Trip to Israel about faith, family, friendship… and fantastic food

By Emily M. Hobbs Staff Writer

January 27, 2014

Seven local residents decided to go to Israel this last November on a trip designed to bring them closer to God. Ron and Deanna Barney, Gwen Starling, Glenda and Willie Thornton, and Beth and Woody McLamb took the chance to explore the county where so much of the Bible occurred, allowing the different locations to strengthen their faith and their knowledge.

The group had given much thought to the trip, and one couple had even traveled to Israel before, but this time, they said, would be another new and exciting faith-based adventure. Some of the participants chose the trip as a 25th wedding anniversary present, and for Beth and Woody McLamb it was a chance to go with their friends on a return trip.

“I have always wanted to go to Israel,” stressed Beth McLamb. She and her husband had already been to Israel in 2011, but felt the draw to return again. They were delighted, they said, to be able to take the trip again with their friends at Clinton Community Church on Sunset Avenue.

For one in the group it was her first trip overseas, and she felt that this was a chance she couldn’t miss.

“This was my first experience,” said Gwen Starling of the overseas trip. “I wouldn’t have gone on my own, but I felt there was no better time to go, and we had beautiful weather and it was quite warm.”

For Glenda Thornton, it was about not putting off things she wanted to do.

“We are not promised tomorrow,” she stressed, noting that her husband Willie, who accompanied her on the trip, had traveled before during his military service, but she had not.

“This was the crowning trip that we have had,” said Willie Thornton.

Everyone agreed that this trip was the chance of a lifetime for them, and seizing this opportunity had been a life-altering one for each of them.

The trip was organized through Pilgrim Tours, which is a company that specializes in tours for Christian groups. The group from Clinton Community Church joined up with others on this trip, with there being a total of 36 traveling through the country.

Glenda Thornton said she lived in Georgia at one point, and she was living in a Christian college community where people she knew would go frequently on mission trips or trips to explore Biblical history.While she was in Israel she even had a chance to float in the Dead Sea with some other members of the group.

Woody McLamb said that he enjoyed seeing all the old stuff, the mosaics, and particularly the Western Wall.

“For me, it was to know that I was walking where Jesus had walked,” explained Beth McLamb. “It was transforming and Biblically based. It made the Old Testament more impacting.” It was transforming for her then, and she said that it continues to be transforming for her today, back in Sampson County.

Ron Barney said the entire time he was in Israel he felt completely safe, and that he felt that he was safer there then he would have been here roaming the streets of New York City.

For he and his wife, the trip was a dream come true, something they had long wanted to do and felt very blessed to have had the opportunity to experience.

The group said that they also had a great tour guide, Pilar, who guided them through the country and gave them history highlights and information throughout their trip. Pilar was Messianic Jewish, and described as being well versed in the Bible. She also scouted locations for the group before they arrived, making sure that the group would not have to deal with one of the few problems, like the Hamas throwing rocks at visitors.

The trip took their group through a variety of locations, like the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall. They were able to ride camels and even swim in the Dead Sea, which is half in Jordan and half in Israel. Caiaphas’ house, where Jesus was beaten, was also one of the places they visited. A few of the group were also baptised in the Jordan River while they were there.

Glenda Thornton said it was great to experience the location that she remembers hearing about as a small child being taught the Bible; for her this trip made it come alive. She said it meant a lot to her to be where Jesus had performed miracles.

Other locations that they visited included the site described as the location for the Battle of Armageddon.

“I was amazed at how wide and deep it was,” pointed out Deanna Barney. She described it as being green, beautiful and enormous with the valley being quite expansive. The group described the country as amazingly flourishing. The country grows its own food and exports some of it, which Beth McLamb said was part of Biblical prophecy.

The group said the depth of faith in the country was amazing and beautiful.

“The country has such a devoutness of faith,” said Beth McLamb. “(What) if we were nearly as devoted and committed to honor that? I was amazed at how they were committed.”

Her husband Woody added that they did no even prepare food on Saturday, but that they were allowed to warm up things that had already been prepared.

During those specific holy times there was no public transportation available, and everything was closed. The Jewish also observed their morning rituals, and the group saw it in action before they even left the John F. Kennedy airport. While they were waiting to board they saw praying worship, and they felt that the plane was covered with blessings.

Even at the airport in Israel, the group knew they were in a place quite different from home. They remember being asked simple questions about their trip, where they were going, and who they were with, which were all part of the security integrated into the country’s airports. Israel profiles those that chose to fly into their country, and through that the team felt the country had great security in their airport.

Seeing how the religions were intertwined in the country really sunk in with the group. In Jerusalem especially the people live in the same neighborhoods and work together, despite being of completely different faiths. They met a lot of wonderful people and had the chance to shop.

“We ask that people pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as we are Biblically mandated to do,” said Beth McLamb for the group.

Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at