Holy Land Trip
Recently, I was blessed to travel to the Holy Land of Israel. It was a life changing experience for me and I was fortunate enough to go with a group of seminarians from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. There were about 23 residential seminarians, a pastor from San Antonio, one other Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP), and me. Our facilitator was Pastor Tom Zelt from Fremont, California. He was an absolutely amazing professor who knew the land and history so well. In fact, we were the 35th group that he had taken to Israel! What a blessing and fountain of knowledge he was to all of us!
We started our time together in St. Louis where we were immersed in what we were about to experience on the trip. We went over logistics, customs, safety protocols, etc. We spent two full days at the seminary where we mostly reviewed maps and better understood the land and where key events in the Bible happened. This was an upper-level course at the seminary so there was an immense amount of homework to do before we even showed up in St. Louis. I felt very prepared, however, and quickly became the mapping expert on the trip!
We flew from St. Louis to Atlanta to Paris and finally to Tel Aviv, Israel. This trip completely changed the way that I understand what I have previously learned in the Bible. I am now able to read the Bible with much more insight than I had before because I know more of the cultural, historical, and geographical context in Israel. We traveled as far north as Dan where we were just miles from Lebanon and Syria and as far south as the Wilderness of Tzin where we were only miles from Egypt and the Gaza Strip. We were able to spend some time in the West Bank which currently controls Bethlehem. Visiting the very places where Moses, Abraham, David, Solomon, Paul, Peter, and Jesus walked was surreal. I saw where Peter jumped out of the boat and swam to Jesus and I even touched the place where Jesus was crucified!
As you can tell, our days were completely full of sightseeing and in the evenings we spent time developing Bible studies for our respective churches. One of the Bible studies that I am excited to share with you is about Elijah on Mt. Carmel where he challenged the 450 prophets of Ba'al.
Something that also struck me was that Israel’s landscape and climate are very similar to Arizona’s. Arizona has everything from the desert floor with scorching heat to the high mountains that are lined with Douglas Fir. Israel has the same kind of diversity! Israel has beautiful beaches, beautiful and fertile valleys that are used for farming, hill country like Prescott and Payson, and rugged wilderness that literally looks like Arizona's painted desert. Finally, Israel has the Rift Valley with mountains that lined the Jordan River on each side. It reminded me of the hills that flow into the Colorado River.
Floating in the Dead Sea... Kind of like the Salt River, but MUCH MORE salt!
I hope to soon have an open Q & A session for our church about my travels. I am also excited to share my experiences with our Journey Group shepherds in a Renewal class. One of my dreams is to lead a group from our church to Israel sometime in the near future. I want to thank all of you that were praying for me when I was in Israel and were able to follow me on Facebook. I pray that I can convey my experiences and what I learned to you in upcoming sermons to help you appreciate the stories of the Bible even more.