Friends, it has taken me over two weeks to sit down to write this post about my trip to Israel. I have a great big tangled mess of thoughts to process, though I’m finally sitting here to type a few of those thoughts out. Below is my messy reflection on my 10-day passage to the Holy Land.
Was it a vacation? Hardly. We walked maybe 15-20,000 steps a day. Was it an excursion? Yes, but it was also much more. As a group, there were 45 of us; 45 Christian University of Florida students maneuvering through the streets of Jerusalem, the waterfalls of Ein Gedi, the Dead Sea, and Galilee. We walked where Jesus carried His cross. We remembered our baptisms in the Jordan river. We worshipped in the heart of Jerusalem, where Jesus did much of His ministry. We walked where He walked. It was enriching, humanizing and humbling. I would not change it for the world. My heart often takes me back to moments on the trip, insightful and heartbreaking ones.
I frequently think back on the conflict between Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians, and yes, for the possibly misinformed, both Catholics and Protestants are Christians. There is a debate over the location of the tomb of Jesus. There is a fight between who gets what section of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the “Catholic site” of the hill of Calgary. It is divided into SIX different denominations, SIX! None agree on the religiosity of their faith. But, one factor remains- their faith stands firm on the death and resurrection of Christ. Why doesn’t that unify the body? I wish I had an answer for you. What has happened to us, a body of believers, that we became so divided when the fundamental truth of the gospel is the same? I pray your heart will soften toward your brothers and sisters in other denominations. I pray you will ask more questions and listen more. I pray you will hear to understand, rather than fight. I listened to debates among the denominations, within our group and outside, and all I could do was pray. I urge you, brothers and sisters, that you will do the same. Let’s do more fighting FOR the gospel than within our body. Let’s do less fighting over religiosity that Christ faced deep sorrow over (see Matthew 23).
The Holy Sites
We went to several Holy places. The ones I truly loved, though, were the most untouched by man: the sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on water, the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. Those were the sites I felt the peace of the Lord the most. I felt strange in the locations with big churches like the site of the crucifixion and the site of the place where Jesus fed 5,000. I longed for the places I visited to look just the way they did in the time of Jesus. I longed for lack of structure, just nature, and a rock. That’s what I wanted. Why? I didn’t want what humans created. I just wanted to be in the place the event happened and feel the presence of the Lord. Did I still love going to these places covered with ornate churches and touristy things? Of course. Though, I would rather have sat with Jesus on an olive tree stump or walked on water with Him during the second coming, just saying ;).
The Convergence of Faiths
Throughout my time in Israel, I watched the three Abrahamic faiths converge. There were Christians, Jews, and Muslims all walking to temple mount for prayer and pilgrimage. There were hijabs and kippahs and bare heads. We walked together, to our different sites. It was beautiful. There were atheists, secularists, and agnostics. I had conversations based on the little apologetics (defending the Christian faith) I’ve learned as well as my faith journey, and the Holy Spirit indeed provided wisdom and guidance. I just recently started a class with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries to learn more about the common arguments against Christianity. In Israel, when I began having conversations with people of different faiths, I was only two weeks into the course. He absolutely does qualify the called.
In short, my time in the Holy Land was an emotional, spiritual, and intellectually enriching experience. There is certainly nowhere else that has as rich and diverse of culture as Israel. There is nowhere amidst a conflict so great, that you can learn so much and be so safe. I encourage you, if you have the resources, go. Go and be challenged. Go and be changed. Our God doesn’t need a place to change you, but He surely can use one.
Thank you Passages for the opportunity, the knowledge, and the experience of a lifetime.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you!.” – Psalm 122:6
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