Day 3, Part 2: Tulip Winery

Continuing our tour with Ecclesia Houston led by Breaking Bread Journeys, here’s part 2 of Day 3.

After our visit to Mt. Precipice, we were ready for a light lunch and a wine tasting at Tulip Winery (יקב טוליפ). I love the cause behind Tulip, which our lovely host Lital told us employs 40 special needs adults who live in the village where the winery is located, a former kibbutz. The village’s name, Kfar Tikva, means “Village of Hope.”

At Tulip, they say “Labels are for wine bottles, not for people.” They were founded with the purpose of making great wine while providing special needs adults with employment and the support of community on the former kibbutz where they’re located. Started as a tiny boutique winery in 2003, now they are shipping over 300,000 bottles of wine annually and have won various awards locally and internationally.

Founded by the Itzhaki family, they fulfilled their long-time dream of establishing a winery which combines the production of quality wine with social responsibility.

Their wonderful vision produced an exciting model of wine entrepreneurialism that employs members of Kfar Tikva and provides them with a business platform from which they can integrate into the labor market like any other person.

Tulip has become an industry leader and the largest boutique winery in Israel.

Our group presented two of the employees we have come to know well over our several visits, Nathan and Maria, with some special gifts. Nathan has a rare genetic disorder and is known to be the oldest person in the world with the condition. He was Tulip’s first paid employee. They attribute his remarkable health to the joy and fulfillment he gets from his job.

In turn, the owner of the winery, Roy Itzhaki, surprised Pastor Chris with a special magnum bottle of his favorite Tulip wine signed by several of the employees.

We ended the day with a stop for a photo as we arrived at the Sea of Galilee.

Day 2: Jacob’s Well, Nablus Old City, Samaritan Village

Continuing on Day 2 of Ecclesia Houston‘s Holy Land pilgrimage with Breaking Bread Journeys, we started our tour by making our way from Netanya to Nablus in the West Bank of the Palestinian Territories. Our first stop was to the Greek Orthodox Church that sits atop the two-millennia-old Jacob’s Well. Next, we made our way into Nablus city to visit an olive oil soap factory that’s been making hand-cut soap for 180 years. It has made Nablus famous throughout the middle east for its soap. We then toured more of the old city, visiting several street food vendors and a candy factory. Next, we arrived at an event prepared by Slow Food Nablus, the culinary school for The House of Dignity which is an empowerment and education program for Palestinian women. The women of this community are incredibly joyful and were so happy to serve us. Our meal was an unbelievable feast we will not soon forget. Next up, we visited a Samaritan museum on Mt. Gerizim and enjoyed a scenic overlook with stunning views of Nablus below. This Samaritan Priest explained to us much about the Samaritan faith and its ancient history in the region. Such an amazing day. I am always touched by how welcoming the people of Nablus are. There’s a certain sense of tranquility over the city.

Rural Uganda: Bugadde, Mayuge District

A day (and life) in photos. There was an essence of life present in their expressions. A sort of oneness with the earth and each other. A grandmother gathered her grandchildren and asked me to take their portrait. (We want to remember our togetherness). A family was grieving the loss of a loved one yet invited me to sit with them. (We find comfort in the simple presence of others during times of loss). A man told me how he had lived in the same thatched hut home for 29 years. (We all want to feel grounded). A woman was eager to tell me of the twins she had just given birth to. (New life brings the joy of hope and a belief that life will be better for them). Both cooks and kids smiled as over 200 were fed for a back to school celebration and prayer time on the Peace Gospel rural campus. (Provision brings joy in the hearts of the grateful).

Day 5, Part 1: Sea of Galilee

We had a very long day with many stops so I’m breaking Day 5 into different parts. Here are some images of our sunrise sail on the Sea of Galilee. Around 6am we embarked upon a boating excursion on the Sea of Galilee with our guide David of Galilee Sailing. Pastor Chris Seay shared with us from the account of Matthew’s Gospel describing Jesus walking on the water and Peter’s struggle with his faith to follow Jesus onto the water. We experienced first hand how quickly the weather can change, with a rainshower appearing suddenly on our excursion.

I stopped to ponder the events accounted in Matthew’s Gospel describing Peter’s struggle as our guide David explained to us how bad the storms can get on the sea, with waves recorded as high as 12 feet. I love the metaphor that a boat, a vessel, provides us with, in parallel to the journey of life. The storms of life will come, there is no question about that. The question is what is my anchor, what is my constant when I’m feeling lost and tossed about when I’m feeling that everything around me is unstable? For me, it’s the grip of Jesus much like Peter felt when he began to sink on the water in his attempt to walk in faith.

We will all find seasons in life when we feel we’re sinking. We can either reach up with an open hand or clench our fist in bitterness and just keep sinking.

Day 4: Sea of Galilee, Magdala, Rosh Pina

I’m here documenting for a group of Christians on pilgrimage to the holy land from Ecclesia Houston with Breaking Bread Journeys. I hope you’re enjoying my photo-journal of our experiences. After our breakfast at the Ma’agan Hotel with the breathtaking view of the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee, we took a stroll on the docks but our boat ride was canceled due to bad weather. We hope to reschedule for tomorrow morning.

We then headed to an archaeological site called Magdala, the site of at least two places in ancient Israel mentioned in the Jewish Talmud and possibly a location mentioned in the Christian New Testament. They have discovered an ancient Jewish Synagogue which would have been active during Jesus’ time. Pastor Chris told us it is almost 100% certain that Jesus would have visited this Synagogue. A church is also located at the site with a beautiful view of the lake and very impressive and inspiring murals and artwork throughout. The discovery at Magdala is said to be on par with the Dead Sea Scrolls in historical importance.

Pastor Chris led us in prayer in the basement chapel where our bare feet could walk on stones that are believed to have been at street level when Jesus visited Magdala during his public ministry. What I’m receiving in these days is that the incarnation of Jesus is the highest form of love that God could express to us, and oh how he loves us! And here we are where it all happened.

After a much-needed afternoon break at our beautiful hotel property, we enjoyed an extravagant meal at a local French Restaurant, the Auberge Shulamit, in the town of Rosh Pina on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee. The owner personally introduced us to the menu and helped serve with a very friendly staff.

Italy: Central Apennines

I took these photos earlier this month during my visit to the region of Molise in Central Italy, in the beautiful Apennine Mountains. I was visiting dear friends; hope to return many times.

Misty views and ancient ways,
Sun-drenched and shadow-splotched,
Mountain chains, rugged paths,
Journeys set adrift yet never born,
Early light until the birth of night.

Welcome to Isernia Province…