It is difficult for me to explain the full significance of my trip to Israel with Fifth Gospel Encounters because I am not sure that it is fully realized yet. From the first stop of the bus, I was captured by the landscape of the Bible; not the familiar, westernized interpretation, but the dry, emptiness, where God chose to make Himself known. I soon learned the importance of stripping away everything I thought I knew and re-evaluating how I had always seen scripture and the “people of the book.”
Gaining a greater understanding of the mindset of the people of the Old Testament is also a great benefit of the trip. Seeing the many “mikvahs” (ceremonial washing baths) and learning of the many rituals surrounding worship reminded me of both the great privilege we now have of walking before God unashamed, but also of the importance of understanding that we come before a holy God, and we are not to take that lightly.
My most powerful moments came while leaving a site and opening my Bible to review what I had just encountered. The text came to life! This was most evident in the Galilee and Jerusalem, where Jesus walked. We spent time in the synagogues where Jesus once stood reading Torah. We walked near pools where individuals had been healed of blindness at Christ’s command. We read the beatitudes where they may very well have been first stated. Following these visits, I was compelled to read through the Gospel of Luke while travelling through the area. I was able to look up from the text and see the very places mentioned. I am in the habit of reading scripture with the bible in one hand and a commentary in the other. Now I walk with a commentary in my mind and have found myself making many study notes simply from a better understanding of area.
Another highlight of the trip was the internationality and societal makeup of the group. It was great to be a part of a group of church planters, professors, business men and women, pastors, and students, all concerned with deepening their walk with their Saviour. Such a collection also made for great conversation during the day and in the evenings when we had dinner together.
Since I’ve returned, there has not been a day that I have not shared some of the significance of the trip with someone, encouraging them to take part in a future trip.
On the trip, I had decided that back home I would try to get outside, to the wilderness, with those I am leading and mentoring, rather than always meet in my office or over a coffee, thus taking advantage of God’s arena for teaching. I have already applied this to both my ministry as a whole, and on a one-on-one level as well. In both instances I have seen great results. It is much easier to see the glory of the stars, when we get away from the city lights.
I want to express my deepest thanks for those whose benevolence helped me financially, thus making it possible for me to take this trip; it would not have been possible otherwise.
Alliance Worship Pastor