Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Learning Many Things in Bethlehem
June 28, 2018

From May 26 to June 5, 2018, my friend Elias and I went to Israel and Palestine (West Bank).

Church of the Nativity in the center of Bethlehem in Palestine.

Nave of the Church of the Nativity.

We stayed at a hotel in Beit Sahour, a town adjoining Bethlehem to attend a 5-day conference called Christ at the Checkpoint, sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College.

One of the buildings of Bethlehem Bible College.

Mural in the College building.

The theme of the conference was “Jesus Christ at the Center,” which is a marvelous theme, not just for a Christian conference, but for the whole church, and for any person’s life, for that matter.

Through various speakers and personal stories we learned about the current situation in Israel/Palestine; issues of the land, identity, justice and eschatology; the separation barrier (wall) erected by Israel on the border with Palestine; the realities of living in Palestine under military occupation by Israel; the complexity of the situation; the fact that some Israelis wish all the Palestinians would go away and leave the land to Israel only, and that other Israelis sympathize with the Palestinians and are working for a just peace; and the response of Palestinian evangelicals, which is always nonviolent because they take Jesus’ words about loving and blessing our enemies.

Separation barrier viewed from Bethlehem in Palestine.

There are 37 evangelical churches in Israel, 33 of them being in Nazareth and the north.

There are 43,000 Christians in Palestine, belonging to a number of different denominations. They comprise 1 percent of the population. There are 13 evangelical churches in Palestine, most of them in the Bethlehem area. Bethlehem is the only city in Palestine with a Christian mayor.

My burden for the evangelical church in America is that we will remember our Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine, and not support the State of Israel to the neglect of the Palestinian church. For many of these believers, their families have been in Palestine since the Day of Pentecost.

Around Niagara Falls
June 19, 2018

In early June 2018, we and our children and five of our grandchildren – eleven of us in all – spent a week of vacation in Ontario, Canada.

Here is the rental house where we stayed, six bedrooms and five bathrooms, a short walk through two back yards to a sandy beach on Lake Erie.

Going up the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Canada, is quite an experience. This is an observation tower 520 feet tall, with two restaurants at the top, one of them revolving. We rode the glass-walled bubble elevator to the observation deck but chose not to eat at the restaurants, which we thought were expensive.

The Skylon was built in the slip form method, in which the concrete is continually poured, day and night, into a form moving slowly up the tower. The process took 38 days as the slip form was raised at the rate of 1 inch every 10 minutes and gradually reduced in size as it move upwards.

From the Skylon, a view of the Horseshoe Falls, in Canada.

And a view of the American Falls. The larger main part is on the left; on the right is Bridal Falls.

On the American side, we went on the boardwalk that goes right next to Bridal Veil Falls. The ponchos provided to us protected us from being completely drenched. The wind was like a hurricane.

Several kilometers downriver, the Niagara Gorge has a White Water Walk along the turbulent rapids. From the upper-level bank we went down 230 feet via an elevator, then walked through a tunnel to a boardwalk along the rapids.

This is a class 6 rapids, the highest rating. It is considered unrunnable.

Geologists say that the rock layers are 410 million years old, which is way beyond my comprehension.

In and about Miami
February 16, 2018

For a week in February 2018 we stayed at a condo in Miami Beach.

Miami Beach

We were three blocks from the beach. Several men were doing kitesurfing, which looked exciting and interesting, but not interesting enough for me to try it!

Vida Abundante

On Sunday we worshiped at Vida Abundante Brethren in Christ Church in Miami Gardens, where the pastoral couple are Robert and Mirta Colloca.


On two occasions we spent time with this couple, who have served in Spain and are home for a time of renewal. We ate at a Thai restaurant called The King and I. We had significant conversations about how to share the gospel of Christ effectively in a different cultural setting.

Miccosukee entrance

We went west of Miami to the Miccosukee (or Seminole) Indian Village.

Miccosukee house

A traditional Miccosukee house or shelter.

Miccosukee 2 totems

Miccosukee 1 totem

Trainer with alligator 1

A trainer put on an alligator show.

Trainer with alligator 2

I guess he knows what he is doing! He survived the show.

John & alligator

This little alligator is more my speed.

Spanish Monastery 1

In North Miami Beach is this Ancient Spanish Monastery.It was built in Sacramenia, Spain, in 1141 and was occupied by Cistercian monks for seven centuries. In 1952, William Randolph Hearst purchased the Cloister and the outbuildings. The structures were dismantled, stone by stone, and packed into 11,000 wooden crates and shipped to the United States. Here, in North Miami Beach, the Cloisters were reassembled in what Time magazine call the world’s biggest jigsaw puzzle.

Spanish monastery cloister

Spanish monastery cloister walkway

Spanish Monastery cloister center

Spanish cloister fountain

Today, the Monastery is the home of the Church of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, which is an active Episcopal congregation. It is also a popular site for weddings and photo shoots as well as filming for television and movies.

