The Home of the Movement – JV’s Israel Trips
Apr 26, 2023 | 5 min read | Amy Nickerson
“Welcome back home!” the tour guide started as she stood on the bus in front of the 38 excited passengers. This was the kickoff of Josiah Venture’s latest New Testament tour of Israel taking place over Easter 2023.
While many of the staff members attending had never been to the Holy Land before, the knowledgeable Israeli Jew on the mic set the tone of the trip just right with her statement.
Israel – the backdrop of familiar Bible stories, the cultural context of the first disciples, and birthplace of our Lord and Savior when he walked the earth. Centuries later, Israel is not only dearly regarded as home to Christianity, but is at the very heart of Josiah Venture’s own mission to equip young leaders to make disciples who make disciples. After all, it was here where Jesus gave his great commission in the first place and modeled it for us.
That day on the bus, it was like Jesus himself was inviting the group home to encounter him in new ways and to be encouraged and challenged in their disciple-making efforts.
A Way to Bless Staff
The following week, these JV missionaries had the opportunity to walk where Jesus walked; touching the water in the Sea of Galilee, eating dates and fish the way the apostles would have, and hearing Jesus’ words read in the spots he said them.
This powerful experience was the 6th Josiah Venture tour to Israel that the organization has put on since the first trip in 2016. That year, JV leadership was praying for a way to bless the single missionaries serving across Central and Eastern Europe. There had been marriage retreats in the past, but never a retreat specially tailored to singles. Josiah Venture had already been partnering with Global Youth Initiative (now Concentric) to study the life of Christ in Israel, so, naturally, the idea came up to do our own study for this retreat.
Amy Ellenwood, who has been part of leading these trips since the beginning, says of the first trip, “Not only did it bear fruit in our ministries, a bond was forged and deepened during those days that created a stronger foundation for community among our single staff.”
Josiah Venture didn’t want to stop there; they opened up the next trips for both singles and married staff, offering New Testament and Old Testament tours that have given fresh perspective and context to what our missionaries do every day as disciple-makers.
Amy says, “Seeing the land, which is also referred to as the fifth gospel, brings the pages of Scripture to life in technicolor. We have extended time to see, to listen, to smell and taste Christ’s world. This gives deeper, richer context to his priorities.
It also allows for a smaller group of our staff to spend time together, sharing ideas, seeking God, learning from each other, and spurring one another on.”
The Gaze of Jesus
Talk to any of the National or North American staff members who have participated in these tours and the significance is obvious. For our most recent group, who are now back in their respective countries, a shared album of thousands of photos and videos is not their only takeaway. Instead, they have notebooks filled with personal and ministry insights, a wooden communion cup from their worship time at the garden tomb, and the ability to picture things they couldn’t before.
Most importantly, they returned to the mission field with what their tour guide at Magdala, Mary Magdalene’s hometown, said, “When you go home, remember you’ve already got your souvenir – the gaze of Jesus.”
The last night of the trip, Zuza, a national from Poland, captured it perfectly, “We came here to see Jesus, but I feel like we all felt seen by him.” The group left the land that welcomed them home, closer to Christ and inspired to help others draw near to him too as they continue making disciples across Central and Eastern Europe.
Pray with us that God would continue to bless the JV staff who have just recently gotten back from Israel, on either our Old or New Testament trips, and give them momentum and fruit in their ministry. For more info on our Israel tours, check out the blog posts below.
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