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Opening Eyes in the Holy Land

Traveling to Israel for Easter was my first international trip. It was very meaningful to experience the Holy Land with my family and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

During our trip, we made a stop at a small church in Cana. We met the founders, who partner with Feed the Hunger to serve the children of the predominately Muslim community. Hanni and his wife, Shifa, spoke with us about how the church has been growing and how they hoped to purchase the land next door so they could expand. They also explained the challenges they experience as Arab Christians living in and ministering to their community. The most impactful part of our visit was when we surrounded these loving people and prayed for protection, wisdom, and continued growth for their church. Praying for them made me stop and think how fortunate we are in America to worship freely and just how difficult it is for them to spread God’s Word.

I found the vast and changing topography of Israel astonishing. I was surprised by the lushness of the region around the Sea of Galilee and how different it looked as we traveled south to the more desert-like areas near Jerusalem. I learned so much from our incredible guide, Roman; he taught us about the land, the culture, and the many historical sites we visited. Without a doubt, riding along the narrow, winding ridge of the Valley of the Shadow of Death in our tour bus was the coolest, yet scariest, thing I have experienced! I was amazed to look over the cliff and see the area the Bible mentions in Psalm 23 when David wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” I have heard this verse many times at school, church, and even at home, but I didn’t realize it was an actual, physical location. To be able to experience the Valley of the Shadow of Death and understand more clearly this passage of Scripture was one of the most memorable things I’ve done in my life!

The Sea of Galilee touched a place in my heart. To know Jesus once walked upon and calmed those waters was heartwarming for me as a follower of Christ. Watching the water lap onto the shore at the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter was overwhelming. Here, Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection. He also restored Peter, asking him three times, “Do you love me?” before saying to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” It reminds me of how forgiving our Heavenly Father is and how He wants to be in relationship with me, even when I fall short.

A deeply meaningful moment for me was at the Jordan River. I gave my life to Christ when I was seven and was baptized last August, but recommitting my heart to Jesus in the waters where He was baptized by John the Baptist was pretty special. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to do that!

I treasure the memories of the amazing people, new and interesting food, beautiful landscapes, and rich history of the land of Israel. Journeying throughout the Holy Land and walking where Jesus walked has added a new dimension to studying Scripture. I can now visualize the places where Jesus lived and taught. I am grateful for this incredible experience—one I will never forget. I am thankful for the depth it has added to my walk with the Lord.

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