Even though I’ve been to the Holy Land twice before, this trip has been full of incredible new experiences and opportunities. I can’t begin to thank you all for your prayers, as they buoy all nineteen of us throughout each amazing, adventurous day.
I want you to know you have been in my prayers, too, as I gazed over the barren hills of the Judean desert, where Jesus spent 40 days in prayer (Matthew 4:1-11); as I sailed over the Sea of Galilee and looked up at the hillsides where Jesus did so much of his teaching and healing (Mark 1:14ff); as I stood beneath 2,000 year-old olive trees in Gethsemane, trees that would have been saplings as they kept vigil with Jesus on the night his betrayal (Mark 14:32-42); as I overlooked the pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the man who had been ill for 38 years (John 5:1-18); and so many other places, too. This place is soaked in prayer, and I have added my own drops to the great pool created by countless pilgrims through the centuries.
The timing of our pilgrimage has enabled us to experience some incredible things in the broader civic and religious life of Jerusalem, too. We were here for Jerusalem Day, when Israeli Jews celebrate this city and especially its reunification in 1967 (an event lamented, not celebrated by many of Palestinian community). We were here for President Trump’s visit to Jerusalem, and were able to pray for his efforts to bring the parties together for the resumption of peace talks. And we will be here for the start of Ramadan, the holiest of months for Muslims (we were blessed to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque with the Dome of the Rock a few days ago). Yes, our pilgrimage has offered us perspective on the complexities of this region, the people who live here, and the nature of our pluralistic world.
On behalf of all 19 pilgrims, I look forward to seeing you next week upon our return. It seems fitting to be back on the Day of Pentecost (we’ll actually be visiting the traditional site of the “Upper Room” tomorrow), when we recall the Holy Spirit’s eruption in the lives of the disciples and their sending forth from Jerusalem to all the world to share the Gospel. I feel like I will bear a small bit of the flame, newly rekindled by God in this place. Peace be with you all.