A Pilgrimage Through Israel
“This is not a vacation! This is a pilgrimage!” Pastor Tom Oyler stressed this in his first email announcing that he would be leading a trip to the Holy Land. This trip would not simply be a vacation. This trip would be something more, much more…a trip to the Holy Land where we would walk in the footsteps of Jesus and his disciples. This opportunity would not only allow us to gain a higher academic understanding of His life, but to find a deeper spiritual meaning of Jesus and His love for us…a trip that would be life changing. Robin and I jumped at the opportunity.
On February 17, we along with around 80 other excited pilgrims boarded a plane in Charlotte for Munich and on to Tel Aviv. Ten full days visiting over 35 different sites from Joppa to Megiddo to the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum to Jericho to Bethlehem to the Western Wall to the Temple Mount to the Garden of Gethsemane to the Garden Tomb and many more Old Testament and New Testament sites. It was a spiritually emotional experience that is difficult to fully describe.
Being baptized in the Jordon River and receiving communion at the Garden Tomb will always have a special place in our hearts and lives.
Tom of course was right. This was not a vacation. This was a 10-day journey by 80 pilgrims, each with a unique and special experience, but each with the common goal of finding a deeper connection with Christ. The purpose of a pilgrimage is to replenish and restore your mind, body, and soul. To walk in the footsteps of Jesus, to know Him more intimately. This was a pilgrimage!
Will and Robin Kelley
O Israel! O Israel! The once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to the Holy Land! To trace back the footsteps where our loving Savior was born, where he worked, preached, and demonstrated His eternal message of love, peace, and grace! A land of miracles, simple shepherds, mighty kings, and rugged people. A countryside besieged by age-old conflict and turmoil, peerless beauty and green pastures, dark caves, unforgiving deserts, apocalyptic valleys, and high pristine mountaintops.
For us as newlyweds, it was the exchange of solemn vows and promises on the tranquil waters of the Sea of Galilee, on which Jesus walked and calmed our storms. For many, it was the affirmation of Christian faith through baptism on the River Jordan. For others, it was the sensation of buoyancy on a dying salty and desiccating Sea, a historic tragic monument of a desperate free people atop a lone mountain plateau surrounded by a powerful Roman garrison below, an ancient Temple Mount of worship, prayers, tolerance, and hope for peace between peoples of different faiths but of the same Creator. But for believers, it was the dreadful base of the Skull where a Shepherd was crowned with thorns, where nails hammered into sinews and splintered bones, where precious blood was shed for undaunted sinners, and love and grace flowed freely high above from a tree.
O Israel, the chosen one for all of God’s desperate peoples. O Israel, may God’s Light forever shine brightly upon you, upon all of us, His Church, and the ends of the Earth.
Alan and Angela Ongtengco