In 1992 I was invited to go to Israel with my father-in-law. He had been many times and I reluctantly joined him. We only had two children at that time, but Christie let me go (her dad had asked). During that trip I developed a love for The Land. In Jerusalem, our hotel was on the Mt. of Olives and my room had a huge bay window overlooking the Temple Mount. I sat at that window for hours, contemplating the history of that place, and especially how Jesus had interacted with that city while on earth.
I drank from the Israel Kool-Aid and was hooked. I planned my own tour a couple of years later. However, four months before the trip I got this new job in Palos Verdes, a long way from Rancho Mirage. My seven signups from the desert were not enough to make a group. But then (and I have no idea why) Les and Janet Smith joined. That made nine. I had to have ten. So, I was able to convince my wife to join us (yes, Danny was just under 2). It worked out, but we wouldn’t do that again.
And with that trip, my days of leading tours officially began. Do I have stories to tell? Of course. But as I lead group #13 tomorrow, why do I still do this? The answer is simple. Jeremiah wrote in 1 Kings 8:41-43 that Israel was to consider the foreigner who came to The Land having heard of the reputation of God. As they would pray at the Temple, he asks God to answer their prayers. Why? Because they came because of God’s reputation, may they discover Him while they are in The Land. They came to see the place where God was at work.
Why do I go? To see evidence of God on earth. But what I really enjoy doing is watching fist-time travelers connect with God through the stories we encounter day by day. We walk through the Solomonic gates at Megiddo and Hazor and Gezer, as did Solomon while inspecting his building projects. We stand on Mt. Carmel and gaze across the Jezreel Valley, recalling Elijah’s encounter with the prophets of Baal. We stand on the steps leading up to the Temple Mount and recall the blistering condemnation of the religious leaders which would lead to the death of the Savior. And we sit on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. The places are real and God was faithful.
I love to go that I might encounter evidence of God in this world. The stories are true. God is real. Pray that we will meet Him there. All twelve of us.