Leading a Learning Tour & Pilgrimage Journey
Since 2003, about every two years, I have led the Exploring the World of Paul tour. Initially, it was called In the Footsteps of Paul, but it quickly became apparent that it was about more than the footsteps of Paul. It was about learning to read or hear his letters in the first-century world, dominated by the Roman empire, its ideology, its religions, and its culture. While travelling in Turkey, our groups also learn about the Islam of the Ottoman Empire and present-day Turkey (ancient Asia Minor). In Greece, we explore the Greek Orthodox tradition, perhaps most memorably in the monasteries of Meteora.
Visiting Aphrodisias, Sardis, Hierapolis, and Rome, gives us a window on the Greco-Roman world. Transitioning between Turkey and Greece, we stop at the World War I battlefields of Gallipoli to reflect on the terrible cost of war and the price paid for the establishment of modern Turkey out of the ashes of the Ottoman empire.
However, nothing is quite as stirring for tour participants as connecting what we know and cherish about Paul, his letters, and the congregations he planted with the locations where it all happened—including Ephesus, Philippi, Thessaloniki, and Athens. It is especially moving to share the Lord’s supper together in Corinth. On the most recent tour, we visited Rome for the first time and our group was allowed to enter an excavated dwelling deep under the present-day city streets. Gathered by ourselves, we prayed and sang in a space much like that inhabited by Paul when he was a prisoner in Rome.
I have appreciated the diversity of tour members and the motivations that bring them on a World of Paul Tour. I have been surprised again and again how an intense learning tour can also be a pilgrimage on the journey of faith. That is, finally, what makes it all worth it for me.
Congratulations to Tourmagination on fifty years of helping folks expand their minds and hearts! My thanks to all of you for the encouragement and help you have been over the past 17 years of introducing Paul’s world to travelers and pilgrims. Thanks also to Fred Redekop who was my companion on most of those tours.
May the future be bright, even if attuned to the new realities we all face together.
Cover Photo: Tom Yoder Neufeld (right) with Fred Redekop (left) at Meteora, Greece.