When I was invited to serve as the professor on one of the Insight for Living buses during a tour of the Holy Land, I was ecstatic. It was an honor and privilege to teach people what it meant to be in the Land of the Savior. During my early morning hours before work and late night moments after coming home from work, I poured over the itinerary and studied the Scriptures pertinent to the journey.
Then, in the mail my wife and I received a list of names. These would be the pilgrims who would be travelling with us on Bus #11. We were designated the Caramel bus.
We scanned the names on the list. Also, we noted the cities and states that they called home. During our initial exposure we tried to guess families and individuals by their last names.
There was not much information to go on as we formed in our minds who these travelers were and what they would be like. Since we had no pictures or descriptions we did what we could do. We prayed for them.
Everyone needs prayer. Few people turn down that service by others on their behalf. Besides when we pray for others we start to remember their names.
Then, the date of meeting arrived. We were in the hotel at Tel Aviv. Our team had been there a day in advance.
Hotel hospitality, tour company personnel, bus shepherds and bus professor couples lined up at the entrance. Guests arrived by the bus load. We greeted our pilgrims with smiles, handshakes, delicious beverages and sweets.
Most of those who entered were a bit shell-shocked. They were surrounded by mostly strangers. These were friendlies but strangers, nevertheless.
Many conversations and introductions were filling the quiet air with laughter, enthusiasm, stories and hopes. Endless questions were scattered in those moments and answers were plentiful. We achieved our goal to orient everyone to the next steps and get them situated comfortably in their hotel rooms.
Dinner was exciting. The travel team expertly had everyone’s attention. Musicians and worship leaders were brilliant.
The anticipation of a well-run, sharp and spiritually minded lead team was firmly established in all of our minds. Now, it was off to bed. A few night owls kept the rumble of new-found conversations and the beginning of new friendships flourishing.
Now, half way through the tour, we knew each others names. We easily expressed our awe at the places we visited. Tears, smiles and teasing we now common since we had been transformed from strangers to friends.
photo credit: brucefong photography