The local AGLOW organization hosted Pastor Alan Wickstrom, highlighting his trip to Israel.
By JENNIFER GARREAU
Wickstrom who visited Israel in January and the early part of February of this year, gave a photo presentation of his trip at the AGLOW event on Saturday, Aug. 2nd.
AGLOW is a dynamic, global kingdom movement made up of women and men with a single purpose: to see God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Groups internationally gather to worship, and listen to guest speakers; smaller groups meet to form prayer groups, or Bible studies. Those with a heart for outreach form groups to help meet community needs such as visiting nursing homes and orphanages, tutoring at schools and participating in food programs.
In Oct. of 2013, Pastor Wickstrom was texted by a friend who is also a minister, “Do you have a current passport?” He replied “no,” that he didn’t. There was no response from his friend. Finally curiosity got the best of him and he had to ask why. His friend replied that he would like for Wickstrom to join him on a trip to the Holy Land, to see Jerusalem. Pastor Wickstom spent a lot of time in prayer, asking God, that if this trip was meant to be that God provide for him, within three days he had $900 for the trip and when his daughter asked him what he needed for Christmas and he replied a camera, which he had also been praying for, his prayers were answered with her gift.
On January 28th, he left North Dakota to visit the Holy Land. He arrived in Tel Aviv at 5:30 a.m. their time, which was nine hours ahead of Mountain Standard Time.
“Tel Aviv is an amazing center of commerce and government. To buy a home there takes a minimum of three cosigners. Technology is one of the major economic influences with Microsoft having offices there and Israel is very active in collecting natural gas from the ocean floor. “The land of Israel is truly blessed by God, for such a small country everything really works well there,” said Wickstrom.
His tour left Tel Aviv and went to Joppa where the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale played out.
Wickstrom said, “There are very closely knit communities there and for centuries the rock harbor there has been used by the fishing industry.”
“In Israel there is such an intermix of cultures, and not just the Jews, Moslems and Christians, there are Roman and Greek artifacts and ruins,” he said. Historical value and importance is very important to the country and they refuse to destroy any cultures artifacts. Even trees cannot be removed.”
In the small villages of Israel, the Jews and the Moslems don’t hate each other, said Wickstrom. He said he was told by local villagers, “that before you say we are segregated, that is truly not the case. Family and friends are the most important things in our lives. It was cool to see that. I think it is something we miss here.”
In the villages there was a religious sect called the Druze who believe in God and also believe in reincarnation. The Druze’s are a branch of the Shia Islam’s. “They wear baggy pant and have incredible mustaches,” said Wickstrom.
He then visited Mount Carmel, where the nearby Israeli air base is located, where all the planes are stored underground.
Wickstrom then traveled through the Jezreal Valley. “It’s really eerie to be in the place where Armageddon is predicted to be,” he said.
He said this is where Israel has it’s one and only prison. They only need on prison because crimes against children are very rare there.
He then went on to the city of Nanzareth where he reported billboard signs warning people to not use the name Jesus Christ there.
The Sea of Galilee was the tours next stop, which is the only fresh source of water for the entire country which is of great concern for Syrian attacks. There are several old, live minefields in the area, that are posted and fenced off.
He said, “here they play classical music for the dairy cattle, because it truly is the land of milk and honey.”
He then traveled to Caesrea Philippi, where Jewish guides are not allowed, as well as in Bethlehem or anywhere in the West Bank. There Wickstrom saw the ruins of a temple to the Greek god of Pan, and several members of his tour group were baptized in the Jordan River, where he reports there were huge catfish that ate crackers out of visitors hands.
Wickstrom then visited the Dead Sea, as well as the museum of the Dead Sea scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found between 1946 to 1956.
He said here he found it very eerie to hear the Moslem call to prayer! As the sound echos down the valley. “It is creepy when you have never heard it before,” said Wickstrom.
The tour then moved into Bethlehem, where Wickstrom said he was surprised to see many different churches there including a Russian Orthodox Church.
There he visited the eastern gate where Jesus is prophesied to return to Earth. “The Moslems believe in the Messiah coming back more so than many Christians do, they have guard posts on top of the gate, they have completely sealed the gate, and have built a cemetery in front of the gate because Jewish Rabbi’s will not cross them,” he said.
He saw many armed Israeli soldiers throughout his trip, Israeli’s over the age of 18 are required to serve in their military. Men are required to serve a three year term and women a two year term.
Wickstrom’s tour visited the Wailing Wall in Bethlehem, where Franciscan Catholic monks maintain the tomb that it is believed Jesus was buried in, and rose from the grave.
He said he felt very safe in Bethlehem and even walked alone in the evenings. “It felt just as safe as walking here in Hettinger. I felt safe everywhere other than when I was in the West Bank,” he said.
He also went to see the Israeli Holocaust Museum
“The Jews and Arabs actually get along well with one another. The Arabs are happy because they are making money from all the tourism and there are Arab judges and Arab serving in the military, fighting for Israeli,” he said.
“It’s an awesome trip to take,” said Wickstrom, who hopes to go back to visit again in the near future. “It’s an amazing country where it seem that anything they do seems to be blessed. God’s hand is certainly blessed on them. Everyone I met spoke English and have been very friendly,” he said.