Since that time I’ve felt that visiting places of history is something that should not be thought of as a leisure activity or as something to do only after one has raised a family and retired. But it’s something that every person should do as a part of their experience of becoming human, growing in one’s understanding and appreciation of other people and their culture, history, art, and language. And visiting the Holy Land and other places of biblical importance (like Turkey, Greece, Italy, Egypt and Jordan), can play a huge part in a person growing as a Christian.
For me “Christian travel” is Christians on a pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is a very old word usually associated with particular religious traditions. However, I like to think of pilgrimage in broader terms, as something as simple as “the search,” the search for meaning, for depth, for a sense of connection as regards one’s faith. For instance, I wanted to connect with the call Moses got from God at Mt. Sinai. What was that like? What did Moses experience when he was on the mountain? So I led fellow pilgrims on an early morning climb up to the summit of Mt. Sinai, where we saw the sun rise and read the words of God to Moses from Exodus 3. It was a moving experience. And so it is when we visit the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized, or Mt. Gerizim where the blessings were read to Israel, or Antioch on the Orontes from which St. Paul launched his ministry. Christian travel and pilgrimage are about reflecting on the heart of God in the Bible and what this means for me.
The reason I started a new Christian travel organization was an accident. As a pastor I wanted to lead my church on a tour of the 7 Cities of the Revelation. I’d been on a Footsteps of St. Paul tour a couple of years earlier, one a friend had promoted. But I was very disappointed. The guides were sour, the hotels were in terrible locations, there were all kinds of additional fees we had not been warned about, and the selection of sites was sometimes disappointing. It was then that I realized that Christian tours are often organized by people who are not necessarily Christian or in tune with the whole point of a pilgrimage, that is, a transformative, life-changing experience, and they obviously did not understand that everything that happens on a tour makes a difference.
For over a year I searched for someone who could organize my tour the way I envisioned it: a 3-day educational retreat on the Island of Patmos followed by a tour of the ruins of the 7 Cities of the Revelation in Turkey. But no one could do it. No one. Well there was one, but his prices were out of this world! (Literally, as no one in my world would be able to afford his trip!) So I did it myself, and in the process I created a tour organization.
Educon Travel is the name of my organization. Our motto is, educational and economical Christian touring. I think Educon Travel is unique and fills a niche in the market of Christian travel. To my knowledge no one else offers tours which are rooted in an understanding of the power of educational and experience-based touring. I talked to a man whom I met at a site on a Footsteps of St. Paul tour. He was with another tour group. I asked him how it was going, and he said, “I don’t know yet. We’ve been touring for five days and I still don’t know what the point of it is.” If he’d been on our tour, he would have known!
The locations we organize our tours around all have something to do with the story of the Christian faith. My two favorite countries are Israel and Turkey. Greece, Italy, Egypt and Jordan follow close behind, but Israel, for example is where it all began. There are great archaeological sites and worship sites at every turn, and because it’s a very small country one can see and experience the land very easily and quickly. Turkey, called Asia Minor in the Bible, unarguably has the best biblical archaeological sites, in number and quality, to be found anywhere on the planet, dating from the Neolithic era to the Greeks, from the Romans to the Byzantines. In all of the countries we visit we always enjoy great hospitality, food, accommodations, and local, cultural entertainment.