If I could sum up this trip in one statement I would say: my imagination now has context. One can only get so much information about how Jesus taught and the audience He spoke to from commentaries, but no commentary or Bible map can beat standing next to the sea of Galilee or seeing the ruins of an old fishing village in person. Being on this trip has really given me a fresh prospective on who Jesus and His disciples were as Jews, as Galileans and as people steeped in the rich history of God’s people. Being in Israel gave me a true sense that who they were, how they lived, and where they come from are inseparable. This trip has definitely given me a greater appreciation for the grand narrative of the Scripture. Listening to our guides tell the story of being God’s people in the land that God has given them paired with the archeology and history of this place is a reminder that the good news of Jesus does not start in the New Testament, but rather it is a continuation of the salvation story of God’s people that He has been writing since the beginning. Perhaps the most valuable part about coming to Israel is the sense in which we, as Christians, are tied to the land as well. As we stood at different sites such as Mt. Arbel, Mt. Carmel or Azekah and read the stories of David and Elijah we really got a sense that those stories are not simply stories that happened to some ancient people a long time ago, but as we stood on this mountain we started to realize that these are not just “their” stories, but through faith those stories become “our” stories too. Rich and Ronen constantly told us, “when you are in Israel, you are home”, now that I have experienced being here, he’s absolutely right and unless one goes, I don’t know if one can really understand or explain the feeling.
Before I started this trip I had three goals: learn the geography of the Biblical lands at ground level, connect with God in new and fresh ways, and build community with other pastors. Being in Israel has superseded my objectives by far! I don’t know how many weeks it will take me to fully unpack everything that I’ve learned here in Israel from seeing the Temple Mount alone! What God taught me as we hiked around Galilee was profound and worship inspiring! Finally, the encouragement and community that we built here with other pastors is priceless and I genuinely hope that our relationships will continue for years to come. I would like to thank everyone who worked tirelessly to make this trip happen and for everyone who supported us along the way.