Like John is always quick to point out, these things are not essential to salvation. But if they make us more excited to read the Text, or shed new light on things we always found confusing, I think it's worth it. John told us at the end of our tour if we go home with more of a desire to read our Bible then he has succeeded.
So I finally got a chance to go and was there for eight days in the middle of May. There is so much to tell but this really isn't the place to do it. I could talk for hours about the sights and lessons learned. If you want to see the basics, you can check out a little blog I kept while there which my folks wanted me to do so they could keep up with me. It's here: anewmachine.com/israel.
I've been asked what has surprised me most about the trip. I'd have to say the biggest surprise was I just didn't realize how big a deal it would be to actually stand in these places I've read about all my life. Now that sounds pretty obvious, but after being in John's class, I've pretty much seen all the sites we went to and knew the stories associated with them. So being a bit of a cynic I thought being there wouldn't be that big of a deal, but I was wrong. You can insert your favorite clichés here about a picture being worth a thousand words, or being there makes all the difference, and they apply.
|The group on Mt. Carmel - the serious look|
The other thing that surprised me was the relationships I formed with the folks in my group. Being a little on the anti-social side, I had not considered at all how I would get along with my tour mates. But in that short time I feel like I came to know the six others in the group extremely well as we shared our lives and these experiences together.
I'll end with a shout out to the organization John works for and Apostles supports - Athletes in Action (AIA). Check them here: athletesinaction.org. While in Nazareth, the other two guys on the trip (Blake and Daniel, 6'6" and 6'9" respectively and both former college basketball players) and I were wandering around and found a local sports club - like a YMCA. We walked up and the adults and kids there were very welcoming and asked the guys if they were in the NBA. They were instant celebs with all the kids wanting pictures taken with them. I obviously did not fit in being 15 years older and 5 inches shorter, but they politely asked me if I played as well. I told them I was the coach. There were two other players there from a local basketball team and so everyone wanted to see a little 2 on 2 game - first to 11. Blake and Daniel promptly brought down the force of American dominance, crushing them 11 to 2. Dunking was involved. After the game was over, all the kids again swarmed our guys and wanted more photos. It really struck me how much of an impact our two players were having. They were immediately looked up to and could have said anything and the kids would have listened. They could have talked about Jesus and had an instant audience. And that is exactly what AIA does - that is their mission. It was just cool to see it firsthand in this small impromptu setting.
I can't recommend the trip enough (John regularly takes groups - check his site here: walkthestory.com). I'd love to share more if you want to get together for a shawarma laffa and a Maccabee beer. My favorite food there.