More than Words on a Page
It was during the production of a series of teaching videos in 2017 that Pastor Jason came to appreciate how physically being in a place where significant things happened help make those events come alive. He is excited to lead a group from theHeart to Israel in May 2020 to visit many of the historical and holy places of the Bible.
In 2017, Pastor Jason ventured to Israel to capture the imagery of Israel—the land of the living water. But at the beginning of the trip, he and his film crew hit a significant roadblock before ever leaving the airport in Tel Aviv.
Each team member was separated and questioned by Israeli officials who asked them about the group's camera equipment and their intentions for being in the country.
Granted, it’s probably a bold decision for any foreign visitors to bring a drone into a country with such a tenuous political climate. Perhaps even less advised is wanting to film along Israel's volatile borders.
And yet they were allowed to do just that. Over the course of 10 days, filmed in several areas of the country. They even captured drone footage of Jason floating in the middle of the Dead Sea, with the salty waters and hot sun scorching his eyes.
The crew, which consisted of Kimberly English, Paul Halluch and Eitan Abramowitz, ran into even more challenges in their attempts to capture scenes at the Sea of Galilee. Their safety wasn't threatened so much as they were anxious about losing an entire day of precious production time.
The Sea of Galilee is a prominent tourist hub with jet skis buzzing and banana boats bouncing along the water, and constant commotion everywhere. The crew sat at the shores waiting, then filming, then waiting some more, and then filming some more, all in an attempt to capture Jason's teaching message before losing the daylight.
All the difficulties aside, this group never lost sight of why they had traveled half-way around the world to produce "Waters of Israel," a series of teaching videos that use bodies of water in the holy land of Israel to share the biblical narrative.
Land of Living Water
Jason intended to highlight the theme of water to “avoid modern politics.”
“Water does not have allegiance," Jason explained. "It comes from the springs of the ground then flows to a river, then flows to a lake, and so on. It doesn’t have an opinion, it just flows. It’s not political.”
He wants viewers of the "Waters of Israel" series to recognize that God does not stand on a particular side. Rather “He brings reconciliation among enemies.” Jason refers to how Jesus shattered the cultural norm of the time by commanding His original followers to love their enemies. It's a message of love that Christ's modern-day disciples can find difficult to practice.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." — Matthew 5:43-44
Jason aimed to encapsulate the essence of water philosophically and functionally by tracing the path of Jesus’s ministry and unveiling the richness of Scripture’s poetry.
In the videos, Jason takes a simple concept beyond its everyday meaning and relates it to water.
That is because water is something we all know intimately. And this personal understanding helps connect us back to the natural world. Water can be traced to the beginning of time. It was present before life even began and it continues to be the source of life to this day.
Water quenches our thirst and yet it also drives us to hold our breath and explore the very depths of who we are as part of God's creation.
In the Bible, water signifies our cleansing, our rebirth, and our renewal. Its vastness is unknown and its unrelenting strength is overwhelming. Water cannot be contained; it cannot be manipulated; it cannot be influenced.
Water is pure, unbiased, transparent, and ubiquitous. It decides it’s own path. There is much we can learn from water—about God and about ourselves.
Jason points out that Jesus did not start his ministry in a city like Jerusalem or Rome, but rather he kick-started his ministry above the Sea of Galilee amongst the people labeled as “the others.”
Jesus went to the fringes of society, the dividing lines of enemy countries, and the ostracized of the nations’ to pioneer his mission of reconciling humanity. Jesus worked from the outside-in while following the path of the water and often utilizing it to reach the masses within the cities.
”Israel is black words on a white page, until you go there." — Jason English
He referenced when the disciples frantically rowed all night in the Sea of Galilee against the fierce winds and the roaring sea that thrashed them to the point of turning around.
”It’s a ridiculous realization when you are physically on the Sea of Galilee and can literally see the other side," Jason explained. "If you were a strong swimmer, you could probably swim to the other side. So men with paddles struggling to get to the other side speaks of how strongly the storm raged.”
He learned this only after talking with locals who had encountered the “microcosm weather patterns” of the sea for themselves. They explained that the mountain ranges surrounding the Sea of Galilee act as a funnel for ferocious gusts of wind. In the blink of an eye, peaceful waters can be churned up into fearful chaos.
“It’s not some magical story in some magical book," Jason said of what the disciples experienced on the Sea of Galilee. "These men experienced this and this happened to them. You can read about the squalls and then talk to a local about it. It adds layers to it when you go, see, and hear what still happens to this day when the winds howl."
Followers of Christ need to shift from asking how the Bible relates to them in 2019. Instead they should study and explore how the original followers within their cultural and geographical context would have understood events. This helps to open our minds to the richness and the deepness that dwells within Scripture.
Back to the Beginning
Jason is planning a return trip to Israel May 5-14, 2020. This time he will be leaving the film crew behind. Instead, he's excited to lead a group from theHeart on a journey through the land of living water.
"I want to personally invite you to come and join me as we make our own pilgrimage to Israel, and encounter in profound ways the wonderful heritage we have in Jesus Christ," Jason said. "Together, we'll encounter the rich culture, breathtaking sites, and the timeless stories preserved so beautifully in God's Word."
Historic and holy sites combined with Jason's teaching will help bring Scripture to life during this trip of a lifetime.
It will be a very physical trip. There will be a lot of walking including a day of a 3+ hour hike. The full package price includes airfare. A "land only" option is available for those who want to arrange airfare use frequent flyer miles, points, etc.
"It will be great to explore these holy places together," Jason said. "I'm just really excited to lead this trip."