Israel: where Jesus became real
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!
I’m a lawyer and a natural skeptic who prefers evidence and cold, hard facts over the idea of “childlike faith.” Although I have been a “believer” all of my life, faith is something that has always been difficult for me.
This trip changed that. Jesus became real.
About a year ago, I learned that HPUMC would be organizing a trip to Israel in January 2020 and that our friends, Matt and Amy Tuggle (who are in our small group), would be going on the trip. My husband, Brant, and I both knew that someday we’d want to go to Israel, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Even though we have three young children and childcare would be difficult, we plunged forward anyways and signed up for the trip. Two other couples from our small group signed up as well. Then we put it on the back burner for the rest of the year, not thinking much about it until January rolled around.
With a team of people in place to manage our children, we finally boarded a plane for Israel. We were a little unsure of the whole tour bus thing, and we had done embarrassingly little research about the trip ahead of time. But we knew that we’d have a good time with our friends and that we would probably learn some interesting things about the Bible.
What we didn’t realize is that it would literally change our faith in ways we couldn’t imagine beforehand. It would bring the Bible to life and that the words would take on entirely new meaning. We would fall in love with the “Promised Land,” known as Israel, and its people, traditions, and culture. Needless to say, Israel far exceeded whatever expectations we had.
First, Israel is take-your-breath-away beautiful. We arrived in Tiberias at night, but our first morning there, we woke up to a sunrise over the Sea of Galilee that I will remember for the rest of my life.
One of my favorite moments on the trip was during our visit to the North shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was early morning and our group was the only one there. It was still and quiet, and we stood on the shore with the morning sun breaking through the clouds.
We felt what it was like when the disciples saw Jesus standing on the shore after his resurrection and their fishing nets were suddenly full.
We pictured Peter swimming to shore and Jesus asking him, “Do you love me? Feed my sheep,” three times. And we saw the place where they sat and had a meal together. We prayed there at the water’s edge and it felt holy and sacred.
Second, there are so many things Jesus did and so many places he visited that are not expressly mentioned in the Bible, but that are naturally apparent once you’re there and you understand how small this region really is.
I grew up in a Christian home, was baptized when I was eight years old, went to a private Christian school, and have participated in more Bible studies than I can count. But I came away from this trip feeling like I knew more about who Jesus was and what his life was like than I ever could have learned from reading the Bible alone.
Third, I witnessed firsthand how far the love of Christ has spread. What started 2,000 years ago in this tiny area (that you can travel across in a few hours), has reached the far corners of the earth.
Inside the Church of the Beatitudes (where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount), we paused to sing “Blessed Assurance.” A group from Asia came in while we were singing and they slowly began to sing along, in a totally different language. The beauty of that moment is something I will never forget — people from the other side of the world worshiping the same Christ, singing the same songs.
Finally, Israel is living, breathing history. It is a melting pot of different cultures and religions. It is old and wise and vibrant and strong and beautiful in ways that I can’t really describe. Some of my favorite memories were made with our small group friends when we would venture out on our own in the evenings, exploring the local markets and shops and restaurants.
The full experience of going to Israel is hard to sum up into words. I’m so glad we have friends who were there with us and who were changed by it too.
I walked in Jesus’ footsteps. I prayed in the places where he prayed. I saw the water upon which he walked. I stood on the ground where he healed the sick and the lame. I sat on the steps where he taught. I touched the rock where he prayed before he was taken to the cross. And I will never, ever be the same again.
So here is my advice to you: GO. Grab your friends and go as soon as you can. Don’t wait. Make time, save money, cash in all of your work and child-related favors. Because it is the trip of a lifetime and you will be forever changed.