Doug Conley

I have traveled to Israel on five occasions with Bryan Widbin. Each experience was enriching as we stepped back in the cultural world of the Bible and experienced the stores in the settings they occurred. It is not wonder that St. Jerome referred to the land as the “fifth gospel,” because it sheds so much light on the four written ones.

The trips also afforded a unique opportunity to see the struggles of the people from a front row seat. My perspective of the tensions and politics of the Middle East were deeply impacted. The wounds there are deep and historical. I have grown to respect the struggle of the Palestinian people as well as the desire for security of the Israelis. You live with a foot in both worlds and experience two distinctive cultures simultaneously and in a very small way the tension of the bi-cultural world.

Traveling and studying in Israel not only provided great insight into the past but provided a platform to better understand the present. The contrast between the Biblical world and ours served to clarify the world that I had taken for granted and failed to examine.

The trips were also profound spiritual experiences. As we entered into the experiences of the Biblical people, recognized their struggles and realized that in many ways they are also our struggles. On these trips we not only confronted the context of the Biblical world but the God of that world. They also provided a context to understand Christianity from a much broader perspective. The isolation of living in North America gives way to an understanding of the Christian faith the traces itself back to the apostles. One recognizes that there are many streams and traditions of the Christianity that rightly understood should help us recognize how recent our faith traditions are, and how deep a foundation has been laid by those who first received the gospel.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the culinary experiences. There is nothing as delicious as a schwarma or falafel from the Christmas Tree restaurant in Bethlehem. It was a delight to eat in a Palestinian restaurant on the Mount of Olives and experience the warm hospitality of our gracious hosts. No trip to Israel would be complete without a St. Peter’s fish dinner on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I can’t wait to return!

Date of Posting: 17 August 2010
Posted By: Doug Conley
Senior Pastor, Maryland