Greetings! I have just arrived back home, having survived the gruelling trip from Canada to Israel and back again (a total of about 27 hours!). Myself, along with CEO Ben Lowell, COO Steve Biggerstaff, and videographer Jon Velasquez from Back to the Bible Canada spent about two weeks, first in Toronto, and then on to Israel to prepare for the Israel Experience Tour happening this fall.
This has now been my third trip to Israel – and I might add, the most meaningful one yet. As the majority of our time there involved filming and, for me, speaking at various biblical sites, the pace of those six days was hectic, overwhelming and yet faith affirming. While our videographer Jon showed himself to be the talented young man we all know he is, both Ben and Steve busied themselves to make sure that every detail of the upcoming tour was well planned (I was particularly impressed that Steve rated each excursion on a scale of 1-5 in order to accommodate the range of guests that will be there).
For me, much of my time was spent reviewing biblical material for each site, and getting as much of the cultural and archeological information that I could. Since the trip was being paid for by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, our assigned guide was, in my estimation, one of the top guides in the country. His knowledge of the Bible and the history of the various sites was astonishing. Most curious to me were the comments he made of Jesus. He clearly believed that the gospel accounts of Jesus were authentic, and from what I could ascertain, he even believed in Christ’s resurrection. During the next several weeks, I hope to have time to reflect on this experience, but already, three things come to mind.
First, the biblical lands, and Israel in particular, allow readers to understand their Bibles in a way that no other experience affords. Some passages are just difficult to understand until one actually sees the land itself.
Second, there is an almost unexpected encounter with God that often occurs when one visits the biblical sites. On one occasion, I had asked our guide if I could stop at the western (or “wailing”) wall in Jerusalem and pray. As many of you know, the western wall is the nearest the Jews can come to the site of what was in biblical times, the Temple Mount. As I approached the wall and put my hands on it, I remembered the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple: “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house, hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you….” (2 Chronicles 6:32-33) I was suddenly and unexpectedly aware of the hand of God on my life, and I poured out my soul to Him in a way that I have not done for some time. I was overwhelmed by a simple truth. Everyone who travels here has surprising moments of encounter with the God who worked wonders in the promised land.
Third, I am reminded on this trip of the abundant opportunities that present themselves to speak to the people of Israel about the love of Jesus. Let me illustrate. We were waiting to board our plane home in Ben Gurion airport. I was just killing some time, wandering by a kiosk where a man was selling watches. Behind the counter, he then began to speak to me, and in no time, we were engaged in a serious conversation about the person of Jesus. I rarely have these kinds of spontaneous opportunities in Canada, but there, they seemed to happen frequently.
Well, I have arrived home safely, and genuinely happy to be back. But I know the richness of encountering God in the promised land is indeed a treasured experience that will not soon be forgotten.