Posts in Holy Land Tours
A Holy Land Tour Testimonial: Rev. Scott E. Schul

As I sat on the runway at the airport in New York, preparing for the first leg of a flight that would carry me to Istanbul, Turkey, and then Tel Aviv, Israel, I began questioning my decision to to go on a  Holy Lands tour. It suddenly seemed terribly selfish and self-indulgent, because I was nagged by three questions:

  1. Would I be safe;

  2. Would my family be OK while I was away

  3. What would I accomplish in Israel that I couldn’t achieve just as easily by reading a book or watching a movie?

Safety On My Holy Lands Tour

Well, the answers to the first two questions came quite quickly. I was exceptionally safe and secure in Israel and the West Bank. Likewise, my family was fine while I was away. But that third question was more complicated. What did I think I was going to accomplish through this trip?

Connecting To Jesus

The answer came to me as I thought about Jesus. That’s the sort of thing one tends to do in the Holy Lands. And as I did so, I realized that my relationship with Jesus was not nearly as complete as I wanted it to be.

The easiest way to explain this is through our creeds. Each Sunday in worship we make use of either the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed. Both of those ancient creeds, or statements of belief, represent the Church’s best answer to the most important question Jesus asked: “Who do you say that I am?” The Church’s response is that Jesus is 100% human and 100% God. It’s quite a puzzle, isn’t it? The “100% God” part comes easy for me. I have no difficulty thinking of Jesus as the Son of God, a divine miracle worker who can feed thousands with a few fish and loaves, heal the sick, and raise the dead.

Jesus is Fully Divine and Fully Human

But at times I’ve struggled to honor the fact that Jesus was also 100% human. I have to work to think of baby Jesus needing a diaper change, nursing from his mother, struggling through puberty, arguing with his parents (as all teenagers do), and learning a trade. But it’s that humanness which gives Jesus such richness and depth. It’s that humanness which enables Jesus to relate to our struggles. And it’s that humanness which loudly and profoundly testifies of Jesus’s love for us, because it proves there’s nothing he would not do or endure to be with us and among us.

Walking Where Jesus Walked

And so for my week in Israel, I set about trying to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. I was skeptical, because it seemed improbable, nearly 2,000 years later, that we would be able to have confidence in the accuracy of the Holy Land sites associated with him. Certainly there were some sites, like the Via Dolorosa or “Way of the Cross,” that, according to the archaeologists, simply aren’t accurate. But to my surprise and delight, the vast majority of the places we visited and venerated have been firmly and faithfully connected to Jesus since the time of the disciples.

Words cannot express my emotions at walking in the footsteps of Jesus. My knees buckled as I touched the spot where Jesus was born. I was awestruck as I stood on the hillside where he preached the Sermon on the Mount. It took my breath away to walk amidst the ruins of Capernaum and see the very house where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. I marveled as our boat glided across the same Sea of Galilee that was central to so much of Jesus’s ministry. I felt profound sadness as I stood in the lonely cell, a literal hole carved into rock, where Jesus was imprisoned the night before his crucifixion. And I was speechless as I touched the rock of Golgotha at the point where Jesus’s cross was affixed, and where he surrendered his life for ours.

Bringing My Faith To Life

Suddenly Jesus was no longer a two-dimensional drawing in a book. And he was no longer a God too distant, unapproachable, and big to understand me or care about me. At long last Jesus had flesh and bones. I could almost feel the coarse fabric of his robes, see his dusty, calloused feet, and hear that voice of his, soft enough to console a mourning mother, and loud enough to still a surging storm on the Sea of Galilee. I felt his love in a new way, and it enabled me to love him more completely as well.

It’s one thing to physically walk in the places Jesus walked. But it’s a very different thing to walk in the manner Jesus walked. That’s become clear to us over the last few weeks, as we’ve wrestled with his Sermon on the Mount. Today Jesus challenges us with these words: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” What do you feel in your heart as you hear that?

Well, if you’re like me, you feel convicted. Broken. Guilty. The law does that to us. It tears away the mask of self-deception and exposes who we really are, warts and all. Rarely do we love our enemies or pray for those who persecute us. Our world is organized around drawing lines in the sand separating them from us. We almost instinctively separate into camps based on race, nationality, ideology, and of course religion. Hating our enemies comes as easy to us as breathing.

