Our Pilgrimage to The Holy Land

I find it very hard to put into words what this trip was like. Whenever people ask me about it, I say it was an eye-opening experience, but I always find myself short of words, unable to fully express what the trip really meant to me. And though words may never be enough, I will now narrate, to the best of my abilities, what transpired during our two-week long journey to Jordan, Israel, and Egypt. Such a trip is definitely worth sharing with all of you. Here goes.

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Jordan

Jordan was our first stop and I came to Jordan with zero expectations, not because of disinterest, but because of lack of knowledge about the country. I was not aware that this place had a lot to offer. I only had Petra in mind as a place to look forward to, but I was proven wrong the moment we alighted from the plane and headed to our first two stops, Madaba and Mt. Nebo.

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St. George’s Church

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Mosaic at St. George’s Church

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St. George’s Church in Madaba holds a beautiful mosaic map of the Holy Land, which dates back to the Byzantine period. Such meticulous art is definitely admirable. To this day, Jordan is known for their handmade mosaic art. We were able to visit an authentic mosaic production house and saw firsthand how each piece is painstakingly put together by hand until the full masterpiece is completed. Knowing all the work and passion behind mosaics and how every one of them is uniquely made makes each piece so very special.

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Mt. Nebo was the first place that brought me to tears (the first of many, so I learned later on). Atop this mountain is the exact location where God showed Moses the Promised Land. Indeed, from the highest point, you can see all of the Jordan Valley down until Israel and the Dead Sea. We had our first mass at the church located in Mt. Nebo and this was when I was overcome with a feeling of calmness–a sense of assurance and confidence in Him and everything else that is yet to come in my life–and began to tear up. Looking back, I now realize that’s probably how God gave Moses the conviction to lead the Israelites to place of freedom, even if Moses had no tangible knowledge of the place. Total trust; letting go, and letting God.

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Mt. Nebo

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Day two in Jordan was spent in Petra, an ancient gem like no other. As I mentioned in my Instagram account (@mickijosue), pictures will never do justice to the raw beauty of Petra. The rock formations–a sea of rust, orange, pinks, and deep yellow–are already so spellbinding yet, equally captivating as well are the carved structures–ancient homes, burial tombs, churches even–that reveal multitudes about the history and culture of this once highly important trade route.

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Entrance to Petra

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This hidden gorge is believed to have been inhabited as early as the 4th century B.C. by Arabs from the Nabataean Kingdom. Succeeding centuries later, other civilizations took over the area, such as the Romans. Remnants of all the different groups of people, that at some point in time, resided in this hidden chasm, coalesce here and fill this site with so much history and beauty. And that’s what makes Petra so fascinating–it holds so much richness and cultural diversity. There’s no way of consuming all of Petra without finding yourself in awe.

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The Treasury at Petra

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We only had two days to spend at Jordan, so we weren’t really able to explore much of Amman, the main city, nor were we able to spend more time with locals. Part of me felt down about departing so soon when we were just beginning to get to know Jordan. We were just learning about how historically significant Jordan is. You know what that means. We should come back one day.

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Overlooking Amman

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Ancient Greek Ruins in Amman

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Israel

Israel. The Holy Land. There’s so much to say about what we experienced here. And as much as I’d like to take up extended time to tell you all about it, I’ll take the route of brevity. If I were to sum up what our journey in Israel was like, I would say it was a very personal journey characterized by humility, gratitude, and deeper awareness of what it means to be present.

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Church of the Beatitudes

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Church of the Annunciation

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St. Joseph’s Home

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Mount Tabor, Site of the Transfiguration

Visiting the actual sites where Jesus was born, grew up, performed miracles, and died revealed to me his human divinity. Tangible and as real as can be, I was deeply moved by the profound truth present in each and every site.

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Church of the Transfiguration

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Church of the Multiplication of Loaves of Bread and Fish

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Capernaum, The Synagogue Where The Young Jesus Was Found

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Capernaum

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The Sea of Galilee

Many thoughts came to my head, I began reflecting on everything. But what really surfaced was the realization of how precious life is–clichΓ©, I know, but really, with today’s very materialistic and self-centered environment, it’s easy to find yourself entrapped in worldliness, devoid of what truly matters. I am guilty. And so my days in Israel were every enlightening, teaching me all over again to be more grateful for all the big and little things, and to remember that God’s unfathomable greatness is truly the guiding force behind all that we do and are. I’ll admit that this truth is not new. But it’s one thing to know this truth, and it’s another to understand and feel how divinity intersects with humanity, specifically with your own personal life.

