More and more Christians are finding that their visit to Israel can be rewarding and meaningful when they roll up their sleeves and volunteer to help organizations, projects and individuals rather than merely tour the sites of the Holy Land.
In May, one group did just that. And all 14 members of the group -- 12 of them who visited for the first time -- were immensely impacted by the trip. Many even wished they had spent more time rolling up their sleeves and less time touring. The 14-day trip was divided between seven days of working and seven days of visiting the holy sites. Without fail, the group's members said the "work days" were the most rewarding.
"It gave more depth to the trip than just coming to see the sites," said Karen Panapa. "Those were our best days."
Panapa explained that when she travels, she prefers personal contact than just visiting the sites, to immerse herself in the culture and get to meet the people of the land. This tour, designed by Travelujah, provided a gratifying balance, she said.
The group, from Edgewater Christian Fellowship in Oregon, worked alongside 85-year-old Yehuda Avri in the orchards of Vered HaGalil, a guest farm he created over 40 years ago in the Galilee; met with the Christian community in Katzrin and a prayed alongside a pastor in Tiberias; painted a home in Maale Adumim and met with the mayor; packed boxes at the Jaffa Institute and met with Holocaust survivors at the Gospel Café in Tel Aviv.
"As Christians we had the opportunity to come and live out the call of Jesus Christ," said David Goss. "We bless with the work of our hands and feet." At the conclusion of their tour they met with Josh Reinstein, the director of Shalom Yerushalayim, who spoke with them on the importance of Jerusalem.
The group brought all sorts of packages and materials with them that they used and distributed over their two week tour, including painting materials, children's toys, knee pads and other gifts.
Not only was the experience fulfilling on the ground, but the group took back lasting fruit that they can share with others. Jim Chandler said that he had always prayed for Israel, but he was merely praying for a piece of land. Now, he said, he has a better grasp on how to pray for the nation and for whom to pray.
"I got a sense after seeing the land and connecting with people how I can really pray for the peace of Jerusalem," he said.
Travelujah, in conjunction with Cheryl Hancock, a journalist and radio show host who helps ministries in their efforst to learn about Israel, has begun creating these types of custom tours for Christians who want to meet the people of the land and make a contribution while they visit.
"People are wanting to come not just to see the land but to meet and experience the people, to serve them not just to see and take from Israel, but to serve," said Cheryl Hancock, who accompanied the group on a couple of their service days and who was instrumental in bringing this group to Israel. "You go home with a better feeling, that at least I've given."
This article published on July 12, 2011.
Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.