Our Story with Magdala
On my first trip to Israel in 2016, my husband Jim and I hired a private guide to introduce us to the Holy Land. David was secular Jew, who immigrated to his beloved homeland from Australia. He was a ton of fun, but as we journeyed through the usual sites, we had a nagging concern that a more Christian-oriented tour might have had more impact. Then David circled a roundabout, sped past a strip mall and glided into the gravel lot of Magdala.
“Ok friends”, he says. “As you are Christians, I believe it is my duty as your guide to bring you to the one place in all of the Galilee where I can guarantee you will find your Jesus.” We were greeted by volunteers and introduced to Father Juan Solana, who was sipping coffee at the café outside Magdala’ s make-shift gift shop and welcome center. We were treated to a private tour by Rachel Leach, Magdala’s volunteer coordinator at the time. She took us through Magdala’ s pristine first century synagogue; then through the city archaeology; then into the Duc In Altum chapel. I would never be the same.
Magdala was different than anywhere else we’d been. The difference being, like David said, here I found my Jesus. I encountered Him walking through Magdala’s ancient streets, with crowds of Galileans following Him, including a tormented woman named Mary desperately seeking a Savior. I encountered Him in Magdala’s mikvahs, ritually preparing his human self to enter the synagogue. I encountered Him in the synagogue in front of the Magdala stone, the Torah scrolls opened upon the alter table, proclaiming the Year of Lord. And I encountered in a mosaic chapel in the Duc in Altum, calling me to Him and grasping my hand. David was right, I found my Jesus!
Upon our return to the US, my husband and I could not get Magdala off our minds and in response began an email correspondence with Father Juan. A year and a half later he came to visit us in our hometown of Charlotte, NC in June 2018. We treated him to some traditional southern hospitality including his first visit to Waffle House and a ride on our pontoon boat. At the end of the visit, Father Juan said that while he was praying in the guest room of our home, the Holy Spirit revealed to him that my husband and I would be involved in the creation of Magdala’s visitor center. “Do you feel called to this?” He asked. As a retired real estate developer, Jim is a creative visionary who helped change the landscape of the city of Charlotte over the past 30 years. Sometimes you question the Holy Spirit’s call and sometimes you hear it loud and clear. This call came to us like the shofar horn ushering in the year of Jubilee. We said yes.
It’s been an incredible four years of prayer and preparation. As a retired flight attendant, I’ve always felt connected to a global community and Magdala fills me with the same sense of connection. I’ve made life-long friends and prayer partners with Magdala pilgrims from all over the world. Meanwhile, Jim and Father Juan have put together an amazing team who are beginning the next phase of God’s plan for Magdala – a state of the art Visitor Center that will welcome pilgrims to the Galilee from all over the world. I’ll be forever grateful to that fun-loving Israeli who pulled into Magdala’s gravel parking lot on a hot September morning and told us where to encounter Jesus. As a result of that fateful visit, the vision of Magdala and all that God has in store for it has become our north star guiding us to Jesus’ resurrection celebration in 2033 and beyond.”
Susan Dulin – North Carolina, USA