The uniqueness of our trips
Though several months have passed since our winter trips, perhaps it is not too late to report that these experiences went very well. Ample time in the desert and the well-watered lands of the north, good contacts with the various peoples of Israel, and of course walking the world of the Bible left everyone with much more than they had bargained for. Traveller Bob Shuey’s comment will stick with me forever: “I thought I was going on a vacation; I had no idea … I couldn’t have anticipated what this actually was nor the profound impact [the trip] would have on me.” Bob’s comment is typical of first-timers on our trips. It is difficult to imagine from the CNN images of the middle east (or from homemade slides, for that matter!) the depth of this penetrating experience on one’s knowledge of the world and the Bible and one’s walk with God. I’m at a loss to describe completely all of the factors that set our trips apart. But a couple things do stand out that over the years have seemed to have had the greatest impact on our travellers:
1. THE TRIP IS NOT A TOUR OR A COURSE. These alternatives pretty well describe what is typically done in the land of Israel by agents in the west or in country. Tours depend on local guides who are trained well but sometimes don’t connect with what travellers are looking for academically and spiritually. Tours also spend a great amount of time in buses and in tourist shops. Courses, on the other hand, are generally run by western agents in Israel focusing largely on technical matters of geology and geography, most of which are presented in a classroom setting. What we do is richly informational, deeply inspirational, and refreshingly recreational. We spend no time in traditional tourist shops or in classrooms covering things that could just as easily be covered in classrooms in America. Every bit of our time in Israel is given to presenting you with an authentic experience of the Bible from within its historical, cultural and geographical context. Far from wearing out our travellers, everyone comes home invigorated by hands-on experiences of being in one of the most important countries of the world today and in ancient times.
2. THE TRIP IS RUN ACCORDING TO A BIBLICAL CHRONOLOGY. One of the things that most of our participants comment on as providing significant impact is the way we set up our journeys according the flow of the Scriptures. We have spent a great deal of time over the years crafting our itinerary to cover “first things first and final things last.” We begin in the world of the patriarchs and matriarchs of Israel; then move to the world of the exodus and the desert wanderings of the early Hebrews. Next on the itinerary we experience the context of the kings and the prophets of national Israel. Transitioning with the exile, we move on finally to the New Testament, focusing, of course, on the life of Jesus. We look at the seven phases in the life of our Lord sticking closely to the flow in which these phases unfolded. They are:
a. Anticipation. Sites connected with promises in the Hebrew Bible of the coming Messiah.
b. Birth and Boyhood. Sites in Galilee (Nazareth) and Judea (Jerusalem and Bethlehem).
c. Commencement. Sites connected with the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry.
d. Distinction. Sites in Galilee connected with the preaching and healing ministry of Jesus.
e. Exiting. Sites in Upper Galilee and the Golan connected with Jesus’ withdrawal from the crowds.
f. Finalizing. Sites in the Jordan Valley connected with Jesus’ drawing together of his ministry.
g. Gloom and Glory. Sites in Jerusalem connected intimately with the final week of Jesus on earth.
These are a couple of the things that stand out in mind. I hope this has been helpful for you and that very soon you’ll be able to join us on one of our excursions into the biblical world. Like Bob Shuey and many others, you will come back changed. That I promise.