Traveling with a group presents all sorts of challenges and opportunities. And traveling in a foreign country makes things even more “interesting.” Traveling with our group from Green Mountain in Israel and Jordan did not present much of a challenge for me (others might not say that), but it was interesting and it was fun.
For me the only significant challenge was getting to the Denver airport on our day of departure. Everyone in the group has tales to tell of their journey that morning.
The 24 Green Mountain travelers joined Bishop Karen Oliveto and 72 others from the Mountain Sky and Desert Southwest Conferences of the UMC (along with a few friends) to visit Israel and Jordan. Our days were filled from morning to evening visiting sites which have traditionally been associated with the life and travels of Jesus. We took a short boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, we a reaffirmed our baptism at the Jordan River, we visited numerous churches built over traditionally significant sites (Church of the Primacy of Peter, Church of the Beatitudes. Church of the Nativity, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Monastery at Jacob’s Well, The Monastery on Mount Nebo), we shared a memorable meal with families in and around Bethlehem, and we trekked into Petra. Not everyone experienced all of this as some of the group opted to extend the trip in order to visit Petra.
I’ve been asked what did I learn from this trip? While I can’t say that I had a particularly profound spiritual experience, I already find myself reading the scriptures with a fresh understanding of place. To have wandered through the streets of Jerusalem, to have felt the waters of the Jordan River, to have looked up at the Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered , to have tasted the water from Jacob’s well, to have seen the desert wilderness helps me to better put myself into the stories of Jesus and his disciples.
As I begin Lent this year (we begin with worship at Green Mountain Presbyterian Church on Ash Wednesday, March 6), I think I will have a better appreciation of the journey Jesus made to Jerusalem and the cross. And perhaps, when I read of the crowd hailing him as he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday I will think of the masses of people who make the journey to the Holy Land today seeking to better understand and embrace the teaching of the one we call Christ.
Peace, shalom, paix, heiwa, salaam,