What an amazing gift to be able to travel and learn about the culture that shaped the stories we read in the Bible! This is a never-to-be-forgotten experience for me to see Israel through the eyes of a knowledgeable Israeli Tour Guide (Jacob) and an experienced rabbinic teacher from the western world, Dr. Mark Francisco. It was also reassuring to have all the plans for this trip mapped out by the very capable and patient Cam Huth!
I feel blessed to have been a part of a small team of 27 who travelled to Israel in November this year. The weather was perfect for me and the exercise plan worked wonders for my figure! I hiked heights I never knew I could and I wouldn’t have missed the view those hikes afforded me for all the money in the world. I ate too much, slept too little, saw and learned more than I will ever be able to describe and articulate. Most of all I am thankful for the other 26 Pilgrims God called to this trip. There was unconditional love and unity and evidence of God’s presence in our group. We represented a team of all ages yet we were inclusive of everyone, flaws and all, and we encouraged and supported each other in numerous ways. More importantly I believe we represented Christ well to onlookers and I’m proud to have been a member of that team.
I now have a new perspective on how “the land determined the culture and how God used the culture to teach the people”. This was the foundation on which Dr. Francisco started our study tour and one that adds new depth and meaning to my personal bible study time, and to the teaching of the Word to the children in my Ministry.
God spoke to me everyday in Israel as He does here in Canada but there were some significant promptings in Israel that stand out in my mind, such as the first time we saw and were able to get close to a shepherd leading a flock of sheep. I was able to watch how the shepherd handled the sheep and how he walked among them.
Our team also had an opportunity to witness how the shepherd would warn the sheep of impending danger by throwing a rock in front of the one in the lead. The sheep would immediately respond to that rock! God used this ‘picture’ and experience to remind me of His role and mine in the well known chapter of Psalm 23. I memorized Psalm 23 as a child but I never really understood the symbolisms until this experience. It’s one thing to imagine a shepherd and sheep and quite another to actually see a shepherd, especially one using a cell phone! (What can I say, it’s a new day!)
Another significant turning point for me was to be at the top of Masada and to hear the story of the mass martyrdom and to imagine the Jewish people chanting “No God but God” as they took their own lives. This resonated within me as I too want to boldly proclaim “No God but God” no matter what life holds for my present and future.
This trip has not only impacted my personal life but also my public life as a Children’s Pastor. I have taken pictures of places of interest to children and presently I am working at putting together what I’ve promised the kids to be my “Show & Tell” of Israel! This coming weekend I will be showing pictures and connecting them to stories in the Bible kids love to hear. Stories such as David and Goliath, The mount of Transfiguration (Easter Story) …Israel’s Mount Hermon, showing the picture of what the actual manger looks like (which will be significant as we approach the Christmas story), looking at the Jordon River where Jesus was baptized, and many more!
In terms of how this trip has impacted my leadership, I feel more confident about explaining Scripture because I’m able to call on my experience with the culture and what I’ve seen and learned in Israel. I am also better able to guide people in how they interpret and present Scripture, which will add depth and clarity, and will benefit the teachers and children in Children’s Ministry and the parents who are uncertain and have questions. I’m happy to report that my style of leadership remains the same, which reflects that of Christ, a servant leader.
~ Joy Sarju, Director of Children’s Ministry at Coquitlam Alliance Church