Trip to the Holy Land gives men new perspective

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 4/7/98.

After visiting Bethlehem and Jerusalem on a work mission, Phil Bailey, Paynesville, has a new perspective on Holy Week. Bailey accompanied Pastor Ric Koehn on this trip. This was Koehnís fourth trip to the Holy Land.

Bailey and Koehn joined 12 other individuals on a Volunteers in Mission trip March 1 to 25 to Bethlehem and the Holy Land. They spent seven nights at Talitha Kumi, a school in Beit Jala which is a suburb of Bethlehem. The also spent two nights in Bethlehem, and three nights in Nazareth. While there, they cut firewood, picked up trash on the school grounds, cleaned up a vineyard and helped set up staging for a Motherís Day program. The men explained that in Palestine, they celebrate Motherís Day on March 15.

They spent almost their entire stay there without a translator. On their first day there, their translator, the head maintenance man at the school, was injured in a snowstorm. ďOn Tuesday, the weather was not bad in the old city of Jerusalem, just windy, but on Wednesday we had four inches of snow. It shut down everything,Ē Koehn said. ďThis was only their second snowstorm of the winter. Prior to this storm, their last one was in 1993. On Thursday, it rained and by Saturday, we were back in our shirt sleeves.

Without the assistance of the maintenance man to tell them what work was required of them, they searched for work to do at the school. The school they stayed at had 900 students in preschool through 12th grade. One wing of the school boards about 40 students.

ďThe trip had a deep effect upon me,Ē Bailey said. ďI walked through the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives, and saw the tomb where it is believed Jesus was laid.Ē

One night, I stopped at a shop in a back alley for gum and the store owner had his mother serve Turkish coffee and cake to us. Then he offered to give us a ride to where we were staying. He drove 40 miles per hour through the narrow streets of Nazareth, radio blaring and clapping his hands to the music while he drove. The more Pastor Ric and the other passengers tried to get him to turn down the volume, the louder it became.

We made a second visit to the store, this time bringing our own food, but the family still insisted on bringing out more food for us. We spent a lot of time teaching each other languages. Bailey came home knowing many new words in Arabic.

Pastor Ric said his goal was to get into a typical home on this trip. He found the home of the taxi driver and store owner very nice. Several families live in the home. On the first floor the parents live, on the second floor, their kids and their families and on the third floor, if there was one, another generation. There were a lot of families living together,Ē he added.

Pastor Ric and Bailey also had the opportunity to visit with a Jewish rabbi and heard different perspectives on what was happening in their country. ďAt first, all they wanted to talk about was Clinton and his women,Ē Pastor Ric said.

The two men found they enjoyed the freedoms America offers and that many of our freedoms were taken for granted. ďPeople in Palestine canít travel from city to city without the proper paper work,Ē Koehn said. ďThere is a check point on each road. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are only five miles apart, but the people canít travel freely back and forth like we do from here to St. Cloud or Willmar. The people are prisoners in their own towns.Ē

Bailey said he came away from the trip with a feeling of wanting to help the people, but also with a feeling of hopelessness. ďThe country has so much fighting and so many problems, it is overwhelming,Ē he added.

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