As children, we label those who are different, and target them for bullying and exclusion. We adults are even worse. For example, take social media, like Facebook. It held the promise of uniting us like never before. But instead, we’ve turned it into a bitter, invective filled instrument of identifying and destroying our enemies until they are shamed, silenced, blocked, and defriended.

And what about our political atmosphere? People across the ideological spectrum have conditioned us to hate our enemies because, well, it’s good politics, and makes for a winning strategy. Eventually, there comes a point when our shame at hating our enemies gives way to defensiveness, and so we try to water Jesus’s words down as unrealistic. After all, we tell ourselves, “What does he really know? Up in the clouds, surrounded by perfection, he has no concept of how dangerous and divided this world is. If he could walk in our shoes, he’d understand why we must hate our enemies!”

The Sermon on the Mount

But in response, Jesus patiently extends to us his very human hands. Even in his resurrected state, those hands still carry the scars where the nails penetrated his flesh. Our very human Savior knew what it was like to have enemies. He was rejected by his family, his community, the leaders of his faith, and even his closest followers. He knew what it was like to be hated. And I suspect he felt very tempted to return that hate.

But instead, drawing upon all of his human experience, he tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. He teaches this, not merely to convince us of our own brokenness, but because, as he says in verse 48, he wants us to “be perfect.” Frankly, that’s a lousy translation. A closer look at the underlying Greek reveals that Jesus isn’t holding us to some objective and unobtainable standard of divine flawlessness. Instead, his dream is for us to be whole.

True Wholeness

The wholeness of a rose is distinct from the wholeness of a daisy. Those flowers each achieve a very different vision of perfection simply by being that which God created them to be. The same is true for you. God blessed you with a distinct personality and mix of gifts, and God simply calls you to be the very best “you” that God created you to be. That’s God’s vision of joyful wholeness for all of us. Jesus knows that for this to happen, we cannot be burdened by hate. Hate is a selfinflicted wound that stunts our growth and blocks our vision of Jesus. And so today he offers us holy, healing medicine to help us be “fully human.” Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. I know that’s not easy. Jesus knows it’s not easy too. But for our own sake, he invites us to walk that sacred path. We can do it, because our Jesus – fully God and fully human - walks with us. 

This is a once in a lifetime life-changing trip!

When it comes to taking the trip of a lifetime, there's no better place to go than the Holy Land.  With years of experience, we help group leaders customize a trip their group is sure to love. For this group in particular, we partnered with Father Gus to create a life-changing experience of making the Scriptures come to life with each stop on the tour. 

An Unforgettable Tour

As you can see from Father Gus' testimony, their group experienced a once in a lifetime trip. Each of our Good Shepherd Travel Tours includes friendly and knowledgeable guides to educate and inspire your group along the way. Our partners in the Holy Land love what they do and it shows with the quality service they provide. 

Each tour stop will allow your group to experience the Scriptures in a new way as you learn about the places you've read about in the Bible.  From baptisms to churches to visiting the sites where Jesus actually walked, your group will grow in their faith and knowledge of the Scriptures. 

Are you ready to experience the power of visiting the Holy Land?  Good Shepherd is here to help you design a the trip of a lifetime - just like Father Gus. 

 

 

"This has been the most memorable trip I've been on in my 31 years!"
Mr. Joe Madrid Lewisville, Texas March 2015

Mr. Joe Madrid Lewisville, Texas March 2015

Hey Tony! I wanted to let you know that my family had an amazing time in Israel! Rami was an absolutely awesome guide, and we were lucky to have him. John and Shiraz were great too!

This has been the most memorable trip I've been on in my 31 years! I have nothing but great things to say when talking to others, and I highly recommend they visit the Holy Land.

Thank you again, and God Bless!!

Joe Madrid Jr.

"This has to be the most fun group that has ever visited the Holy Land"
Father Gabriel Ezeh Lyford, Texas June 2015

Father Gabriel Ezeh Lyford, Texas June 2015

Gabriel Ezeh commented on Goodshepherd Travel's post.

