Reflections by pilgrims on the trip

Eileen Pek:
A most spiritual, uplifting and experiential trip in Jerusalem! I was able to much better connect and visualize the scriptures I learnt in the Bible class conducted by Helen. We visited the sites where Jesus was born, experienced the walk in the footsteps of Jesus where He did His missionary works, performed miracles until his crucifixion. At each place bible verses were read. The shrines devoted to His birth and death, which I felt of deepest significance, was so surreal. It helped me reflect deeper on Jesus’ sufferings and His love for our salvation. Indeed I feel very blessed to be able to experience and receive His grace and love. So privileged to have made this trip – a trip that is not to be missed!

John Lim:
In a sentence it was seeing and experiencing the Greatest Love Ever. After some bible study lessons, it was a trip where the Bible came alive. From the wandering in Jordan for the first two days, to crossing into the promised land and then tracing Jesus footsteps to the places He walked and taught; from Galilee to Jerusalem and finally to Golgotha and the empty tomb; watching and being with Him. Daily evening reflection sessions were organized which kept our hearts and minds focused on Jesus Christ throughout the trip.

Dominic and June Chia:
This was a trip that was long anticipated. We knew that we would visit the Holy Land one day, presumably as tourists.  June and I traveled often, but never as pilgrims. We were not sure if we could get into the right mode while there.

Weeks prior to our departure, we were prepared and reminded to be in prayerful state for the many holy sites that we will be visiting. However, excitement got the better of us – to be in the same location where significant events in the Bible had taken place over two thousand years ago! It was surreal!

So, like tourists, we selfishly jostled to get the best possible photos and selfies. We had to remind ourselves many times why we were there – to walk in His shoes and pray as pilgrims first.

Gradually, taking the best photo was not important anymore, just being there was. Between sites on the bus, we recorded in our journal, notes and Bible verses, lest we forget – as there were many sites!

Each site also brought the Bible to life. And Israel is so rich in history, every stone had a story to tell. One that was especially hard was the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross). We could see and feel how Jesus suffered for us, and how much He loves us!

The daily mass with readings held in context to the different biblical locations, the nightly quiz and fellowship helped reinforce our knowledge further.

Going forth, we thank our Heavenly Father for this journey through the Holy Land. Bible readings will never be the same for us anymore – as He not only opened our eyes, but our hearts and minds as well.

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Just being there… on the very sacred and holy land where Jesus lived, worked and gave his life for us all, was such a privilege for me to experience and I thank God for that. He made it possible.

Seeing the terrain of the place made me aware how physically challenging were the journeys from town to town for Jesus and his disciples (as well as Mary and Joseph) then. There were many places where people were touched by Jesus and had their lives changed forever, as well as sites where Jesus were met with hostility and rejected; it reminded me that it’s still the same today.

Jesus paid a high price for our salvation and this trip reminded me how much love God has for us for which I am forever grateful and am determined to love Him back not in words but in action.

While I was hoping that the trip will somehow bring me closer encounter with Jesus, I didn’t experience any spiritual enlightenment. I guess I was too caught up with praying for all the 50+ people especially those who are very sick everyday. I prayed only once for myself, physical healing, towards the later days of the trip. After that my backache, which I suffered from the start of the trip was gone. My knee, to which my GP told me before the trip not to walk too much upslope, also had no problems. I should have done that on the first day, then I didn’t have to put up with the pain! Guess that was my cross, haha. Praise the Lord.

This is my first pilgrimage trip with the Catholic Church. Being a pilgrim, I was expecting to come to see how, where Jesus lived and walked on earth. We were so blessed to celebrate mass and receive the Body of Christ almost everyday (Praise the Lord).

This trip I have seen the guide sharing his brokenness (being a Palestine national is not easy for him and his family at this moment as he is not even able to hold a permanent job though he is a professional). I praise and thank the Good Lord, He has been so good to us – Singapore being safe, with a stable economy.

