by Tony Lynn
PLYMOUTH, MI – You may have tired of last month’s Facebook posts of our personal vacation to the Holy Lands. If so, I am sorry about that. For us, the posts were an easy sharing-point with our immediate family. We gave reports on amazing locations like Jerusalem, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, Jericho, Masada, and the Dead Sea.
I thought along with some vacation snapshots that I would share some lessons we learned during our trip to the Holy Lands.
Lesson 1 – Ask those who previously traveled about their favorite experiences.
Two weeks before leaving for Israel, we had dinner in Michigan with friends including the Renders and Tim Steele and asked, “What were some of your favorite memories?” They responded rapidly that the Western Wall of Solomon’s Temple, at the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath, was one of their favorites. They were correct!
We saw what the locals themselves described as the celebration of Sabbath which included dancing, recitation of prayers, readings, and family-like excitement. We found ourselves suspended in a sea of color and sounds, among the Orthodox, those in military uniforms, parents holding children in their arms, and those in solitude in deep reflection.
While at the Wall, we prayed that Jesus Christ would be made known among the nations.
Lesson 2 – Enjoy the enchanting international interaction with locals and visitors.
We customized each day’s excursion for ourselves and walked slowly experiencing every moment with individuals. Jamie’s warm smile and kindness makes friends without words that then lead to enjoyable conversations and easy interactions. People from two major world religions, Judaism and Islam, were overwhelmingly hospitable to us during our entire visit.
As we often do during international trips, we learn 8-12 of the most common phrases of the local languages found at our vacation destination. This time we concentrated on less phrases but two languages. The effort is always rewarded with friendly gestures and uplifting, personal conversations. Being that our vacation included the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, our greetings helped us learn how our hosts were going to celebrate family time over the course of a few days.
An exceptional joy was remembering how big the Lord is among the nations, tribes, peoples, and languages as we rubbed shoulders with, had conversations with, ate with, and knelt together in silence with other Christians.
People from Central Asia sang familiar old hymns in their mother tongue at the Garden Tomb. We recognized the tune, but the words were unfamiliar until their beautiful voices reminded us of the English words we sang as children and teenagers.
A South African woman standing alongside Jamie in the waters of the Jordan River may be one of my favorite pictures from the trip. Their spontaneous smiles show the supernatural fellowship that can immediately be created among those who love and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Listening to them discuss life, the Lord, and faith was uplifting.
Stumbling upon an elderly woman reading, with a magnifying glass, in a sacred place was unexpected and precious. The instant reminded us again that our trip was about drawing closer to the Lord while being surrounded by the crowds.
We find the Lord teaches us a lot through our human interactions like those lifted above which leads us into deeper reflection and prayer so that we would become more like the Lord Jesus Christ.
Lesson 3 – Always when traveling, find a place of local worship.
When we arranged our lodging in Jerusalem, we placed ourselves within walking distance of the important items for us. That has been our standard operating procedure for years.
Old Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate was within a fifteen-minute walk.
Church/Sunday morning worship was within a ten-minute walk.
Grocery stores were within a five-minute walk.
Mass and low-cost transportation was within a three-minute walk.
The Baptist congregation with about 125 fellow believers blessed us. It was an international group. The experience was uplifting because we saw the reach of God’s arms wrap around an entire world reminding us that the Good News of Jesus Christ is for everyone everywhere. We are always glad to see the Lord’s people gather to encourage one another in their faith when they are far from their homeland and families. After each service a fellowship meal is provided. Be certain we stayed and visited with our brothers and sisters from across the globe.
Our gratitude is always increased when we meet people courageous enough to live in other countries, on mission for the Lord and His plans.
Lesson 4 – We must urgently share the Good News of Jesus Christ among the nations.
The Central Bureau of Statistics tells us that as of 2022, in Israel, that
73% of the residents are Jews
21% are Arab
5% are members of other religious groups
Less than 2% is Christian
If any of this testimony of our excursion is turning your heart and mind to global considerations, please click on and investigate a possible future for you with: https://www.imb.org
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Tony L. Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.