If you had told me just a few years ago that in the summer of 2019 I would be planning our fifth trip to the Holy Land, I would have laughed at you. Life has a way of surprising us, doesn’t it?
We had an opportunity to go way back in 1985 when we were first married. Mike was in seminary and a trip was being planned for students. I said no. We really didn’t have the money but mostly I was afraid. So neither of us went at that time. Four churches and three children later, in 2012, we were offered a trip to the Holy Land. It was a gift. There would be no cost to us. Now, I don’t know about you but when someone presents an offer like that to me, I don’t take it lightly. How can you accept such a monumental gift? And how could you turn it down? We humbly accepted the gift not realizing how it would change our lives.
It seems odd to me now that I was so afraid of going there. I think it’s because we only know what we have seen and heard. What I had seen and heard about Israel/Palestine was war and bombs. There was so much I didn’t know. We fear the unknown, don’t we?
That is the reason why I try my best to get first-hand knowledge about issues. If I can’t see for myself then I try to talk with people or read people’s first-hand accounts. That is how I make decisions about issues. I don’t listen to the news. I ignore social media memes and I take breaks from Facebook fairly often. It’s good for my soul and relieves anxiety and then I can go back and share and love my people well.
I want to encourage people who are going on a trip to the Holy Land to enjoy the Holy sites, feel those deeply religious feelings about walking where Jesus walked and learning more about how he lived on this earth. But I also ask you to look up and around at the people living there today. Ask about their lives. Get to know them. Don’t just look at ancient stones but look at the living stones! Your trip will be much richer if you do. And this is true anywhere we travel, isn’t it? Even if you stay in your own country. There are beautiful places all over the world but don’t forget the beautiful people!
The following is a poem I wrote about this.
Look up from Holy places.
For the sacred may surprise you.
Can you see them there, beyond the shadows of barriers, iron bars, razor wire?
Seek and you shall find that they are not faceless and nameless.
Holiness personified, they live and breathe, hope and love.
They greet you with a kiss and warm embrace.
Knock and their door will open to you a brand-new world of understanding.
Not bystanders nor aesthetic scenery, but hearts beating out the rhythm of the land,
deeply rooted in exile.
Fragile hearts threatened from birth,
planted in struggle,
nurtured by identity,
girded with steadfastness,
wounded but unbroken,
the old die but the young do not forget,
and never lose hope.
These are your sisters and brothers.
In the name of all that’s holy,