The Traveling Heart

The Traveling Heart

There are two suitcases on our son’s bed upstairs. Come Saturday morning they’ll both have handles wrapped with airline tags reading “Tel Aviv.”

The preacher and I have been planning this trip for months, but for some reason I’ve been keeping this close to my chest. I keep thinking, I need to tell my people about this, but then I just haven’t been able to.

Staging a trip to the holy land has consumed an entire room. His clothes and my clothes. What do we need in our carry-ons? Important documents need to be copied. Gifts are piling up for my cousin’s daughter who is going to school over there, including Smore’s Pop Tarts and fruit chews from Costco. (And who knew she would find those to be a special treat when far from home.)

But the staging going on in my heart, through winter, summer, and now fall, has been even more consuming.


What does a little Wyoming girl turned pastor’s wife in Montana know about Israel?

We’re going with a group from church, for a Bible-based study tour of the country. “You’ll be so moved by seeing the places Jesus’ saw,” they tell me. “You’ll walk where Jesus walked.”

“Are you so excited?” they ask.

“Isn’t Israel dangerous?” they ask.

So many questions, but this is too personal. Walk where Jesus walked? This isn’t a vacation.

Costco has Christmas decorations out already, while I’m filling suitcases to go see Bethlehem. What does that do to my heart, and what can I possibly say to you, to describe what God is doing inside of me?

My Grandma Willenbrecht, a woman of energy packed into a 4’ 9” frame and dressed in pastels, loved to travel. But it was always the people she enjoyed. Her family letters would describe her encounters with the airline lady or the man who helped her with her luggage. Although I’m a little taller than she was, I carry the same passion for the stories of people.

I’m going to a place where an entire country is required to serve in the military after high school. Where AK-47s aren’t strange outerwear. Where every home carries a story of holocaust. Where there’s an influx of immigration because of antisemitism around the globe.

Where the people haven’t met their own Messiah.

This isn’t a vacation.

“Are you so excited?” they say. I look at Jerusalem on our itinerary, and blood comes to mind. The blood of Jesus in exchange for my life.

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it…  (Luke 19:41 NIV)


How do I write down words to describe the weight on my heart, at the thought of going to the headwaters of my faith?

I’m going to Israel.


  1. Oh my! Such an emotional adventure you will have. I went with a huge group led by Pastor Chuck Smith 20 years ago. (Has it really been so long when it still seems so fresh?) I sat on the steps where they poured water into the valley below. I was in incredible pain in my back and neck (long history there) and wondered if I’d be able to continue this adventure. I remembered the woman who thought “if I could just touch the hem of His garment…”. And as I sat there and prayed with so very many people all around, Jesus seemed so close I actually reached out with my hand. It was as though he was right there, and just for me!
    The pain left my spine and for the remainder of that trip I was whole and able to keep up and move on. I count it a miracle.

    There were so very many meetings and moments and touches during that trip. The Kidron Valley, the Garden and Mount of Olives, the empty tomb, the Western Wall (yes, I left a prayer in the wall) and my heart was broken for this special people who are still looking for their Messiah.

    People said the trip would change my life. I wasn’t so sure. I am now! The Word really did become alive for me after that trip. And I really couldn’t express why or how. Neither could I explain to people what the trip was like for me spiritually or emotionally.

    Oh to go again! You will be so blessed Christy. May you have many moments of Sudden Glory while you walk where Jesus walked. I’ll be praying for you.

  2. Grace and peace to you Christy as you venture to the Holy Land. May God protect you, your husband, and all the members of your church group throughout your travels, and may He manifest Himself to you in such a way that you feel His presence and protection.

    Many blessings to you,

  3. Oh Christy you are in for the experience of your life! We went last February. I knew I would love it but I had no idea the effect of walking where he walked. Can you say “Emotional Mess?” I thought I would come home and blog about it for a month or so. The series lasted four months. All I can say is that I wish I had researched the sites more before I went because the things I discovered as I dug deeper for my blog were fascinating. Would have loved to have known as I stood on the site. God be with you in your journey.

    1. That’s funny -I can hardly even think of where to start blogging BEFORE I’ve left. I can’t imagine trying to process all of it when I get back. I’m just planning on crying a lot. 🙂

      1. Haha! Just bring lots of tissue. It hit me at unexpected times but rarely at a shrine because they were so layered in ornamentation. It took me a couple secs to get past that.

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