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Marking a Milestone in the Holy Land

I remember every detail of the day when I was diagnosed with breast cancer like it was yesterday. I remember every detail of the day I received my first chemotherapy treatment and the day I rang the bell to mark the last. I remember surgery days because they are all stamped in my brain and heart. They’re all major milestones in the cancer journey, because they all got me to the day I could say “I am in remission.”

On February 21, 2023, five years after the tumors were removed from my body and on the 4th floor of a hotel outside Tel Aviv, Israel I marked that milestone. It was a glorious morning in Hadera as the sun gleamed over the clear waters of the Mediterranean. I woke up, brushed my teeth, washed my face and opened the door to the balcony to recite my morning prayer. The light sea breeze felt good on my clean face and my heart was filled with gratitude for the blessing of another day.

We went downstairs for breakfast and little did a know that at the end of this important milestone, I, along with others in our El Paso group from Sun Travel would be baptized in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The Jordan River, which flows into the Sea of Galilee is considered the third most holy site in the Holy Land.

When I was a baby, I received the sacrament of baptism in the Catholic Church. Today, I would be immersed in the waters of the Qasr el Yahud/Yardenit to celebrate remission and to renew my faith.

We arrived at the baptismal site where we rented a white robe and black slippers and followed the pilgrims to the steps that lead to the water. An English speaking group led by Theresa Arwood and her husband Joel from the Church of God in Cleaveland, Tennessee were baptizing members of their group.

“Can we join you?” I asked.

“Sure, my husband can baptize you!” she answered excitedly.

I knew God had placed her in our path.

The water was a little higher than waist deep on my 5’1” frame. Theresa’s husband Joel said a short prayer and I pinched my nose. He placed his hands on my head and immersed me in the cool water. And just like that, I marked that major milestone in my cancer journey and marked the beginning of my new spiritual life.

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