In June 2008, the Lord graciously reopened the doors for The Associates for Biblical Research to once again begin excavating at Khirbet el-Maqatir, Israel. This site has credible archaeological and geographical evidence to be correlated with the city of Ai, found in the momentous, redemptive-historical events of Joshua 7-8. A team of ABR staff and volunteers has traveled to Israel in 2009 through 2012 to perform further excavations at our site.
The Khirbet el-Maqatir excavation has been made possible by the pioneering work of Dr. David Livingston. The foundation for this excavation was laid by his faithful and sacrificial work. If not for Dave's vision, ABR simply would not be. His extensive research on the subject of Ai and its important relation to the city of Bethel is of the utmost importance. Beginning in 1979 Dave established a cordial relationship with the Israel Antiquities Authority that has made it possible for ABR to conduct archeological field work in Israel for over 30 years. The Kh. el-Maqatir project follows the methodology established by Dave. That is, manpower and funding for the project are provided by volunteer support. Participants in the dig have what we call 'the Israel experience.' They not only get to participate in the excavation of a biblical site, but they are also transported back to Bible times. To give an example-every morning the cameras come out as the local shepherd brings his flock of sheep across the dig site just after sunrise. In addition, volunteers tour Israel, meet Messianic believers at Yad Hashmona (the ABR headquarters in Israel), and get to know friendly and helpful Palestinians who live in the vicinity of the dig site.
The Kh. el-Maqatir excavation has added a few things to Dave's original vision. We have inaugurated a consortium which allows schools, churches and other institutions to partner with us financially in carrying out this crucial work. Members of the consortium enjoy significant benefits, such as being able to send professors and pastors to the dig at no cost. In addition, we run an archaeological field school whereby participating professors and pastors are trained as square supervisors, and students can earn college credit for their dig experience.
Many folks who would like to participate in the dig may feel that they cannot due to the cost. Because our program is such a life-changing and educational experience for professors, pastors, students and Christian laypeople, we encourage potential participants to view the dig as a short-term missions trip. By appealing to churches, family members and friends, prospective diggers can raise the necessary funds to make the dig experience a reality.
I had the great pleasure of joining the team during the 2010 season for the first time. It was literally a life-changing experience. Of course, I had always been excited about what the ministry was doing at our dig. I was thankful to serve the ministry by performing the 'behind the scenes' work here in the states.
Upon my arrival in Israel, however, I soon discovered what I had been missing. I did not realize it was imperative that I participate in the work at Khirbet el-Maqatir to truly grasp the significance and importance of this critical archaeological project. To stand at the site and to look south to Jerusalem, to look into the same shallow valley where the King of Ai came out for battle, to see the hill where Joshua likely stood with his javelin, to stand at the city gate, to be at the very place where God brought His people victory over His unrighteous enemies. It was a profound, life changing experience.
The Lord graciously provided time and resources so that my wife Birzavit could join me. It was her first trip to Israel. We were together on the optional tour of biblical sites, which I knew she would thoroughly enjoy. I was a bit uncertain how she would respond to getting up at 4am, digging in the dirt, carrying around tools and walking up the steep, rocky hill every morning. It turned out that I underestimated her enthusiasm and determination. I will let her tell you about it:
What an amazing experience and opportunity! If I could, I would certainly participate each year. It's not just a bunch of people getting up early to dig in dirt (though many of the locals may think so!). The evidence from Dr. Wood's research is mounting. I'm motivated to learn how God continues to use ABR to unearth such evidence with every season that goes by. It was a tremendous blessing to meet folks from all over the world working for a common purpose and to learn so much about archaeology and how it relates to the Bible. I was privileged to have been a part of such an adventure!
One of the most important spiritual facets of the dig is the morning devotional time on the bus. Typically, it takes us about 45 minutes to reach the site, and at 5 o'clock in the morning, 45 minutes feels like a lifetime! Several staff members and others share testimonies of God's faithfulness and grace. It can be an emotionally powerful experience for everyone, and establishes a prayerful ground work for the long day ahead. The testimonial is followed by the signing of Hymns and other songs that bring glory to our faithful God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So...why don't you join us? If you have been considering making this trip, we encourage you to sign up today! Contact our office or visit the ABR Dig Page for more information. We cannot be certain how long the doors will remain open for ABR to continue doing this work. We would not want you to miss out on participating in an archaeological excavation whose primary purpose is to bring glory to God!
See you in Israel!