DAY 1 – Israel

There are those times in our lives when, even though we’ve planned carefully for significant events, nothing really goes as planned. When that happens, there are at least two different ways you can handle these situations–poorly or with some wisdom and love. I believe on our first days of travel, we did the latter. I am so proud of both factions of our tour group–from both Wisconsin and Maryland. Here’s the story I’m sticking to…
My brother Stan and I took the Wisconsin part of our group & Dave Walker took the Maryland part of our group and we were to meet up briefly in Istanbul, Turkey, prior to flying on into Tel Aviv, Israel to begin our tour. It was there that we would become ‘one group’ for the duration of our Holy Land tour. But that’s not how it went.
When checking in for our flight from Chicago to Istanbul, unlike other times I’ve gone to Israel, they wouldn’t ticket us all the way through to 
Tel Aviv-only as far as Istanbul. (I should have known something was up at this point!) Well, apparently not booking us all the way through to Tel Aviv, Israel was due to bad weather in Turkey. Then, before we left, I also received a call from Mike Reilly, the owner of Maranatha Tours-our tour agency. He asked me if we were having problems and if our flight was on time. I kept checking the Chicago to Istanbul flight and it said it was just fine, so that’s what I passed on to Maranatha. Mike told me we should watch out because there’d been some bad weather (snow storm) in Istanbul-bad enough to make the world news. O.K., but our flight was on time. We thought we’d be O.K.
The flight to Istanbul went just fine, but that’s when the unexpected took place. When we got off our flight  in Turkey and were shuttled to the terminal, the place looked like Chicago when we left-piles of snow everywhere! And apparently, Istanbul was not used to that much snow. We were told immediately that all flights to Tel Aviv had been cancelled for the day. The place seemed to be in chaos…

My brother Stan, myself, and nine other travelers had to pray and see what happened next. After several minutes (maybe hours) of run-arounds, we finally figured out what we had to do to move our group ahead. We all had to buy temporary VISAs ($30/cash/each) so that we could go out of the secure side of the airport, crossing that line over into (actual) Turkey, then get in line to get re-ticketed to Tel Aviv as soon as possible. Once we got to the other side of the airport, we stood in line for about an hour and a half, then a very nice Turkish Air employee pulled us out of line (we still had at least another hour to hour and a half to wait if we would’ve stayed in that line), took us to an available agent, and got us re-ticketed for a flight leaving at 2 AM Monday morning. Great. Now things were moving…
Almost immediately, after we’d gotten something to eat and worked our way through passport control and security … again, back into the gated/secure area of the airport, we noticed on the flight boards that … our new 2 AM flight had been delayed by 1 1/2 hours. Now we were leaving at 3:30 AM on Monday. (The airlines had offered us a hotel room, since we probably wouldn’t be leaving until 7 AM or so the next morning, originally. We declined, since we thought we’d be out at 2 AM. Who would’ve known!)
Well, let me make a very long story somewhat short. We spent the night in the airport, now waiting for our 3:30 AM delayed flight. It was delayed once, then more later on. Once we finally got on the plane, it was somewhere around 6:30 AM. The plane we’d boarded then had a mechanical and could not take off. They de-boarded us … and moved us to another plane. (I am serious, folks! We couldn’t have planned this comedy if we’d tried! Oh, and this is where Jeanenne Richardson commented to Stan, “I’m getting too old for this!”) We finally took off around 8 AM or so. After spending 14 1/2 hours in Istanbul, we were finally headed toward Israel. Again, ‘so proud to be travelling with the group we are travelling with. ‘So proud of how they were supportive of each other … and us, as hosts!
We got into the Tel Aviv airport, a few hours behind the Maryland part of our group. We were shuttled over to our hotel at the Dead Sea and got settled in our rooms about 11:30 AM on Monday. (The Maryland part of our group, under the excellent leadership of Mr. David Bill Walker has their own story to tell, so you’ll have to ask them about their trip over at a later date.)
Once we finally got together as a whole group–and so thankful we did, we had lunch together, and still got out to one site on the first day-the Fountain of Tears sculpture over in Arad, near the Dead Sea. (This is the famous sculpture by artist Rick Wienecke. Check it out by Googling ‘Fountain of Tears Arad.’)
We are just so thankful that God watched over all of us and we had safe flights here-though not what any of us expected time-wise. It still all worked out and now we’re on our tour. So… international travel. It’s always an adventure … and you just never know. With all of this in mind, please continue to pray for us now as we tour the Holy Land together. And please pray for three of our travelers that are still waiting for their luggage, would you? I know God’s going to help work that out too… 🙂 Much more tomorrow…
Pastor Rom