Jetting away to far off lands! Sounds exciting, doesn't it! And it definitely is. But it isn't for everyone, because there is always a price to pay. I could begin with the dangers. There are so many who would never travel into the Middle East because of stories they've read in the papers about bombings, violent demonstrations, acts of war, and extemists venting their wrath on westerners who represent a different faith or lifestyle. Often it is more a matter of perception--many of these same things happen in our own country. Yet very few people are afraid to travel within our 50 states. I remember talking to an Egyptian citizen in a Cairo restaurant many years ago when violent campus unrest was stalking our universities. The man smiled and in all sincerity suggested: "You must be happy to be here and away from the violence that is plaguing your country right now." I gave him a puzzled look because I had never thought about it that way before. Then there's the matter of jet lag. Flying into Cairo, like we will be doing, immediately puts you nine hours ahead of where you were in Phoenix. And it happens so fast your body has trouble adjusting to the difference. So when everyone has just enjoyed supper in Cairo your body tells you it's time for breakfast. And on the other end of that cycle, while everyone is waking up at 7:00 AM your body informs you that it's time to hit the sack. Then there is the problem of our delicate human constitution. The water supply to the residents of Cairo is not bad, but it certainly isn't as sanitary as what we drink from our faucets in Phoenix. So tourists are constantly warned not to drink tap water or even brush their teeth in it. Nor should you eat salads or fruit that have been washed in it. On my first trip to this region I paid no attention to those warnings and paid the terrible price. No tourist comes here with the intention of hanging around a bathroom all day, but many end up doing just that!
On the other hand, if you decide you are willing to pay the price and risk such a journey the rewards are great! Experiencing another culture up close is an experience everyone should have. Eating foods you've never tried, hearing another point of view you've never considered, and just taking in a whole new atmosphere reminds you that you are a citizen of the world and not just of one country. But the greatest blessing that is the reason so many of us pay the price to do this is what the Holy Land means to us as Christians. To walk the streets of cities that biblical people walked, to climb a mountain that Moses climbed to meet with the Lord, to sail on a sea that Jesus sailed on, to sit on a well where our Savior sat when he talked to a Samaritan woman; in other words, your Bible comes alive to you in a new way. That's what brings so many of us back to these places over and over. They create memories we will never lose as they remind us in a new way that what we are all about as believers is real. Our faith is enriched by being in this place and seeing these things that we will never forget.