Seeing with new eyes from the holy land

During Advent, a group of young adult Christians from Perth became pilgrims in the holy land. A month after their return, they gathered to reunite, filling the room with reflection and laughter as they shared stories, experiences, memories and photos from the trip.

The pilgrimage was led by Rev Dr Ian Robinson, chaplain at the University of Western Australia, and a group of volunteers, and was organised in partnership with Christian Pilgrimage – a Perth based organisation offering Christian pilgrimages in the holy land throughout the year.

The young adults, from a range of churches around Perth, including Carey Baptist Church, Nedlands Uniting Church and Uniting Church in the City, visited a range of ancient and holy sites as well  as experiencing life in modern Middle Eastern cities such as Amman in Jordan and Israel’s Jerusalem. They visited churches covered in ancient mosaics, also spending time at a mosaic workshop, learning about a program which gave employment opportunities to people who may not otherwise be able to find employment. They explored the ancient city of Petra, walking around and inside houses painstakingly carved into rocks thousands of years ago, and went four-wheel driving through the Jordanian desert.

At the Dead Sea, Ian led a moment of reflection as the group remembered their baptisms at the site where it is thought Jesus was himself baptised, in the Jordan River. Ian spoke the words “In this  place, Jesus calls you to follow me.”

Melanie Gillis, a participant on the trip, found this experience of particular significance.

“For me that was really special,” Melanie said. “Being there, I kind of separated myself for a while and thought, ‘how amazing is it that Jesus was baptised, and only a few years ago I was baptised.’  I found that to be really real. It was an amazing experience.”

While many of the places they visited were crowded with tourists, they managed to have a bit of time at the baptismal site with just their group – and the soldiers on guard. Returning home in time  for Christmas, some of the pilgrims had new eyes to see the Christmas story and what the environment was actually like, especially the terrain of the journey for Mary, Joseph, the wise men  and the shepherds. Realising the stable would actually have been a cave, rather than picturing a cosy barn, also added to their Christmas experience.

“All throughout the place, learning a lot more about the interpretation of the texts makes me want to study more,” said Reuben Edmonds, a participant from Uniting Church in the City, Wesley  Perth.

During Advent, a group of young adult Christians from Perth became pilgrims in the holy land. A month after their return, they gathered to reunite, filling the room with reflection and laughter as they shared stories, experiences, memories and photos from the trip.

“It will be interesting to see the effects [of this trip] in years, rather than a short amount of time.”

There were also mixed feelings raised, as the young adults grappled with the idea that Jesus was once present and delivering his teachings of peace in the holy land, which is now suffering so much injustice.

I think there was mixed feelings,” Melanie said. “How amazing it is to see Jesus has come to set us free, but you also see how much heartbreak is there. There are people who are living in such  injustice.

“People might not know that hope [of Jesus], so I need to be showing that to people in the way I act and talk.

“I don’t think after the trip that I can just leave that behind.”

Inspired?

Christian Pilgrimage will be running a number of pilgrimages to the holy land throughout 2016. For more info visit www.christianpilgrimage.com.au. You can also follow them on Facebook and see more photos from the young adult pilgrimage at www.facebook.com/christianpilgrimage.

Rev Dr Emanuel Audisho, multicultural ministry co-ordinator for the Uniting Church WA, will be leading a Dream Tour to the Holy Land in November this year. For more info email emanuel.audisho@wa.uca.org.au.

Top image: Young adults on the Christian Pilgrimage enjoying time out and a swim in the Dead Sea.

 

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Heather Dowling

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