Going to Israel changed everything
See what the Holy Land was like!
Our own Rev. Matt Tuggle, Rev. Walt Marcum, Andrew Wermelskirchen, and members of the church went on a pilgrimage through Israel visiting the prominent places of Jesus’ life.
Their trip included worship at the Sea of Galilee, Communion at the Garden Tomb, baptisms in Jordan, and more. It was an incredible experience, and we followed along. Check it out!
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
The more I learn, the less I know. And that is happily where I landed recently during my adventure to the Holy Land.
The more I experienced, the more I realized I’d like to re-examine, re-learn, and eventually share my revelations. It was an amazing adventure that will stay with me as I begin to lean into what God is revealing to me now that I am home.
Early on in our adventure, Rev. Walt Marcum mentioned that we would be experiencing the fifth Gospel. Not just Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but the country and landscape of Christ’s ministry.
This fifth Gospel is a view of where our Savior and his first Christian believers lived, taught, loved, and experienced life — from places of immeasurable beauty to desolate desert landscape to the mountaintops of biblical note. Sites marked by oral tradition to places backed with archeological and historical finds. All of which created a mental panoramic that will help me learn the Bible in a whole new way.
I’ve been asked all kinds of questions about my experience, but there is one question I know from my core that counts the most: do you think you will go back to Israel?
And actually, I will. And I already have. I go back to Israel every time I open my Bible.
I see, with fresh eyes, the life, times, and ministry of Jesus Christ. I never imagined that my experience there would lead to the life-giving, life-altering, and three-dimensional renewal of faith with my Bible at home.
I am a very visual person that can take in many things at once. The entire trip was filled with smells, sounds, sights, and tastes that I won’t soon forget. I notice things. Many things. And if you ask my husband, he’d say the same thing. (That’s a whole different story!)
What did I notice?
I noticed the languages of those around me. I noticed the other pilgrims making their way into and out of these sacred places. I noticed the guides as they spoke to their groups. I noticed the clerics in their uniforms and garments that signified authority. But most of all, I noticed the women.
I noticed the Hebrew moms with their religious scarves. I noticed the silent, sole occupant of a small Coptic Ethiopian chapel. I noticed the Armenian women sitting silently alone amongst thousands visiting the massive site of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. I noticed the women handing us towels in the Jordanian bathrooms. I noticed where they were and where they weren’t.
From the candles being lit in prayer to the women waiting in lines to touch where Christ was laid to rest. I noticed the postures. I noticed their faces. In most, I saw intent and the petition of prayer. And in some, I wished I could ease what looked like sorrows and burdens.
In nowhere was this more apparent than the Wailing Wall of The Temple Mount. Segregated by gender, visitors to the Temple Mount must first pass through security. Once inside, all are given the opportunity to receive a head covering and a place to write your prayer on paper if desired. From there, you can pray (on the gender-appropriate side) and leave it in the nooks and crannies of this massive wall. It was a cold, misty day. It wasn’t as crowded as usual (per our guide), and we had room to walk up and share our prayers.
The massive wall was towering in a way that I hadn't expected — beautiful, bold, and standing as a stunning limestone altar. Women were sitting, standing, speaking Hebrew, reading from many varieties of texts, and in some cases, kneeling.
As I finished my prayer and turned to walk back to our group, I realized that there was a line of women standing along the fence that separated the men from the women. They had their heads down (against the fence) and they were listening intently to the prayers of the men on the other side. I knew at once they were mothers. Mothers listening for their sons and loved ones praying on the other side.
The gamut of emotions was so very clear! Happiness, joy, concern, and sorrow. Their attentiveness and love reminded me of how they wanted to hear and know their children just as God wants to listen to us and does the same. He wants us to get close and he wants to know our petitions, prayers, and mind. He wants to hear every whisper, every concern, every plea, and every place of our hearts.
I knew then that if my child was on the other side of that wall, I’d want to know, too. I would do the same thing. We always just want to know.
And then it hit me.
I wasn’t just praying for the people on my paper, but for and with all the women, mothers, wives, sisters, and girlfriends that had come before and will continue to come to the Wailing Wall.
In this sacred place, I shared my collective prayer for each woman, each family, and for one another from the beginning of time until the dawn of the ages. Of those in the past and those in the future. And thanked the Lord for the love and kindness of all women that have approached this sacred place in prayer, and in prayer everywhere.
It was a great honor to be there and to share in this communal experience of God, which was a wonderful highlight of my experience in the Holy Land.