The third day of the trek was in Mount Arbel National Park. A splendid park of more than 2000 hectares (almost 5000 acres). Sumptuous landscapes, exceptional views of the Sea of Galilee, breath-taking hiking trails. The most beautiful that we have travelled in 4 days. The path led us to the Migdal via the Nahal Arbel valley. This was an incredible day, where my trust in God had come back. It started in a strange way. We got up very early. We started walking well before dawn, in the almost complete darkness and in silence. Nathaniel had asked us to think during the first minutes of this third day; what is going on in our hearts, the difficulties we are going through and giving everything to God. I had that weight on my heart. And then as time advanced, I started crying silently, then trying to hold back the tears, so as not to explode. Moshe and Luz were worried. But I simply told them that it wasn’t a physical problem. (In fact, I thought it would be easy to testify of this day but not at all). Once down in the valley, I let everyone go before me; I didn’t want to walk more with that weight. My stomach hurt from holding back a flood of tears that only needed to flow. I just wanted to sit down and wait. But wait for what? I began to resign to myself that I would have to continue because the car was following the last walkers. And I couldn’t walk behind the car. I swear to you that at that moment, I would have liked it, though. That’s when Nathaniel saw me. He told me: “Hey Amelie!! It’s ok? And I answer him: “not really”. So he stopped and he asked me what was happening. I stopped myself suddenly. And I started to cry. After a little while, he started to console me by telling me that it was going to be okay. We started to walk again so as not to put too much gap between the group and the car. I couldn’t stop crying anymore. I was eaten up by my guilt. And I didn’t know how to get rid of it. That is what I told him when he asked me to explain to him what was wrong. He asked me why I felt guilty. What had happened? I replied to him, “I don’t know how to let out my culpability”. And he said to me three times, “Tell me,” before I could answer him. I had never told anyone, in any case, not verbally. And I was a little afraid of his reaction. I really had a hard time saying the few words that represented the heavy weight on the heart that I had created for myself. But something made me feel that I had to do it. Nathaniel was waiting for words to come out of my mouth between tears. “Give it all to God.” he told us a few hours earlier. It was now or never. So I took my courage and left my shame. And I told him:
– I let my mom die alone.
The whole exchange we had together was full of strength and contentment that I didn’t feel with anyone else before. And we were not alone. I know God was with us at this moment. Nathaniel surrounded me with his arms, but God surrounded us both. I know it. I felt that sweet and indefinable force of a sure and discreet presence. Nathaniel told me so much that I can’t remember everything. He knew how to find the words to comfort me and guide me in the choice of my actions to free myself from this feeling. We joined the group. I felt better but not quite good yet. My roommate Luz (love you) cared about me, and we talked a bit. All the little discussions I had that day, even the most innocuous, had an impact. And helped answer my question: What am I doing here? We had to cross water. And the last ones were hard to cross for me. But useful. Nathaniel’s feet in the water helped us through. At first, I was reluctant. I don’t like to need help with that kind of thing. I have always trusted my feet and my ability. But for once, I accepted his help. All went well until he let go of my hand. My foot slipped on the next stone and I fell into the water. Nathaniel asked me twice if I was ok, and if I needed help. But I didn’t answer. God said to me, “This is the moment, get up, follow him. Don’t be afraid, free your heart and your mind. I am with you. Trust me. You can do it. You are strong enough for this path. This path is the right one for you. You will continue to fall, but extend your hand and I will help you to rise. You are not alone. “.. On the next lookout, I didn’t want to take Nathaniel’s hand. Not once but twice. And I found myself in slight imbalance. And he grabbed my arm to steady me. I then understood that there will always be someone to help me and support me even if I don’t ask for it. I realized that following Jesus’ footsteps would not be easy, that there would always be moments of doubt. Sometimes, things don’t always happen the way we want because it isn’t the will of the father. But he was there near us, for us. And what was important was to believe in Jesus, which is the only truth we must follow with love.
The next day was marked by teachings on Mount Beatitudes, at Capernaum, and at the shore and on the Sea of Galilee. This day was sweet and calm. A bit like a day of respite it was the last day of walking. The shortest, easiest, and we made it all together. On the other hand, Nathaniel talked so much (those who know him think: as always) but I especially liked when he talked about being peacemakers and “being the salt of the earth”, he said “We need God Every single moment of every single day.”The end of the trek and this adventure was fast approaching. It’s amazing how it seems to me unreal it went so quickly. But we were far from having finished other moments; we waited while we were on the bus to the holy city.
Jerusalem. Two intense days. First, the visit of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Seriously, this place is impressive. But too many people. I didn’t feel anything particular in it. Maybe because of the crowd. However, I was very touched by Freddy’s tears next to me; which made me plunge into prayer. Then there was the biggest moment of communion in the group. At the mount of olive trees and the Garden of Gethsemane. I don’t think there are words strong enough to describe this lived moment. Nathaniel’s teaching was the most powerful of the week. Many of us ended up in tears including the teacher himself. And then, he asked us to pray for someone and he called Lyncoln. I believe that we have all developed so much affection for this courageous girl that the strength of this prayer has been increased tenfold. It was a moment of union, of faith and of strength that I have rarely experienced with other Christians. A long and powerful prayer for a young woman with a strong and combative character, a sweetheart, a little pearl. We all shared good times with Lyncoln. And her testimony is the reflection of who she is; strong, true, simple, sweet. The words that remained with me at that moment are “Jesus, you are everything. He can do all things. I wanna challenge you guys. It’s a simple message and I know it’s hard to do because I’m like you, I struggle with it. He’s here with us, I know he is. Faith can do anything.” I enjoyed the short visit to Bethesda. The Anna Church is just beautiful with perfect acoustics. This allowed us to experience a true moment of pure grace with Astrid when she sang Hallelujah. A beautiful emotion that made some tears flow. I would have liked to sing too but I just didn’t dare after the beautiful performance of the sweet and sparkling Astrid. I enjoyed sharing the moment of communion with the group. The body and the blood of Christ. It was a beautiful conclusion to the day. I felt definitely more spiritual at the end of this day.
