It wasn’t when I boated across the Sea of Galilee, which is more like a lake in size, and read passages of Scripture about Jesus’ ministry there.
It wasn’t when I stepped into the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. This tomb is where many believe Jesus was buried for only three days. As I stepped in and out of the tomb, I was overcome with gratefulness that this tomb was empty, and Jesus now lives, so we can live too.
These moments were my favorite memories from this once-in-a-lifetime trip. But the Bible, surprisingly, did not come alive to me while I was in Israel. Yes, I see it in a new light and understanding. But it wasn’t until I returned home that God truly revealed the power of his Word.
In July, I had the privilege of traveling with an Indiana Wesleyan University ministry team, and my favorite role was being a camp counselor at a Silver Lake Wesleyan Camp in Canada. For the first time in my life, I was a counselor of six middle and high school girls. They knew how to “do camp.” They knew the songs, the games, the places to be. But I learned that these girls did not know the Bible. Each of them had maybe opened it once or twice in their lives.
One afternoon, my girls and I sat in the camp’s lounge, trying to find a board game to play. The only game with all its pieces was a Bible trivia game! I asked the girls to quiz me because the girls looked overwhelmed, saying they wouldn’t know any of the answers to the questions. I was shocked to discover how little these girls knew about Bible stories. They asked who Moses and Noah were, what the Garden of Eden was and about Jesus’ miracles they had only vaguely heard about. Some of the stories I shared were at places I had just been. As I spoke, they were wide-eyed and curious to know more.
During one morning service later that week, three of my girls went forward during an altar call to be spiritually disciplined. I approached them afterward and asked why they went forward. They said every year they’d go to camp but leave the same and they wanted to live changed. I prayed over each of them and the girls went back to our cabin for free time. I was the last person from our cabin to make it to the room. When I opened the door to our cabin, I saw God’s Word come alive. All six of the girls sat in their beds with their Bibles opened to Genesis 1. I asked them, “What are you guys doing?” They answered, “We want to start at the beginning!”
For the next hour, our cabin read Scripture aloud, asking questions and seeking to understand the text together. I got to explain what sin is and why Jesus came to die on a cross for our sin. In that entire hour, I never read a single verse aloud. The girls desired so much to read the words aloud that they kept volunteering to read.
I had just traveled to the Holy Land! That was where I thought I’d be forever changed by the power of God’s Word because I was looking right at the scenery! To my surprise, it was coming back to North America, inside a cabin in the middle of Canada with students, where I saw God’s Word breathe life into dry bones. They left camp, ready to live changed lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I would tell anyone and everyone to go to Israel because I feel richer in my understanding of God’s Word, but I wouldn’t say that reading Scripture over there is any more special than reading it at home. We need God’s Word every day. It breathes life into dry bones not because of the book itself, but its transformational Author.
Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is alive and powerful.