Volume 4 Number 2
By Krystin Granberg
The Land of Israel is a land of paradoxthe juxtaposition of cars and camels, wilderness and cities, ancient and new, drought and flood, Allah and God, orthodox and reformed, water pipes and wells, home and wanderer, stranger and friend, death and resurrection. The sites and sounds were sometimes strange, yet strangely familiarintertwined one with the other yet distinctly independent, disparate.
It was before sunrise that I awoke. We were in Arad, a newly developed Jewish community in the south overlooking the desert. I got up and looked out the window, immediately knowing I had to go outside and look. The hotel was on a high place with nothing below. I was drawn down the road to the barren hills of the desert. No trees stood in the way. At the end of the road a path led out to a point. Along the flat, thin plateau I wandered, looking out over the desert. The sun was beginning to ascend, outlining the hills. The Dead Sea was off in the distant valley. It glimmered in the dawning sun. God created the heavens and the earth, even thisthe barren, dirt hills and valleys. The beauty of the wilderness, of barrenness, proclaims the goodness of God.
During the visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was overflowing with tour groups, we stood close to the embalming stone claimed to have held Jesus body. The stone was encased in wood, with the top of the stone exposed. Swinging above it were golden incense burners. As I watched, several people approached the stone and bent to touch, or knelt to kiss, the stone. One woman, from Eastern Europe I surmised, knelt down, took a piece of tissue from her pocket, and unwrapped a small gold cross. She kissed her cross and then gently laid it on the stone. With her index finger she moved the cross and its chain slowly across the stone. Engrossed in her prayer of blessing, she was oblivious to the world around her. After a few minutes she lifted her cross, palmed it in her hand, and kissed it ever so softly. As she stood up I noticed one tear gliding down her cheek.
When we first met as a group at the orientation for the trip we were asked, "Why do you want to go to Israel?" "What do you hope from this trip?" Our answers varied from "meeting God at the burning bush" to "it was an opportunity I could not pass up" to "how to preach this experience" to "I just want to have fun." Whether all our hopes and desires were met is a moot question. In fact, it isnt even the question to ask. Our gratitude and thankfulness for this trip cannot be overstatedthere are not enough words in the English language to express the sentiment of our group. To the Cousins family, to PTS, to our gifted leaders, to our churches, we are and will remain ever thankful for the blessing offered to usfor our ministry and our faith. It has changed our lives, it has deepened our faith, it has effected our ministry. We will never be the same again.
Too easily we recognized why we hadnt known one another well at Seminarythe pressures of classes, family, dorms, and issues often kept us apart. Yet for these two weeks, we were brought together by daily devotions, group meals, sharing bus space, and playing cards. On "the Jesus Boat" as we crossed from Tagba to Tiberius we shared stories of our lives with one another. Sitting by the Sea of Galilee one by one we each told of at least one of the highlights in our ministries thus far. Standing on Mt. Carmel, we were led in devotion to lift our palms to the heavens as we took breath, and to turn our palms downward to let it out. We reminded one another of Christs presence with us without judgment, without preaching, without contention. We lived our ministry.
© Copyright 1999 Princeton Theological Seminary