Lessons Stirred by International Travel
While traveling with our group through Israel and Jordan, I was reminded of how quickly new acquaintances can become friends. As a group of 26 people, some who had never met each other prior to the trip, we cared for each other in numerous ways as we shared snacks, jackets and even medications as needed.
I was reminded that God continues to work through the kindness of strangers. There were individuals who went out of their way to support us, to help us feel welcome, and even to return a forgotten iPad from far away in Petra, Jordan.
I was reminded that stereotypical labels often used at home do not work in the Middle East. Understanding the relationships of people groups is complex. We were inspired by Arab evangelical Christians who are teaching about Jesus Christ to the next generation of Arab youth in Nazareth. We met faithful Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem committed to live there and raise their families in spite of economic hardships and limitations.
I was reminded of one child’s question in a children’s book of prayers when he wrote, “Dear God, who drew the lines around the countries?” As we passed between Israel and Jordan and stopped near the border of Syria it was a clear reminder that what we call “The Holy Land” of the Bible goes beyond the borders of Israel. Our faith story is in Jordan where Moses last stood on Mount Nebo and looked into the land “flowing with milk and honey”, it is in Egypt, where Jesus and his parent’s fled, it is in Damascus, Syria where Paul was converted, it is in Iran and Iraq, …in addition to the regions in Israel that we were privileged to visit.
I was reminded of the reason The Holy Land is sometimes called “The 5th Gospel”. The geography of that part of the world sheds important light on the context of the Biblical story. It is a land of great contrasts; from lush green hills and farm land surrounding the Sea of Galilee, to vast dessert lands leading to the lowest point on Earth.
Our travels allowed us to experience Christ’s life on earth in new and deeper ways. However, what was true then is true today, He is no longer in a grave buried in a tomb in that land. He is Risen! He lives through us, His followers, and asks that we continue to open our lives to His transforming power and touch the lives of others with his healing grace. May it be true for each of us!