THE POWER OF PARTNERING WITH HOLY LAND CHRISTIANS
A Testimony from Tony AbuAita, owner of Good Shepherd Travel
Whenever I am asked “Are you a Christian?” by my fellow Americans as I go about my life in Texas, I can usually guess that the next question will be “who converted you?” I am always quick to respond, “Jesus Christ, about two thousand years ago!”
Arab Christians may be a small part of the Holy Land, but we have played an important part in keeping the faith that we all share alive and well in the place where it was born. Our families have lived and dwelled in the Holy Land since the time of Christ, living with the many people who have come since the time of Jesus Christ. We have our own unique customs and traditions, and we pride ourselves on having a special connection to the places of pilgrimage that you will see on your trip to the Holy Land. What a less joyful place the Holy Land would be without local Christians celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem, or Easter in Jerusalem!
Arab Christians also have a unique role to play as “bridge-builders” between the Christians across the world and the Holy Land. One of the many reasons that I founded Good Shepherd Travel was so that I could “practice what I preach” and bring people to my home, so that they could better see and understand their faith, but also to witness to the Christians who are still living in the Holy Land, sometimes under difficult circumstances.
In Bethlehem which is the heart of the Christian community in the Holy Land, tourism is the single most important source of income for Christian families. Practically every family has at least someone involved in the tourist trade. Guiding groups, driving buses, running hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how the local economy works. Without tourism, all these people and the people that supply the services and products that make their businesses run collapse. In recent years, we’ve seen far too many Christians leave the Holy Land for America and other places because there just wasn’t enough work.
This is not something that anyone wants to see happen, especially me, and so I have always wanted to be able to support my family and friends back home by bringing over pilgrimage groups and using their services when and where possible. In this way, I help do two things: provide work for people that I care about who need it, and also provide a way for pilgrims to connect with “the living stones” of my home, so that they can learn more about the people who keep Christianity alive and well in the Holy Land.
Keep in mind that I only use the people who can provide my groups with the right kind of service. After all, I won’t compromise the quality of my pilgrimages. But I’ve discovered that while we may be small in number, Holy Land Christians provide some of the best services in the Holy Land – enough to make my groups insist that they use them over big companies. Now THAT to me is something special!
Support a family tradition that goes back 2,000 years – and learn about the Holy Land Christians while on your pilgrimage through Good Shepherd Travel!