As we gathered in the Vancouver Airport at 5 am on Saturday May 3rd, the anticipation quickly began to build as we connected with one another and, as a group, we felt an excitement about our journey together into the Biblical past. This trip was to take us to a place that for many of us, we had only “seen” through the words of Scripture. Our adventure was, at this point, only a hope but was soon to become a reality.
Eighteen plus hours of flights and 10 hours of time adjustment did not seem to dampen our spirits (ok, a little), but as soon as we walked into the Tel Aviv Airport and then onto the bus, we were ready for our new outlook on “life”.
How do you put into words 4 days in the desert, 5 days by the Sea of Galilee and 3 days in Jerusalem? Try and describe the newly formed life long friendships and the endless memories of laughter, singing, silence, reflections and yes, even tears (mostly of joy). How can you express the joy of meeting new friends from many parts of our world and even though you may never see them again, they will be forever in your thoughts and hearts.
Painted across our memory canvases will be…
the desert images of a dry and parched land
shepherds watching over their flocks by day
green plants amid sand and rock
Bedouin homesteads scattered on the hill sides
Ruins from long ages past that once defined life in Israel
Wadi’s that look quiet and serene one day, and can take a life the next when filled with water from a rain storm miles away
The desert canyons known as the En Gedi, where biblical heroes once walked and hid to save their lives
Qumran community where scrolls of old were hidden for centuries in caves
To stand in the Fortress at Masada and realize the life choices that were made there
A ride on a fishing boat across a sacred sea. This was my “holy” moment. Jesus my friend and Saviour once walked on these waters and taught on these shores and “called” some key men to serve with Him.
A “gentle” climb up Mt. Arbal to sit pray where Jesus prayed, to be still and watch over the land and sea; to commune with His Father in Heaven.
To experience the tradition of Jewish men and women on Sabbath. To watch them enjoy life with friends and family
To sit on a hillside and watch F-15 Fighter jets fly over head.
To talk with Jewish young adults about safety and protection and hear them explain their trust in God Almighty.
To stand at the gates of hell and know they will not prevail against the Kingdom of God
To watch by the Jordan River as two fellow travellers walked into the waters to be baptized.
To experience the blessing of Head, Hands, Heart and Feet by a fellow pastor and know that the blessing was sincere.
Did I mention the overwhelming amount of ruins, with their own stories to tell? Death, destruction, sacrifice, heroes, life, love, family, friends, real community, doing life together.
To walk the streets of the amazing city of Jerusalem and be reminded of all that went on within her walls.
To walk the path of death to a hill known as Golgotha.
To sing like angels in St. Anne’s Church and feel the music penetrate the soul
To watch with amazement and sadness the empty rituals in the Cathedral where they claim Christ was crucified and buried
To walk the Mediterranean Sea shore and call my wife from thousands of miles away and experience it together by phone
To listen and learn from a teacher who had walked these pathways many times before us, so that he could teach it right
Our fearless and insightful team of leaders led us with great ease (or at least it seemed that way) through 2 weeks of potential daily challenges and amazing opportunities. How can I fully say thank you for a life time of memories I would never have had. I simply and deeply express my heart felt appreciation. You have refreshed the heart of this saint, and I thank you.
Was it worth it? For my part, absolutely yes! As a pastor I will preach and teach differently. As a Christian I will have a deeper understanding of my faith and our roots. As a person who loves people, I will forever have new friends that experienced Israel with me, not everyone can say that.
May God bless you as you continue to serve Him with your life and resources.
Brian Derksen, Church Relations
Leadership Center, Willow Creek Association