I would like to express how much this trip has impacted me but it would take a few pages to write so I will summarize my thoughts to a few stories.
Since joining ministry back in 1988 as a young pastor, I have had a desire to see and experience the Holy Land. I did not just want to go as a tourist but wanted something much more. I have had opportunity in the past to go, but it has always been with a tour group, which is what I was trying to avoid. Although a tour might have been good, it was not what I was looking for. Having now experienced the country and having observed what those tours do, I am so happy I waited to go and experience Israel with a group like Fifth Gospel Encounters.
Fifth Gospel Encounters allowed me to study in that culture. It allowed me to not just see sights, but hear stories, to see people, to drink in the place, so to speak, and experience my spiritual life at a much deeper level than a tourist might have. It challenged my beliefs and encouraged me to look at my faith directly. I returned home with a desire to be a better father, minister and person.
I loved learning about the Bedouin shepherds in the desert. I loved walking in the desert and experiencing my faith in such a harsh place. One highlight for me was visiting the Bedouin family, seeing the way they live and interacting with them. To be able to hear the Bedouin’s story and relate it to God as my Shepherd was for me very uplifting. To also experience their hospitality and generosity was a great experience for me and my son Scott.
One story, I must share, involves the topic of “Living Water”. Mark did a study in the area called En-Gedi, where David hid from King Saul. We hiked for hours in hot weather (although I am told it was not that hot), and came to a pool of water. Mark gave a study on the need for us, as believers, to see God as “Living Water”. In such an arid place it was not hard to see God as something (like water) that gives life. For me though, it went much deeper than that. Unfortunately many of God’s people, like me, have become satisfied with cisterns (Jeremiah 2:13) which is water I create for myself and does not satisfy.
I had become a “worry-wart” type person who was satisfied with what I could get and not what God had for me. I had become so content with my own efforts I did not even see the invitation right in front of me. When Mark invited us to dive into the water, I hit a crisis point. You see, I was so worried about getting wet and hiking out in wet clothes that I was missing an opportunity to trust God for something far deeper.
I believe God spoke to me that day and invited me into the Living Water. I admit I struggled with what to do and eventually dipped my feet into the pool. It was at that point my son Scott yelled at me and said “Get into the water, what are you worried about” It was as if God was saying the same thing to me. I dove in and experienced (not only physical refreshing) but spiritual renewal as well. I am starting to realize more and more life is not about me and my anxiety, but about my King. I walked into En-Gedi and renewed my commitment to my King. That day started the process of me being set free from my anxiety and, if it was not for people like you, I know it may not have happened.
So now what???? I am the director of a Christian Camp in the Shuswap, called Eagle Bay Camp. I lead a team of student leaders and full-time staff totalling over 80 each summer. Our camp registers over 130 kids each week in the summer and many of these kids have never experienced God in any positive way. Last summer over 45% of our campers indicated no church home or affiliation. Many do not know God and many of our Christian campers know about God but have never really experienced Him. We also camp beside a beautiful lake and what better way to teach “Living Water” than to see it every day and experience it every day.
What will I do this summer? I believe God has shown me, in a greater way, who He is. We are in the process of writing teaching material with themes like Living Water and others we learned on the Israel Trip. We will be training future staff with this material. We will be teaching it to teens and children this summer. I will be speaking it to churches I am invited to speak at. In essence I will be communicating what God has taught me wherever I go and whenever I get a chance to speak. In fact I just spoke on Living Water at my board meeting last week and this story touched a lot of hearts.
I have spoken of this trip often already and have over 15 young people interested in learning what we learned and going next fall. I pray they go and experience what God has for them.
Director, Eagle Bay Camp