It is so good to be back with everyone at First CRC Rock Valley after being on pilgrimage in Israel. We had an amazing trip in so many ways. Everyone in our group traveled well together. The weather was far better than forecasted, and our faith individually and as a group, deepened in countless ways.
Many people have asked what was your favorite part, or your number one highlight about this trip? This is such a difficult question to answer as each day had its own joyful moment. But I will highlight a few items:
First, the whole area around the Sea of Galilee was very refreshing. To be able to walk in the adopted hometown of Jesus, Capernaum, to eat the St. Peter fish and to visit the lakeshore, and then to ride the waters of the worship boat were all joyful moments.
You could look all around you as the passages were being read for each spot and nearly see the Lord walking on the shore, calling his disciples, breaking bread for the thousands, or calming the waters. Even though 2000 plus years have passed, so much of the area around the Sea of Galilee remains pristine, quiet, and calm, that allows for learning and teaching to come easily.
The second place that I would reflect on is the city of Jerusalem. Though bustling with commotion and crammed for space, everywhere you look there is another place of worship. From the Wailing Wall, the Temple Mount, the Garden Tomb, or the Mount of Olives, and countless churches in between, the opportunities to pray, sing, and read are many.
Of these, our time walking down from the heights of the Mount of Olives to enter into the Garden of Gethsemane was very moving. As we heard the words of Jesus' prayer from John 17 for himself, for his disciples, and for us, we too were invited to pray. We also read about Judas' betrayal and the disciples fleeing in the face of danger. We were challenged with the ways that we are tempted to do the same, though we are called to remain near the Savior.
As we closed our time of ready, reflecting, and singing, it was mentioned to all that a dove had landed just before we began, flew away. It's timing and symbol was noted by all.
These, and so many accounts of our trip, will continue to be shared for many days and years to come. Thank you for your prayers for us as we were away. And thank you for your joy as we have all returned safely!