Our Trip to the Holy Land (Part 1)

Tuesday April 25th

“As you eat, why don’t you find out a little bit more about how each of you ended up on this trip,” said Pastor Dudley.

The patio, previously quiet, began to bustle in conversation. Spoons scooped into the appetizers in the center of each table, and dishes were passed counterclockwise.

At my table, the question was answered one by one. Couples and singles shared how long they’d been attending the church that had put on the nearly two-week Israel trip we were now coming to the end of. My mom and I were in the minority of other travelers, in that Shepherd was not our home church, but it still had history in our lives. Which is perhaps why, a few days into the trip, when our tour guide said, “you being here is not an accident,” it might have struck me in a different way than the others.

“I started attending the midnight Christmas Eve service with my mom when I was little,” I said when my turn came. This was true. For over a decade we’d watched the clock strike 12, ushering in Christmas Day with this church, knowing my little brother would wake us up in a matter of hours to open presents. “And then about a year ago, I joined a life group.”

Each Christmas Eve service, they passed out fliers for dozens of different small groups you were able to join, in order to find community and study the Bible. For years I’d been curious, but never brave enough to go alone. But last year, amidst so much other life change, I joined a group. I “plugged in” as the church community likes to say, and it was healing and encouraging, and it helped me through some tough transitions.  In doing so, I’d heard about this trip, and now here we were.

So while my mom and I didn’t have the illustrious history with Shepherd that some of the others did, it had still been a part of our lives for a long time. It had been a companion, watching our lives from the sidelines and always inviting us in for a visit. That first Christmas Eve service all those years ago had somehow led us here, and it was for a reason.

Monday April 17th

It is always a funny feeling to wheel a suitcase out of your front door, knowing that as you shut the door behind you, you are going on an adventure. I always look around, wondering if my neighbors could possibly know what I’m about to do, where I’m about to go. And a small part of me usually longs to walk right back inside the door and hide.

I have always had a desire to travel, to see more and more of the world, but I am also a person who thrives on routine and familiarity. Sometimes, just planning a trip is enough to fulfill that desire. To look at pictures and map out adventures and immerse myself in as much of the culture as the internet can provide—it almost feels like taking the trip from the safety of my own home.

But in reality, traveling takes you completely out of your comfort zone. It takes you away from everything familiar, and it demands that you embrace the new and unexpected.

So as my mom and I sat in the airport on Monday, waiting to board the first of our two flights, I could already feel the familiar buzz of nerves. There was no going back once we buckled our seatbelts and they shut the doors.

There was no going back once we landed in Frankfurt, Germany.

There was no going back once we landed in Tel Aviv, Israel and boarded our tour bus for the very first time.

I slipped into one of the window seats on the bus and my mom slid in next to me. A few others shuffled in behind us, ensuring they were boarding the correct bus, The Red Bus, that forty of us had been assigned at the start of the trip.

In total, there were about 200 of us going on the trip. One of six buses, each marked with a colored sign, was assigned to each traveler, and it would be their bus for the entirety of the trip.

We sat on our Red Bus, waiting for the second flight coming in from Turkey to deliver the rest of our group. It was now Tuesday April 18th at 8:00pm Israel time, which meant it was 10:00am California time. We’d been traveling since 3:00pm California time the previous day.  We were all exhausted, and hungry, and desperate for a shower and a good night’s sleep.

My mom and I, still slightly nervous that we somehow didn’t belong on the trip, smiled at each person as they boarded. I wondered if everyone else knew each other. If we were the obvious black sheep and that everyone was secretly pointing at us saying, who the heck are they?

But it appeared that most everyone was unfamiliar with one another. We all had that first day of school feeling, knowing that somehow, over the next 10 days, we’d become each other’s family.

Around 10:00pm, we pulled up to our hotel in Netanya, where we quickly scattered to either the dining room for a late dinner, or, like my mom and I, directly to our rooms so we could shower and sleep.

Before exiting the bus, we were given our schedule for the following day. This would become part of our daily routine. Alongside a brief overview of what adventures the next day held, we were also told our wake-up call for the following morning, and what time we needed to be on the bus.

For Wednesday, our first real day in Israel, the wake-up call was 6:00am, and the bus was leaving at 7:30am.

There was definitely no going back now.


2 responses to “Our Trip to the Holy Land (Part 1)”

  1. aunttracy123 Avatar

    Can’t wait to go along on this trip with you!!

  2. YAY! You are in Israel… :)))))

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