Israel's holy sites took on different meaning for 120 Missouri Jews and Christians who walked in Jesus' footsteps together Jan. 9-17.
"We saw the Holy Land from an interesting perspective," Nodell Dennis, Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association director of missions, explained.
Dennis and his wife, Carol Sue, joined the tour planned by The Gathering, a group of Kansas City-area Reformed Jews and Christians that meets annually. A physician suggested the tour possibility last year. Paul Brooks, pastor of First Baptist Church, Raytown, and a force behind The Gathering, asked Dennis to go.
The tour provided opportunities to celebrate both Jewish and Christian perspectives. The Missouri Christians joined Jews for a Shabbat dinner on Friday prior to the Sabbath. And Jews met with Christians for worship at Christ Church in Jerusalem.
Rabbis and pastors took turns offering devotions throughout the trip. Dennis led a Lord's Supper service at the Garden Tomb, one of the highlights for him.
"There were a few people who thought we had sold our souls to the devil, that we couldn't share our faith," Dennis said. "I had four beautiful opportunities to share."
He was able to explain baptism to one Jewish couple, he said, "and at the Lord's Supper, I didn't pull any punches. We had agreed upfront to be respectful."
Dennis added that he and Carol Sue developed a relationship with a Jewish doctor and his wife. "We really enjoyed them the whole time," he said. "I think we have made friends, probably for life."
Most of the tour guides were Jews, including one with a doctorate degree from Harvard. "It was like having a college class on the bus," Dennis said.
Three rabbis offered lectures at night. Although he thought they were good, the DOM added, "It would have been nice to have had one from a Christian perspective."
The Dennises were impressed by the area's beauty. The tour started at the Sea of Galilee and covered several points south to Jerusalem. The group made several day trips further south from the holy city.
The pair felt safe during the trip as well, but the tour did not include stops at the West Bank or Bethlehem.
In addition to biblical sites, Dennis was impressed by the Holocaust Museum and the reminder of the Jews' suffering in modern times.
For more on Christian travel, get a copy of the Jan. 26, 2006, print edition. (01-27-06)