The most memorable locations for me were the Church of the Annunciation, The Garden of Gethsemane, and the Holy Sepulchre. At the Church of the Annunciation, I was moved to tears as soon as I entered. There was a tacit atmosphere of solemnity and joy that is deeply touching in the church. Though guarded by steel gates, the actual site where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mother Mary was overflowing with a beckoning kind of stillness. The closer I got, the more my chest felt like it was exploding with joy. It made my problems feel so minute and it made me feel loved, so much that that all I really needed to do is hold on to His saving power every time I felt like I failed or faltered.

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Haifa

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The Church in Bethlehem That Houses The Manger Where Jesus Was Born

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Pater Noster Church, Where Jesus Taught The Our Father

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Inside the Pater Noster Church

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The Walled City of Jerusalem

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The Garden of Gethsemane

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The Church of All Nations

A second site in Israel that made me feel extreme emotions was the Garden of Gethsemane. We were so fortunate to be able to touch the actual stone where Jesus knelt and cried before he was taken by the soldiers. The moment my hand felt the cold slab of stone, I was overtaken by deep, deep sorrow and pain–sorrow so intense I found myself nearly bawling. To know immense pain and feel every inch of it in your heart and soul and still surrender to the greater purpose–what an incredible act of humility and faith. Somehow, in the depths of one’s sorrow it is possible to hold steadfast and have faith. I will forever remember this incident–may it remind me to seek Him always in my darkest days.

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One of the Gates to The Walled City of Jerusalem

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Outside the Holy Sepulchre

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The City of Jericho, The Mountain Where the Devil Tempted Jesus

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Inside Jerusalem

Third, and probably the most moving, was Jesus’ tomb. The tomb of Jesus is located within the Holy Sepulchre, a church which also houses the site where Jesus was crucified, and the slab where Jesus was anointed. We lined up for two hours just to get to the tomb and another thirty to forty minutes each for the other sites. The reason why it takes so long is because the actual tomb is in a very small room–only two people can enter at a time. When I entered, bent over, closed my eyes, and held the tomb. Instantly, the ground began to shake and I began to tremble. I couldn’t speak nor could I control myself from shaking, and eventually, crying. This. The site that puts meaning into it all. Into who we are, and what makes life so precious. Must I say more?

Egypt

The last three days of our trip were spent in Egypt. The first thing that comes to one’s mind at hearing Egypt are the pyramids at Giza. Yes, they’re majestic! And to think that each stone was carried manually, it’s undoubtedly astonishing. After the pyramids, we were able to visit Egypt’s national museum where my jaw dropped at all the ancient artefacts–it was a dream to see the coffins that enclosed mummified Egyptian kings, and all the gold jewelry and other ornaments owned by Egyptian royals. What I read in books was right in front of me! Unfortunately I don’t have any photos from the museum because we were forbidden from taking any pictures while we were inside.

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Pyramids at Giza

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The Abrogirls, L to R: Aia, Sofia, Mica

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The National Museum of Egypt

However, what made my trip to Egypt one for the books was our hike up to Mt.Sinai. But, that deserves its own entry, so watch out for that.

In closing, I’d like to share that this trip wasn’t originally in our bucket list (or it might have been in the tail end of it). Now, I can say that I’m so glad we decided to go! In Pocholo’s own words, “It was unexpected and surreal.” I also think that no matter what words I use or what photos I post, these will not fully capture how significant a trip this has been for us, for me. I did my best to absorb as much as I could about our faith and learned a lot about myself in the process. I wouldn’t say I’m a changed person, but this trip has been truly enlightening and has given new context to my existence and my relationship with The Lord. No other travel has ever been this personal, or this moving.

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If you want to plan a similar trip and have more questions, feel free to message me in Instagram (@mickijosue) or email me at mickijosue@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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