A view from the Holy Land

By John Butters, The JOURNAL


After following in the footsteps of Christ, Pastor Jason Collier returned with a new vision of his faith.

?It adds to my knowledge of the Bible,? he said. ? I?m completely awe-struck.?

Collier, pastor of the United Church of Crawfordsville and the Ainsworth Community Church, made his 10-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land In February of this year.

Collier was one of 50 pastors from the United States participating in a tour underwritten by the Knights Templar Holy Land Pilgrimage for Christian Ministers.

Collier was sponsored locally by the Zerubbabel Commandery No. 68 in Albia.

The visit to Israel, he said, was a life-changing experience.

On his return to the pulpit, he said he experienced a ?shot of lightning? as a passage from the Bible was read on a recent Sunday morning in his church.

?As I listened to the Scripture, I recognized the city. I knew what that city looks like,? he said. ?I could see it in my mind.?

The geographical background of the New Testament has come alive for him, he said, enriching his experience in the Christian faith and providing new resources for his preaching.

?In the last four weeks, my sermons have come from the Gospel of John, leading up to Easter week. I was able to view the distance of the Garden of Gethsemane to the sites where Christ was tried, crucified and buried, having walked the Via Dolorosa,? he said.

Places of special note, he said, were the Church of the Nativity and the Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Though he found the visit to the birthplace of Jesus emotionally moving, he wasn?t allowed to stay very long.

?It took us about 3 hours to get into the site of the Nativity. Then they moved us on within just a few moments,? he said.

He had a different experience with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the location where Jesus was both crucified and buried. A rare privilege was extended to him.

?We had the same experience with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as we did with the Nativity. We waited for hours and could only view it for a short time. But my roommate asked the Franciscan Friars if it were true that we could stay the night if we were willing to be locked in. They said we could stay from 7 p.m. that night until 4 a.m. the next morning,? Collier said.

Those hours provided him with an unparalleled opportunity to study the Scripture at the site of Christianity?s defining moment.

?I spent 3 1/2 hours reading Matthew, chapters 1 through 9,? he said.

Another highlight of his trip was his visit to the Upper Room, site of the Last Supper.

Collier described Israel as ?beautiful? and said he felt secure and safe during the entire trip.

The itinerary included secular as well as holy sites. The bus tour allowed them to visit the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea without security guards.

Collier said he was impressed by the technology that the nation has used to sustain itself in a desert climate.

?It was wonderful to see the progress that Israel is making,? he said.

Collier said the visit has not only added to his knowledge of the history of Scripture, but given him a deeper insight into the Christian experience.

? The temple was destroyed. Now we are the Temple. It was wonderful to see how people love and respect this place (Israel), but we are worth far more,? he said.

?It was a wonderful trip and I am very grateful to the Knights Templar for the opportunity to visit the Holy Land,? he said.