Last week’s editorial urging churches to look out for their pastor and staff in areas of salary, insurance, retirement and other areas prompted a suggestion that churches might consider another act of kindness — expenses-paid Holy Land travel.
Countless pastors and many laypeople have discovered the spiritually refreshing experience of walking where Jesus walked and observing sites that have been central to biblical events. Virtually everyone who makes such a pilgrimage finds himself — or herself — in awe at virtually every stop.
The beauty of visiting Holy Land sites in such places as Israel and Jordan is that these countries are compact, and it is relatively easy to traverse most of either or both countries in a matter of days.
Middle Eastern countries like Israel are increasingly dependent upon the tourism industry. They go out of their way to make travel that can be expensive somewhat affordable for first-time visitors who are ordained clergy.
While certainly not the only option for Holy Land travel, pastor familiarization tours have helped many ministers and their spouses see the Holy Land for the first time. Tourism departments see such tours — usually featuring top-notch hotels and meals and comfortable tour buses — as an investment. Often the cost of a “fam tour” lasting nine or 10 days is less than $1,000, a little more for spouses.
Tourism departments hope that a place like Israel will call ministers back for future visits — possibly as tour leaders — and that they will realize that Holy Land travel today is both safe and comfortable.
For churches, an expenses-paid trip to the Holy Land is a good investment, too. Such travel helps enrich preaching and teaching. It is hard for a minister to make such a trip without becoming recharged as a Christian leader.
Word&Way regularly carries ads from travel agencies that specialize in Holy Land travel. Most have information on familiarization tours.