After one has seen the old cities and landscapes, one reads the Bible with different eyes. “Now,

when I read the Bible, it will be in color and not in black and white,” shared Ludlow’s Canda Wood and Joni Jones after their trip to Israel in September.

The travel time to get from Ludlow to Israel included one of the flights lasting over 10 hours. But for these gals, it was a lifetime journey that took them there. “It was worth the 40-year wait,”

related Joni. Canda added, “To be able to walk where Jesus walked was a blessing of an opportunity. Before the trip my sister told me that of all the places on earth, she believed as Christians we would feel as though we were home was in Israel. I experienced that “Homecoming” in the Holy Land, the closest we can feel to coming home this side of Heaven. Thankful tears would flow easily as if my heart was home.”

The group of 49 who made the trip through the LifePoint Church of Chillicothe with Pastor Kevin

Smith and his wife Tammy were advised to exercise caution when traveling to Israel. They were warned to be cautious with their belongings and not to believe anyone that would tell them they have a message from the bus driver or guide.

The tour guide said, “Jerusalem is a very Holy Place with a few unholy people in it.”

Even with that, Joni said, “I never felt afraid or threatened by a situation or people.”

WALKING WAS THE WAY.

Although the group traveled in a very comfortable Mercedes Benz tour bus, they found themselves walking steep stairs, rocky paths and sand-filled terrain in the heat daily. Some days five miles and one day seven miles were logged. They heard their amazing and knowledgeable guide saying things like, “chop-chop” and “shake a leg.”

Memorable places they visited included boating on the Sea of Galilee and walking on 2000-year-old worn slick streets. For Joni, something she will never forget is being baptized in the Jordan River by her son-in-law Mark Schneider. As she was being immersed in the water she heard the sound of a shofar blowing (a ram’s horn trumpet). Canda’s husband Jack sent her a text saying that he hoped it was all she expected the trip to be. “Praise God it was!” she exclaimed.

“The people of the Holy Land have extreme passion,” said Joni. Their guide was a passionate

man who spoke four languages and produced memorable quotes such as, “Show everyone love and respect and pray for their salvation,” and “We don’t need mighty men, we need men with a mighty God.”

One of the biggest differences between our normal, rural American life and those in the Holy

Land that Canda noticed was how fortunate we are in America with our ease of access to technology, our infrastructure and environmental laws.

“When you listen to our nightly news it would be very easy to feel our destiny is hopeless. But I believe we have much more good than not,” she said.

Eventually, it was time to leave the land of citrus fruits, palm trees, vineyards and olive groves.

But the trip back was longer than the one there! While in Turkey they missed their connecting flight to Chicago and were faced with finding tickets for 49 people. This gave Joni time to visit.

In Istanbul, Joni found an airport with shopping to rival New York City! While admiring a mural she commented on its beauty to a nearby woman from Iran. She spoke some English and introduced her mother and sisters.

Joni told her that her sister was also with her. “That’s nice, she said. “At that moment, our genuine smiles and obvious love of our families seemed to break down any language barrier. We wished each other well before we parted.”

People in the group from LifePoint began to volunteer to wait for the next available flight or give  their ticket to a person with a dire need to get home. As the last person left the counter late that night, the airline agents clapped and gave them a standing ovation. A fitting ending to a Homecoming.