On the street I encountered a young Palestinian boy (10 years or so) Trying very hard selling his old and dusty magnet. After a while he started scolding us, calling us bad people. I went over to him, passed him 5 dollars (without taking anything from him) and told him not to say such unkind words to anyone. I was impressed by this boy’s spontaneous self reflection/self awareness of his sin. We hugged and I saw his eyes full of tears of repentance. Embracing these innocent children of tender age who have had to go through poverty, yet easily acknowledge their shortcomings, taught me a lesson in humility.

In mass, everyone took turns to participate in Mass arrangement (song, reading & alms collection etc etc). It encouraged openness and teamwork. To some it might be a stepping stone to certain church ministry.

This trip made me more self-aware as I learnt to understand why people react negatively to situations and how best I could give  space to these sisters and brothers in Christ. There is so much evangelical actions we can take to spread God’s love.  He lives in us and by our action they know we are Christian. Praise The Lord

Yvonne Yip:
Going on this pilgrimage has certainly been an edifying experience. Key highlights included walking and climbing up to Mt of Olives to Gethsamane and personally experiencing the rough terrains. These all helped me better understand the difficulties faced by Mother Mary and Jesus in their travels.

Stephanie Seet:
Participating in the pilgrimage to Holy Land was a deeply spiritual experience. Visiting the holy sites and walking in the footsteps of Jesus was akin to stepping into the bible. The biblical verses I had read countless times before felt more intimate and poignant, as if the Word had come to life before my eyes..

Following the Way of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem was the highlight of my pilgrim journey. It was while tracing Jesus’ last steps on Earth that I experienced the physical presence of Christ. Carrying the cross along the route, I was struck by how Jesus took the burden of our sins upon himself. As we ascended a flight of steps towards an adoration chapel that marked one of the stations, the cross which I had been carrying felt near-weightless. Given the law of gravity and physics, how could this be possible? Given that I was at the back supporting the tail-end of the cross, our ascent would only increase the weight of the cross.
As a natural skeptic, I found myself replaying the scene in my mind, trying to find a logical explanation, except that there was none. I realised on retrospect that Jesus, in his infinite mercy, had been with me each step of the way, bearing my cross. He has been doing so all along, just that I had been too caught up with the distractions in my life to notice Him. I come away from this pilgrimage humbled, and with a renewed sense of my identity as a child of God.

June Ho:
My faith came alive as I journeyed on this pilgrimage. The footsteps of Jesus gave me an opportunity to experience Jesus in a special way.

During the 4th station of the cross – Jesus meets His Mother,  I experienced the sorrow of our dear Mother, overwhelmed with grief.

Slipping 3 times along the way of the stations of the cross, but remain 100% unhurt was a miracle to me. By His 3 falls to Calvary He took away my suffering and protected me from harm. Indeed Jesus is alive and loves me.

Daily masses celebrated from The Annunciation to The Tomb of Jesus was very significant for me. The readings and gospels at masses celebrated at the various sites made the Word truly alive. With a grateful and joyful heart I want to give glory and praise to God.

Jimmy Ho:
The Holy Land Pilgrim trip is truly an eye and heart opener for me every step of the way, from the moment I was shown the Promised Land to the Baptismal site of Jesus Christ.

I am very happy and fulfilled to embark on this journey to relive the Old and New Testaments fully alive. Initially, I was apprehensive as the escalating tension is a reality but my unwavering faith told me to go ahead – I am blessed I did.

I give praise and thanksgiving to this “Come and See” call through the SFX Bible study sessions, now made more vivid on the actual sites out of the Biblical texts and the places which our God, Jesus Christ was once there.

The moments of veneration were very touching and solemn for me and especially so at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the high point at the foot of Calvary. I prayed, “Lord, you suffered so tremendously for our sake to deliver us from our sinfulness. We thank you”

It is an awesome journey with so many biblical sites now embedded in treasured memories.

When we reached the City of Jerusalem, and behold, the first sighting of the Golden Dome of the Rock, I prayed that moment we had arrived. It was a dream came true.

Thank you all for the moments together for the safe journey, We continue to pray for one another in Christ Humility and Love who showed us the path to Salvation.