Rev. Steve Grosz and a group of Kennedy The group at the Seas of Galilee. Covenent Church members were part of a group that traveled to Israel in February. (Photo by Dr. John Delancey, tour guide)
By Linda Andersen
The country of Israel has been a popular travel destination for Kittson County residents in early 2018. The Enterprise recently reported on the Catholic Church’s pilgrimage to Israel. February 9th, the day after the Catholics returned home, a group from the Kennedy Covenant Church departed for that country. In contrast to the Catholics, who departed from Grand Forks and flew to other points in the United States before arriving in Tel Aviv, the Covenant group flew from Winnipeg to Toronto to Tel Aviv.
Rev. Steve Grosz, pastor of the Kennedy Covenant Church, who helped lead the group, had visited Israel last year on an “exposure tour” which he describes as a “tour for people (usually pastors) considering leading a tour.”
Dr. John DeLancey, Shlomo (a Jewish guide approved by the government), and Pastor Grosz led the group this year. They traveled with Imagine Tours which is based out of Florida.
The Enterprise solicited comments from several of the trip’s participants. Read on and sense the totally positive experience it was for them and the awe and excitement they felt as they traveled the land where Jesus once ministered.
The purpose of the Israel trip, said Grosz, was to help the Bible become “more alive” for the participants. He said there were a lot of “aha moments” as participants visited the places they’ve read about in the Bible.
He talked about the “great attitudes” of the participants and the “group mesh” they experienced. He hopes the friendships formed on the trip will continue.
He mentioned a place called Ein Gedi, an oasis in the desert. As the group visited there, they contemplated the fact that one can gain refreshment from God in hard times just as an oasis provides refreshment in the desert.
Asked what advice he would give to someone planning to visit Israel, he quickly responded with one word, “Go!” He added that Israel is a safe place, the water is safe, there are “great” hospitals, and it’s easy to get around.
He, however, gave one word of caution, “You don’t want to go on your own.” He said it would be very hard to understand the historical content without a guide.
Justin and Donna Dagen were one of the couples who made the trip. Donna offered her comments on the Israel adventure by way of email and her comments can be best passed on to readers in her own words:
“When John DeLancey, our tour guide said, ‘It will be difficult to explain this Israeli experience to people,’ he couldn’t have been more correct, because there are so many things about Israel to learn about and experience. This included a journey that helped us view scriptures with a three dimensional lens, and it was fascinating to see the location where these Bible stories took place.”
“Each day we went on rigorous hikes,(my husband said that it was like a military boot camp) to investigate historical, geographical, religious, and archeological sites, where we got a Middle East cultural taste of foods, heard the sounds of the busy Jerusalem city,saw people crying at the Wailing Wall, Bethlehem, Jericho,and the Dead Sea. We went into Ein Gedi where David cut off a piece of Sauls’ garment. I was able to hike up to the cave where the first Dead Sea Scroll was found. We also hiked up Masada, and sailed on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on the water. It was the most amazing trip, but all a loss, if I leave out the precious name of Jesus who suffered, died, rose, lives, and is coming back for all who believe. He is the One who gives us hope. I would love to go visit there again someday!”
Ron and Debbie Peterson are another couple who made the trip. “The whole trip was amazing…We loved every part of it,” said Debbie, “We could hardly believe we were in Israel.”
She spoke of the beauty of the Jezreel Valley saying it was “so green, so lush” and “flowers were blooming.”
Ron Peterson added some information by way of email: “The wheat was just starting to head out. They had a variety of crops there, including citrus, olives, grapes, figs, vegetables, etc., under a lot of irrigation.”
“I think Debbie and I agree on what the most important takeaway from our trip was – seeing where Jesus lived and ministered, walking the path of Christ carrying His cross and being where Jesus suffered, died and rose again for us. Being there really enlightened the biblical stories we read just seeing what it is like where these things really happened. These locations pop into our minds now when we read scripture.”
Ron and LaVonne Anderson are a third couple who made the trip. Lavonne was fascinated by the archaeological excavations. She spoke of visiting Capernaum – “That was the home base of Jesus’ Galilean ministry…We sat in synagogue ruins where Jesus taught and performed many miracles…There were a lot of first century ruins there that have been uncovered…One of them they believe was Peter’s house.”
Ron’s favorite place, she said, was the Garden of Gethsemane. Her favorite place was the “old walled city of Jerusalem.” Inside the city, she said, are four quarters (a Christian quarter, a Jewish quarter, an Armenian quarter, and a Muslim quarter) with gates to enter each quarter.
Archaeological ruins were apparent in Jerusalem, too, including those of the temple. “Sitting on the temple step was very meaningful…We walked across the street to the old city of David. That’s where they’re uncovering David’s palace right now…They’ve uncovered little shops along the streets near where the temple was.”
Twenty-five people went on this group tour and they have many more stories to tell of places they visited and experiences they had. They floated in the Dead Sea, walked through Hezekiah’s water tunnel, painted rocks and more.
For additional details of their trip and to see more photos, visit biblicalisraeltours.com and scroll down to “Recent Tours, February 2018, Israel Tour.”