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Igniting the Fire Within

by Cheryl Raine

Photo by Rick Brotherton

The trip got off to an auspicious start: The plane arrived in Tel Aviv on the heels of a storm, after months of drought.

“A rainbow greeted us as our flight touched down at Ben Gurion airport,” says Cheryl Raine. “It reminded me of God’s promise to Noah, ‘My bow in the clouds.’”

Raine was one of 20 pastors who travelled to the Holy Land in November 2009, on a Journey of Faith offered by Columbia Seminary’s Center for Lifelong Learning, through a Pastors Renewal Grant from the Cousins Foundation.

The grant offers ministers a two-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land for just $500 – travel, room, and board, all included.

More scriptures came to Raine’s mind, as each day began with a tour of a place right out of Scripture – the Jordan River, Jerusalem, Capernaum, Meggido (Armageddon).

“What struck me most was the landscape,” Raine says. “I didn’t realize how many hills surround the Sea of Galilee. And the Judean wilderness is barren. There’s no scrub brush, nothing!” Seeing the geography up close has given her a spatial orientation that affects her devotions.

“Just the other day, I was reading the passage about Peter's denial.  Jesus is being interrogated by Caiaphas, the high priest, and then Mark describes how Peter was below in the courtyard. The word ‘below’ jumped out at me.  I was there on the steps with Peter in the courtyard, looking up toward Jesus as the rooster crowed, feeling the weight of his denial as my own."

In the afternoons, the pastors met in small groups to reflect on their experiences. This practice proved especially significant after the group’s encounter with Archbishop Abuna Elias Chacour.

Chacour, the author of Blood Brothers, shared personal stories and his lifelong struggle for reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians. When asked how he keeps the passion alive, the archbishop answered, “I don’t possess the fire; the fire possesses me.”

Back in the US, Cheryl is still mulling over the meaning of those words. She has no hesitation when asked what the trip has meant to her. “I’m burning again.”

This article is adapted from an article written by Tom Dykhuizen for Cheryl Raine, in the November 2009 online newsletter of the Presbytery of Los Ranchos in Anaheim, CA: