Day 1: Netanya Travel Recovery Day, Welcome Reception

I’m here in the holy land to document my 10th tour group from Ecclesia Houston embarking on a Breaking Bread Journeys tour. I wanted to try to get something up before I sleep to commemorate the arrival day for an amazing group of new friends who have all come together to discover the beauty, depth, history, and diversity of this magical land. Here are some images from this first day together in Netanya, Israel, a simple beachside town with many beautiful, serene scenes to welcome even the most travel-weary sojourner.

I won’t write much today as it was basically a free day with the group taking it easy to recover from travel and jet lag. We enjoyed a small reception for the entire group to meet each other where we also met Christina Samara and Lisa Moed, co-owners of our tour company, Breaking Bread Journeys. Pastor Chris shared with us why the holy land is such a meaningful destination for him and included these quotes for us to consider as we take in all the perspectives we will encounter this week:

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“There never was a pilgrim who did not come back to his village with one less prejudice and one more idea.” — 19th-century French writer François-René Chateaubriand

After the reception, we enjoyed a group dinner at an outdoor cafe near the hotel. The views of the Meditteranean Sea from Netanya are breathtaking; we enjoyed walks on the beach and explored the town. The weather has been absolutely perfect. The official tour kicks off tomorrow bright and early.

Day 1: Netanya Travel Recovery Day, Welcome Reception

I’m here in the holy land to document another group from Ecclesia Houston embarking on a Breaking Bread Journeys tour. I wanted to try to get something up before I sleep to commemorate the arrival day for an amazing group of new friends who have all come together to discover the beauty, depth, history, and diversity of this magical land. Here are some images from this first day together in Netanya, Israel, a simple beachside town with many beautiful, serene scenes to welcome even the most travel-weary sojourner.

I won’t write much today as it was basically a free day with the group taking it easy to recover from travel and jet lag. We enjoyed a small reception for the entire group to meet each other where we also met Christina Samara and Lisa Moed, co-owners of our tour company, Breaking Bread Journeys. Pastor Chris shared with us why the holy land is such a meaningful destination for him and shared these moving quotes with us:

“To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe. Above all, Christians go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to the places associated with the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection.” — Pope Benedict XVI

“There never was a pilgrim who did not come back to his village with one less prejudice and one more idea.” — 19th-century French writer François-René Chateaubriand

After the reception, we enjoyed a group dinner at an outdoor cafe near the hotel. The views of the Meditteranean Sea from Netanya are breathtaking; we enjoyed walks on the beach, explored more of the town. The weather has been absolutely perfect. The official tour kicks off tomorrow bright and early.

Netanya: Travel Recovery Day, Reception

This is day 2 with Ecclesia Houston on a Breaking Bread Journeys tour of the holy land. I won’t write much today as it was basically a free day with the group taking it easy to recover from travel and jet lag. We enjoyed a small reception for the entire group to meet each other where we also met Christina Samara, co-owner of Breaking Bread Journeys.

We then enjoyed a group dinner at an outdoor cafe nearby the hotel. The views of the Meditteranean Sea from Netanya are breathtaking; we enjoyed walks on the beach, explored more of the town (there are cats everywhere, so I had to include a token cat-portrait impression or two), and took in yet another gorgeous sunset. The weather has been absolutely perfect. The official tour kicks off tomorrow bright and early. Here are some photos from the day. I could not decide on my favorite sunset shots, so I’m just throwing all of them on here– hope you enjoy!

Netanya: Arrival day!

Hi, I’m here in the holy land to document another group from Ecclesia Houston embarking on a Breaking Bread Journeys tour. It’s really late and I’m still recovering from the 8-hour jet lag. But I wanted to try to get something up before I sleep to commemorate the arrival day for an amazing group of new friends who have all come together to discover the beauty, depth, history, and diversity of this magical land. Here are some images from this first day together in Netanya, Israel, a simple beachside town with many beautiful, serene scenes to welcome even the most travel-weary sojourner.

