Pastors from about 17 Christian Reformed congregations in British Columbia were recently absent from their pulpits. Instead they were making bricks out of mud and straw like the ancient Israelites in Egypt, climbing the Mount of Olives in the footsteps of Jesus, and floating on the salty waters of the Dead Sea.
The pastors and many of their spouses spent two weeks on a biblical study trip of Egypt, Israel, and Jordan. The trip was paid for by the DeVries Family Foundation because of the family’s desire to bless the pastoral leadership of Christian Reformed churches in the region.
“The strategic investment by the DeVries Foundation in the edification, development, education, and camaraderie of pastors and spouses is a tremendous gift,” said Joel Ringma, pastor of Terrace Christian Reformed Church.
The main purpose of the trip was to equip pastors for ministry in their local churches by learning to read the Bible in its geographical and cultural context and to help forge closer relationships among pastors in the province.
That investment appears to be paying off already.
“Theology really is connected to geography,” said Wilma van der Leek, a commissioned pastor and facilitator with BC Leadership Development Network. “Walking through the desert landscape of the Middle East, I understood right to my bones why images of shade and water come up so often in the prayers of Israel.”
Participants were asked to prepare for the trip both physically and spiritually; churches were asked to support the trip by providing paid study leave for their pastors. The trip was led by George DeJong of Under the Fig Tree. The group posted a daily travel blog on his website.
“The fellowship with fellow believers was amazing . . . and led to a broad and thorough appreciation of fellow pastors and spouses,” added Ringma.
The inclusion of spouses in the invitation was appreciated by Candy Vander Woud, whose husband, Sid, is pastor at Hope Community CRC in Surrey. “It was wonderful to be able to accompany my husband and experience together the land of the Bible,” she explained. “Often pastoral spouses take a background role and yet are called upon to be in a leadership role. This experience . . . was an invaluable gift to us as a leadership couple and for our church that we deeply appreciate!”