HOLY LAND BOUND
Ernest Smith of Union has traveled across the globe, visiting 24 countries.
Much of his travel occurred during a 10-year period when he was in the U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard.
The United Methodist pastor has been to England, Germany, Vietnam, Thailand and Korea, just to name a few. Hes never been to the Holy Land, the place where Jesus walked and preached and where the Bible had its roots. Up until now.
Smith, who serves Methodist congregations in Union and Cove, will be leaving Union Sunday to join 42 pastors who will be traveling to Israel as guests of the Knights Templar.
The pastors will be flying out of Newark, N.J., Monday evening to Tel Aviv. The group will stay in the Israel capital area for two days before moving on to Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee area. Their 10-day stay will wrap up with visits to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.
Its a marvelous thing that they do, Smith said of the Knights Templar, which is paying the $1,469 expenses for the trip, including the flight from Newark, lodging, ground transportation, entrance fees and meals in Israel. Knights Templar, a Christian order of the Masons, is also picking up the cost of Smiths flight to Newark.
Smith, a Knights Templar member, said the trip did not come as a surprise to him. He had been aware for some time that the Knights Templar were sending groups of ministers to the Holy Land and he had been discussing the possibility of his participation for a year and a half. Smith said most of the pastors going on the trip are not Knights Templar members. They come from a number of denominations and include Protestants and Catholics. Smith, who has been pastor in Union and Cove for eight years, said he does not know any of the ministers who will be traveling in his group.
Hes looking forward to meeting them and making new friends. A large number are from Wisconsin and several are from Ohio. The group will include seven women and 35 men.
The Holy Land pilgrimage, Smith said, will enhance his ministry.
Understanding of the Christian faith improves if you can see and be a part of the area where Christ taught and (if) you can walk on the same roads where Christ walked, Smith said.
The first thing I hope to do is probe the depth of my faith in the places where Jesus preached.
Another value of the trip is to share the experience with ministers from a variety of denominations. This should increase his understanding and appreciation of the worldwide ecumenical movement that helps unify Christians, he said.
Over the past 24 years, nearly 1,350 Christian ministers have participated in the Knights Templars Holy Land trips. Approximately 120 are being sent this year.
Smiths trip is being paid by the Eastern Oregon Commandery No. 6 of the Knights Templar.
The purpose of the trip is to offer outstanding ministers from various Christian faiths an opportunity for spiritual enrichment and an educational experience, said Terry Lincoln, eminent commander of Commandery No. 6. It will be exciting to see the ministers return from their pilgrimage and share their experiences with their congregations.
The Union County Knights Templar accepted donations from members to raise the funds for Smiths trip.