Journey through the Holy Land: An enriching experience for all
February 6, 2018 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb / 7 Comments
I was blessed to experience a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with 111 individuals connected to The Upper New York Conference. This experience was designed to provide an opportunity to deepen one’s spiritual life by walking the land where Jesus walked and seeing the accounts of Scripture come to life. It was also my hope that this travel experience would continue to strengthen and deepen relationships among people scattered across the Upper New York Conference and encourage others to experience pilgrimage travel and mission experiences together in the future.
Our time together in the Holy Land was rich in every way. From the sights we visited, to the bus rides we took and the various tables we shared, the fellowship and conversation was deep. Watching individuals respond to what they were experiencing and finding times to share those thoughts and emotions with one another, were some of the greatest teaching and learning moments.
This was my first time visiting the Holy Land and I found my mind and spirit responding in various ways. At times I was surprised at the differences I saw compared to what I had imagined as I read scripture. There were moments when the current topography got in the way. Discussing and learning more deeply about the contemporary issues surrounding this land caused me to struggle and at the same time offered a fresh perspective and new understanding. There were many moments when I simply found myself overwhelmed and I recognize that a trip like this will take awhile to digest and form within my heart, mind and spirit.
People have been asking me what I was most moved by and while I find that question hard to answer with just one incidence or moment, our visit to the Mt. of Olives and the garden of Gethsemane stirred me. As I knelt and touched a piece of the rock that is similar or identical to the rock on which Jesus prayed, I was overcome with a renewed sense of the decision Jesus made to follow the path God had placed before Him.
I struggle at times with a spirit of surrender to God’s plan for my life. In that moment I recognized just how easily it would have been for Jesus to slip back into the desert or call his followers to acts of rebellion, yet He chose to say yes to God’s will. I have shared many times that since coming to Upper New York, I frequently pray a prayer that goes like this: “Have your way, O God and if I’m in the way, move me!” I prayed that prayer, touching that piece of rock in the Church of all Nations. It was different then and it has continued to be different. My hope is that it will continue to be different.
I give thanks to God for the opportunity to have this experience. I am especially grateful to have been able to share it with Jodi and our youngest son, Ben. I do not take it for granted. Over the next few weeks, others who traveled on this journey will share their experiences and I hope you will read them with interest and allow the work of the Spirit in their lives to touch yours. Visiting the Holy Land is indeed a life-changing experience. If you have not the opportunity, I pray you will and I hope you will join me now in praying for peace within this holy land.