June 12 2015 at 9:44pm                     

Awesome experience all around. The tour guide, Ramy, is amazingly so personable and wittingly knowledgeable about the culture and context of Biblical events, The driver, John is hilarious, photographer reads my mind and takes pictures at the most memorable point at the Holy sites. This whole experience has been breathtaking. My group is fun. This has to be the most fun group that has ever visited the Holy Land. Everyone is genuinely interested in the welfare of the companion pilgrim. My hats off to Tony of Good Shepherd Travel. He's ALL HEART, puro corazon, as we say in my rancho, in Lyford, Texas.         

"We realized our dream, and fulfilled our spiritual drive."

Thank you for our breathtaking experience to the Holy Land.  We realized our dream, and fulfilled our spiritual drive.  We arrived Saturday, 6/20/2015 and after lunch we just crashed in bed till Sunday Morning.  We were exhausted.  Everything flowed smoothly throughout our journey home.  Then we were motor mouths when we visited family.  

Once again, thank you Rami for your guiding lectures, hospitality, and generosity.  Thank you Tony for the invite and the encouraging words when we were feeling dubious about our trip.

Thank you and May God Bless YOU!

                       

Marcos and Olivia Garcia (OMG)

Marcos and Olivia Garcia (OMG)

Marcos and Olivia Garcia (OMG)

"This Experience left profound footprints in my heart."
Ms. Maria Quilantan Mata Lyford, Texas June 2015

Ms. Maria Quilantan Mata Lyford, Texas June 2015

Tony, I personally want to extend my sincere and simple thank you from the bottom of my heart because you made this pilgrimage trip possible in waiting for my payments; otherwise, I would not have gone. We built great everlasting memories to enrich our sisterhood and the awesome opportunity to visit Holy Land where Jesus was born, lived, and died. I will definitely encourage more people to visit Holy Land and how safe it is to travel. Again thank you. GOD abundantly bless you, your family and your business

Thank you Tony for making our expedition cherished and treasured memories. This experience has left profound footprints in my heart forevermore. It is like an education certificate that nobody can ever yank from my heart. I'm reading and googling a lot lately. May God open the windows, doors and floodgates of Heaven for abundant blessings to you, your family, tour business and your awesome tour personnel? Sincerely and with God's love.....Mary.

Rafie's adopted son, Shiraz! Already missing Israel.   TONY, THIS MARY Q. MATA...JUST WANTED SHARE THIS PIC OF MY SISTER AND TO SHOW YOU HOW WE WERE TAKING OF DURING OUR PILGRIMAGE.

Rafie's adopted son, Shiraz! Already missing Israel.   TONY, THIS MARY Q. MATA...JUST WANTED SHARE THIS PIC OF MY SISTER AND TO SHOW YOU HOW WE WERE TAKING OF DURING OUR PILGRIMAGE.

"They will forever be in my heart!!"
Ms. Rafi Mercedes Texas June 2015

Ms. Rafi Mercedes Texas June 2015

Tony, I know we spoke when I was in Canada and I expressed to you how wonderful our trip was. Also how great your team of Rami, Shiraz, and John were to us. But, I really want to add that they will forever live in my heart. I can still hear their voices as they would call out to us or greet us on and off the bus. I hear Shiraz calling me Azizza and me yelling out Aziz across the parking lots. He gave me an arm to hold when I needed support and listened to me when I wanted to share a thought. Rami was so sweet to educate us with patience and always with a big genuine smile! He made sure we were safe and often helped me and Margaret when we needed to catch our breath or catch up speed with the others. John is such a fun guy and our dance instructor. He's a ball to have around. We love all those guys became a part of our family. My husband and children have been told how Shiraz holds a special place in my heart forever! He is truly my other son, whom I recently discovered. My sons are 46 and 35 years old and I didn't ask Shiraz his age but I feel he could be the middle son for me. I even called him Mijo (son). 

Here's a picture of my children. My daughter is 47, taller one is 35 and the other is 46. Please share it with the guys, especially Shiraz. They are so grateful to him for taking care of their Mom! Many thanks to you Tony for making these pilgrimages possible, for I know how much planning each trip takes. You really keep up with the welfare of your travelers. God bless you and your wonderful family a lot! Give you lovely wife and girls a big hug from me! 😊👍👏

Please tell all the guys a BIG THANK YOU from Ms Rafie!  May Our Lord bless them and protect them from harm always!