Israel is filled with diverse people, landscapes, and a deep, rich history. Every single day we stepped onto a big bus to tour the sights and our minds were dumbfounded by the places we were seeing. To physically walk where the Bible took place expands not only your mind but your faith. Being there makes reading His Word never the same because you now see some of the exact places that you have read about so often. For many of the students, Israel is one of their favorite and most memorable of our trips and we wanted to share with you some of their personal reflections.
"While we were in Israel we had the opportunity to see many things that dated back 2,000 years and places that Jesus had been. All of which were awesome to see and experience but my favorite place of all to visit was the Western Wall (aka the Wailing Wall)...It was old and had definitely seen better days yet it held such a strong symbolization for these people. It was sitting there just observing the wall that I made one realization. The Jews are crazy devoted to their faith and they put everything they have into it and yet it is only half of the truth. We as Christians have the full truth and we struggle to get out of bed in the morning to go to prayer. It made me think a lot about how I have been living life and how I could be more devoted to my faith and God. It is still a work in progress but hey I can say I learned something valuable from a wall." - Colten
While at Tabgha, where it is believed Jesus fed the 5,000: "I did not want to leave this place I wanted to stay in that church forever and just picture the whole thing over and over again. For the most part I didn't want to leave Israel in general, I loved it a lot and it was so amazing to just picture everything, I do really want to go back and do it all again. It was just amazing." - Maddie
Visiting the Garden of Gethsemane. "By God's grace we are able to see even a few trees Jesus could have walked by or sat next to. The most impactful part about this site was the incredible church next to the garden...the best part is that the Spirit of God was thick inside that church. This place completely opened my eyes to the reality of what Jesus did for me. A lot of the time I get this idea in my head that God loves us so very much only when hanging out in Heaven. But Jesus loved me even when he was a human...That night praying in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus chose to take my sins upon the cross and be the ultimate sacrifice for me. This realization totally hit me hard while sitting in that church." - Jenna
"The Garden Tomb held a lot of significance for me in my Christian faith. Right away it felt different. When we walked in you could sense the reverence and quiet peace surrounding the garden...It didn’t feel rushed or flashy, but instead it felt like Jesus had been there, and his spirit still lingered in the area. After going inside of the tomb, I felt no sorrow in my heart. The joy I felt could only be explained by the realization that Jesus was no longer held by death, but he rose again as a symbol of hope for all people." - Kristina
Israel is near and dear to each of us and the memories we made there will be cherished for a lifetime. Now that our final trip is over, our students are looking to their next season. Hard to believe that the team will be finishing their PackYourBags journey tomorrow as they officially complete their experience. This past week we have been reminiscing over all of the good times shared and the lessons learned throughout our year. Truly these 8 months of adventure will never be forgotten.
One of our students summarized the PackYourBags experience so beautifully: "I can say with one hundred percent certainty that if I were to have taken this trip alone I would have not enjoyed it nearly as much. Part of what made this trip so memorable was my PackYourBags teammates. Who over the course of this year have truly became my family. On this trip and starting to plan for my future, I came to the realization that in life all I ever really wanted was to feel at home. I now know that I will never completely be at home, because a part of my heart will always be elsewhere. It will be in the sights I saw, and the people I have met. But I would do it all again, just to be with my PackYourBags family, who now hold a good share of my heart." - Ashley