By: Brenda Davids On 4/12/2011
I would describe the recent Conference Council of Youth Ministry-sponsored trip to the Holy Land as completely over the top!
One of the youth on our trip said, “I will never read the Bible the same again.”
Kye Song, pastor at Junction City Korean UMC, said, “Incredible! The best part of the trip was the Dead Sea Scrolls!”
Linda Hopwood, member of Paola UMC, said, “This trip has made me realize how important ministry with young people is, and I want to stay involved.”
In the 1990s, the Conference Council of Youth Ministry decided to visit the Holy Land every three years. We took our last trip with conference youth there in 1999.
In 2011, we have revived this CCYM vision and took a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Twenty-nine people from the Kansas East Conference, including 17 youth and young adults, visited the Holy Land over spring break.
We were hosted by Educational Opportunities, and our tour guide and bus driver were Christian Palestinians.
We spent two days near the Sea of Galilee. The young adults organized a sunrise watch over the Sea of Galilee on our second day there. We stayed at a kibbutz (a communal settlement) while by the Sea of Galilee. The food was local and fresh.
We were so fortunate to participate in the baptism of Elizabeth Banks at the River Jordan. We all reaffirmed our baptisms in the Jordan River also. It was a very moving experience.
After leaving the Sea of Galilee area, we ventured south to Nazareth, the Mediterranean Sea and Caesarea by the Sea. All were incredible sites. The youth and young adults loved being at the Mediterranean Sea and wanted to linger much longer here.
At each site we visited, our participants shared the scripture associated with that site. We were blessed by the many versions of the Holy Bible that we had on our trip and the many voices that shared these texts.
In Jerusalem, we stayed in a very nice hotel near the old city. We could see the city walls and Temple Mount from our hotel.
We spent a day in the desert wilderness visiting Megiddo, Masada, Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) and the Dead Sea. Many of us hiked down the fortress of Masada. We enjoyed swimming—floating actually—in the Dead Sea. Many of us used the medicinal mud at the Dead Sea to give ourselves a mud bath.
In the Old City of Jerusalem, we walked to many of the sites. We had to dress for weather on these days after enjoying sunny and dry days; we encountered cooler weather and rain in Jerusalem. But we dove in and saw these incredible sites in Jerusalem—the pool of Shilom, the 14 Stations of the Cross, the church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Temple Mount and many more.
One of our favorite stops was the Church of St. Anne at the Pool of Siloam. The church is built to have great acoustics. We sang with other tourists in this church, and it was incredible hearing many languages singing the same tune. It was extremely worshipful. We prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and had Holy Communion at the Garden Tomb.
Our missionary in the Holy Land visited with us near the end of our trip. She did an excellent job explaining how the United Methodist Church works in the Holy Land. Her office is in occupied territory near Bethlehem. Her perspective of the two-state solution and the real issues between Israelis and Palestinians in our current day was a good education in separating politics from the Bible stories we had been sharing all week.
She showed us a slide show of many people in the area and asked us to identify them as Christians, Jews, Muslims, Palestinians, Israelis, etc. We did not do well in this quiz, and it helped us realize how many stereotypes we have about the Holy Land and the conflict in this region.
There are so many people, organizations and ministries that assisted us to take this trip. We want to thank each and every one of them.
We are encouraged to visit this land again. I consider the trip one of the top things that has ever happened to me—it was absolutely overwhelming!
Abby and Kourtney, the youth conveners for the Kansas East CCYM study trip to the Holy Land, kept a blog about their experiences. Their blog is available at http://www.kecholyland.blogspot.com.
Photos of the trip are posted at http://www.kansaseast.org/galleries/detail/11.
Brenda Davids is the director of the Kansas East Conference Student Ministries.