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April 11, 2014 - 

Walking through the villages where Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles ministered was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for John Bothof, pastor of Raymond (Minn.) Christian Reformed Church. For Bothof, the major highlight of his pilgrimage was interacting with all kinds of people from all over the world representing a variety of faiths.

As part of a study leave, Bothof spent more than a month traveling across Israel on the 65 km (40 mile) Jesus Trail that starts at Nazareth and ends at Capernaum. He camped along the Dead Sea, stayed with a Palestinian family in the West Bank, and slept in youth hostels.

Although he was a solo traveler, he spent most of his days talking with people he met. “That’s what Jesus’ ministry was,” said Bothof. “It was about people. I shared the gospel with more unbelievers in the past 40 days than I have in a year.”

Bothof traveled to villages such as Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding, and the Arab village of Nein, where Jesus raised the widow’s son. As he visited these and other villages, Bothof was reminded how Jesus spent much of his ministry conversing with individuals. “So much of the gospel text is his interaction with people,” said Bothof.

Bothof ended his trip in Jerusalem, which he described as “a fascinating place with tension in the air.” As he interacted with Jews and Palestinians, he discovered the complexity of their beliefs and conflicts. “We need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Peace will come about one day when Christ will come, even though [the Jews and Palestinians] don’t see the peace coming,” he said.

Bothof said he is continuing to process his experiences. “I met different people with different burdens. All these different people helped me see the great need for the world to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.”

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