When I am a planning a trip to a specific destination, I prepare. If it’s a long trip I start packing a few weeks in advance, and I keep a list. I want to be certain that I have all the necessities. As a missionary, the priority of the trip is to have all of my prayer requests in order.
Along the journey are many unexpected obstacles. I have traveled with a lay ministry for 20 years to Israel. We are the group that carries the Cross down the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem. Last year, as we do every year, for the pageant, we brought a wooden Cross with us which we use for crucifying Jesus. The Cross is over 7′ long and, though we have done this for years, Turkish Air would not accommodate our request to check in the Cross as extra luggage. Weeks before our trip, our team leader, Joanne, and I and a pastor friend met with one of the executives from Turkish Air. A meeting was arranged with him because Joanne was scheduled to meet with Pakistani church leaders for a crusade. She needed special travel arrangements in order to facilitate her scheduled plans. The meeting with the executive went well and we were assured that Turkish Air would handle the situation for Joanne’s transfer.
If our flight is scheduled to leave Los Angeles at 6 p.m., we have to arrive by 1 p.m. to allow us time for any unexpected incidents. We all followed the rules with the exception of one member. He was responsible for bringing the Cross, but for some reason unbeknownst to us, he arrived two hours before departure. This set the tone for the rest of us because we all check in together, and now we were rushed. At the counter the young lady refused to allow us to check in the Cross, stating it was too long and that it exceeded the airline’s regulations. Joanne could not wait because she is in a wheelchair and is among of the first to board the plane. I stayed to try to explain the situation to the young lady, but to no avail. In a panic I remembered the executive from Turkish Air saying to call him if we ever needed anything. I looked through my wallet and found the card that his secretary handed me. At this point many of the passengers had already boarded. I had little time to explain the gravity of the situation regarding the Cross. A few last-second phone calls were made, and we received clearance for the Cross to be loaded with the luggage, but by this time someone had moved the Cross, and it could not be found. We had no other choice but to board the plane without the Cross.
7 Arches Hotel
During all our years of traveling to the Holy Land, we always stayed at the 7 Arches Hotel. We have many good acquaintances at this hotel, and know many of the long-time employees of the 7 Arches. I do not want to take the credit , but either Jane or I remembered that the prior year, some hotel employees told us that they would store the Cross that was used for the Via Dolorosa for us, so we would never have to bring the Cross back to the U.S. They did just that, and this spared some of our men from having to make another Cross.
Last year’s trip was a duration of seven days. These days were set aside solely for prayer and to carry the Cross down the Via Dolorosa on Good Friday. I am taking a sabbatical from traveling to the Holy Land during Holy Week this year. Though I am a little forlorn, I know soon I will be back to walking in the steps of Jesus. Next year in Jerusalem! I am praying for all team members who are taking the journey, that God will grant them favor and traveling mercies.
This Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Each year I make the mistake of announcing to the world what I gave up for Lent. This year my journey will be personal, a private matter between God and me. In the past I have fallen short and broken the vows of sacrifice; this just set my mind in a spirit of guilt. Guilt is one of Satan’s favorite tactics, something he consistently uses against us, especially when we are pursuing spiritual growth.
I pray that we all draw closer to the Lord during this time. Decide not only what you want to abstain from but spend more time in your prayer closet. May your Lenten journey prepare you for all that God has in store for you. Through all our trials we learn to trust in Him during these 40 days if we are obedient in our almsgiving, fasting, and praying. We sacrifice for the needs of others, to make ourselves available spiritually. We take the journey, and, just as Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert, we, too, are on pilgrimages until we find our way. Satan’s failed attempt to tempt Jesus occurred right after Jesus’ Baptism. Baptism purifies our souls and yields our spirit to the road to holiness. Satan can offer us the world on the condition that you worship him.
Matthew 4:8-9 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)
8 Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9 and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
We are going to be tempted during our Lenten journey, but know that Jesus will see us through this. He is well aware of what Satan is capable of doing. If we remain in the spirit of total surrender, the Lord will give us special graces to endure. As I sit in Adoration, I am surrounded by warriors, some praying for family members, some praying for our country and our president, others praying for worldwide crisis. I can share that my prayers are for those who are suffering, and fighting for their lives and well-being: Doug, Arthur, Andrea, Father Freddie, Freddie and Mario. My family is always included in my daily prayers, both immediate and extended. We have to stay in our battle fatigues for our loved ones.
When Moses was getting instructions from God on Mt. Sinai, he was there for 40 days. All of the Israelites at the bottom of the mountain could see that something supernatural was taking place. This was a cataclysmic event with earthquakes, thunder, and lightning; instead of getting on their knees and praying, they did the unthinkable: they built a Golden Calf. In today’s society the same would happen to those who do not have a prayer life. We were all created to worship One God, but many choose horoscopes, crystals, fortune tellers, card readers, etc.. We need to rid ourselves of the golden calves we have created.
My prayer: Dear Lord, I pray that during this Lenten Journey many souls would be touched. I pray that those who are truly seeking You will be transformed and understand their calling. Lord, to each of us you have instilled special gifts. Pour Your blessings upon us and teach us to do Your holy will. Lord, keep us from the distractions of the world and shine a new light over those who seek and wait for Your direction. Amen.