I finally made it to the “Promised Land!!” I guess I need to add that I was not able to stay, so I am back at work trying harder to be able to one day permanently reside in the “Promised Land” up above.
I almost never take vacations so the thought of going away for a couple of weeks on what I thought would be an expensive vacation was not appealing to me. There always seems to be something that needs to get done or something that needs to be repaired or replaced so I usually don’t believe I have the time or money for vacations. But because of what I profess, I just said “the x@# with it, we’re going.” I figured that if I ever wanted to make it to the “Promised Land,” I had better buy a ticket. So I did. I did not want to explain all of the vacations to beaches and theme parks when trying to get into heaven and not being able to explain why I never went to the Holy Land!
My wife Barbara and I traveled with a group that consisted of members of our church and friends of church members. There were forty of us and we did not know most of the people in our group. I have to admit that despite having read the Bible several times, I didn’t understand the geography prior to going. Having been a lay reader in the Episcopal Church for many years and a youth minister in the Lutheran Church, I knew the names of people and places and where they lived or traveled but didn’t fully understand the dynamics. My knowledge and understanding increased significantly during this trip.
We visited most of the places Jesus walked during his life. We went to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Nazareth, and The Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before his crucifixion. We visited the altar of the birth of Jesus in the grotto in the Church of the Nativity. We stayed in a convent and a Cathedral, “St. George’s Guest House.” We visited with Muslims, Palestinians, Jews and Christians. I drank from Jacob’s Well. Barbara and I renewed our wedding vows where Jesus turned water into wine. We were re-baptized in the Jordan River and took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee where we actually saw some fish being pulled out by a gill net. We got in the Dead Sea and walked the path that Jesus walked on the Via Dolorosa. There were countless other things that we saw and did that I would have never guessed that a poor boy from San Antonio, Texas would have ever been able to do. I thought about all of those throughout my life who influenced me spiritually who never got to see or do what I was doing. I felt so very humble and thankful for the opportunity and to have been part of the wonderful group of knowledgeable spiritual people who shared this knowledge on the trip. Now when I read scripture, I can actually picture in my mind the places, having seen many of them. Standing on an elevated hill, you can see off in the distance many of the towns or villages that people routinely walked between. I am so very blessed and honored that by the grace of God, I was able to make this trip.
Now for the rest of the story. The trip was not as expensive as I thought. The twelve day tour that included all meals and lodging was about $2,500 per person. The airfare, if bought in advance, was about $3,000 for business class. In my mind, this is affordable, even if you have to save over years to make the trip.
Each time I have traveled to Washington, D.C. over the last twenty five years, the first place I went after arriving at the airport was the National Cathedral, which I refer to as my “Corporate Office” where I talk to “my boss.” I believe the National Cathedral is a special place. However, the visit to countless very, very special places in the Holy Land was a hundredfold greater experience for me than the National Cathedral. I encourage you to make plans to visit the Holy Land. Remember, this is coming from someone who doesn’t want to travel anywhere. You need to go at least once!
On the trip to the Holy Land, I picked up small rocks from various locations and brought them back with me. I bought several items carved out of olive wood. I discreetly carried my Bible with me the entire trip and one morning as we watched the sun come up on the Judean Desert and someone read Psalm 23, I followed along with my Bible and then flipped open all of the pages to expose them to the same sun and air that our spiritual forefathers once enjoyed.
Prior to going on the trip we were instructed to wear shoes that would be comfortable walking through the rough hills and cobblestone streets. I thought about this for a couple of days and decided that my Redwing Ranch boots that have served me well on countless hunting trips and working around my ranch would do fine. I also decided that I would make the pair of boots that I would wear everywhere on the trip my “Holy Boots.” I walked lots of holy places in these boots. I walked the same places Jesus and his disciples walked. I walked into the Jordan River in my boots. I walked into the Dead Sea in my boots. Now that the trip is over, the boots are hanging in the steeple of the chapel at my ranch. The rocks that I brought back are sowed beneath the chapel in the crawl space and the olive carvings and the Bible I took are in the chapel along with several of my favorite religious books and some of my friends’ favorite religious books.
The mementoes and memories of this special trip are priceless. I am so very thankful that I was able to put life on hold to make the trip and “capture the moment.” I didn’t take a camera and told Barbara prior to the trip that my camera would be between my two ears. I was mesmerized by such a special place and I will remember the trip all the days of my life. Thanks be to God from whom all blessings flow!
Written by KING AEROSPACE Founder, Jerry Allan King-Echevarria.