“Who would have believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he shot up right forth as a sapling, and as a root out of a dry ground; he had no form nor comeliness, that we should look upon him, nor beauty that we should delight in him.” Isaiah 53:1-2 (The Israel Bible™)
As 30 young handpicked pastors from the United States and Canada wrap up a life-changing first trip to Israel, they now prepare to renew their focus on Israel in their preaching back home.
Eagles’ Wings is a global movement comprising churches, ministries and leaders that emphasizes interfaith dialogue and humanitarian care. Reverend Robert Stearns, founder and executive director of Eagles’ Wings, led the group throughout the holy land for a trip that began on February 1 and will end this Saturday. For Stearns, introducing the land of Israel to others is “one of my most favorite things in life to do.”
“There’s something amazingly special to bring people to Israel for the very first time,” said Stearns in a YouTube address before he departed. “It’s always special to go, but the opportunity to bring people to the holy land on their first experience is just a special joy. I will always remember my first trip to Israel, my first time in the land.”
According to Adam Mesa, the Creative Culture Pastor of the Abundant Living Family Church in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, Israel is already a topic that is frequently discussed at the church where his father is the head pastor.
“We talk through the scriptures about Israel,” he told Breaking Israel News. “We pray for Israel, [participate in the] national day of prayer, we pray for Jerusalem, and we just did a 21-day prayer fast one whole topic was on Jerusalem and peace in Jerusalem.”
Adam stressed that Israel will necessarily become an even greater focus in his church after this trip. Reverend Stearns for his part, also reflected on the importance of pastors having a solid foundation for preaching about Israel early on.
“It’s important that they have this experience when they are young rather than waiting until they are in their late 50s or 60s for their first tour of the holy land,” he said.
“If they wait that long, they would lose 30 years of their lives in which they could have had the opportunity to preach and inform others about that connection and experience with the land as well as that encounter with the land of Israel, the people of Israel, and many times the God of Israel for the first time.”
Likewise, for Jakob Pilz, team member of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO, the trip has had a significant impact on his connection with both Israel and the Jewish people and has “made everything come more alive.”
“I’ve always had a heart for Israel and for the Jewish people,” he told Breaking Israel News.
As with Adam, Jakob’s church already places major emphasis on the importance of Israel and Jerusalem.
“Every Tuesday, it is an encouraged fast day at my church, and a day that we specifically focus on Israel with three two-hour sessions where we pray specifically for Israel and for the peace of Jerusalem,” he continued.
For Jakob, who is originally from Austria, the trip has helped motivate him to act more on behalf of the Jewish people.
“With the Holocaust, it’s been important in schooling, but this trip has made my heart be more vigorous to get the message out and to be more pro-Israel and stand with the Jewish people.”
Reverend Stearns also reflected on having felt Israel come alive on his first trip to the holy land.
“I remember this feeling of saying, ‘Oh my goodness. So many things make sense now,’” he related. “That first trip changed my life completely.”
“I remember feeling like Israel was this missing piece of the puzzle of my life, of the bible, the puzzle of church history, and the puzzle of the global geopolitical story,” he added. “There were so many things that I understood when I came to Israel and so many things became clear and made sense.”
Such was the case for Paul Deary, senior pastor of the Hillside Church in Sellersburg, Indiana, who did not know any Jews growing up in South Africa.
“The big connection point on this trip has been the people,” he said. “Rubbing shoulders with the Jewish community on a daily basis has expanded things and given me a love for the people, a heart for the people.”
For others on the trip like Jason Tourville, a third-generation Evangelical pastor serving as the senior pastor of the Shrewsbury Assembly in Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania, the visit solidified all that they understood from the Bible.
“From a Biblical standpoint, and certainly from a humanitarian standpoint, evil expands when those who consider themselves good people do nothing in the face of evil.”
Another senior pastor, Art Garcia of The Bridge Buena Park in Buena Park, CA, said that the trip has been “incredible.”
“As a Christian, I feel connected in Israel,” he told Breaking Israel News. “You can’t have Christianity without Judaism, and you can’t have the completion of Christianity without Israel.”
The sentiment expressed by Art is exactly why, according to Stearns, it is important for young Christian leaders and pastors to visit the holy land.
“For so many of them, they know the God of the Bible but it’s different when you encounter the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the land itself.”