DS Foster’s Reflections on the Holy Land Pilgrimage (February 19-March1, 2018)
I really don’t think it is possible for me to share all of what I experienced and felt including the tears I released during the Holy Land pilgrimage, however, I will share briefly some reflections. The anticipation and sheer joy of traveling to a place I’ve always wanted to journey finally came true. As We deplaned in Tel Aviv, Israel, I immediately thanked God for providing traveling mercies and for the opportunity to see the Bible come alive.
The external temperatures ranged between 43-74 degrees, however, my heart was strangely warmed on more than one occasion. We traveled with 52 other pilgrims from our conference and beyond to include Bishop Devadhar, his wife Premalatha, Bishop LaTrelle Easterling and her husband, Rev. Marion Easterling.
Our schedule was jammed packed with places I had only read about in seminary or learned of in Sunday school or in Bible study groups; places like: The Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Kibbutz Nof Ginosar, (“Ancient Boat”), Mt. of Beatitudes, Tabgha (site of multiplication of loaves and fishes), Chapel of the Primacy, River Jordan, Yardenit Baptismal Site, Nazareth (home of Mary and Joseph), Caesarea, Roman Theatre, Mt. Carmel, The Jezreel Valley (the focus of many conflicts, often called the battlefield of nations), the Judaean Wilderness, Megiddo, Mt. Tabor (the highest mountain in Lower Galilee), The Hill of Moreh (where Gideon and 300 men defeated the Midianites), Tiberias, Jerusalem (located in the Judaean Mountains about 2,500 feet above sea level), Church of the Annunciation, Bethlehem, Church of the Nativity, Shepherds’ Field, Garden of Gethsemane (oil press), Mount Zion, House of the High Priest Caiaphas, Upper Room, Cana, Tel Dothan, Samaria, Mt. Ebal, Mt. Gerizim, Nablus, Jacob’s Well, Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, Qumran, Dead Sea (valued for its potash, which is used in fertilizers and soap; the average salt concentration is 28-31 percent, or eight times greater than that of the oceans), Jericho, site of the Temptation of Jesus, Mount of Olives, Old City, Cardo, Southern Wall Excavations, Teaching Steps, Western Wall, Pool of Bethesda, Church of St. Anne, Herod’s Antonia Fortress, Via Dolorosa (means “way of sorrows”, the traditional path Jesus took to Calvary), Church of the Holy Sepulcher (marking the place many believe Jesus was crucified and died on the cross), Garden Tomb (thought to have belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, who wrapped the body of Jesus in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb), Ein Karem, Nebi Samuel, Emmaus, Valley of Elah (place where David fought Goliath), Hope Secondary School (a beacon of Christian education for Palestinian students in need; www.hopesschoolbeitjala.com), and Bethlehem Bible College.
Even in the midst of a very busy schedule, traveling the footsteps of Jesus, traversing over dirt, gravel, stones, rocks, up hills, down hills, through tunnels, caves and cisterns, I felt rejuvenated albeit some 3-5 miles of walking each day.
There were many memorable places bathed in prayer while in the Holy Land, however, some of my most memorable locations visited were: The Sea of Galilee (where Bishop LaTrelle Easterling warmed my heart with the preached Word), The Garden of Gethsemane, Cana of Galilee, the place of the first public miracle of Jesus (where my wife along with several other couples renewed our wedding vows).
We were blessed to have such a wise and knowledgeable tour guide known by all in the Holy Land. His name was “Mo” short for Mutassem. He had a genuine love for people and his explanations of each site visited felt like we were transported back in time.
As we traversed the landscape I was amazed at the mixture of modernity and history flowing in the same place. I continually discovered that regardless of how much biblical training and the study of theology I received, I realized that visiting this incredible place showed me clearly that I must continue to be life-long learner (disciple) of Jesus Christ.
I am grateful for this once in a life-time opportunity and equally grateful for the sacrifices Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior endured to seal my salvation. I truly can face tomorrow, because He Lives!