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FCS students, families experience the Holy Land, gain new perspectives

Samuel Hinton

The Hinton, Bell and Deffenbacher families drift in a boat on the Sea of Galilee during their trip to Israel.

Israel has many names: The Holy Land, Palestine, The Promised Land and many more. For the past 4,000 years, the piece of land nestled on the Eastern side of the Mediterranean has been conquered by many nations.

As part of a Bible study tour around the Holy Land, a group of fifteen, including three families, were led by Ronen Ben Moshe, an Israeli citizen and tour guide for GTI Study Tours.

Lasting for a duration of ten days, the group was able to walk where Jesus walked, discovering numerous biblical sights each day. With the country being only 85 miles at its widest point, the itinerary spanned to each corner of the historically rich land and back again. Some of the most notable biblical locations include; Azekah, Masada, Ein Gedi, Qumran, The Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and countless more.

Wesley Hinton reflects on some of the most significant places in the land

During the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, there I was with two of my best friends, drifting on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on water. A week earlier we had been in school rushing to finish finals, along with applying to colleges and scholarships. Finally, we finished and took the long drive to LAX and boarded a plane to Istanbul, and then a final flight to Tel Aviv, Israel.

I am at a very pivotal point in my life. I’m about to graduate high school and have many different paths in life I could take. Going to college, I have to rely on my own beliefs and I can’t rely on the beliefs of my parents anymore. This trip helped me learn many things, especially why I believe what I believe.

Even though my future is masked in a lot of uncertainty, I know if I keep following Jesus and my faith in Him, He can help me get through anything. – Wesley Hinton

The most impactful part of the trip for me was hearing our guide Ronen share his knowledge of scripture and how it related to the history of Israel and the Gospel that I believe in. I grew up in the church and remember hearing Bible stories for as long as I can remember. However, actually seeing the places where these took place was strange but awe-inspiring. I realized how much I didn’t know about the Bible. I knew individual stories, but hearing how they all fit together with the history of Israel was very enlightening.

The most important thing I learned from this trip is that no matter what situation you are in, God can use it for his good. At many points in Israel’s history, they strayed from God’s word and direction, and many were cut off or punished. However, if they followed his direction, he made sure to take care of them. Being on Mount Carmel, where God literally rained fire from the sky to show that he was Israel’s God, (1 Kings 18) was a great reminder that God will go to great lengths to bring us back around to Him.

Wesley Hinton | The Feather Online

Maxwell Hinton, ’22, Landon Bell, ’21, and Blake Deffenbacher, ’20, hike up Mt. Arbel near the Sea of Galilee in Israel.

It was really interesting to see the dynamic between the Jewish and Arab people groups within Israel. In some ways, it was what I expected, and there was more harmony than I thought there would be. The old city of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters: Christian, Armenian, Jewish and Muslim. I never felt unsafe, but it was strange to see the differences in the Muslim quarter like graffiti that said things such as “Free Palestine”. Many were obviously not happy about being under Israeli control.

Jews aren’t even allowed to enter the Mosque called the Dome of the Rock that sits on the site of Solomon’s temple from about 4,000 years ago. I also never knew that the important thing about the Western Wall, known as the “Wailing Wall”, is that it’s the closest that Jews are allowed to go near where the “holy of holies” in the ancient temple used to be.

The strangest place and saddest moment for me was visiting the Wailing Wall. Many Orthodox Jews spend a substantial amount of time praying there. Some Ultra-Orthodox Jews, also called Haredi Jews, spend all of their time praying at the wall. A few Haredi Jews don’t have jobs and spend the majority of their time praying at the wall while being supported by the government. I wish they would be able to see that Jesus came to save them and is their Messiah, so they don’t have to be so legalistic.

Floating on the Sea of Galilee was also a great reminder that if we trust in God, he can and will protect us. When Peter focused on Jesus and had faith, he walked on the waves to Jesus. However, when he lost faith and looked at the wind and waves around him, he sank. Even though my future is masked in a lot of uncertainty, I know if I keep following Jesus and keep my faith in Him, He can help me get through anything.

Braden Bell remembers the impact the trip had on his faith

From riding on the back of a camel in the middle of nowhere to crawling through extremely narrow caves and even floating in one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water, the trip to Israel was not only packed with exciting adventures but also one of enlightenment and teaching.

Braden Bell | The Feather Online

The Temple Mount peaks through an olive tree at The Garden of Gethsemene in Jerusalem.

Halfway through the trip, we visited a site called the lower Jordan. As it says in the Bible, (Mark 1) this was the place in which Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. I too, along with my brother Landon, had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be baptized in the same location as Christ. Baptism is a declaration of your belief and dedication to Jesus, and for me, it was a commitment to love God and to love others.

On our last day in the Holy Land, we ventured through Jerusalem which is the capital of Israel. Here, we saw the famous Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Garden of Gethsemane and numerous more sites.

While at the Garden of Gethsemane, we had the chance to pray and reflect on the trip after partaking in communion. After the last supper, Jesus and his disciples went to the garden that night before he was crucified (Matthew 26). Jesus, the Son of Man, knew that his death was inevitable and that it had to be done in order for our sins to be forgiven. Yes, he asked God if there was any other way because He didn’t want to suffer but in the end he was faithful and God’s will was done.

This is an encouragement to me to be faithful and submissive to God. It is a reminder to listen to the call of the Lord to do things that challenge me and make me step beyond myself in order to help others. It is a reminder that not everything comes easily and that sometimes I must suffer to gain or learn something.

Visiting Israel is not just a time for vacation, it is one of history, culture and teaching. If ever the chance to visit the land arrises, I would encourage everyone to go as it truly is a life changing trip. In the words of the Jews, Shalom: peace be with you.

Stay tuned for a video recap of Braden Bell and Wesley Hinton’s trip.

For more articles about student trips, read, COLUMN: Feather staffers reminisce summer 2019 missions trip. For more articles, read SPLC presents third annual Student Press Freedom Day, Jan. 29 or Hannah Villines uplifts basketball team, leads varsity players.

Wesley Hinton can be reached at: Wesley HintonInstagram and Twitter.

Braden Bell can be reached at: Braden BellInstagram and Twitter.

The following slideshow includes images from the Hinton, Deffenbacher, and Bell’s trip to Israel, Dec. 12-22, 2019.

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