Three people reflect on their trip to Israel and Palestine.

By Bob Cleveringa

Two years ago, a group of young people and their mentors walked in the land of Israel and Palestine, saw the biblical sites where Jesus lived and taught, sailed, went swimming, and ate fish from the Sea of Galilee—all for the first time. Each day the pairs would spend time studying, praying, and learning together as they were challenged with new understandings of Jesus’s life here on earth.

The intergenerational trip, called A Disciple’s Journey, helped fulfill a vision of true discipleship in which we learn together. We are created to learn in community, not in a vacuum. Research demonstrates that when young people have a significant relationship with an older Christian adult, their faith is much more likely to “stick.” Many of the participants expressed that the trip brought the Bible to life.

Next June, the trip will again be offered across the denomination. As you consider this opportunity, hear from three participants—both mentors and mentees—about their experience on the 2016 trip and how they’ve grown since.

Paige, mentee

Otley Reformed Church, Otley, Iowa

Sometimes I find it difficult to share with people about my trip more than just what they see in the pictures. It is hard to explain what we learned, how my faith was shaped. But the best way I have found to do this is when I read a devotion or listen to a sermon and make a connection with something we saw or learned about in Israel. Then I use this opportunity to share this connection with someone else.

Before going on this trip, I had never thought very much about discipleship. While I was gone my cousin, who is in seventh grade, told my mom he thought it would be fun to go to Israel. That made me start thinking that maybe I could start my own discipler/disciple relationship with him.

Pat, mentor

Faith Reformed Church, Rock Valley, Iowa

Going into the trip I was of course excited to “walk where Jesus walked” and just see the land that he lived in. But I was even more excited about the whole concept of disciple and disciple-maker that shaped this experience. Being on the [disciple-maker] end of that range, it’s super exciting to me to see and be a part of intentionally raising up emerging leaders. During the trip, the opportunities to walk the land, even the dusty paths in 110 degrees, and especially spending time on and by the Sea of Galilee, were so life giving! I did wrestle for a bit on the trip with the value of my role, as I frequently felt lost in the world of academic conversations we had. I didn’t think being a part of getting five others to experience A Disciple’s Journey was a big deal, but I realize that maybe connecting the right people was exactly what God called me to do. Moving forward, my hunger for knowledge has increased and I’m looking at how God might be calling me to tweak my role at church. I’ve always thought of my job as creating space for the Holy Spirit to work, but maybe there needs to be a shift to more intentionally connecting people.

Mason, mentee

Faith Reformed Church, Rock Valley, Iowa

This trip was rewarding in so many more ways than I could have even imagined. I realized that this experience wasn’t for me. This trip I took wasn’t to strengthen my faith for myself, but to take it back and walk along with others and strengthen their faith along with them through the things I have experienced. The Bible has always been a powerful tool to me, but I think after this trip it has become more powerful because I am so much more invested in it. I have a whole new understanding of the Bible because of this trip, and this whole new understanding wasn’t only for me but for others around me as well.

Interested in going to Israel next June?

The approximate dates for the trip are June 6–20, 2019. Participants must pair up and register as mentor/mentee. (Adults can have up to two young people walking with them.) Beginning nine months before the trip, materials will be provided each month for the pairs to begin to study and grow together. More information and a registration form are available at under “Events.” Questions? Call the Synod of the Heartland Office of Youth Ministries at 712-737-4959.


Bob Cleveringa is director of youth ministries for the Synod of the Heartland.