GLASGOW — “We got to walk where Jesus walked!” Eight-year-old Jake Warren is referring to the trip he made with his parents Bart and Laura, and his brothers Ike and Jet.
The Warren family, along with Tony and Melissa Shirley and others, were part of a recent tour to Israel.
Bart is a minister at South Green Street Church of Christ in Glasgow, and also a college teacher and a student pursuing a doctorate. “Five years ago when I taught a church Bible class and mentioned geography, Melissa suggested a trip to Israel,” he recalls.
Even before then, Bart says he had felt “desperate to go” and had “always wanted to make a trip there.” Then, as a gift on his 10th anniversary of working with the local congregation, the elders offered help to make the trip a reality.
At the time of their trip’s original planning, the coronavirus was largely unknown. Yet in late February when the group was making preparations, some health concerns were in the news. Taking precautions, the travelers went ahead with their plans and flew overseas during the first of March.
Once in Israel, the tour was never interrupted. “The same plans we had stayed the exact same,” Bart says. They credit their travel agent and their guides for making their tour safe and comfortable. Even their return home last weekend had “zero difficulties.”
While escorting the group through a certain street, their guide remembered a recent time when traffic there was quite heavy. During those days in early March, though, many other tourists had already left Israel. The locals were going about their normal routine. The Warren family and others on that tour found it easy to enjoy their visit there.
As they were about to return, though, Laura says they heard news from the U.S. “We didn’t know what we were coming home to. Life in Israel had been normal and calm.”
Bart remarks, “When American tourists go home, folks there experience the same kinds of closings we are having here. The tourist money won’t be coming in.” They have now learned that the coronavirus is finally troubling Israel like it is in America and many other countries throughout the world.
Except for a bit of inevitable jet lag that caused the young boys to be somewhat off their regular sleep cycle, the Warrens experienced a smooth trip home. They are thankful to be healthy and safe while they enter the fourth day of 14 in self-quarantine.
Laura homeschools their children, and she’s counting on having a substitute teacher “while Daddy’s in the house.” They will be doing some review of their big “field trip.”
Jet was impressed being at Masada and witnessing the fortified cliff. He can further study its historical significance.
Laura expects their boys will keep their impressions of what they saw during the trip. As they grow, she hopes those impressions will continually stimulate deeper understandings.
Ike loaded his backpack with ancient rocks and pottery pieces and went straight through customs. Now he is studying and cataloguing them.
Since returning, the boys have been discussing the possibility of becoming archeologists.
Bart says, “It’s tough to adequately and properly describe” what the trip did for him. “It changes your perspectives about so many little things—like how the cities are laid out.” Now he can better visualize the city on a hill concept as described in Matthew 5. There were several instances during the tour when Bart says “little lightbulbs went off.” Seeing the historical landmarks enabled him to better understand what Jesus meant or what Paul meant.
“It’s almost a surreal feeling to walk through a road, to stand on a first-century stone, to lean on a first-century wall where Jesus and the apostles were,” Bart says.
Laura says the trip deepened understanding as she studies the Bible. She explains, “You read about the feeding of the five thousand. We can know what Jesus might have looked at in the distance when he was there.”
Now that they’ve settled back into their home, Bart says “about a thousand people have asked what they can bring us or how they can help us.” He has been humbled by how much “people still love each other and are going to take care of each other. We appreciate that love.”