We also checked out the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, and urban greenspace, a lovely place to relax. See the next two photos.

Botanical Garden pond

Botanical Garden bridge

Herr's house in FL 1

We drove to Marathon Key to visit friends who have a home there, facing the Atlantic Ocean.

Herr's house sunrise

Sunrise from their veranda is a beautiful sight. And at night, the stars are visible in huge numbers, and the Milky Way.

We returned home on Amtrak Auto Train, traveling from Sanford, FL, to Lorton, VA, just south of Washington D. C. A relaxing way to travel. This is said to be the longest train in the world. On this trip, it had 15 passenger cars and 19 vehicle cars.

There are so many marvels in our world, things that God created and things that mankind has developed. We thank God for his power, truth and beauty.

Tarpon Springs
February 15, 2018

Tarpon Springs is a lovely city on central Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Sign - Greek Heritage

Greek people settled here in the early 1900s and became divers in the sponge industry. The city claims to be the Sponge Capital of the World.

Welcome to sponge docks


The street near the Sponge Docks has many shops that sell sponges and everything else. There are far more varieties of sponges than I ever knew existed.

Tarpon Springs bicycle

Blue and white, the colors of Greece.

St. Nicholas Cathedral

Here is St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, modeled, in small measure, after Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople.

St. Nicholas Cathedral interior


St. Nicholas Cathedral ceiling

It was a privilege to pray in this place.

Greek boy holding cross

On Epiphany, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop, from a barge in the bay, throws a golden cross into the water, and immediately young men dive into the water, crowd each other and churn the water in search of the cross. The throwing of the cross symbolizes the casting of the bread of truth upon the troubled water. The diver who retrieves the cross climbs onto the barge, kneels before the Archbishop, hands him the golden cross and receives a blessing.

The above statue, outside the Cathedral, honors this tradition. We were not in Tarpon Springs on Epiphany, so we did not witness this remarkable event.

The advertisements for Tarpon Springs give this invitation: Visit Greece without leaving Florida.

Environment, Trails, Forests, Wetlands, Birds – and oh yes, the Universe
February 12, 2018

Because of my passion for nature, responsible use of our world, and birding, we spent some time at Brooker Creek Preserve near Tarpon Springs FL


Entrance to the Environmental Education Center. The boardwalks make it easy to get around through the main areas of the Preserve.


One display shows how to have a Florida friendly garden, making the land around your house a friendly place for native plants and birds.


The preserve consists of 8,700 acres, primarily forested wetlands and pine flatwoods, but with other habitats as well.

Back to the Education Center, they show this quote by naturalist John Muir: “Tug on anything at all and you will find it connected to everything else in the universe.” As I later researched this statement, I learned from the Sierra Club that it is a misquote. The actual quote¬†was this quaint wording: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

Regardless of the misquote in the Education Center, you will find a world of beauty and wonder at Brooker Creek Preserve. Along a waterway we saw an anhinga sunning, with its wings spread wide; why I failed to take a photo of that amazing creature is a mystery to me. We also saw a bald eagle nest on the tower of a power line. We saw both parents and two chicks. The nest was far enough away that I didn’t even try a photo of the birds.



A Cafe with Something for Everyone
February 12, 2018

Sweet Sage Cafe is a whimsical, colorful place, a block from the Gulf of Mexico, on Gulf Boulevard in North Redington Beach, FL.

Sweet Sage Cafe

It has indoor and outdoor seating, is pet friendly, features a gift shop, and thoughtful, witty or quirky sayings fill the walls and shelves. One such bit of wisdom: To keep yourself in perspective, you need a dog that adores you and a cat that ignores you.

The servers wear name tags that list the city the person came from. “John of Philadelphia” was our server this time.

We eat at Sweet Sage every time we go to the St. Petersburg area. The food is delicious, the portions generous, the fresh-squeezed tangerine juice a treat, and the whole experience makes me smile.

Holiness Camp Meeting
February 12, 2018

We had a 2-week trip to Florida in late January and early February 2018. It was a working vacation; I did some work on world missions every day and had appointments with various workers and church leaders. We also had time to relax, visit some friends and enjoy some sightseeing.

Our first days were spent in the St. Petersburg area. We we went to Camp Freedom, a Brethren in Christ camp meeting in the holiness tradition. This tradition emphasizes the kind of teaching that John Wesley did in England in the 1700s, the biblical teaching that God gives sanctifying grace to the Christian believer so that he or she can be freed from the power of sin and enabled to live a holy life. Holiness is about love – loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.

I set up a display table about the World Missions department of the Brethren Christ Church in the US and gave greetings and a report on Missions Day. You can learn more about our missions work at this site:

Camp Freedom tabernacle

This is the tabernacle, the main meeting area.

Camp Freedom interior

This is the platform area.

Camp Freedom live oak

Throughout the South, live oak trees keep their leaves all winter and are often majestic, as this one on the grounds of Camp Freedom.