Community Church of Keystone Heights group reflect visit to Holy Land

By Nick Blank nick@opcfla.com
Posted 10/27/21

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – It’s difficult to travel to Israel at the moment, but a local church made the transformative journey happen earlier this month.

Community Church of Keystone Heights Senior …

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Community Church of Keystone Heights group reflect visit to Holy Land

Posted

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – It’s difficult to travel to Israel at the moment, but a local church made the transformative journey happen earlier this month.

Community Church of Keystone Heights Senior Pastor Ray Peters took a group of 11 people to Jerusalem earlier this month for about 10 days. The trip was originally planned for April, 2020, about a month after the pandemic began.

“We had 40 people scheduled then COVID hit and you know the rest of the story,” Peters said.

Christians make up most of tourism in Israel, Peters said. He said travelers had to be tested in the United States and Israel and also receive a vaccination. Peters said tourists were sparse compared to his previous visit to the country.

“There were a few groups there. Nothing like it was a few years ago,” Peters said. “The people want tourists to return.”

The list of sites Peters’ group toured reads like a brochure straight from the Bible: the City of David, the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth and Bethlehem, the Church of Nativity, Shepherd’s Field, the Western Wall and the Garden Tomb.

“Basically, it was just us [at tourist sites]. It was a wonderful trip and definitely worth the hoops to travel to be a spiritual experience for everybody,” Peters said. “[The City of David] is probably one of the sought-out excavation sites on planet Earth. We’re literally going back thousands of years.”

Peters is also Congressional Director for Christians United for Israel, an American-based organization supporting Israel. He called the trip a spiritual renewal and a place of harmony amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You walk through Jerusalem, you see peace,” Peters said. “You see Jews and Palestinians, Muslims and Christians side-by-side. It is not like the narrative we see on the news.”

Mark Perryman, an elder at the church, said most of the sites are within walking distance of each other. The trip brings history alive, he said.

“You can stand there and see it all out there in front of you,” Perryman said. “I’ll never read scripture the same again because I’ve been there.”

A highlight for Perryman was getting baptized in the Jordan River, where Jesus stood with John the Baptist. It was special walking where Jesus traveled, he said, such as the Pilgrimage Road or the old Gates of Jerusalem. “It’s just incredible,” Perryman said. For Perryman, there’s plenty more the group could have seen and he wants to return. A profound moment was residents telling the group, “Welcome home” when they arrived.

“I’ve been all over the world and I’d trade every trip for that,” Perryman said. “If it’s something you can make happen, make it happen at some point in your life.”

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