New Year's resolutions: Travel to IsraelRev. Ron Hodson, pastor of Calvary Chapel, walked in the footsteps of Jesus when he took a tour group to Israel in November.
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
Rev. Ron Hodson, pastor of Calvary Chapel, walked in the footsteps of Jesus when he took a tour group to Israel in November.
“The focus was on the Biblical history of Israel — not only the Old Testament, but the New Testament,” he said. “We would take a look at the Bible on the site it related to, plus some regular historical information was involved.”
Hodson made his first trip to Israel during a pastor’s familiarization tour in 2004. It was an opportunity to become familiar with the country, with the expectation the pastors would bring people back, he said.
“If Israel is some place you want to go as a Christian, pray about it,” he said. “If it’s someplace God wants you to go, he will arrange a way to go.”
Hodson made a second trip in 2011, and is planning a fourth trip in February.
“I’ve made a decision to go back to Israel, at the very least, every year and a half,” he said. “I want to expose as many people to Israel. It’s important for Christians to experience Israel where Jesus walked.”
Lee and Rhonda Hecker, Dickinson, were among the tour group.
“When I was in the service in Germany in the early 1970s, I planned to go to Israel, but the killing of Israel athletes at the Olympic games put a stop to that,” Lee Hecker said. “So it was on the top of my bucket list. I’ve always had an interest in the Book of Revelation and how Israel plays a key role in the end times, I figured this might be my last chance to see it for myself.”
Lee appreciated the opportunity to hear Israel’s perspective on current events in the Middle East.
“It only reinforced the need for us to support Israel,” he added.
The trip changed Rhonda Hecker’s picture-perfect view of the first Christmas.
“I’d also taken for granted the amount of sacrifice Christ made for our salvation — it became a lot more real,” she said. “Now, reading a passage of Scripture, I can see in my mind’s eye the places and understand more clearly the historical significance.”
Hodson worked with a company that specializes in bringing Christians to Israel. The company provided a bus driver and tour leader, who filled in on the historical, cultural aspects of the trip, while Hodson provided the Biblical perspective.
Being his third trip, Hodson said he enjoyed the opportunity to experience Israel through the eyes of people coming for the first time.
“It’s important for Christians to experience Israel where Jesus walked — that’s our spiritual roots, as well,” he said.
The tour group was offered an opportunity to be baptized in the River Jordan.
“I actually baptized the group — it was a neat experience for them,” he said.
Another highlight was standing at the top of the Mount of Olives and looking down on Jerusalem. The Bible references the mount as where Jesus started on his pathway to Jerusalem and it is considered the site of Christ’s second coming, he said.
The group visited several churches having historical significance to Christian heritage. One was the Church of Holy Sepulcher, venerated as Golgotha, where Jesus was believed to be crucified and buried.
The group also visited the Garden Tomb (Gordon’s Calvary) — believed by other Christians to be where Jesus was crucified and buried.
“We were able to speculate where he actually was buried, but from my perspective he didn’t stay in the tomb,” he said.
The tour group walked through the streets of Jerusalem, visiting the shops along the way.
“By 2012 standards, the streets are extremely narrow and they are very crowded by Israelis and tourists,” he said.
A visit to the Sea of Galilee was a significant experience for the group. They boarded a large-scale replica of a first century boat with a worship team for a trip out to sea.
“It was a very spiritual, moving experience,” he said. “It was an amazing thing floating in the Sea of Galilee where Jesus did so much of his ministry.”
The group visited the fishing village Capernaum on the north shore of the sea and the place believed to be the home of St. Peter’s mother-in-law.
They visited the Dead Sea and several experienced floating in the mineral-filled water.
The trip also took the group to Tel Aviv to experience the culture and food of the country.
“This is absolutely part of my ministry — helping them to grow spiritually and allowing them to connect to their Jewish roots,” he said. “As Christians, you have spiritual Jewish roots back to the Old Testament.”
Hodson believes trips to Israel are safe.
“The nation of Israel does everything possible to take care of its tourists — they know how important tourism is for the economy,” he said.
Hodson welcomes anyone interested in upcoming trips to call him at the church 701-483-0052.
“This is not just a job, this is a passion for me — to bring people to Israel,” he said.