While I had always anticipated a holy land tour, I wasn’t prepared for the impact it would make on my life. From the moment we landed in Tel Aviv I was struck with the good gift that God gave to His children, the people of Israel. The pictures I had seen of Israel always seemed to make it look like a barren wasteland. Why would the “promised land” be such a dry, deserted place? I was amazed as we journeyed through Israel how beautiful the land was, (even a beauty in the desert!!) and how the topography of the land revealed life lessons that God wanted to teach His people.
I was fascinated with my desire to reach into the minds of the Jewish people and I tried to strike up conversations with them at every possible juncture. It was intriguing to see how Jews of varied religious persuasions were drawn back to this place, “the promised land.” Reflecting upon my first few days in Israel, I recall a sadness that I felt as I began to see the chosen people still rejecting their Messiah. I feel like God gave me a glimpse of His love for this nation, His grief and His desire to continue to draw them back. I felt like God was drawing me back to my Jewish roots and felt a new love for Him and for His people.
It was interesting to watch the varied responses to the sites and teaching among the team. For those that I knew well enough to hear reflections, I could see that a common sentiment was that there was nothing ‘magical’ about walking on the Judean roads or visiting the different sites. I and others actually found it difficult to transport our imaginations back to a different era with sky scrapers, tour buses and modern shops surrounding us. It was in the reflections and thought provoking questions combined with the teaching of the cultural/ spiritual background that new understanding came. I saw God using all of these components to draw fellow pilgrims into a deeper sense of awe and commitment.
I saw God using relationships to challenge one another and I saw a closeness that began to develop among fellow pilgrims. Working together as a team, particularly on the hikes, seemed to develop a sense of unity and cooperation. I also began to see among several of the team members a burden for particular Jewish people that we were exposed to, for example some of our tour guides. It was exciting to hear and to be a part of some of the conversations that were born out of a burden to reach out to them.
While I continue to feel a need to reflect/ process further, I feel that this trip has had a huge impact on the way I approach God’s Word, and the way in which I will present His Word in particular. Having been in Indonesia now for approximately 6 ½ years, I feel that the adjustment to the eastern mindset in terms of a lens for looking at the Scriptures, had already begun. But needs to be developed further. In terms of leading, having greater understanding of Yeshiva and the dynamics of teachers and students, I feel a greater need to know and nurture those under my care and to follow Jesus’ example of investing heavily in His disciples. I was impressed at many levels with lessons from the Rabbinic way, but specifically the eagerness of the students (an example to me) and the way that Jesus led His disciples to Mayim Chayim (Living Water).
As I look ahead to the next leg of the journey in ministry, I want to lead others more often, more deeply to the Living Water, that lives may be changed. I also need to make sure that I am fully immersed in the Living Water myself.
Among the many points of learning/impact throughout the tour, some of the more significant were:
The desert being a place to meet God and to realize our vulnerability and our need of Him. The emphasis on intentionally choosing to move to the desert for a season was meaningful.
Jesus our Azazel – carrying away both our sin and shame
Mayim Chayim – our need to be totally immersed in Him, the Living Water
The covering of His ‘wings’
God’s preservation of His Word – Qumran Caves
Hezekiah’s destruction of everything that pulled the people’s hearts from God
Insula – importance of community and the challenge of bringing it to our modern Hellenistic world
Contrast between Beth Shean and Korizin – vivid illustration of wide vs. narrow roads, between independence/self-glorification and dependence/ glorification of God
JERUSALEM! – very moving at many levels/points
Memories of the Holocaust – sobering!!
Rhonda Kotchapaw - Missionary