This article was originally published in the April 2016 edition of ITMI Monthly.
I’ve caught myself saying, “…it was my greatest trip ever.”
This statement didn’t come out of my mouth just once, but numerous times. In fact, almost every time someone asks me about it. I have been on a lot of trips in my early life, and even more in the last almost 15 years I have been the Director of In Touch Mission International.
Over the years, I have been asked quite a few times this question, “What is your favorite place to go or have been?” My answer usually was... “the last place I visited.”
But now I have a new answer.
Each country, continent and national partner has “uniqueness” that sets them apart from other places and people, and makes them special. ITMI Founder, Bill Bathman always advised mission teams he led to focus on the country you are in, not where or whom you are visiting next. Even when crossing the border and into a whole new country and culture was just a day away.
In March, Darlene and I boarded a plane with our pastor and his wife, Roger and Dianna Ball, along with a group from First Baptist Church of Tempe. We were headed for …the Holy Land.
This visit to Israel was made possible, in part, by a donor in our church that “wanted to help someone go that wouldn’t normally be able to go.” Darlene and I now understand on a new, deeper level what it feels like to our national partners when our ITMI supporting family helps them do what they wouldn’t normally be able to do (without the sacrificial support faithfully given each month).
I want that donor to know that Steve and Darlene are changed. We are different than before we walked where Jesus walked.
Steve and Darlene Evers at the entrance to Nazareth.
What you feel as you sit in the early morning quiet as the sun rises over the mountains, reflecting its golden glow over the calm and placid Sea of Galilee, knowing Jesus saw the same sight is indescribable. You can try to find the words for what it was like to be in a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, sharing God’s Word with your travel companions who have now become family, but words won’t do the moment justice.
The sun rises over the Sea of Galilee.
One vivid memory that engaged all our senses was a Sunday morning church service. We sat in the cool of the morning, listening to the Word of God among the many olive trees on the Mount of Olives.
We looked across the narrow Kidron Valley at the Golden Gate that is embedded in the old Eastern Wall of ancient Jerusalem. Knowing that this is the gate that Jesus will be entering in the last days per Ezekiel 44:1-3 and no person or circumstance - including the gate’s current blocked-off state - will keep that from happening is a memory that won’t soon be forgotten.
The Golden Gate, viewed from the Mount of Olives.
Seeing how far from each other the well-known Bible cities and locations are will forever help my Bible reading and spatial understanding of the stories in the Bible.
Yet one of the many, many lessons that will always stand out in very clear reality is just what Jesus gave up to live on this planet so He could willingly give His perfect life to be the payment for my sins, and all the sins of this world.
I have known Jesus’ sacrifice and gift to me for now over almost 40 years. But not until you visit Nazareth and see the distance it is to Bethlehem, do you see things a bit more clearly.
Not until you visit the Sea of Galilee and the Mount of the Beatitudes, Capernaum and then travel south to Jerusalem, do you realize the distances Jesus traveled on foot out in a Middle Eastern summer with none of the conveniences that I so regularly take for granted.
The Sea of Galilee from the Mount of the Beatitudes.
Eternity past, Jesus was always in a place of utter perfection. He interrupted this perfection of being with the Father for 33 years of sleeping - not in a bed with a pillow top cushion, in the perfect temperature - but on the ground with a rock for a pillow. He ate, not like you and I eat with such a vast variety and almost always with guaranteed frequency, but as a first century homeless person who was not always acknowledged and attended to.
He gave up so very much when He left heaven to come here, and most who met Him, were not satisfied with that, they always wanted more. He was humiliated for me. He was beaten mercilessly for me. He was brutalized, chastised, shamed, disgraced by His own people and he submitted willingly to the death on the cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)
Jesus, living in a human body, experiencing all the challenges that you and I do as humans, yet not having any of the conveniences that we have. No medicine, no modern day doctors, no comfortable means of transportation, no running water, no closet full of clothes, no smart phone, not even proper shoes to handle the lack of pavement and the intense hills that make up this country.
South Temple steps that Jesus would have used to enter the Temple.
Yet Jesus did all that and more. He allowed Himself, for our benefit, to become…sin…for me. Imagine, the Creator of the Universe (John 1:3) setting aside all that was due Him, all that He deserved, all that worshiped Him, and descending to a first century Middle Eastern culture and place just to be misunderstood, abused, beaten, mistreated, falsely accused, lied about and be killed in a tortuous way.
And for me!
So that I (and you!) could be fully cleansed from my sin and eternal penalty, reconciled, given a new name, given a new eternal address and able to someday be in the presence of my Heavenly Father.
The empty tomb. He is risen!
Yes, I knew all that before I went to Israel, but now I know it on a much deeper and experienced level.
My travels always end with me bringing back pictures and stories of what we are all doing in the lives of those dear partners who live in places that don’t have the conveniences that we experience each and every day.
These partners may have always known a bit more what Jesus experienced in the convenience-less first century, but now I can assure you, as I have seen it both with my eyes and with my heart, that our Lord willingly gave up so very much, on many levels, for our benefit.
Maybe that is why each of us are so committed to helping those who live in darkness and eternal penalty, to come to the light of Jesus Christ. To know Him. To accept Him. To be reunited with the One that created us.
In His Service,
About the Author
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.