Nicaragua Day 5: Juan Dávila, Playa Gigante

On my final day in Nicaragua, not wanting to waste of moment of my short time in this gorgeous country, I got up to see the sunrise at 5:30. Of course, plenty of coffee was involved in such a proposition and is the only reason you will see sunrise photos in this post. So we thank you, Nicaragua, for your magic coffee beans. I then met up with the group at our usual meeting spot, a home overlooking Redondo Bay, where Pastor Chris led us in a devotional.

From there we made our way to a village called Juan Dávila. In this village, Living Water has installed a clean water well that is pumped to a storage tank. The elevated storage tank supplies running water for hand washing stations and drinking water distribution points in the village. We were able to hear from local leaders how this installation has transformed the village by bringing the community together and reducing disease. We threw a party for the local children and all had a great time.

We got back to Redondo Bay in the afternoon for some free time. I made quite a trek, in my flip-flops mind you, to the next beach north of us, Playa Gigante. As the name implies, it is quite a giant beach. I explored and did my introvert thing to bring you some photos of this amazing location, but then reconnected with several of our group who had also made the hike over to hang out at a local beach bar and cafe. The evening concluded as usual with appetizers at our meeting house as we watched our last sunset of the trip.

I will miss Nicaragua and my new friends but I know we will be reunited. Grateful to Chris Seay and Ecclesia Houston for inviting me along to document this unforgettable experience.

Click/tap on the first photo to begin a slideshow.

Nicaragua Day 4: Barrio Nuevo, Finco Popoyo

Today we made our way to the village of Barrio Nuevo, situated 135 km southwest of Managua in the Rivas District. The village has no access to clean water. Living Water is in the planning stages of drilling a safe water well for this community. Currently, residents are complaining of parasites, kidney infections, and frequent diarrhea. We attended a church worship meeting which was held outdoors under the shade of trees in the center of the village. The people we met were very warm and welcoming. Local staff members from Living Water showed us some of the existing open wells which produce limited and contaminated water.

After this, some of us made our way to the Nicaraguan National Circuit Surfing Championship at Finca Popoyo. Two Living Water local staff members were in the competition and placed among the top four finalists. I fell in love with the little community there; what a gorgeous coastline. The day ended catching up with the rest of the group while enjoying another stunning sunset over Redondo Bay.

In a rare moment, my new friend and fellow photographer Missy Hill picked up my backup Leica and, after giving her a crash course on using the rangefinder, shot a portrait of me. So I actually made it onto my own blog in this post. Hope you’re enjoying following along on our Nicaragua adventure.

Click/tap on the first image to begin a slideshow.

Nicaragua Day 3: Rivas District

This morning began with group yoga followed by a devotional teaching at the beach. I didn’t make it to yoga but I managed to stop by the devotional. It was a beautiful morning. We then met up to head to a village where many pastors and community members were gathered. They were leaders of communities where our church, Ecclesia Houston, has drilled safe water wells in partnership with Living Water. They had a beautiful cultural presentation involving dance, music, and greetings from all the leaders expressing their gratitude for the wells. We all sat at tables mixed with the leaders and had interpreters present. It was a very engaging experience.

The road trip back was filled with conversations about everyone’s encounters with the locals and their stories. It was again another very moving experience, especially to hear how something as simple as clean water has completely transformed these communities. We enjoyed yet another stunning sunset as we gathered at our meeting house for appetizers and drinks to unwind after a long day. The views from the meeting house are breathtaking; I could never imagine them getting old. We have such a diverse group, it’s been a pleasure to see how we’re all getting along and making new friendships quickly. Believe it or not, there are 60 people in our group!

Please excuse the stream of consciousness in my blog ramblings… these are written at odd hours, inspired largely by caffeine. Oh, that’s another thing… we’re traveling with the founder of Mueva Coffee, a direct trade coffee roasting company that buys direct from various farmers around the world, including a farm here in Nicaragua! Suffice it to say, the coffee she brought along is amazing. You can buy it at Paper Co. Coffee in Houston.

Click/tap on the first image to begin a slideshow.