The next morning we went to the Qasr el Yahud site, where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. I was a little stressed. It was a not-so-obvious choice for me. I had already been baptized. Can we really be baptized twice? Was I ready? Was my faith big enough for that? The day before, it took me a long time to answer a simple question: “Someone else?” All his questions had plunged me into a deep reflection. What is Baptism? What is it used for? Is it obligatory to follow Jesus? And then, there are those words that came to mind. “Baptized in the light of Jesus; you were reborn with him from the tomb; to make each of your nights clear, God takes you by the hand today, you are his beloved child. ” So I had no more doubts. Here, it was me who chose to follow again the steps of Christ and to live according to the will of the Lord.
However, it was an important event. It’s a serious commitment, a commitment for life. Arriving at the scene, the atmosphere of joy that reigned was pleasant. The songs sung by certain groups, even though they sometimes covered Nathaniel’s voice during the teaching, were sweet and festive. During his teaching Nathaniel talked about the difference between what we are called to be and what we are called to do and why it’s so important. He challenged us about it. Take time to know what we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to do. There was then Robert’s speech, and then Moshe’s speech. We really felt it was the last day. And then there we were, in front of the Jordan water. Then me, I had missed the info by which it was Nathaniel who was going to baptize us with the help of Robert. Some know, others have understood, but Nathaniel is really the one who brought me back to God. So yes I know he is only a vessel of God, by God and for God. But he isn’t the only one. He is the only one I trusted. The only one to have listened. Not to have judged. The only one to look beyond the simple “yes it’s ok”. But in fact, no it was wrong. During all these years, only he was able to say the right words at the right time. And that had a big importance in being in a white dress barefoot in front of the Jordan river where Jesus himself was baptized. And he was going to do it. Trust in my heart has become even stronger.
This ceremony was so special. 10 days before we were all foreigners who came from all over the world, and that day we were one family united in the joy of welcoming back (or for the first time some of us) in this sacrament which announces a new life in the faith of Christ. There were a lot of emotions, joy, sharing, exchanges, looks, sweet words, support, prayer, thanks, and help. Especially to get in or out of the water because the steps were very slippery and the water wasn’t clear; we couldn’t see anything, but it’s a bit like having faith, keep walking even if you don’t see what’s in front, reach out to those who need it, and catch it without shame if you need it. Each baptized person had his own reasons, but all together we chose to do it in this highly symbolic place. And we all reacted differently. Tears before, tears after; smiles, raised dots. When Moshe pronounced my name, my heart began to beat faster. Between excitement and apprehension. What would I feel? I didn’t think to cry. Nathaniel said few words before each baptism to personalize it. I thanked him for this nice nickname elsewhere “the quiet French girl”. When I went back into the water, there were these words in my mind “My God!! But what am I doing?” I chose to imbibe words spoken by Nathaniel and more discreetly by Robert. And then everything goes very quickly “In the name of father, Son, and Holy Spirit”; I see the darkness and I feel the oppression of this black world and then the light. I felt a third hand leave me. A light breath. And an optimism I had never felt in my life. “She’s with me. Everything will take place, in due course. Keep trust. Go”
Once the ceremony is over, Nathaniel hugged us. His simple words sum up all this adventure, this unusual experience, 10 days that changed my vision of life, or rather confirmed in some areas decisions made upstream. “It’s a big step today, Amelie”. Oh Yes!! A big step on my way. The most important. The first one. There are other steps but I’m ready to climb each of them. I put all my trust in my Lord, I love my Father, I walk with my savior. I am the salt of the earth, and I want to be a peacemaker. Someone said “My vocation is Love”; these words inspire me so much. We ended the day with a nice dinner at the restaurant together after having floated in the Dead Sea, visiting the Davidson Center and the Wailing Wall.
It was hard to say goodbye after the meal. So we made appointments; offered invitations, took pictures, and talked again and again. Then we left. The next day we almost took back the plane.
The heart was heavy to leave this earth. I am full of love and faith today, I am ready to follow Jesus even in difficult times. I am no longer alone. God is with me and my new brothers and sisters too. They help me on my way. Thank you all for making this trip to Israel an unforgettable moment of life. To have taken the time to exchange with me. I’m grateful to my Lord for sending me there. I’m grateful to have always God staying by my side even if I don’t listen to him. I am grateful that he continued to protect me. I pray that he will forgive my sins. I want to continue his voice and obey his commandments. I am a sower of Hope. The trust in the lord and in my faith that I gained during this journey, further strengthens that feeling. I’m full of Hope. There is hope for who believes. With humility, I will follow the path that God prepared for me. It will be an amazing purpose.
Thank you to all my family in Christ. Love you all. Thank you Sam for everything you do everyday for me and for all of us. You are so special for me. Thank you God to create such special people like all of them.
Thanks all for reading. God bless you all. Love you.