May 2005 – I just flew in from Athens, Greece, and boy, are my arms tired.
Get it? Flying. Arms tired. Been waiting to use that old joke for a few years now. Weak, I know.
Seriously, my lovely and talented wife Alison, along with our three children, recently visited Greece and the Holy Land. You might imagine that it was a wonderful experience, and you would be correct in imagining that. It was my first time back since 2000, and the first time ever for our children.
The highlights – there were many. I will get to a few of them in a minute. But first I have to tell you, without fail the first question I got before we departed, and the first question I get now that we are back home, goes something like this: “So, did you feel safe? I mean, were there any bombings where you were or anything?”
What I always tell the folks who travel with me to the Holy Land is that the most dangerous part of the tour will be the time spent in New York City. Not Israel. Even with the violence that does take place there, I have never heard of one incident involving a tourist.
Highlights from the tour (which we made with 48 other American Christians) included seeing the Parthenon in Athens, taking a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, visiting Bethlehem, walking down the Mount of Olives, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and sharing communion at the Garden Tomb – a place where some believe Jesus was buried.
However, probably the most significant day for the majority of the group was the 90 minutes that we spent at the Jordan River. Why? Because so many of them were baptized in the same river where John the Baptist immersed Jesus.
It was also a special day for Alison and me because our 11-year-old son, Walker, gave his heart to the Lord and was baptized for the first time in the Jordan River that Monday morning. God doesn’t have any grandchildren, the saying goes. We all must make a decision to follow or reject Christ on our own.
I’ve written about this before, but one of the most beautiful places on earth has to be the area around the Sea of Galilee. As a child reading those Bible stories about this legendary body of water, I imagined it sort of like Lake Michigan or Lake Erie. Actually, it is much smaller, seven miles across and 14 miles long compared to Lake Erie’s 241 miles by 183 miles. On a clear day you can see all the way across the Sea of Galilee. From your hotel room in Tiberias, you can watch the sun rise over the Golan Heights. It is absolutely breathtaking to think this is the very sunrise that Jesus saw each day he lived around this lake.
On our way back we stopped in Greece again. We went to Corinth and saw where Paul would have spent his time there, thus prompting his writing of two books of the New Testament. Pop quiz? What two books would that be? I’m not going to tell you. If you answered I and II Timothy you are wrong. In fact, you are more than wrong. You have also embarrassed yourself and your family and need to get back to studying the Bible.
On the last day, we took a cruise to the Greek isles of Poros, Aegina and Hydra. They are quaint, scenic and more my kind of Greece than was Athens.
Saturday afternoon we got back to NYC, and Saturday night we took the kids down to Times Square where we had a pizza dinner for $70, which included two pizzas and some soft drinks.
While we on the plane home from NYC to Memphis, I asked the kids to name the three countries we visited on our tour. They said Greece and Israel, but could not name the third and looked at me puzzled.
“On this trip you visited Greece, Israel and New York City,” I said. “While technically a city in America, it’s actually more like a country unto itself.”
We are planning to visit Israel again in March, 2006. If this is a tour that interests you, please write or e-mail and request a brochure. Write to me at P. O. Drawer 2440, Tupelo, Mississippi, 38803, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.