close icon

Travel with Us

After the attacks of October 7th in Israel, we’ve revised our travel experiences for students—focusing on faith formation, education, humanitarian efforts in Israel, and advocacy for our Jewish friends.
close icon

Travel with Us

After the attacks of October 7th in Israel, we’ve revised our travel experiences for students—focusing on faith formation, education, humanitarian efforts in Israel, and advocacy for our Jewish friends.
close icon

Reach out

Thanks for your interest!
We'll get back to you soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
left arrow icon
left arrow icon

The Good Shepherd

I sat on top of my towel and pulled my wet hair into a messy bun. I rubbed my fingers together, feeling the strange sensation of oily, but also salty skin. I licked my lips and immediately regretted that decision. I swallowed in an attempt to get the sickeningly salty taste out of my mouth. After digging through my backpack, I found a granola bar to remedy my tastebuds’ recent rebellion.

“Alright everyone, we’re heading back to the hotel. You’re welcome. You’ll have time to shower before dinner and your two evening lectures,” said Adrian, the tour guide for my bus.

My eyes felt heavy. I pulled my knees to my chest and rested my head against the window. I felt the bus rock as we began the journey from the Dead Sea back to Jerusalem. My world quickly went dark.

“Psalm 23.”

I rubbed my face and squinted my eyes. I thought I heard someone mention Psalm 23. I recognized the Manchester accent and raspiness. Adrian was speaking again.

“In Psalm 23, David is thinking about this desert. Remember, he was a shepherd before he was anointed by Samuel.”

I opened my Bible with its worn blue cover, attempting to blink away the sleepiness. Sticking my thumb into the middle of the pages, I flipped to Psalm 23. I recognized the familiar words of a passage I had turned to many times for encouragement.

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

“How much green grass do you see?” Adrian questioned. Outside my window was a dry ocean of sandy yellow waves. Here and there, tiny patches of dull green broke up the massive yellow hills.

“In this desert, sheep depend completely on their shepherd. Now think about this passage. David is desperate here. He cries out for God to meet his basic needs of food and water. This is not a peaceful passage. I often hear Christians quoting this Psalm as a nice little passage. This is not what David intended.”

I kept reading.

Even though I walk

through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me

My eyes traveled further down the page.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies.

So many times I remembered reading this passage, but now I was able to visualize the landscape described by David. I could feel his desperation. I understood and related to this image of depending completely on God to supply basic needs, like sheep following their shepherd. This picture of the text was more compelling than any of my numerous readings in the past. David was desperate, and I am well acquainted with feeling desperate. Through his desperation, David continues trusting God. He is hopeful that God will provide a patch of grass and refreshing water in his desert.

The words on the pages of my Bible were coming to life outside my window. I pictured a young shepherd with a staff that towers above his head. He prays for God to lead his flock to grass and water. His prayer is desperate, but hopeful. He believes God will provide the refreshment his sheep need. He has no idea he will become the king of his people.

I close my eyes again, but this time I don’t go to sleep. I picture the ruins of the City of David. I imagine that same shepherd, but he’s a bit older now. A few gray curls streak his dark hair, and wrinkles line his forehead. He reminisces about simpler times when he was a young shepherd in the wilderness. He recalls that day when a stone from his slingshot struck the head of a giant. He still sees God as the greatest shepherd, who leads his flock through even the most distressing situations—the darkest valley.

I imagine another man with kind eyes. I picture him at the front of a synagogue, perhaps in Magdala. His fingers trace letters across the Torah scroll as he reads aloud. The words are familiar. He knows most of them by heart. He finishes. His eyes travel to each of the families huddled in clusters around the room. He looks to the back, and I imagine his eyes meeting mine.

“I am the good shepherd,” he says.

I open my eyes, dragging myself back into reality. I blink back tears. I clasp my hands together. I was experiencing the Bible in a new and transformative way. I closed my eyes one more time, ready to imagine again.

I remembered the man wearing jeans and a t-shirt with cartoon superheroes on it. He held up the twisted metal of a bomb that was launched into his community from the Gaza Strip. He smiled, but his lips were pressed together tightly. He thought about the college student who didn’t make it to a bomb shelter in time and the child who pulled out all of her hair because of her anxiety.

“I hope for peace with the people beyond that wall,” he says.

I realized that the people I met in Israel live their life like the psalmist’s description of being in the presence of their enemies. Israelis live their lives next to a group that is hostile often. They are constantly seated at that table with their enemies, and many of them remain hopeful that some kind of complicated peace is possible in the future.

I opened my Field Guide to the blank lined pages and began writing.


Thank you for allowing me to come here. I feel overwhelmed, but in a good way. I’m overwhelmed by your love for these people. You love both Israelis and Palestinians. Help me to reflect your love. Help me to let this experience continue impacting the way I view the Bible and the conflict in this land. I want to continue experiencing you like I have here. Thank you. I love you and trust you. In your name, amen.

Splide Arrow Staging