Young Clergy Enjoy Holy Land Experience with Bishop Huie

Date Posted: 2/13/2014

Several dozen young clergy recently joined Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, Lay Leader Stephanie Griffin and TAC Clergy Excellence Director Rev. Gail Ford Smith to make meaningful memories in the Holy Land. See more photos from the trip. 
Reflections from Lay Leader Stephanie Griffin
A pilgrimage to the Holy Lands -- to worship and walk in places Jesus taught, prayed, worshiped, and conquered death for all who will accept Him as Savior -- has given me a deeper understanding of Christ’s commission for His disciples. Traveling with a group of talented young clergy from the Texas Annual Conference was a special gift.  As I sat down in my middle seat between my husband, Les, on the aisle and a young man I did not yet know, the pilgrimage began. The young man reached out his hand and introduced himself as Ben “the youngest son.” I told him I would remember his name because my Dad was Ben the youngest son, my brother was Ben the youngest son, and my son was Ben the youngest son.
We began to talk about his family and especially his mother. His mom had made him a kosher beef sandwich and a box of beautiful cookies to be shared with anyone he might meet on the plane.  We talked about his excitement to travel to the land of Abraham and his mother’s hope that he might find a nice Jewish girl to marry. As we laughed, I could see his deep respect for her and his love of his faith.  It was obvious that he had been raised to be faithful, to understand who he was, and to live his faith in a way that honored his family and God.  I recalled Joshua 24:14-15.   As Joshua was preparing to die he left the children of Israel with a couple of speeches to remember where they had been and what God had done for them and then he said: “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness.  Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.  But as for me and my house we will serve the LORD.”
Only one generation after the death of Joshua, the children of Israel forgot and turned from their God. One generation of parents not teaching and living their faith caused the children not to realize how God had saved their grandparents. Then, when the children lost their desire to listen and learn from their parents, the children of Israel found themselves back in captivity again.  Just a distraction here and an idol there and life suddenly changes. 
When the plane touched down on the soil of Israel, I looked over at Ben to see tears rolling down his cheeks. I could not help but feel his deep love for a place he had never been before but knew so well. It was his birthright. And, because of Jesus, I too felt through the blood of Christ, that I was home.
The Texas Annual Conference is blessed with many gifted, dedicated clergy to pastor our churches and prepare disciples to carry out the “great commission.” I had the privilege to make this amazing pilgrimage with many of the young men and women who will be ordained in May. I saw the future shepherds experience a choppy boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, reverently stand in the Garden of Gethsemane, sing a Christmas carol at the manger, and rejoice at the empty tomb. I am confident that they will do all in their power to remind the next generation what God has done for us. They will teach all in their flock to be disciples and make disciples.  I saw the light of Christ shining through each of them and I am filled with hope for the future.
As I left Ben, I placed my hand on his arm and said, “May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” And so I pass this blessing to each of you. 
Reflections from others on the Pilgrimage

  • My understanding and view of the Holy Scriptures are forever changed after having journeyed to -- and experiencing firsthand -- the wonder that is the Holy Land. My favorite picture from the trip is a picture of the Garden of Gethsemane.  – Rev. James Littleton, Jr., Rehobeth UMC in Carthage.
  • Undoubtedly, all of us who journeyed together to Israel will describe the trip as life changing, but why? For myself, it was the experience of being immersed into the stories of Scripture. We remembered our baptism on the banks of the Jordan River. We listened to the story of the man who longed to be healed for 38 years while peering into the healing pools at Bethesda. We stood on the Mount of Olives and gazed across the Kidron Valley at the Temple Mount. We touched and prayed at the Western Wall of the Temple. Each day brought a new discovery that connected me to our living faith, past and present. Allow me to indulge in one particularly special memory. I was surprised at my delight when we ate lunch at this small family restaurant that specialized in the St. Peter's fish. This is the fish that comes from the Sea of Galilee, and immediately my mind flooded with the multitude of stories related to Jesus and fish. While we enjoyed our lunch, I imagined the risen Jesus on the shore of the lake roasting and eating this same fish (John 21:9-14).
Perhaps that story can help reveal the significance of our time in Israel. The pilgrimage bonded us with our Lord and Savior in ways that are irreproducible anywhere but the Holy Land. These are holy and set apart places where God has acted decisively again and again. Being in Israel, a refrain emerged at nearly every site: Jesus Christ walked this same ground. Those words exponentially deepened my gratitude for the Incarnation. The Word became flesh! As important as it was for us to experience the sites, how much more amazing that Jesus Christ came to dwell among us and live in our tents. Thanks be to God, who sent the pioneer of our salvation to share our flesh and blood, that we would be delivered and freed for eternal life!  -- Danny Yang, St. Paul’s UMC, Houston

  • On this trip I was confronted by Jesus’ humanity who was confronted day after day by the events of his time and the culture in which he lived in.   --Julius Wardley, Director of the TSU Wesley Foundation 
  • My favorite memory would have to be the visit to the Bethesda Pools and St. Anne’s Church. To stand there and recall the story of Jesus healing the paralytic, and then move into St. Anne’s Church for a service of worship and healing was a powerful experience. There isn’t much of the Bible that I will ever read in the same way, but this story of healing especially carries new meaning. I am most thankful for the entire experience! --Rev. M. Rhett Ansley, Associate Pastor, First UMC Longview
  • I was absolutely amazed by the amount of peace and calm I felt being on the sea of Galilee, and it was the most surprising spiritual moment of the trip because, unlike the aging antiquity of many of the sites of Christ's ministry, it was easy to visualize that this the same sea where Christ ministered.  It gave me a great context for seeing into the Gospels. – Ben Burnside, Associate Minister, First UMC Beaumont
See more photos from the trip.