A perspective change: Local youth group travels to Egypt and Israel

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I look out my window and see what I consider one of the most beautiful places in the world: Polson, Montana. A clear blue lake back-dropped by tall purple mountains is just the type of romantic scenery you could read about in a novel.

However, I have always been a restless person, always in need of a perspective change; I suppose that’s what happens when you grow up traveling cross-country twice a year. This June, I have been given the opportunity to travel with my church youth group across the world to spend 17 days in Egypt and Israel.

When I tell people I’m traveling to Egypt, most raise their eyebrows skeptically due to the recent uprisings. When the uprisings first began in January, most of the missionaries, including myself, were also skeptical. But over the weeks, we have been reassured by our pastor, Paul Rowold, who has traveled to Egypt and the Holy Land numerous times, that we will be welcomed and cared for in the places we visit. While in the North African country, we will visit two famous cities: Cairo, and Luxor. These two contain magnificent ancient buildings including the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx.

After our visit in Egypt we will take a bus across the Sinai Peninsula to Bethlehem. In that city, famous for being the birthplace of Christ, we will begin our missionary work. As of now, it is unclear what kind of work we will be doing exactly, in the past it has included odd jobs such as digging and planting, or a larger project such as painting a mural. While in Israel we will also visit Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. In these destinations we will tour multiple churches, mosques, synagogues and other holy sites.

I have many reasons for going. Besides my deep-seated need to always be on the move and find adventure, I am most excited to meet new people. I have heard that this is the trip of a lifetime, and when I think about the culture of the Middle East, I have no doubt that this is true. In only a few weeks I, as a 15-year-old girl, will be traveling to a place where I might have more money in my bank account than an average adult. I will be exposed to people who live their lives serving tourists the very things they could never afford. My goal is to smile and say “hello” to everyone I meet.

It is also exciting to observe different religions. They say the United States is a melting pot, but the Middle Eastern region is the birthplace of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. One of the things I am most excited for is to be awakened at 3 a.m. as Muslims begin their day facing toward Mecca in prayer.

All of us travelers have at least one reason for going in common: to become closer to God. To prepare, we are each reading one of the Gospels, Exodus and Acts. It’s so hard to believe places like Mt. Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments, or the Sea of Galilee, where Christ walked on water, really exist. To think the paths where Jesus walked, the places where he was born and was baptized have been visited by millions of people over the years is unfathomable; to think that I too will be able to experience this is even more amazing.

At the end of this, we will all be affected in different ways. One thing, however, is certain, we will all continue our paths of life inspired by this trip. We will never forget the people we meet and the cultures we see. Our faith relationships with God will mature in their own ways but they are sure to be stronger as we experience life where Christianity began.

For more information contact Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Polson.

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