SCOTTISH MISSION YOUTH IN ISRAEL
7th August 2018
The Professor lifted his hat into the air and began to wave it. This was the signal to move. All 36 participants on the Scottish Mission Israel Culture Trip began to get up and follow him, eager to see where the hat would take us next. Perhaps it would be to Jerusalem to see Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. Maybe to the Dead Sea, to float on its salty water. Or to catch a cable car up the sandy heights of Masada, the last fortress of the Jewish nation. Or perhaps it might just be to some shade, an ever welcome relief in the 40 degree heat.
The hat was one of the main features of the trip. It belonged to Dr. Traian Aldea, a professor and pastor in archeology. With the help of Ben, a native Israeli, they were the guides for the group of eager young adults from Scotland, London, Denmark and Sweden. Over 7 days, they led us around 26 historical and cultural sites in 3 different cities. Each day was long and full of walking, but as we waded through knee-deep water in Hezekiah's tunnel, walked the Via Dolorosa, traveled across the Sea of Galilee by boat and crawled into the tomb of Lazarus, we couldn’t help but be amazed at how each site bought a new dimension to our understanding of the Bible. It moved from being a book we held in our hands to physical sites before our eyes. At each location, the stories we had heard since childhood became more real in our heads and hearts.
However, the trip was not just about seeing the sites. Each evening, we would worship together and listen to a devotional. Firstly by Dejan Stojkovic, who joined the trip with his infamous humour, drone and vlogging skills. Secondly by Earl Ramharacksingh, whose sincerity and gentleness encouraged us in our walk with Jesus. Throughout the week, stirred by what had seen and heard, many of us made silent recommitments in our hearts.
We didn’t want to leave this trip the same way we came onto it. In fact, for one of us, this was made public through re-baptism in the River Jordan! On the final day of sightseeing, we shared communion together in the Garden of Gethsemane - a chance to reflect on the long and fun filled days we had shared together.
Many of us didn’t expect to be going to Israel this year, but all of us were glad we did. The trip did not just create memories, pictures, a deep love of falafel and a few cases of sunburn, but it also took us on a journey. It’s not in many places that a collection of people from all across Europe at different stages in their lives and walks with God could find such strong bonds, but we were bound together by a shared faith. We all looked toward the hope of a new Jerusalem and the experience of singing, praying, laughing and seeing the Bible come alive before us brought us together as a family.
The final three days of the trip were spent relaxing by the sea in Netanya and created an opportunity for us to get to know each other even better. The days were still long, but were filled with swimming and biking rather than historical sites! This combination of historical, cultural, social and spiritual elements was the vision of Claudiu Popescu, the Scottish Mission Youth sponsor, and he had help from Tarrick Haynes.
Claudiu and Tarrick worked hard to create a well organised and unique experience that will not quickly be forgotten. Indeed, the memories of dancing on Sabbath in front of the Western Wall, praying under olive trees, seeing Jerusalem and following the Professor’s hat, will stay with us until we reach the gates of the New Jerusalem. Until then, we are thankful for this little taste of heaven.
[Alex Browne, Melanie Dalfors and Lubona Ikachana]