Day 4: Sea of Galilee, Magdala, Rosh Pina, Mt. of Beatitudes

I’m here documenting a unique Christian pilgrimage to the holy land with Ecclesia Houston guided by Breaking Bread Journeys. I hope you’re enjoying my photo-journal of our experiences. After our breakfast at the U Boutique Kinneret Hotel with the breathtaking view of the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, we embarked upon a boating excursion where our guide David took us out on the waters. 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 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.

After a much-needed afternoon break at our beautiful hotel property, we enjoyed an wonderful 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.

After dinner Pastor Chris led the group in an after-hours visit to the Mount of Beatitudes where he read us the entire Sermon on the Mount at the location it is traditionally believed to have been preached by Jesus. It was an unforgettable evening standing there listening to our pastor read what is regarded as the most famous sermon of all time, near what would have been the spot that Jesus shared it almost 2000 years ago. I’ll share some of the beginning verses of this beautiful and timeless message here:

Blessed are the spiritually poor—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Blessed are those who mourn—they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek and gentle—they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful—they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are those who are pure in heart—they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers—they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Rural Uganda: Kafu Village, Lake Victoria

In the small town of Kafu, Uganda, located on the shores of Lake Victoria just a 20-mile boat ride from the Kenyan border, you will find some of the most beautiful smiles in all the world. All you have to do is give yours first. That has seriously been a theme I have noticed on this trip to Uganda. I cannot recall smiling at anyone on this trip who did not smile back. There have been times in these days where it almost felt as if I was on a movie set and all the locals had been paid to play the role of extras cued for “ok here he comes, smile now!” At the Peace Gospel rural boarding high school, we have received several primary school graduates from this town and were visiting some of the families of the students here. Despite their joy and contentment, there are still several challenges the residents of Kafu face. The main water sources here are from open wells and the lakeshore, both of which are at high risk for contamination. 75% of all diseases in Uganda are a direct result of lack of clean water and proper sanitation. The number one cause of death here is from diarrheal diseases. To get to the closest major town with any serious medical treatment options takes about two hours on the bumpiest, muddiest roads I’ve ever traversed. I often talk about the contentment and joy of the poor that comes from their simplicity and communal lifestyle. And that is without doubts very real and inspiring. But there remains the undercurrent of disease and the cycle of poverty and corruption that is crippling this nation. The key is to improve infrastructure even if it means just drilling more closed wells and to focus on affordable, quality education for the next generation. Slowly, I believe Uganda can get there, with a little help from her global good neighbors. Their smiles tell me it must be true.

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.

A Voluminous Vision of Venice

On a recent trip overseas I was able to stop over in Italy on my way home. I had the incredible blessing of returning to what is perhaps my favorite city on earth, Venice. The scenes of this enchanting city of water provide a limitless potential for photography, with an abundance of light, atmosphere, and water as the backdrop for waterborne vessels, classic architecture, weathered doors, and untold mysteries waiting to be discovered around every corner. These are a few of my favorite photos from the visit.

More Rural Uganda Wanderings

A recap of my final days in the Mayuge District of rural Uganda. A look at the Peace Gospel International high school project, a glimpse into one of our classrooms during Chemistry, a walk through surrounding villages, soccer practice of the high school team, meal time, laundry time, dorm life, our women’s empowerment program during seamstress training, a look at the realities of water collection in the district, and finally, a sunset over Lake Victoria on my final day.

At the high school project, the newest building is almost complete. It will be the main building of the school with new facilities for the official chemistry lab, more classroom space, a library, and more administrative offices. The school has an enrollment of almost 250 students, most of which are boarding students.

Click/tap on any photo to start a slideshow.

Rural Uganda: Mayuge District

Deep in southeastern rural Uganda, near the intersection of Lake Victoria and the Kenya border, you will find a humble primary school in a village called Mairinya, usually not listed on any maps. The following photos document the joy these children get from their daily weekday classes and fresh breakfast and lunch that is provided lovingly by the dedicated staff.

Peace Gospel International has three schools in Uganda, one in urban Kampala (blogged about the previous two days), a rural high school (our biggest effort which has taken years to establish), and then, last but not least, our humble rural primary school which, along with its beautiful and gracious neighbors, is the focus of this blog post.

I love this little school as it’s kind of the little school “that could.” Despite a dire lack of resources and underpaid teachers, the school thrives, and the children are ecstatically eager to learn. When I look at their tattered school books, their handwriting and the comprehension of the subjects (based in English) is nothing short of miraculous, given their circumstances. This little oasis of education is proof that where you create an opportunity to learn, fill it with love, and fill stomachs with fresh meals, anything is possible.

We have big plans for the school, including security fences, a water well, new classrooms, more teachers, better latrines, and kitchen facilities. Learn more about the needs and how you can help.

Click/tap on any photo to start 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.