People praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem


Greetings and Thanks

Hi everyone, I’m chiming in with a quick update about our Pillar Holy Land Tour — as many of you likely know, we started a Seminary tour over in Israel just a few days before war with Hamas erupted (and we returned just over a week ago now).

People on boat

The whole group on a boat ride in the Sea of Galilee.

So many of you expressed concern for our group and prayed for our safety that before any updates I’d like to say, on behalf of our group, a most heartfelt “thank you” is in order. It is a strange and bittersweet thing to be thankful for our own safety through this ordeal while still so very mindful of the death and suffering that was and continues to be an ongoing reality for so many others through all of this.

And so our gratitude is bound up tightly with a keen awareness of the world’s brokenness, and we ache together with creation for a fuller and final restoration of all things for peace to come fully (Rom 8:18-25). We “dare to hope” when we remember the Lord’s faithfulness and await his “fresh mercies in the morning” (Lam 3:21-23) as we continue to labor in prayer on behalf of all involved.

The Lord's Mercies

In spite of the crisis, by the Lord’s mercies we were kept perfectly safe and felt so well taken care of by our tour leader and guide, Dr. Derek Cooper of the Thomas Institute tour company. Together with our Israeli guide, Alex Stein, the two of them navigated the ongoing crisis all while allowing us to still take in what we could of the tour sites. Our first part of the tour was up in the north in Galilee, and so we were able to see many wonderful Old and New Testament sites of great significance while safely removed from the horrors far to the south of us. As things began to intensify up north of us on the border with Lebanon, we headed south to Jerusalem to do what we could to arrange for an exit from the country. Israel’s primary international airport was effectively shut down, though, so we made our exit across into Jordan, and from the safety of Amman we were able to arrange for our flights back home.

The Magdala Stone was discovered by archaeologists during a 2009 excavation of the Migdal Synagogue. 

Our group had the privilege of staying at a hotel that was adjacent to this historic site while also looking out at the beautiful Sea of Galilee.

Setbacks or Surprises

As many from our group have expressed already, this was by no means the trip we expected or would have planned, but nonetheless we were able to experience and learn so much that we never could have imagined as our travels began. Derek suggested along the way that we were faced with a choice to interpret our experiences through the lenses of either setbacks or surprises, and almost to a person we would tell you that we were surprised at how meaningful and powerful our trip was in spite of the circumstances. 

Cloudy day looking out from Mt. Nebo

A hazy view from Mt. Nebo, known as the place where Moses died after looking out at the Promised Land. One of our “surprise” places to visit in Jordan.

And so in concert with God’s people for millennia, we hold tightly in the one hand to the truth that we know the Lord is good and loving and faithful — indeed, we experienced it — and in the other we hold rather more reluctantly to this reality that we cannot fully understand — how suffering of such magnitude is able to persist as it does. And all the while we pray, and I would invite you to continue to pray, for the peace of our Lord Jesus to be extended to all involved in this precious but troubled pocket of the world.

More to Come

I will be sharing more in the upcoming days by way of our Pillar Podcast, so look for that if you’re interested to hear more. Additionally, I am always available to chat if you just can’t wait for the podcasts — reach out and we can set up a Zoom meeting at your convenience.

Thanks again, everyone,


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