I have for almost 30 years had a passion for experiencing Israel-Palestine.The first year I went there I took what they called an "Introductory Tour" for clergy.It was for only 8 days and took our group to all the "Tourist Sites", you know the ones I'm talking about, Western Wall, Church of the Nativity, Mount of Beatitudes, a Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea Float, and wrap it up with a day of touring the Old City of Jerusalem and walking the Via Dolorosa.
For one like me, that wanted to really spend some time in biblical study and applying what I had learned all my life with the reality of what I was seeing and feeling, this trip was not nearly enough.Even before I returned home, I hooked up with an educational group and stayed for another 10 days.
This next group went to many of the same places, but they took their bibles, and the time, to relate the two together. We talked not only about what we were seeing, but why it was important to see the site; and, how it might relate to God, to our lives; and to our witness. This is more of what I was looking for, but again, it was not enough.
Two years later I joined up with a group that was working with this same Biblical Institute in Israel. This tour was
to be a mix of clergy and laity. It was designed to be an actual course of education and spiritual formation. The tour lasted 12 days.I was hooked. Not only did I have a renewed interest in seeing and feeling more, but I also saw how it
could change the lives of those with whom I had been in ministry....the laity. What a joy it was to see others experience God in a fresh new way that can only be done as one is walking down the path Jesus himself might have gone by. I knew God had set me on
a new course. I had discovered a new passion. I felt God calling me to offer opportunities for others to experience the Holy Land and find God in a new way in their lives. I wanted to make it possible for others to see for themselves the sights and sounds
of a place they had heard about all their lives. I not only wanted them to experience it; but then, I wanted them to be intentional about making that experience a part of their witness for Jesus Christ.
I developed my own tour. I researched tour agencies, educational institutes, travel groups that would provide lodging, modes of transportation and meals. I started looking around for others who might have also forged their way through this process
to see what help they could give me for making the best journey possible.
In my searching for the best experience possible, I ran into a fellow clergy from my home Conference who had taken
a sabbatical and was working in Bethlehem. I found out he and his wife were organizing a Mission (VIM) Trip. I joined the group and got my first chance to work, meet and live with the people in the country. This couple referred to these wonderful people as
the "Living Stones" in Israel and Palestine.
I began to realize what I was doing was, again, not enough. I was showing folks the land and sites, but we were not really investing ourselves
in the people and lives of those now living there. Palestine-Israel is not just a place of biblical history. It is a land filled with millions of lives. There are families, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, whose lives are intertwined in the midst
of the biblical history and the world today. Many of these folks are living hard lives and need the love and support of those who can offer it. They need us.
My journey and responsibility
of love and witness have come to a new place. How do I modify what I have been offering to include what I have now been learning about?In order to learn more, I have continued to join in more mission trips to Israel-Palestine. I didn't
want to take on any leadership, I just wanted to be one of the group. I wanted to watch and listen and mutually share stories with others in our group; and, I wanted to mutually share my life with those who lived in the land I had visited for years. I wanted
to learn about some ministries going on there of which I might be able to learn and grow.
I have tried to take what I learned and make it a part of what I offer in my Spiritual Journeys with
others. I have maintained my conversations with others through the years. I, too, have begun nurturing relationships and investing myself and my ministry with the ministries and lives of those now in Palestine-Israel.
Before the Pandemic, I have continued to journey on more VIM experiences.Still, it is time to do more. I follow the lead of the masters. The love and lives and needs of our brothers and sisters in Israel-Palestine are those we need to face and do something about, now.
It has now been four years since I have been able to journey in Israel and Palestine for either a Spiritual or Mission Journey. I am excited about the journey this group is about to share. We are going to spend 14 days traveling all through Israel and Palestine. We will reflect, biblically, on the land and the Sites of which we will spend our days. We will spend time also visiting with people, friends, that are living there; and, sharing in the Christian Ministries that we have become aware exist in the Country and invited us to invest a bit of ourselves in them.
Our group size is 16. Some have traveled to Palestine and Israel before. Some are new to the experience. We have been invited to join in supporting the ministries going on in the Holy Lands. I am excited about the people and ministries that I have longed to see and share in. I am also longing for a Spiritual Journey of Strength and Renewal. I will take in the Sites, Study the Scriptures; and, invest a bit of myself with the Living Stones and Witnesses to God in a land and culture filled with much need for love, peace, and God's grace. I can't wait to see what God will do with our group, but more so, with me this year.
I look forward to seeing some folks I have met before. I am anxious to see the work done in their ministry. I am excited about sharing in some new experiences I have never done before. I especially look forward to nurturing renewed relationships and life stories.
You as a reader and sojourner are invited to join me in this VIM experience. I plan to write something each day that will give you a glimpse of what is Seen, Smelled, Heard, Tasted, and Felt throughout the day. I hope to be open with you in how I find God working thru me and in me as I journey with our group in this experience. I pray in reading this journal, you, too, might find God working something in you. And, so, our Journey begins...