I’ve recently had some e-mails regarding the KIVU trip to the Holy Land, and I’m so excited. We’ll be spending two separate weeks in March tracking where Jesus walked from the North part of Israel all the way to Jerusalem.
I’ve done this trek several times, and I’ve been moved to interact with my faith in some real ways. I’d like to take a second to outline the purpose and the itinerary of our trip to clear up any confusion.
The purpose of going to the Holy Land has priority #1 at the heart. I am compelled to share with people the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. I’ve found most people, including those in the church, have a distant view of who Jesus was, where he lived, and why the region known as “The Holy Land” contains so much rich history of faith.
Every time I go, we encounter new stories of people who have been touched by Jesus. Whether it’s in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus is to traditionally been crucified, or in Bethlehem where Jesus was born at the Church of the Nativity; someone on the group always has an “aha” moment where the ink on the pages of the Bible come alive. They get a chance to touch the very ground Jesus walked on, and see the stories they’ve read about it come to life. It’s quite remarkable.
I love it because I’ve dedicated my life to understanding and implementing Jesus’ teachings in my life. After all, no matter what faith you claim to come from, Jesus was the most talked about figure in history, and it’s an experience to see what all the hub-ub is about.
It’s no secret, this area of the world is and has always been in tremendous turmoil. You can see it. You can feel it. You can talk with locals on the street corners and hear as many varieties of “why” as you want to spend time uncovering.
I think it’s important that we not get our view of the Holy Land from the news. Go see it for yourself. See what is actually happening on the ground. How do people make a living? How does tourism impact the region? See how communities are developed, and ask questions about economy, sociology, and the psychology of people living in this small slice of the world. For me: It’s interesting to hear someone else’s story, and unfortunately there’s a lot of people living in a lot of pain.
Isn’t it interesting that the birthplace of Jesus continues to be a place of turmoil? We spend quite a bit of time trying to uncover the similarities and the differences people living in 2015 had in common with people who lived in 33AD.
When you take the time to know someone, the most identifiable common place in a human’s heart is pain. We learn to understand people’s pain, and most of the time those bonds are the one’s that either attract us to one another, or push us away to different ideologies.
For Example: I think it’s important to visit the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem to actualize the pain of the Jewish People today. Not so we can use pain against anyone, but to better understand what our fellow humans are living with in the modern world. I can’t even begin to imagine the devastation a whole people group had to endure through the Nazi regime, and come out finding identity. It’s the pain that glues them together. It’s the pain that causes the battle cry “never again.” It’s the pain that moves, shapes, and informs us of our worldview.
We spend ample time with Israeli Jews to understand them, and hear their story.
And we spend time examining the pain of the Palestinians.
We have no political agenda on this trip, but it serves us well to hear the pain of the Palestinians too. There are Palestinian Christians living in Bethlehem. There are Palestinian Muslims living in and around Jerusalem. There are Israeli Jews, AND Israeli Christians living in the area. It’s important that we engage all sides to get a comprehensive view of what’s really going on.
We spend time hiking with the youth to hear how teenagers live outside of Israel. We’ve thrown parties for our Palestinian friends in Bethlehem and our Israeli friends in Jerusalem. Our whole intention of seeing the pain of “the other” (no matter who they are) is to recognize the areas in our life where pain exists.
Because the hope we have for the future is found in Jesus.
It’s Jesus who says to love your friends AND love your enemies.
It’s Jesus who commands us to bless those who persecute us.
It’s Jesus who invites us on a journey in life to break down the walls of politics, religion, and segregation in our own lives, and enter in the Kingdom of God.
It was Jesus who engaged the Roman Centurion, the occupier of the day.
It was Jesus who sat with the Samaritan Woman at the Well, the racial division of the day.
It was Jesus who came to the religious leaders and made a case for a “new way.”
After all, Jesus says, “The world will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another.”
So if we can see the place where Jesus walked…
Here the stories of the pain in people’s lives who live in the region…
And then, we can process that pain which moves us in order to reach out in our own communities to love one another…
And, Well, that’s change the world stuff right there.