm sure she would appreciate your prayers. Due to connecting issues and a couple day layover in Ammon she won't get home until Thursday!

Trusting the Good Shepherd!


For Meg and Laura

Last view of Tel Hatzor

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Everyone's safe!

I'm sure many of you have or will hear the news of what's happened in Israel today. Sorry to say we were a little too close to the action. As we were working this morning booming sounds could be heard like the ones we heard yesterday. But this time the sounds not only came from the north but also from the south. After an explosion sounded very close we could see the smoke rising from across the valley on a hill where the rocket had hit. It didn't take long for a decision to be made for us to vacate the area. Later we learned that more rockets had hit in areas around where we were working.

We moved south to Tiberias and will be staying in a hotel here tonight and tomorrow before leaving for Jerusalem on Saturday. As always, thanks for your prayers!


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More Sunday Pics

Joyce and Elise give a thumbs up to lunch, Frank...

Relaxing by the Sea of Galilee

Frank and me at the top of Arbel

A Strangely Normal Odd Breakfast

Got to work this morning as usual at 5am (can you believe I'm saying that?). We were greeted by an awesome sunrise over the peak of Har Bental.

We did some really strenuous work...

And then came our mid-morning breakfast. The usual food. The usual aches and moans and conversation. But there was something different at breakfast today. Our meal was frequently interrurpted by booming sounds coming from the north. "Artillery practice?" "Maybe rockets from Lebanon?" Occasionally helicopters and the sounds of streaking jets echoed overhead.

Now that our workday is over we've just found out that Israeli troops have moved into Lebanon. The border is only 8 miles from where we are. But aside from a few cocked heads and comments after the booms, breakfast was pretty much normal. And life around the internet cafe in Rosh Pinna continues on as usual.

I haven't had time to really process all this, but one constant on my mind since coming to Israel is that I'm thankful for life. As we dig up the history of the dead, I want to make sure that I live!

So today I'm thankful for muscles that ache, for family and friends, and for the opportunities God gives us every day to really live. I'm doing my best to not take today for granted and to remember that real life is found only in Christ.

Take time today to really live!


Monday, July 10, 2006

SHEER Stupidity

I had such a good day Sunday--a rather serendipitous one! And I learned to thank God for His mercy and grace displayed in the way He protects us in spite of ignorant or foolish things we do.

Before some of you were in bed a few of us gathered at 7:30 for a time of worship. Then off I went to rent a car and go on a Holy Land adventure. Four kindred spirits joined me(Joyce, Elise, Frank and Jessica) and off we went to explore some of Israel on our own.

We circled the Sea of Galilee looking for jet ski rentals--no luck. We drove up the Golan Heights in search of an elusive hamburger--no luck. We had a convenience/grocery store lunch and then found a senic overlook with a spectacular view of the sea from the eastern side.

Next it was back down to the sea where we swam where Jesus walked!(or a least in close proximity to the spot) The breeze, water, view and company made for a wonderfully relaxing afternoon.

Our next venture was up to the Cliffs of Arbel. Another awesome view at a location rich in history(google it for more info). Everything was great and then some idiot had to suggest that we descend down the cliffs and mountainside below. Jess and Elise were quick to enthusiastically second my idea and so off we went.

The cliffs had some well placed handholds anchored in the walls. So the first part went well. Then we came to what looked to be the easiest part of the descent, the slopes of the mountain. The problem was we had not counted on the dry soil and loose rocks giving way under the weight of our feet. Once you started sliding stopping was almost impossible! Neither had we anticipated the thorn bushes blocking our path or the assorted thorns on the ground waiting to impale us every time a hand went down to stop oneself from falling. And did I mention that the swelling in my ankle was just beginning to get better? What was I doing?!

The view from a cave in the cliffs

Through the thorns

There were some positives to offset the negatives. We saw rock badgers playing and taunting us with their antics. A gazelle skampered effortlessly across the slope. And when at last we met Frank and Joyce waiting for us at the bottom, a large, whole Saint Peter's Fish was our reward at a nearby seaside restaurant.

I have a greater appreciation now for the meaning behind biblical phrases like "hinds feet on high places" and the deer panting for water--and anything that mentions thorns or firm footing! And I am extremely greatful for making it down the mountain in one piece.

A prayer went up to heaven when we reached level ground, "Thank you Father for caring for me even when I'm foolish and don't deserve it..."

Los Tres Amigos Locos. Doesn't look so tough from the bottom? Then you try it!

Friday, July 07, 2006

First week discoveries

I lived through the first week! Some pictures of three finds: a juglet, a bronze cylinder something(may be very big find!), a an almost complete Persian jug--2500 years old!

Digging my own grave...

Thursday Jim and I were given some grunt work to do: dig a 3+' by 9' trench that would serve as a foundation for a tourist bridge that will be built later this summer. We dug through a lot of fill but just before we were finished we made an unexpected discovery. We unearthed some stones that were part of a water channel from the middle bronze age (2200-1500BC). The directors were excited to find something that they had not expected. So what we had joked about as our grave turned into something very positive!

Our trench was under this first tent. The roof in the background covers a late bronze palace that was fascinating. You can be sure I'll be showing some more detailed pictures of this in the future with very interesting ties to the Bible(hint--think Joshua)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

If you like...

If you like getting up at 4am, being soaked in your own sweat by 7, covered with several layers of dirt, swinging a pick-axe, pushing a dirt-filled wheelbarrow, andslinging dirt-filled buckets on a bucket line until many muscles you never knew you had are aching...then you might enjoy being on a dig!!! Somehow, I am enjoying myself immensely. Please continue to pray for me. I need it!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Thirst for Connection

I like to think of myself as tenacious. Some who know me well might call it stubbornness! Which leads me to my story...

We had an awesome day today(Sunday). We journied to a place I had never heard of, Har Bental, a mountain on Israel's border with Syria. From the top of the mountain we had a wide panoramic vista. We could see Mt. Hermon off to the west. It's the tallest mountain in the area and according to our guide, the most probable wite of the Lord's transfiguration. Leading off to the north we could see the Damascus Rd. We had a brief woship service above what had been a military bunker in Israel's earlier wars.

After several other stops we headed back to where we are staying near Hazor. Several of us wanted to get on the net to connect with family and friends back home. But only Seth, Elise and myself were adventurous enough to get off our tour bus in a strange town to look for an internet cafe on our own.

Qiryat Shmonah is a fairly large town, but after looking in the mall, in shops on the street and asking around we found none. "Not to worry. We'll just catch the next bus to Rosh Pina where we heard another digger say he had found a cafe."

We finally found a bus stop--but no bus would stop. So we walked and walked back to the center of town to the central bus station where we finally caught a bus. Over two hours from when we began our search we arrived in Rosh Pina and once again after much walking and asking probably a dozen people we found the cafe!!! We ordered some cool drinks and at last we were able to connect with the outside world.

Riding on the bus back to our hotel a question crossed my mind. Do I persevere to the same extent to connect with God each day? I had spent time, energy, effort walking on a bum ankle(another story), and more money than planned all to get online. What do I invest each day in communicating with the God who loves me?

Some sites we visited today point us the right direction when viewed in light of scripture:

"As the deer panteth fot the water, so my soul panteth for thee, O God. My soul thirsts for the living God." --Psalm 42:1-2

"He that believes in me as the scripture has said, out of him shall flow rivers of living water."--John 7:38

Exhausted after our first day's dig. But that's another story too!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Traveling to Hazor

In front of "Club Med"

The group by Megiddo grainery

Hint: where was Jesus placed after He was born?